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Onset of the persistent activity at Stromboli Volcano (Italy)

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Stromboli, known worldwide as the "Lighthouse of the Mediterranean", is commonly believed to have been in a state of persistent activity for the past 2000–2500 years. However, historical sources older than 1000 A.D. are not accurate enough to assess if the activity of the volcano was exactly the same as we see at present. In order to attempt to identify the onset of the present eruptive regime, and assess if it has been maintained with the same characteristics through time, stratigraphic and radiometric studies of the recent tephra deposits were undertaken. Up to 4-m-deep stratigraphic trenches, dug at a height of approximately 500 m on the NE flank of the volcano, exposed a conformable tephra pile containing charcoal fragments. One of the most interesting finds was the discovery of a 7-cm-thick weathered bed rich in organic matter (thin palaeosol) approximately 3 m below the surface. The sequence underneath the palaeosol consists of decimetre-thick lapilli fallout beds alternating with ash deposits bearing small charcoals with calibrated ages of between the fourth century B.C. and the first century A.D. The sequence above the palaeosol is charcoal free and consists of coarse-ash deposits with discrete, centimetre-thick lapilli fallout beds composed of crystal-poor golden pumice and subordinate crystal-rich black scoriae similar to scoria/pumice pairs emitted during the more energetic explosions of the present-day activity. The data collected indicate that between the third and seventh centuries A.D., after a period of quiescence, the activity resumed with an eruptive style identical to the present one. We conclude that the "Lighthouse of the Mediterranean" actually began its activity in a period much later than previously thought.

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Rosi, M., Bertagnini, A. & Landi, P. Onset of the persistent activity at Stromboli Volcano (Italy). Bull Volcanol 62, 294–300 (2000).

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