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Major flood events recorded in the Holocene sedimentary sequence of the uplifted Ladiko and Makrisia basins near ancient Olympia (western Peloponnese, Greece)

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Detailed palaeoenvironmental studies were conducted in the Ladiko and Makrisia basins near the Alpheios River and ancient Olympia (western Peloponnese, Greece) to assess major landscape changes during the Holocene. Previous studies and literature data document that the area experienced crust uplift of minimum 13 m to 30 m since the mid-Holocene. Geological archives were sampled along a vibracore transect connecting the Ladiko and Makrisia basins. Sediment cores were analyzed using sedimento-logical, geochemical and micropalaeontological methods. Geochronological reconstruction of major landscape changes is based on a set of 24 radiocarbon dates. Geophysical studies were carried out using electrical resistivity tomography (ERT) and Direct Push-Electrical Conductivity (DP-EC) measurements to detect stratigraphic changes and subsurface bedrock structures. The stratigraphic record of the uplifted lake basins of Ladiko and Makrisia revealed two major lithostratigraphic units. Unit I, predominantly composed of clay, silt and silty fine sand, reflects prevailing low-energy sedimentary conditions typical of quiescent (fluvio-)limnic waterbodies. Unit II is made out of fine to coarse sand and documents repeated interferences of unit I associated with abrupt and temporary high-energy flood type (= heft) events. We found signals of four different heft events (H1 to H4) showing strong stratigraphic and geochronological consistencies along the vibracore transect. The following age ranges were determined: H1 – between 4360 – 4330 cal BC and 4320 – 4080 cal BC; H2 – be- tween 2830 – 2500 cal BC and 2270 – 2140 cal BC; H3 – between 1220 –1280 cal AD and 1290 –1390 cal AD; H4 – between 1640 –1800 cal AD and 1650 –1800 cal AD. Different hypotheses concerning the characteristics, potential trigger mechanisms and causes of the flood events were tested against the background of strong Holocene crust uplift and using a variety of different methodological approaches: Geomorphological and granulometric aspects, micropalaeontological contexts, geochronological data sets, numerical simulation of flooding events, local tectonic uplift, and the palaeoclimate background were taken into account. We hypothesize that, during the mid-Holocene, the study area was affected by tsunami events, namely between 4360 – 4330 cal BC and 4320 – 4080 cal BC (H1) and between 2830 – 2500 cal BC and 2270 – 2140 cal BC (H2). These ages are very well consistent with the supra-regional and regional tsunami event signal retrieved from many coastal archives in large parts of western Greece. The timing of flood events H1 and H2 is highly consistent with ages of (supra-)regional tectonic events known from literature and is not consistent with increased flood indices of palaeoclimate data available for western Greece. Tsunami inundation scenarios based on numerical simulation are highly consistent with vibracoring and geophysical (ERT, DP-EC) data. In contrast, heft events H3 and H4 are possibly related to phases of increased precipi- tation and flooding activity in the Mediterranean or to land-based geomorphological processes triggered by regional tectonic events (RTE). Neolithic, Chalcolithic as well as Early and Middle Helladic human activities documented at ancient Olympia were most probably affected by tsunami heft events H1 and H2. Sandy deposits of tsunami event H2, covering the prehistorical tumulus, seem to have been used as a higher and dry base to construct the apsidal houses in the center of the later sanctuary at Olympia. The site, already abandoned, must have again been subject to major flood events during the 13/14th cent. AD and the 17–19th cent. AD associated with heft events H3 and H4.
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Document Type: Research Article

Publication date: October 1, 2019

This article was made available online on December 13, 2018 as a Fast Track article with title: "Major flood events recorded in the Holocene sedimentary sequence of the uplifted Ladiko and Makrisia basins near ancient Olympia (western Peloponnese, Greece)".

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  • Zeitschrift für Geomorphologie main volume is a peer-reviewed international journal presenting original contributions of high scientific standard from all fields of geomorphology, encompassing basic research and applied studies. Zeitschrift für Geomorphologie (ZfG) invites the submission of original papers from the entire field of geomorphological research, both applied and theoretical. Authors are encouraged to submit their papers to the editor-in-chief. Please peruse the instructions to authors (PDF) before submitting your paper.

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