COUNCIL CHRONICLE – A new study took another look at a 6,000 years old skull that was discovered several decades ago. According to this latest research, the fragments might belong to what might become the first ever known victim of a tsunami.
An Australian geologist, Paul Hossfeld, was the one to discover the thousands of years old skull fragments back in 1929. They were unearthed in Aitape, in Papua New Guinea.
Even from the beginning, evidence suggested that the cause of death must have been a tsunami. However, the initial research team did not collect sediment samples as well.
The 6,000 Years Old Skull, Proof of the Destructive Force of Tsunamis
This new study traveled to the mangrove in which the skull fragments were discovered. It did so to also analyze the soil and the sediment layers in which these had been buried for so long.
The skull in itself is a piece of great interest as is one of the only human remains discovered in the area. Radiocarbon dating found it to be around 5,000 to 6,000 years old. Previous analyses indicate that, as the oceans were higher at that time, this region must have been quite close to the shoreline.
The exact position in which Hossfeld discovered the fragments was not precisely determined. However, the present study’s team considers that they were within 328 feet of its location.
An analysis of the area revealed large amounts of diatoms. These are single-celled aquatic organisms. Research indicates that these could be useful in determining the age of the sediment layers. They may also help reconstruct sedimentary environments.
“These sediments that the Aitape skull was in have pure marine diatoms in them, which is ocean water that’s inundating it,” says the University of Notre Dame’s Mark Golitko.
The diatom analysis results are consistent with previous studies that targeted the grain sizes found in the sediments and their chemical signatures. Both of them are consistent with the local tsunami activity.
So the team proposes that this skull belonged to a person that was either killed by a tsunami or had its grave dug out by one. This would help explain why the rest of its body wasn’t discovered.
However, the study team considers this last theory as “highly unlikely”, so this skull ‘likely’ belonged to the first known tsunami victim.
Current study findings were released in a paper in the journal PLoS ONE.
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