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Abstract

The Lower Rhine Graben (Central Europe) is a prime example of a seismically active low-strain rift zone characterized by pronounced anthropogenic and climatic overprint of structures, and long recurrence intervals of large earthquakes. These factors render the identification of active faults and surface ruptures difficult. We investigated two fault scarps in the Lower Rhine Graben, to decipher their structural character, offset and potential seismogenic origin. Both scarps were modified by anthropogenic activity. The Hemmerich site lies c. 20 km SW of Cologne, along the Erft Fault. The Untermaubach site lies SW of Düren, where the Schafberg Fault projects into the Rur River valley. At the Hemmerich site, geomorphic and geophysical data, as well as exploratory coring reveal evidence of repeated normal faulting. Geophysical analysis and palaeoseismological excavation at the Untermaubach site reveal a complex fault zone in Holocene gravels characterized by subtle gravel deformation. Differentiation of tectonic and fluvial features was only possible with trenching, because fault structures and grain sizes of the sediments were below the resolution of the geophysical data. Despite these issues, our investigation demonstrates that valuable insight into past earthquakes and seismogenic deformation in a low-strain environment can be revealed using a multidisciplinary approach.

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