Teaching Paleoseismology – Excursion to Greece

Paleoseismology and archeoseismology do only rarely appear in the curriculae of geoscience studies. Those topics will be covered in courses on tectonics and structural geology in most universities. Practical courses that allow applying the knowledge in the field can be a very good supplement, but in Germany, active faults are rare. RWTH Aachen University therefore organized a field trip to Greece, where active faults, fault scarps, archeological sites and beautiful outcrops are omnipresent.

The excursion took place from 18 September to 1 October 2010 with 23 motivated and curious MSc. students, led by Tomás Fernandez-Steeger and Christoph Grützner. We started in Attika and had a first stop at the Kalamos and Afidnai faults in the north of Athens, where a thick colluvium can be seen at the hanging wall.

Heading to the west we passed the famous Kaparelli fault which was dated with OSL and trenched years ago. Fortunately, the trenches can still be visited. The fault was activated during the 1981 Gulf of Corinth earthquake sequence.

Delphi - destroyed templeThe Delphi normal fault can be observed at an impressive outcrop directly at the road to the ancient site, where it was dug out during road construction. The colluvial wedge is amazing here and the fault plane hosts slickensides, Riedel shears, plug holes, fault crust breccia and numberless other features. Delphi was hit by devastating earthquakes several times, e.g., in 373 B.C., 83 B.C., and 1580 A.D. The fault scarp allowed measuring the fault plane orientation and striations with the compass – one of the basic skills of every geologist.In the archaeological site we looked for archeoseismological features and found offset walls, cracked pavement, deformed buildings, rockfalls, offset columns, and many more. Those structures were mapped and classified using the field training guide of Giner-Robles et al. that was presented at the Baelo2009 conference (download here). Great fun for everyone and baffled looks from the other tourists…

Passing the Galaxidi and Mesolongion faults we reached the Peloponnesus and climbed the spectacular Sparta fault which destroyed the ancient city in 464 B.C.

Corinth canal with active faultsOn the Perakhora peninsula we were able to see the surface ruptures of the 1981 earthquakes and visited the Loutraki, Perakhora, Pissia and Schinos faults as well as the Canal of Corinth with its great amount of active faults. Ioannis Papanikolaou from the Agricultural University of Athens did a lot of research in this area and led this fantastic day of the field trip. At the Schinos fault we could see and discuss the paleoseismological trenches that are still open. Thanks a lot, Ioannis!

Besides the paleo- and archeoseismological program we also visited wildfire areas, landslides, rockfall sites, the Susaki hydrothermal field, the Marathon dam and many more. One entire day was spend with Georgios Stamatis on the hydrogeology of the Athens area including a visit to the Poseidon temple at Cape Sounion and the old mines of Lavrio. Thanks a lot, Georgios! Of course, once you are in Greece, you can not miss the Akropolis, Mycene, Epidaurus, Olympia, Delphi and the Diolkos.

Studying the trenchesSo, what’s the outcome? We all learned that paleoseismology and archeoseismology can provide the information necessary to understand the seismicity and the tectonics of a certain area and, that it is essential to go the field and to touch the faults, to discuss the trenches, to measure the structural data and to see how it looks with your own eyes. Go to the field whenever you’re able to! There’s nothing better.

GPS-coordinates of all stops available here.

(And of course thanks a lot to all our students who made this an unforgetable trip!)

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Christoph Grützner

Christoph Grützner

works at the Institute of Geological Sciences, Jena University. He likes Central Asia and the Mediterranean and looks for ancient earthquakes.

See all posts Christoph Grützner


  • Bashir Ahmad | 2010-12-31|17:40 (UTC)

    It gives me enough pleasure to see your work, Hope if such a work would be done in the Kashmir basin of NW Himalaya.

    Dear Chris Keep it up!

  • Bashir Ahmad | 2011-01-04|16:06 (UTC)

    Dear Chris

    Hopefuly yes,
    I am eager to meet the IGCP team, but i couldn’t make to visit Spain last year b’coz of family. This time i am so much planned to visit Corinth!

    Lets see who the things will turn.
    I believe you are planed to come to Corinth

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