Experts blow mega-tsunami theory out of the water

Feb 04, 2008

The theory that ancient mega-tsunamis once swamped the Australian coast – leaving deposits up to 30km inland – is severely undermined by the archaeological evidence, a conference at The Australian National University will hear tomorrow.

In 2003 Australian geological researchers suggested prehistoric tsunamis over the last 10,000 years were much larger than those recorded since European settlement, including findings of surges up to 20 metres in height affecting a 2500km stretch of the West Australian coastline.

But archaeologists from The Australian National University have questioned these claims, saying that some of the key evidence for ‘mega-tsunamis’ can be explained by human activity.

“Our field work would suggest that the shell and coral deposits found high on headlands in WA or further inland are evidence of Aboriginal occupation of the area, and not deposits of mega-tsunamis or other major inundations,” argues researcher Dr Tony Barham from ANU. He and his colleagues Dr Sue O’Connor and Dr Stewart Fallon also found that archaeological deposits in the area have not been disturbed by major inundation for the last 1000 years, undermining the previous theory that giant waves had flooded the area once every 400 to 500 years.

“These earlier theories about mega-tsunamis and their frequency have been quite influential in WA for the development of emergency service plans – but our research would suggest that they are not supported by the archaeological evidence.

“This is a great example of why solid archaeological research should be taken into account in the planning processes for future emergencies. Archaeology is a vital discipline for understanding the environmental and climate-change risks we face in Australia, as it shows how the continents’ earlier inhabitants dealt with sudden and long-term changes to their environment.”

Dr Barham is presenting the findings at the Archaeological Science Conference at ANU, which will launch the University’s new Masters in Archaeological Science program. Other presenters at the conference will look at how early agriculture was sustained in drying landscapes, and how homo floresiensis or ‘hobbits’ fit into the story of human evolution.

Source: Australian National University

Explore further: Researcher observes temperature variability across the world

add to favorites email to friend print save as pdf

Related Stories

Unearthing the history of the Naracoorte Caves

Feb 04, 2014

(Phys.org) —Flinders University researcher Amy Macken has discovered the age of sedimentary layers in the Naracoorte Caves using a cutting-edge computer modelling technique that has never before been used ...

From the field: Bush tucker feeds an ancient mystery

Jul 10, 2012

(Phys.org) -- As sabre tooth tigers and woolly mammoths were wandering around Europe, unique, giant prehistoric animals were living in Australia – three metre tall kangaroos and wombat-like creatures, ...

Recommended for you

New tremors raise concern at Japan's Mount Ontake

3 hours ago

Increased seismic activity raised concern Tuesday about the possibility of another eruption at a Japanese volcano where 36 people were killed, forcing rescuers to suspend plans to try to recover at least ...

Japan's volcanoes: Could Fuji be next?

13 hours ago

The sudden eruption of Mount Ontake over the weekend, which is believed to have killed at least 31 people, was a reminder of Japan's vulnerability to its many active volcanoes.

NASA image: Fires in Papua, Indonesia and New Guinea

13 hours ago

According to a NASA story from 2009, "human activities in this area of the world have contributed to the growing fire emissions issue. Palm oil is increasingly grown for use as a cooking oil and biofuel, ...

User comments : 0