The enormous tsunami that swept through northern Europe more than 8,000 years ago may have been responsible for the tragic extinction of northern Britain during the Mesolithic period, according to recent research.
New research published in the Journal of Quaternary Science provides insight into this ancient natural disaster.
During the Mesolithic period, also known as the Middle Stone Age, the population of northern Britain was around 1,000. Most of them lived in small coastal settlements, potentially exposed to giant tidal waves.
Archaeological finds indicate a sudden decline in human settlements in the region around 8,200 years ago. Previously it was associated with climate change, but new research points to a mysterious tsunami, which was given the name Storegga.
The Storegga tsunami was caused by an underwater landslide off the coast of Norway, creating waves over 20 meters high. They hit the Shetland Islands and the north of England. Waves reached 3-6 meters in the north of England.
Using computer modeling, scientists reconstructed the event at the coastal settlement of Howick in Northumberland. Although sediment cores dating back to the time of the tsunami have been discovered, researchers have disagreed. Modeling showed that a tsunami could only inundate the site at high tide.
If the assumptions are correct, then the Storegg tsunami could have caused a catastrophic decline in the population of northern Britain.
The researchers suggest that “at Howick, mortality estimates varied, but were as high as 100 percent within the resource-rich intertidal zone.” The wave not only claimed lives, but also destroyed food supplies, accelerating population decline throughout northwestern Europe.