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Evidence of Tsunamis Found at Ancient Klallam Village

Monday, May 13, 2019

PORT ANGELES, WASHINGTON—Evidence for as many as five tsunamis has been detected at an ancient Klallam village site on the north coast of Washington State’s Olympic Peninsula, according to a Jefferson Public Radio report. Klallam oral history tells of a wise man who warned the people to prepare for flooding when they noticed their fresh water turning salty, as could happen with the displacement of a large amount of water. Archaeologist Sarah Sterling of Portland State University participated in the excavation of the village site of Tse-whit-zen in 2004. She said she found thin, clear layers of marine sand on top of wrecked houses and hearths, with a new village built over them. Her team of researchers also discovered signs of scouring and backwash deposits, she said. “What we have I think are cultural rubble draped across beach features,” Sterling said. “So it’s been entrained by the wave, washed back and forth, and left in these S-shaped swash deposits. I think those are from the tsunami as well.” Tsunami models indicate the waves were up to 20 feet tall. Gaps in radiocarbon dates for the site, which was occupied over a period of some 2,700 years, correlate with known major earthquakes, Sterling noted. To read about evidence of very early occupants of what is now Washington State, go to “Manis Mastodon Kill Site.”

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