Home Science The first victim of a tsunami

The first victim of a tsunami

One study found that a 6,000-year-old skull found in New Guinea belonged to a victim of that natural disaster.

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The first victim of a tsunami

The tsunamis are one of the most lethal and terrifying to human imagination natural disasters; the tsunami that killed 230,000 people in the Indian Ocean in 2004 or the giant waves that swept across the Japanese coastline and took more than 15,000 lives ahead on March 11, 2011 is still in our memory. It is obvious that we are not talking about a modern phenomenon; that volcanoes, earthquakes and landslides have undoubtedly triggered this type of sudden displacements of water masses in the most remote past. But since when have they affected the human being? For at least 6,000 years, according to the finding of what has just echoed the scientific journal PLOS ONE.

In fact, it is a skull unearthed in 1929 near the small town of Aitape in New Guinea, the second largest island in the world after Greenland.

This coastal enclave of the Pacific Ocean, pertaining to Papua New Guinea, has been investigated since 1990 by anthropologist John Terrell, who works at the Field Museum of Natural History in Chicago and is part of the international team of experts who made the discovery.

“If we are right, and the owner of that skull died as we think, we have a conclusive proof that living by the sea is not only beautiful sunsets and good surfing conditions. It is the testimony that a natural disaster can happen anytime, anywhere, and turn the world upside down. Maybe it will help us convince skeptics of the seriousness of the threat posed by global warming and rising water levels, “Terrell said.

In the place of the events

Although originally believed to belong to a Homo erectus, radiocarbon dating established its antiquity no more than 6,000 years ago. That is, it was a modern human.

More recently, in 2014, Mark Golitko, an expert from the University of Notre Dame in Indiana and the Field Museum, moved with other researchers to the site where the bones were discovered to find out the cause of the death of that ancient papua.

“We have been able to confirm what we had suspected for a long time. The similarities between the sediments where the skull was and those that left a tsunami that devastated this same coast in 1998 lead us to believe that the local population has suffered this kind of massive flooding since thousands of years ago.”

What we do not know is whether the tsunami violently killed the individual or pulled him out of his grave, burying his head where it was discovered 6,000 years later, “explains James Goff of the University of New South Wales in Australia, author of the paper.

Experts from a number of institutions, such as the University of Papua New Guinea, the University of Auckland (New Zealand), the New Zealand institute for Water and Atmospheric Research and the University of Burgundy, Franche-Comté, in France, have collaborated.

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