In Chile, found a settlement destroyed 3800 years ago by a powerful tsunami

(ORDO NEWS) — About 3,800 years ago, an earthquake hit the coast of Chile, stronger than all earthquakes in the history of mankind, causing a tsunami, which led to the destruction of 1,000 km of the coast.

After the tsunami, local hunter-gatherers spent less time near the coast and moved further inland, remaining there for 1,000 years or more, despite the lack of a written language to communicate the disaster. The study is published in the journal Scientific Advances.

It’s a remarkable example of how society has transformed to cope with natural hazards, say researchers who have studied the event.

A team led by Gabriel Easton from the University of Chile at Santiago spent years in the Atacama Desert on the west coast of South America collecting evidence of the ancient tsunami.

In several places, they found a layer of characteristic deposits thrown out by the tsunami. Radiocarbon dates on charcoal and shells in archaeological deposits located immediately above the tsunami deposits suggest that this occurred about 3,800 years ago.

The Chilean coast is in a subduction zone, where one of the tectonic plates that make up the Earth‘s surface is displaced by another.

As a result, the region is prone to strong earthquakes. However, written sources in this region are rather short, so it is not clear how strong earthquakes can be and how often the strongest ones occur.

“We assume that this earthquake was similar to the Valdivia earthquake that occurred in 1960 in southern Chile,” Easton said. “This is the largest earthquake ever recorded in history.”

The magnitude of the Valdivia quake was about 9.5, and Easton’s team thinks the quake 3,800 years ago was similar.

Researchers have documented major shifts around 3,800 years ago. Less traces of habitation have been found at archaeological sites near the coast. This suggests that people stopped going there, or at least spent less time there.

In addition, cemeteries were moved inland and to higher ground. The locals mummified the bodies of their relatives and attached great importance to having their dead ancestors by their side, a practice that continues to this day in Andean communities.

Scientists believe that this new pattern of behavior persisted for a long time and that many places were only re-inhabited between 1500 and 1000 years ago.


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