The University of Arizona
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Geoarchaeological Perspectives on the “Millennial Series” of Earthquakes in the Southern Puget Lowland, Washington, USA

Ian Hutchinson


Surface-breaking ruptures on shallow crustal faults in the southern Puget Lowland in western Washington State about a millennium ago prompted abrupt changes in land level and triggered tsunamis in Puget Sound. The displacement on the Seattle fault most likely occurred in the 1050–1020 cal BP interval. Structures further south (the Tacoma and Olympia faults, and one or more faults in the southern Hood Canal zone) ruptured at about the same time, or slightly earlier. The low frequency of radiocarbon ages from archaeological sites in the region in the aftermath of the “millennial series” of earthquakes, when compared to bootstrapped samples from a database of 1255 ages from the Pacific Northwest as a whole, suggests that these very large earthquakes had significant socioeconomic consequences. The cultural record from coastal archaeological sites shows that although survivors camped on the shore in the aftermath, many coastal villages appear to have been abandoned, and were not reoccupied for several centuries. There is little evidence, however, to suggest that people migrated from southern Puget Sound to neighboring areas, and no evidence of social conflict in the adjacent areas that might have served as havens.

DOI: 10.2458/azu_rc.57.18201


archaeology; earthquakes; Puget Sound; Washington State

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