The remains of a man and a dog trying to escape an ancient tsunami found on the Aegean coast

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About 3,600 years ago, the enormous Thera volcano in the Aegean Sea exploded, triggering massive tsunamis. Today, archaeologists in western Turkey unearthed the bones of a young man and a dog killed by one of these tsunamis.

This is the first time that victims of the ancient eruption have been found in their archaeological context, and it is the most northerly evidence of the tsunamis that followed it.

Archaeological excavations at the site of the town of Çeşme, about 40 miles (70 kilometers) west of the city of Izmer, began more than 10 years ago when construction workers discovered ruins there. of the Bronze Age.

But it was only recently that the researchers realized that the destruction they saw was caused by the tsunamis from the Thera eruption, said Vasıf Şahoğlu, an archaeologist at Ankara University, who led the research. excavations from 2009 to 2019 and is the lead author of a new study on the finds.

Related: The 11 largest volcanic eruptions in history

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The Bronze Age ruins were discovered in 2009 near the Çeşme waterfront before the construction of a new apartment building.

The Bronze Age ruins were discovered in 2009 near the Çeşme waterfront before the construction of a new apartment building. (Image credit: Vasif Şahoğlu)
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Archaeologists spent 10 years excavating the site, but it was only relatively recently that its destruction was attributed to the tsunamis of the Thera eruption.

Archaeologists spent 10 years excavating the site, but it was only relatively recently that its destruction was attributed to the tsunamis of the Thera eruption. (Image credit: Vasif Şahoğlu)
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University of Haifa archaeologist Beverly Goodman-Chernov helped establish that several of the layers buried at the site were due to ancient debris from the tsunami.

University of Haifa archaeologist Beverly Goodman-Chernov helped establish that several of the layers buried at the site were due to ancient debris from the tsunami. (Image credit: Vasif Şahoğlu)
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Archaeologists initially thought only part of the site had been damaged by the tsunamis, but later found that the ancient disaster covered the entire area.

Archaeologists initially thought only part of the site had been damaged by the tsunamis, but later found that the ancient disaster covered the entire area. (Image credit: Vasif Şahoğlu)

“It took a few years and then it all started to make sense,” ahoğlu told Live Science. “This is going to help us tremendously.… We can now interpret everything in a much better way.”

The Thera volcano, which was then at the center of the archipelago resulting from the islands of the Aegean Sea now known as Santorini, erupted around 1600 BC.

It was one of the worst natural disasters in human history; scientists estimate the volcano exploded with 2 million times the power of the atomic bomb of Hiroshima, NASA reported.

The explosion wiped out the Minoan town of Akrotiri on the island, and its aftermath may have contributed to the demise of the minoan civilization in Crete, about 75 miles (120 km) to the south. The volcano plume may have been observed in Egypt, and it likely caused a global volcanic winter that reached China.

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The site is close to the bustling waterfront of a popular resort town on Turkey's Aegean coast.  It will now become an archaeological museum.

The site is close to the bustling waterfront of a popular resort town on Turkey’s Aegean coast. It will now become an archaeological museum. (Image credit: Vasif Şahoğlu)
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Ankara University archaeologist Vasif Şahoğlu, seen here alongside layers of ash from the Thera eruption, has been excavating the site for 10 years.

Ankara University archaeologist Vasif Şahoğlu, seen here alongside layers of ash from the Thera eruption, has been excavating the site for 10 years. (Image credit: Beverly Goodman-Tchernov)
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Çeşme on Turkey's Aegean coast is one of the most popular resorts in the region.  The archaeological site was discovered near the front of the marina.

Çeşme on Turkey’s Aegean coast is one of the most popular resorts in the region. The archaeological site was discovered near the front of the marina. (Image credit: Vasif Şahoğlu)

Old eruption

Despite the widespread devastation and the tens of thousands who must have died, the remains of a single death attributed to the eruption have never been found – those of a man buried under rubble in Santorini, which were discovered in 19th century, Şahoğlu mentioned.

Many victims of at least four tsunamis that spread across the Mediterranean after the Thera eruption were likely washed out by sea. Archaeologists may also have found other skeletal remains from the cataclysm, but they have perhaps assumed that these people had been killed by other causes, such as earthquake, he added.

Signs of destruction from an ancient tsunami can be difficult to see, and often these signs can only be confirmed by the presence of microscopic marine animal fossils, said Beverly Goodman-Chernov, an archaeologist at the University of Haifa. and co-principal. author of the study.

So far, traces of the Thera tsunamis have only been found at six sites in the Aegean Sea, and Çeşme – about 140 miles (220 km) – is the most northerly.

The discovery in 2017 of the human and dog bones means the Çeşme site may serve as a “frozen moment” of life during eruptions, she said.

The man was about 17 when he died; it was killed by one of the waves of the tsunami, then ran aground against a city wall in the Bronze Age.

The dog’s remains were found nearby, but there is no evidence that the man and the dog were together when they were killed, Goodman-Tchernov said.

Rescue efforts

Interestingly, a grave had been deliberately dug over the man’s body, possibly in an attempt to save him or to retrieve his body for a proper burial. Similar pits had been dug elsewhere at the site, apparently shortly after one of the first waves of the tsunami, she said.

“We believe these are in fact the preserved ‘negative spaces’ where people came from and rescued injured or abducted survivors [the dead]”Goodman-Tchernov told Live Science.” Sadly, there was another tsunami wave that came in and filled them all. “

Şahoğlu said scientific tests would be carried out on the remains, including DNA analysis, to try to find out more about the young man and the dog.

Archaeologists will also be looking for other traces of the tsunami in the area, and the discovery of tsunami destruction in Çeşme should prompt experts to reassess evidence from nearby archaeological sites, he said.

Today, Çeşme is a thriving resort town on the Aegean coast, and the archaeological site is right next to the town’s popular waterfront. “It was very difficult to work in the middle of one of Turkey’s top tourist destinations,” said ahoğlu.

But archaeological work in Çeşme is now complete and authorities are now awaiting approval to build a museum above the site to preserve the excavations, he said.

The remains were described in a study published Jan. 4 in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

Originally posted by Live Science.


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