Historical earthquakes of the Gargano Promontory, an uplifted foreland sector in southeastern Italy, have been usually regarded as generated by inland faults. Some have been associated with activity of the Mattinata fault, a section of a regional east–west shear zone. The 10 August 1893 Mw 5.4 event is one such earthquake, but its current onshore location is only loosely based on the damage pattern.
Regions that were hit by offshore earthquakes are also known to be affected by a methodological bias such that offshore historical events appear to be located onshore. To test this condition for the 1893 earthquake, we pursued an alternative hypothesis for its location. The earthquake occurred near the Gondola fault zone, a right‐lateral active fault system representing the offshore counterpart of the Mattinata fault and hence capable of producing sizable earthquakes along the Gargano coast. We focused on its westernmost segment, suggesting that it could be the causative fault of the 1893 earthquake (in agreement with both the damage distribution and reported environmental effects).
The approach we present works side by side with the recent developments of the algorithms used to compile historical catalogs, providing a fine‐scale, geologically based method to define or confirm the dubious location of historical earthquakes. Marine paleoseismology is a new field stemming from the increased capabilities of high‐resolution marine techniques in supporting classical paleoseismological analyses for the exploration of the seismogenic potential of offshore faults. Based on Late Pleistocene and Holocene individual or cumulative earthquake records, the potential of offshore faults can now be constrained in terms of expected magnitude and recurrence intervals.
We stress the importance of revisiting historical earthquakes in coastal zones using marine paleoseismological data to assess regional seismic hazard, particularly in tectonic settings where regional‐size seismogenic areas straddle the onshore and the onshore–offshore zone.