Almost all earthquakes on the continents are confined within a crustal layer that varies in thickness (Ts) from about 10 to 40 km, and are not in the mantle. Variations in Ts correlate with variations in the effective elastic thickness (Te), both of them having similar values, although Te is usually the smaller of the two. These observations suggest that the lower crust, at least in some places, is stronger than the mantle beneath the Moho, contrary to most models of continental rheology. Thus the strength of the continental lithosphere is likely to be contained within the seismogenic layer, variations in the thickness of this strong layer determining the heights of the mountain ranges it can support. The aseismic nature of the continental mantle and the lower crustal seismicity beneath some shields are probably related to their water contents.