Geoarchaeological evidence of a Chola-period tsunami from an ancient port at Kaveripattinam on the southeastern coast of India



Literature of the ancient Chola Dynasty (A.D. 9th–11th centuries) of South India and recent archaeological excavations allude to a sea flood that crippled the ancient port at Kaveripattinam, a trading hub for Southeast Asia, and probably affected the entire South Indian coast, analogous to the 2004 Indian Ocean tsunami impact. We present sedimentary evidence from an archaeological site to validate the textual references to this early medieval event. A sandy layer showing bed forms representing high-energy conditions, possibly generated by a seaborne wave, was identified at the Kaveripattinam coast of Tamil Nadu, South India. Its sedimentary characteristics include hummocky cross-stratification, convolute lamination with heavy minerals, rip-up clasts, an erosional contact with the underlying mud bed, and a landward thinning geometry. Admixed with 1000-year-old Chola period artifacts, it provided an optically stimulated luminescence age of 1091 ± 66 yr and a thermoluminescence age of 993 ± 73 yr for the embedded pottery sherds. The dates of these proxies converge around 1000 yr B.P., correlative of an ancient tsunami reported from elsewhere along the Indian Ocean coasts. © 2011 Wiley Periodicals, Inc.