Large boulder accumulation on the Algerian coast evidence tsunami events in the western Mediterranean

Said Maouche, Christophe Morhange, Mustapha Meghraoui

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Evidence of catastrophic mega-block deposition is presented for the Algerian coast from Tipaza to Dellys. The region is prone to large earthquakes, several of which are inferred to be tsunamigenic in origin, as attests the 2003 Zemmouri earthquake (Mw 6.8). It is argued here that several former tsunamis have resulted in the detachment of large boulders from the nearshore zone and their deposition inland. The estimated size, weight (volumetric mass) and distance from the shoreline of more than 100 boulders has enabled estimates to be made of the nature of the hydrodynamic waves responsible for their transport. The boulders weigh up to 200 tons and are scattered along ∼ 150 km of rocky headlands and pocket beaches, in isolated or grouped elements, from the subtidal to supratidal zones. Boulders covered by biogenic incrustations show morphological features which suggest detached, reversed and reworked pieces. Statistical and hydrodynamic analyses indicate that large boulder transport requires either ∼ 30-m-high waves or 5 to 10-m-high waves for catastrophic storm or tsunami events, respectively. Bio-indicators allow us to date two inferred tsunamis as having struck the Algerian coastline between AD 400-600 and ∼ AD 1700.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)96-104
Number of pages9
JournalMarine Geology
Issue number1-4
StatePublished - 1 Jul 2009
Externally publishedYes

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
This research was supported by INSU (Institut National des Sciences de l'Univers, project “Risque Sismique de la Région d'Alger, France”) and the EC-funded project TRANSFER (GOCE-CT-2006-37058). We are grateful to D. Kelletat for the financial support in dating samples, and J. Laborel and H. Zibrowius (COM, SME, Marseille) for the biological identification. We thank M. Ferry for the assistance with the preparation of the historical tsunami catalogue of western Mediterranean regions and A. Harbi for the numerous discussions on the historical seismicity of Algeria. We also thank H. Haddoum, A. Nedjari (USTHB Algiers) and Y. Bouhadad for the fruitful discussions in the field. Useful comments by R. Bougdal, A. Dawson, N. Marriner and F. Sabatier helped to improve the presentation of this paper. We are grateful to the reviewers for their suggestions, remarks and comments on an earlier version of the manuscript. Some figures were prepared using the public domain GMT software ( Wessel and Smith, 1998 ).


  • Algeria
  • Holocene
  • Mediterranean Sea
  • boulder
  • tsunami

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Oceanography
  • Geology
  • Geochemistry and Petrology


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