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On the banks of Siletz Bay in Lincoln City, Oregon, officials dedicated a memorial last week to one of America’s worst calamities: a huge earthquake and tsunami that killed thousands of Native Americans 300 years ago. But the memorial’s main job is not to commemorate the disaster, which has only just come to light, but to warn local people that similar devastation could strike at any time.

The area sits over massive fault lines whose dangers have been highlighted by a startling new scientific discipline that combines Earth science studies and analysis of ancient legends. This is geomythology, and it is transforming our knowledge of earthquakes, volcanoes and tsunamis, says the journal Science.

According to the discipline’s proponents, violent geological upheavals may be more frequent than was previously suspected. Apart from the ‘lost’ Seattle earthquake, geomythology has recently revealed that a volcano in Fiji, thought to be dormant, is active, a discovery that followed geologists’ decision to follow up legends of a mountain appearing overnight.

Geologists have found that Middle Eastern flooding myths, including the story of Noah, could be traced to the sudden inundation of the Black Sea 7,600 years ago. The Oracle at Delphi has been found to lie over a geological fault through which seeped hallucinogenic gases. These could account for the trances and utterances of the oracle’s mystics.

‘Myths can tell us a great deal about what happened in the past and were important in establishing what happened here 300 years ago,’ said Brian Atwater, of the US Geological Survey in Seattle.

Along the Oregon and Washington coast, there are Native American stories about boulders, called a’yahos, which can shake to death anyone who stares at them. In addition, Ruth Ludwin, a seismologist in Seattle, discovered tales of villages being washed away and of whales and thunderbirds locked in fights…

(Note to readers who follow my comics work: I found this today, and started writing the forthcoming BLACKGAS months ago.)

Published in researchmaterial


  1. I’ve been out to the coast a few times. As an FYI, the towns there are on a strip of land backed by a not-insignificant mountain range through which there are not so many roads into the interior.

    The Tsunami Escape Route signs definitely give one pause. They show a huge wave menacing a little figure running for its life.

  2. I love those signs! They are so funny looking and next time I go to Astoria I’ll definently get a picture. :)
    Such good research material to write from.

  3. James James

    Walter Jon Williams wrote a novel about this called ‘The Rift’.

    There is quite a lot of info about the New Madrid faultline out there.

  4. So, will far-future geomythologists try to search in the stars for the destroyed planet Krypton, or try to find a breed of radioactive spider that once existed?

  5. Carol Taurua Carol Taurua

    I have studied two papers in geology at Otago University so hence an interest in geology esp earthquakes. This theory of studying ancient legend and what they say about historical events in earth science is important. Yes it is a new field of study but what myths and legends say e.g volcanic and sesmic events have important implications for us. Carol Taurua, Otago University, Dunedin, New Zealand.

  6. Interesting post. I stumbled across your blog whilst searching for info on Madrid. best of luck with your blog.

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