Earthquakes at Lechaion

Corinth’s northern harbor at Lechaion has seen something of a renaissance in scholarly study in recent years. Back in 2011, for example, a research group publicized new work (now published here and here) on the evidence for multiple tsunami landfalls at Lechaion, which Richard Rothaus reviewed in a thoughtul piece here at CM.  Last year, a group of Danish and Greek scholars launched the Lechaion Harbour Project to survey, excavate, and study submerged remains at the harbor—and this project, according to their Facebook page, has just been awarded a second major funding package. I also saw via the Corinthian Studies Facebook group a notice about a conference in Athens last April devoted to the study of the early Christian basilica at the site, with papers on the history of Pallas’ excavation, the baths, floors, ceramics, coins, and glass from those excavations. And we can all say “it’s about time.”AncientLechaion

And now, this new article (in press) at Tectonophysics  promises a real scientific study of the evidence for earthquakes at the site. Here’s the metadata:

Minos – Minopoulos, Despina, Kosmas Pavlopoulos, George Apostolopoulos, Efthymis Lekkas, and Dale Dominey – Howes. “Liquefaction Features at an Archaeological Site: Investigations of Past Earthquake Events at the Early Christian Basilica, Ancient Lechaion Harbour, Corinth, Greece.” Tectonophysics. Accessed August 6, 2015. doi:10.1016/j.tecto.2015.07.010.

And the abstract:

A synthesis of investigations carried out at the archaeological site of the Early Christian Basilica, located in the ancient harbour of Lechaion, Corinth, Greece in order to study the origin and triggering mechanism of deformation structures observed on the temple floor, is presented. These surface structures are indicative of earthquake induced ground liquefaction and their relationship with the subsurface soil stratigraphy and structure is presented. Investigations of stratigraphic data from archaeological excavations conducted from 1956 to 1965 provide indications of artificial fill deposits overlying a sandy – gravelly substratum. Geophysical survey of EM, GPR and ERT provided further information regarding the substratum properties/stratigraphy of the site indicating subsurface fissures and lateral spreading trends that are in agreement with the surface deformation structures. Lithostratigraphic data obtained from four vibracores drilled in the southern aisle of the temple, suggest estuarine deposits of coarse sand to fine gravel with grain size properties indicative of layers with high liquefaction potential. The results of the study, suggest at least three seismic events that induced ground liquefaction at the site. The first event pre-dates the construction of the Basilica, when Lechaion harbour was in operation. The second event post-dates the construction of the Basilica potentially corresponding to the regionally damaging A.D. 524 earthquake, followed by the third event, that commensurate with the A.D. 551 earthquake and the destruction of the temple.

While the article is currently behind a pay wall, it looks like it should add an interesting new layer to our understanding of ancient Lechaion and the earthquakes that affected it in the sixth century CE (although we’ll need to see how securely the authors relate the geomorphological observations with both the archaeological evidence for dating and ambiguous data from geophysics). But this will certainly be a step toward addressing concerns (outlined a few years ago by Dr. Rothaus) that archaeologists should be much more critical in ascribing building destructions in the Corinthia to historical earthquakes.

Advertisements

Categories: Geology, Periods, Late Antiquity, Sites, Lechaion, Sites, Lechaion Basilica

2 Comments

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s