Archaeologists find an ancient tsunami victim on the Turkish coast

A human skeleton lies in the sediments among the ruins of a settlement in what is now Turkey.

The remains of a 3,600-year-old tsunami victim.
Photo: Vasif Shahoglu

A team of archaeologists and geologists have found victims of an ancient tsunami on the Turkish coast. The victims – a man and a dog, now just skeletons – were likely It was killed in the aftermath of a giant volcanic eruption 3,600 years ago.

The volcanic eruption was Thera on an island SantoriniWhich happened around 1620 BC. The eruption was so violent that a large part of the island of Santorini was obliterated; sliver remaining island Now a popular tourist destination. The volcanic eruption wreaked havoc in the Mediterranean, as massive tsunamis rolled outward from the island and ash covered much of the area.

No wonder an event is cited as probable origin From the myth of Atlantis or the Egyptian plagues discussed in bThere have been victims, such as individuals recently discovered in Turkey. It was the team’s latest discovery mentioned This week in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

The two skeletons were found at Çeşme-Bağlararası, a settlement on the Turkish coast that was occupied from the mid-3rd millennium BC to the 13th century BC, according to the newspaper. Archaeologists have previously discovered Late Bronze Age artifacts at the site. But Recently, Ash and Tephra—Material ejected in volcanic eruptions –uploaded On site. Researchers have been able to trace volcanic material in Turkey right up to the eruption of the Santorini volcano.

“The impact of this volcanic eruption and the tsunami it generated was much stronger, and it reached more areas than previously suggested,” said study co-authors Beverly Goodman, a marine archaeologist at the University of Haifa in Israel, and Vasif Shahoglu, a marine archaeologist. at Ankara University in Turkey, books in the joint E-mail. “The Çeşme-Bağlararası site is the northernmost site with tsunami deposits investigated so far, and is unique in that it is a site with very clear cultural and commercial maritime connections with the Minoan world.”

But besides the volcanic material at the site, the team also found evidence that the ocean made a visit inland. Besides human and dog remains at the site, researchers have found shells and hedgehogs. They find a structure with a wall collapsing inward; It seemed that a grim silt deposit had drifted into the wall, causing it to collapse.

The material appeared to have entered the site from one direction, leading the team to conclude that it was not the result of an earthquake. The research team is unsure if the human – a healthy young man, possibly a teenager – died from drowning, blunt force trauma, or even suffocated under the wreckage of the tsunami. But they are actively investigating this question.

An aerial view of an archaeological site bordered by modern buildings on all sides.

The site of Çeşme-Bağlararası, which was hit by a tsunami around the time of the Thera eruption.
Photo: Vasif Shahoglu

The skeletons will be dated by the team in the coming months; If dated to the same time frame as the eruption of Thera, human and dog remains would be among the very few victims of the catastrophic event ever found. (One else was a skeleton Reportedly seen during archaeological work on Theresia, the western island of Santorini, in 1886.)

“This research – we believe – will be open to scientists working in the Aegean Sea in particular. For decades, the primary focus of research on eruptions has been mainly on the question of the dating or the effect and nature of the eruption itself, and the distribution of ash, along with the tidal waves it has generated Goodman and Shahoglu said.

“However, only a few sites with tsunami deposits have been reported, and none have reported human casualties. They added that this lack of human casualties is a mystery that has left a real knowledge gap regarding the human experience associated with the event.”

Perhaps the most useful items for the new work, though, are nine new eras of radiocarbon taken from various materials at the site. The date of the eruption of Thera remains disputed; Some believe that the explosion was About 1530 BC (increase or take a contract) or Around 1620 BC. last yearA team of dendrochronologists has dated the eruption to 1560 B.C., based on wooden tree rings used in an ancient Phrygian cemetery. The dates from Çeşme-Bağlararası indicate that the deposits cannot be older than 1612 BC, although they may credit the dates of the Thera eruption.

But the ages of the skeletons will be useful besides determining if they were indeed victims of the Thera event. It can be difficult to accurately date marine material through radiocarbon dating, so some researchers use different methods to date a tsunami. One team used optically stimulated luminescence technology last year To find out when the tsunami hit the east coast.

The most interesting data will surely come from Çeşme-Bağlararası and the individuals – humans and dogs – who died there. Perhaps more northern sites showing the extent of the damage inflicted on Thera will appear in due course as well.

More: Which volcanoes are much later than erupting?

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