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Book Chapter

The door knockers of Mansurah: Strong shaking in a region of low perceived seismic risk, Sindh, Pakistan

By
Roger Bilham
Roger Bilham
Cooperative Institute for Research in Environmental Science and Department of Geological Sciences, University of Colorado, Boulder, Colorado 80309-0399, USA
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Sarosh Lodi
Sarosh Lodi
Department of Civil Engineering, NED University of Engineering and Technology, Karachi 75270, Pakistan
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Published:
October 01, 2010

Mansurah, the eighth-century Arabic capital of Sindh province, Pakistan, flourished for a mere 200 yr. Its destruction by an earthquake ca. 980 A.D. was first proposed by archaeologists who reported the discovery of crushed skeletons amid dateable coins found among its rubble. An abrupt natural death to the city was challenged by others who noted that the absence of wood or valuables was consistent with the city being sacked and systematically looted. The recent discovery of four decorated door knockers beneath the collapsed walls of one of the largest structures in Mansurah, however, reopens the case for an earthquake, since an invading army would almost certainly have removed them as booty. We suggest that an earthquake not only destroyed the city and its suburbs (intensity ≈ VIII), but resulted in postseismic avulsion of the river on which its citizens depended for agriculture, sanitation, and trade. Since natural levees have been observed in India to collapse in intensity VII shaking, it is unnecessary to invoke coseismic uplift as a requirement for upstream river avulsion. The absence in the past two centuries of large earthquakes in the region has resulted in central Sindh being depicted as a region of low seismic hazard, yet in 1668, in the same province, an earthquake destroyed nearby Samawani and also initiated avulsion of the Indus. A case can be made for reevaluating the five millennia of archaeological ruins in Pakistan to establish a long-term view of seismicity unavailable from the short instrumental record.

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GSA Special Papers

Ancient Earthquakes

Manuel Sintubin
Manuel Sintubin
Department of Earth and Environmental Sciences, Katholieke Universiteit Leuven, Celestijnenlaan, Leuven, Belgium
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Iain S. Stewart
Iain S. Stewart
School of Geography, Earth and Environmental Sciences, University of Plymouth, Fitzroy, Drake Circus, Plymouth, Devon, UK
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Tina M. Niemi
Tina M. Niemi
Department of Geosciences, University of Missouri-Kansas City, Kansas City, Missouri, USA
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Erhan Altunel
Erhan Altunel
Department of Geological Engineering, Eskisehir Osmangazi University, Eskisehir, Turkey
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Geological Society of America
Volume
471
ISBN print:
9780813724713
Publication date:
October 01, 2010

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