Science

Ancient skull from oldest tsunami victim

Ancient skull from oldest tsunami victim”

Scientists believe it belongs to the oldest-known human tsunami victim. According to this latest research, the fragments might belong to what might become the first ever known victim of a tsunami.

"As probably the oldest-known tsunami victim in the world, the Aitape skull speaks volumes about the long-term exposure of human populations along the world's coastlines and how such events in the past will have undoubtedly had fundamental effects on human migration, settlement and culture", said tsunami expert James Goff of the University of New South Wales in Australia.

"The geological similarities between the sediments at the place where the skull was found and sediments laid down during the 1998 tsunami that hit this same coastline have made us realize that human populations in this area have been affected by these massive inundations for thousands of years".

The skull was discovered near the town of Aitape, about 7 miles (12 km) inland from Papua New Guinea's northern coast.

"Given the evidence we have in hand, we are more convinced than before that this person was either violently killed by a tsunami, or had their grave ripped open by one-leading to their head but not the rest of their body being naturally reburied where it then remained undiscovered in the ground for some 6,000 or so years", he added. Co-researcher Ethan Cochrane, an archaeologist at the University of Auckland in New Zealand said.

"We don't know exactly where Hossfeld found the skull, but I think we were within 100 meters of the original location based on his description". Initial investigations concluded the skull belonged to Homo erectus-an extinct humanoid species that died out 143,000 years ago.

The team carried out laboratory tests on the sediment to look at grain size and its geochemistry. The team found microscopic organisms in the sediment, similar to soil organisms from right after the tsunami in 1998.

An analysis of the area revealed large amounts of diatoms.

Also, they found more about the cause of death of the individual, and it turns out it was a tsunami.

"It's also really high-energy ocean water - high-energy enough for these little tiny specks of silica that the diatoms build to be broken as they're washing in from the sea". With observations of modern Tsunami, the researchers can not find any other reason than Tsunami as the reason behind the death of the man.

Cochrane hoped this study would help raise awareness about how people adapt and thrive in coastal areas that are subject to tropical storms, earthquakes and tsunamis.

The area around Papua New Guinea is prone to tectonic disturbances, and often affected by natural disasters like tsunamis and earthquakes. "So perhaps people are balancing risk and food reward".



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