Use of archaeology to date liquefaction features and seismic events in the new madrid seismic zone, Central United States


Prehistoric earthquake-induced liquefaction features occur in association with Native American occupation horizons in the New Madrid seismic zone. Age control of these liquefaction features, including sand-blow deposits, sand-blow craters, and sand dikes, can be accomplished by extensive sampling and flotation processing of datable materials as well as archaeobotanical analysis of associated archaeological horizons and pits. This approach increases both the amount of carbon for radiocarbon dating and the precision dating of artifact assemblages. Using this approach, we dated liquefaction features at four sites northwest of Blytheville, Arkansas, and found that at least one significant earthquake occurred in the New Madrid seismic zone between A.D. 1180 and 1400, probably about A.D. 1300 ± 100 yr. In addition, we found three buried sand blows that formed between 3340 B.C. and A.D. 780. In this region where very large to great earthquakes appear to be closely timed, archaeology is helping to develop a paleoearthquake chronology for the New Madrid seismic zone.


Center for Archaeological Research

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Geoarchaeology - An International Journal