Mexico’s Yucatan Peninsula may have been engulfed by a tsunami between 1,500 and 900 years ago, reports a new study involving Mexico’s Centro Ecological Akumal (CEA) and the University of Colorado Boulder.
There are several lines of evidence for an ancient tsunami, foremost a large, wedge-shaped berm about 15 feet above sea level paved with washing machine-sized stones, said the researchers. Set back in places more than a quarter of a mile from shore, the berm stretches for at least 30 miles, alternating between rocky headlands and crescent beaches as it tracks the outline of the Caribbean coast near the plush resorts of Playa del Carmen and Cancun.
Radiocarbon dates of peat beneath the extensive berm indicate a tsunami, which may have consisted of two or even three giant waves, likely slammed the coastline sometime after A.D. 450. In addition, ruins of Post-Classic Mayan structures built between A.D. 900 and 1200 were found atop parts of the berm, indicating the tsunami occurred prior to that time.
“I was quite shocked when I first walked these headlands and saw this large berm paved with boulders running long distances in both directions,” said CEA scientist Charles Shaw. “My initial thought was that a huge wave came through here in the past, and it must have packed quite a punch.”