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The field of archaeoseismology has been plagued by a persistent problem. The problem has been the integration of several lines of evidence to produce a holistic conclusion without entering into a situation of circular reasoning, wherein the sources are used to build on each other without foundation. The four main sources of evidence are historical texts, epigraphy, archaeology, and geology. Any seismic event may appear in any or all of them, but only the most extreme events in fortuitous locations would be expected to appear in all four. This paper uses some aspects of the interpretation of the 551 C.E. earthquake in the Levant to illustrate how this circular reasoning can develop, and how it tends to corrupt the different lines of evidence. We conclude with a suggested new approach, making the database of regional seismic events both more specific and more complete.

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