Archaeologists discover ancient settlement in Chile destroyed by tsunami

(ORDO NEWS) — Scientists have discovered traces of a powerful earthquake and tsunami that destroyed the settlements on the Chilean coast 3800 years ago. An article about this was published in Science Advances.

People who lived on the coast of the Chilean Atacama Desert 5700-4000 years ago built villages from small stone houses on shell foundations.

These houses stood not far from each other with exits to the courtyards, and the dead were buried under their floors. The floor and walls were held together with a mortar of seaweed ash, seawater and shells.

Diego Salazar of the University of Chile and his colleagues explored these settlements and found large-scale destruction in them.

For example, at one of the destroyed houses, the stones were carried away from the sea, as if knocked out by a giant wave. In another, the building material, on the contrary, is scattered towards the sea – most likely, it was dragged by the water flowing into the sea.

In another settlement, archaeologists found layers of sand and earth interspersed with many shells. Radiocarbon analysis showed that there are old shells in the layer of relatively new shells, as if a wave pulled them out of the ground and mixed them up.

After analyzing the destruction, scientists came to the conclusion that 3800 years ago there was a powerful tsunamigenic earthquake, the wave from which destroyed the settlements and caused upheavals in society.

The reconstruction showed that the earthquake was caused by a giant thrust and subduction contact between the South American tectonic plate and the Nazca plate. The seismic moment of the earthquake should have reached 9.5, which is somewhat higher than the most powerful Chilean earthquake in 2010.

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