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Iain Stewart Colloquium Abstract (Jan 10, 2018)

Between a Rock and A Hard Place: Communicating Contested Geoscience to the Public

Geoscientific knowledge and understanding lies at the heart of many of the most critical societal issues that face us in the 21st century. The pressing human challenges of natural disaster reduction, energy supply and security, and mineral and water resource management, rest on geological foundations. And yet, outside of the academic and industrial geoscience community there is a limited appreciation of Earth Science, especially among policy makers. Geology , it seems, lies out of sight and out of mind. For that reason, geologists are increasingly being encouraged to communicate more broadly what they do and what they know. Yet how can we do that when, for most people, geology is about 'stones' and stones are 'boring'! It is a problem compounded by the fact that many of our most acute geo-issues are rooted in the unfamiliar realm of the deep subsurface. This talk will use the experience of popularising geoscience for mainstream television to explore ways in which geologists can make our research connect better with the dissonant public, and in doing so forge more effective strategies for meaningful public engagement.

 

Technical Talk: Seismic Faults and Sacred Sanctuaries in the Aegean Extensional Province

The ancient destructive capability of earthquake faults is well chronicled by historians and their cultural impact widely uncovered by archaeologists. Archaeological and geological investigations at some of the most renowned sites in the ancient Greece world, however, suggest a more nuanced and intimate relationship between seismic faults and past human settlements. In the Aegean's karstic landscape earthquake fault scarps act as limestone ramparts on which fortifications, citadels and acropoli were constructed, and underlying fault lines were preferred pathways for groundwater movement and egress. The vital purifactory or therapeutic role of natural springs in the ritual practices of early settlements implies that the fault lines from which they leaked may have helped position the nascent hubs of Greek cities. Equally, the tendency for earthquakes to disrupt groundwater patterns and occasionally shut down persistent springs provides a hitherto unrecognized mechanism for the abrupt demise of those same settlements. Votive niches, carvings, reliefs and inscriptions on fault surfaces suggest important sacred sanctuaries, particularly those with oracular functions, may have been deliberately built astride active fault traces and venerated as direct connections to the chthonic realm ('the underworld'). Regionally, the Aegean's distributed network of tensional faulting, circulating geothermal waters and deep-seated de-gassing sets the tectonic framework for the springs and gases that infuse the ancient Greek netherworld of caves, chasms, chambers, and sacred grottos. The possibility that seismic faults may have constituted the fulcrum of prominent sacred places means that, for all their obvious destructiveness, earthquakes may have had an unacknowledged cultural significance in Greek antiquity.
 
You can download the paper here: https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0016787817301190