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Evidence of Ancient Tsunami Uncovered in Chile

Tuesday, April 12, 2022

SANTIAGO, CHILE—Ars Technica reports that evidence of a massive earthquake and tsunami that occurred some 3,800 years ago has been uncovered at archaeological sites along the coast of Chile’s Atacama Desert by Diego Salazar and Gabriel Easton of the University of Chile and their colleagues. At a site known as Zapatero, the researchers uncovered a house made of stones situated on top of a massive shell midden. The stone walls had fallen inward, as if they had been hit by a wave. The stones of another dwelling were scattered back toward the sea, as if they had been pulled along by tsunami backwash, Salazar said. In a third house, the team members found floors covered in a layer of sand full of marine algae, echinoderm spines, chunks of rocks, shells, and sediments from disturbed layers of ground. Deep channels at the site are also thought to have been gouged by the tsunami’s current, he added. Surveys along the coastline uncovered similar signs of disaster at other archaeological sites, Salazar explained. After the disaster, the presence of small hearths suggests that most people only returned to the coast for short visits, perhaps to fish. A nearby iron oxide mine, however, was abandoned. Read the original scholarly article about this research in Science Advances. For more about the Atacama Desert, go to "Off the Grid: San Pedro de Atacama, Chile."

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