Earthquakes as the Quintessential SCE: Methodology and Societal Resilience

Lee Mordechai*, Jordan Pickett

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

10 Scopus citations


This paper focuses on earthquakes as the most frequent type of SCE (short-term cataclysmic event) with signatures in the three main sources used to reconstruct the premodern environment, namely historical records, archaeological findings, and paleoclimate proxies. We examine methodological issues in archaeoseismology (including earthquake catalogs, statistics, and the measurement of societal resilience to earthquakes in premodern societies in the eastern Mediterranean), before investigating societal earthquake response in the region. The behavior of different groups within these societies, such as the central government or local elites, is assessed in this context. The regenerative or adaptive aspects of seismic events are demonstrated with consideration of their archaeological footprints. This paper concludes that complex societies in the Eastern Mediterranean during the past two millennia were largely resilient to earthquakes at the state-level, though local effects on the aspect and character of urban settlement could be more pronounced.

Original languageAmerican English
Pages (from-to)335-348
Number of pages14
JournalHuman Ecology
Issue number3
StatePublished - 1 Jun 2018
Externally publishedYes

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2018, Springer Science+Business Media, LLC, part of Springer Nature.


  • Byzantine empire
  • Disasters short-term cataclismic event (SCE)
  • Earthquakes
  • Eastern Mediterranean
  • Natural hazards


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