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We explore the implications of this record for the seismic behavior of the plate boundary, the demise of the Classic Maya civilization, and the likelihood of future major earthquakes.

In Guatemala, two major structures, the Motagua and Polochic faults (Fig.

(B) Close up map of Lake Chichój with coring sites (dotted circles).

Core used for the composite section in red, cores in yellow not used in this study but described in Fig. Map generated using Arc GIS 10 (https:// and Corel Draw 12 (

We combine ‘on-fault’ trench observations of slip on the Polochic fault (North America-Caribbean plate boundary) with a 1200 years-long ‘near-fault’ record of seismo-turbidite generation in a lake located within 2 km of the fault.

We show that some of the fault slip observed across the floodplain occurred during a 5-century-long period of tectonic quiescence, during which no seismites were generated.On-fault observations within 7 km of the lake show that soils formed between 16 CE were displaced by the Polochic fault during a long period of seismic quiescence, from 1450 to 1976 CE.Displacement on the Polochic fault during at least the last 480 years included a component of slip that was aseismic, or associated with very light seismicity (magnitude The North America-Caribbean plate boundary is a left-lateral, mostly submarine structure that surfaces here and there through the Greater Antilles and Central America.Destruction of the topsoil prevented determining whether the trace disrupts the ground surface.However, observations conducted at the site before the opening of the trenches failed to detect any topographic discontinuity C dating indicates that sedimentation has been fairly uniform over the past 5–7 centuries throughout the floodplain, at a rate of 2–4 mm/y (Additional information, Table S1-2).

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Therefore, the nearly systematic assignment of surface dislocations to earthquakes may lead to an overestimation of past seismic activity.