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Contribution to Book
Tectonic environments of ancient civilizations: opportunities for archaeoseismological and anthropological studies
Ancient Earthquakes (2010)
  • Eric R Force, University of Arizona
  • Bruce G McFadgen, Victoria University of Wellington

The close spatial relation between ancient civilizations and active tectonic boundaries is robust in the Eastern Hemisphere but counterintuitive given the seismic dis- advantages it implies. Explanations for the observation remain debatable, and no single explanation seems sufficient. Some possibly important factors are unrelated to seismicity, e.g., the influence of tectonism on local water resources and on resource diversity. When examined on finer spatial scales, the relation is still robust. A quan- tifiable influence of tectonism on civilization locations even along Mediterranean shores is suggested by their distribution. The stronger links of tectonism with derivative civilizations suggests a role of ancient trade connections. Several clues point to cultural response as an important ingredient in the dynamics resulting in the spatial relation. These are: correlation between static character and location of civilizations relative to tectonic locus; archaeologic and historic records of accelerated cultural (especially religious) change following tectonic events; and evidence that the spatial relation evolves through time via trade goods and routes. Archaeoseismology is in a key position to provide additional clues to this paradoxical relation in at least three ways: (1) provide detail on evolving societal response; (2) determine the most pertinent tectonic styles; and (3) determine the role of seismicity in Neolithic cultures that eventually became civilizations.

  • Mycenaean,
  • trade routes
Publication Date
M. Sintubin, I. S. Stewart, T. M. Niemi, and E. Altunel
Geological Society of America
Special Paper
Citation Information
Eric R Force and Bruce G McFadgen. "Tectonic environments of ancient civilizations: opportunities for archaeoseismological and anthropological studies" Boulder COAncient Earthquakes Vol. 471 (2010)
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