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28 September 2001
Giant waves hit ancient Scotland

Scientists believe a landslide on the ocean floor off Storegga, south-west Norway, triggered a giant wave that flooded Scotland about 7,000 years ago. The tsunami left a trail of destruction along what is now the eastern coast of the country and inundated much of the land bridge that connected Britain to Denmark, Germany and the Netherlands at the end of the Ice Age.
      Radiocarbon dating of sediments taken from the coastline of eastern Scotland put the date of the event at about 5,800 BCE. The natural disaster forced the Stone Age inhabitants of coastal villages to move inland after their villages were wiped out with many deaths. Archaeologists know this from the remains of a hunting camp in Inverness, found in excavations beneath the BBC building on Castle Street. Flint tools and weapons were scattered across a wide area, showing the extent of the devastation.
      "It looks as if those people were happily sitting in their camp when this wave from the sea hit the camp," said Professor Smith of the department of Geography at Coventry University. "We're talking about two, three or four large waves followed by little ones, that would have been 5-10 metres high.
      David Smith said the event probably marked a watershed in Britain's emergence as an island. "It just so happened that the time when these waves were formed was about the time Britain was beginning to be isolated from the European mainland,"
      Scientists hope to find more evidence of similar past tsunamis in eastern Scotland to predict the frequency of the destructive waves. Studies of coastal sediments show that it may be possible to develop a record of past tsunamis extending back several millennia.

Sources: BBC News (7 September 2001), The Times (8 September 2001)

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