Abstract

Late Minoan (LM) IIIB (∼1300–1200 B.C.) represents a crucial period in the history of Bronze Age Crete, heralding the transition to the Iron Age through a wave of site destruction and abandonment. According to the traditional view, earthquakes may have played a significant role in these events. A new archaeoseismological approach is proposed to test this hypothesis and to attribute destruction and abandonment to earthquakes. Potential earthquake archaeological effects (PEAEs) are defined and documented at LM IIIB sites. Synchronisms of PEAEs between sites are based on ceramic evidence. The reliability of the PEAEs is furthermore assessed using empirical ground‐motion relationships defined for three types of earthquake mechanisms that can be considered to occur in the seismotectonic context of Crete: (1) normal‐faulting earthquakes located within the overriding Aegean lithosphere; (2) earthquakes located on the subduction interface or on splay faults merging with the interface at depth; (3) earthquakes within the subducting African lithosphere. In the case of LM IIIB1/early Malia and Sissi (northeastern Crete), this proof of concept is successfully applied and supports the hypothesis that seismic shaking is likely to be responsible for the PEAEs observed. A 12 October 1856 A.D.‐type earthquake located within the subducting African plate is suggested as the most likely earthquake mechanism. In other LM IIIB archaeological contexts, no convincing evidence for earthquake effects could be identified. The hypothesis of a seismic storm causing the demise of Minoan Crete is not supported by our analysis of archaeological evidence.

Online Material: Detailed LM IIIB ceramic and archaeological data.

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