A detailed tephrochronological study was carried out on the deep-sea core collected from Site 963A in the Sicily Channel during ODP Leg 160. The chronology of the succession is provided by an age–depth model based on isotope stratigraphy and quantitative eco-biostratigraphy. Major, trace and rare earth element content was obtained on single glass grains through electron probe micro-analysis and laser ablation–inductively coupled plasma mass spectrometry techniques from six well-preserved tephra layers, characterized by a discrete thickness found along the succession. These deposits were correlated with the volcanic activity of Pantelleria and dated at 42.5, 127.5, 128.1, 129.1, 188.7 and 197.7 ka. This detailed chemical characterization of the studied deposits aims to provide a valuable reference database for scientists working on both proximal and distal products erupted at Pantelleria island during the Late Pleistocene. This study, moreover, offers the opportunity to better identify Pantelleria-related marker tephras within the tephrochronological framework of the central and eastern Mediterranean area. Copyright © 2012 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.