3,600-Year Old Tsunami Victims Were Discovered on the Turkish Coast

The find could help date the Thera volcano eruption.
Loukia Papadopoulos
The photo credit line may appear like thisProceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

Victims of an ancient tsunami that took place 3,600 years ago were found on the Turkish coast at Çeşme-Bağlararası. The skeletons of a human male and a dog are believed to have died in the aftermath of the Thera volcano eruption around 1620 BCE. 

“The impact of this eruption, and the tsunamis it created were much stronger, and reached more regions than suggested before,” study co-authors Beverly Goodman, a marine geoarchaeologist at the University of Haifa in Israel, and Vasıf Şahoğlu, a maritime archaeologist at the University of Ankara in Turkey, wrote to Gizmodo. “Çeşme-Bağlararası is the northernmost site with tsunami deposits so far investigated, and is unique in that it is a site with very clear cultural and commercial maritime contacts with the Minoan World.”

The researchers investigating the skeletons also believe that the seas made a visit to the remains, as there were shells and urchins present at the site. They have yet to determine whether the young man died from drowning or suffocation from the dust of the tsunami. 

The skeletons are set to be dated in the next few months. If they are confirmed to be from the Thera eruption, the skeletons would be one of only two victims of the event ever discovered with the other found in Theresia, the western island of Santorini, in 1886.

The researchers also hope that nine new radiocarbon ages from materials on the site will be able to pinpoint the exact date of the Thera eruption. To this day, some believe it occurred around 1530 BCE while others contest it was around 1620 BCE. 

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Last year, the investigation of tree rings of timber used in an ancient Phrygian tomb led to researchers dating the eruption to 1560 BCE but that date has yet to be confirmed. Will this new find be able to answer this long-standing question?

The findings were published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.