Scientists find evidence of the largest earthquake in human history

An earthquake so violent that people stayed away from the area for a thousand years. Scientists now believe they have found proof of this event deep down in the dry…

An earthquake so violent that people stayed away from the area for a thousand years. Scientists now believe they have found proof of this event deep down in the dry sands of the Atama Desert.

A terrible catastrophic earthquake that caused a tsunami many thousands of kilometers long and drove people from the area for a thousand years.

This may have happened in what is now northern Chile 3,800 years ago.

That is the result of a recent study published in the recognized scientific journal Science, where archaeologists, including from the Universidad de Chile, found evidence of what they believe to have been the most powerful earthquake in human history.

The Valdivia earthquake in southern Chile has been named the most powerful earthquake in human history. It happened on May 22, 1960 and cost around 1,700 lives. Research has determined this earthquake to be between 9.4-9.6 on the so-called “moment magnitude” scale, which shows slightly higher numbers than the Richter scale when earthquakes are very energetic. However, the fault in the earth’s crust was “only” 800 km long and thus 200 km shorter than what scientists believe caused the newly discovered earthquake.

Tornadoes the size of cars came ashore

This earthquake was, according to the results, a so-called super earthquake or among the most powerful earthquakes that can occur. These extremely powerful earthquakes occur when one plate of the Earth’s crust is pushed under another, unleashing terrifying forces.

This is exactly what the scientists say happened about 3,800 years ago when the so-called Nazca plate under the Pacific Ocean collided with the continental plate of South America. The quake this caused would have measured 9.5 on the moment magnitude scale and created a thousand kilometer break, or fault, in the Earth’s crust.

The earthquake shifted the ocean floor and unleashed a giant tsunami that rose 20 meters high and crashed across the Atama Desert. She also threw boulders the size of cars a few hundred kilometers in from the coast – in New Zealand, that’s easy to see.

The excavation of large shells and rocks helped scientists piece together a picture of what they now believe was the largest earthquake in human history.

Kept humans away for a thousand years

The scientists pieced together the picture of this natural disaster by studying pebbles and marine animals that have been carried far into the dry sand wasteland of the Atama Desert – so far inland that a typhoon could not possibly be the culprit.

They then used the C14 method to date a total of 17 objects that had been spread over a total length of 600 km along the northern part of the Chilean coastline. The analysis revealed that all this had arrived on land nearly 4,000 years ago.

Excavations show that at this time hunters and gatherers lived along the coastline of the Atama Desert. The scientists also found traces of how the giant tsunami had flattened the piled stone houses and left nothing for the people who survived.

The excavation also showed that it has been a thousand years before people returned to this area – despite the need to obtain food from the sea.

Some of the house walls had tumbled towards the sea, most likely due to the residual power of the tsunami on its way back.

The danger lurks in the depths

Until now, scientists did not think that such powerful earthquakes could occur in the northern part of Chile.

But after this discovery, they have gained a valuable insight into the danger of earthquakes and tsunamis that lurks along the Pacific coast – and how bad things can get if such a powerful earthquake happens again in this region.

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