Tectonic environments of ancient civilizations: Opportunities for archaeoseismological and anthropological studies
Published:October 01, 2010
Eric R. Force, Bruce G. McFadgen, 2010. "Tectonic environments of ancient civilizations: Opportunities for archaeoseismological and anthropological studies", Ancient Earthquakes, Manuel Sintubin, Iain S. Stewart, Tina M. Niemi, Erhan Altunel
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The close spatial relation between ancient civilizations and active tectonic boundaries is robust in the Eastern Hemisphere but counterintuitive given the seismic disadvantages 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 quantifiable influence of tectonism on civilization locations even along Mediterranean shores is suggested by their distribution. The stronger links of tectonism with derivative civilizations suggest 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) providing detail on evolving societal response; (2) determining the most pertinent tectonic styles; and (3) determining the role of seismicity in Neolithic cultures that eventually became civilizations.