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No. 53: Sep-Oct 1987

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A Tsunami And A Peruvian Cultural Glitch

We quote from the abstract of a paper by R.M. Bird from American Antiquity.

"While investigating the archaeological background of early maize on the coast of Peru, I realized that several factors affect interpretation. The estimated date for the start of common use of maize there is close to the apparent dates of a large tsunami, the abandonment of many coastal sites, and the start of occupation at Chavin de Huantar in the highlands. While investigating the possible relations between the principal pretsunami coastal culture and Chavin, I discovered that depictions of a monstrous head link the two cultures."

The "monstrous head" is thought by the Bird to be a stylized representation of a tsunami wave. Not mentioned at all in the abstract are the physical evidences of tsunami damage along the Peruvian coast. This article portrays the possible effects on the ancient manmade structures in the region as well as the widespread deposits of sand, cobblestones, and other sediments.

(Bird, Robert McK.; "A Postulated Tsunami and Its Effects on Cultural Development in the Peruvian Early Horizon," American Antiquity, 52:285, 1987.)

Profile of site on Peruvian coast. Profile of a north-south site trench at a a site on the Peruvian coast, showing thick strata that may have been deposited by a tsunami.

From Science Frontiers #53, SEP-OCT 1987. 1987-2000 William R. Corliss

Science Frontiers Sourcebook Project Reviewed in:


  • "A sourcebook of unexplained phenomena is therefore a valuable addition to a collection of scientific literature. William R. Corliss has provided this in the past with his source books of scientific anomalies in several subjects, and now he has provided it for astronomy. He has done an excellent job of collecting and editing a large amount of material, taken in part from scientific journals and in part from scientific reporting in the popular or semi-scientific press." -- "The Mysterious Universe: A Handbook of Astronomical Anomalies", reviwed by Thomas Gold, Cornell University, in Icarus, vol.41, 1980

  • "An interesting, systematic presentation of unusual weather [..] This book is recommended for a general audience" --"Corliss, William R., Tornados, Dark Days, Anomalous Precipitation, and Related Weather Phenomena, Sourcebook Project, 1983.", revieweed in Choice, September 1983
  • "..the science is necessarily somewhat speculative, but Corliss's symthesis is based on reputable sources." -- "Corliss, William R. (Compiler). Lightning, Auroras, Nocturnal Lights, and Related Luminous Phenomena" reviwed by Joseph M. Moran, Univ. of Wisconsin in Science Books and Films, Sep/Oct 1983

  • "Before opening the book, I set certain standards that a volume which treads into dangerous grounds grounds like this must meet. The author scrupulously met, or even exceeded those standards. Each phenomenon is exhaustively documented, with references to scientific journals [..] and extensive quotations" -- "Book Review: The moon and planets: a catalog of astronomical anomalies", The Sourcebook Project, 1985., Corliss, W. R., Journal of the Royal Astronomical Society of Canada, Vol. 81, no. 1 (1987), p. 24., 02/1987