The Mayan community was wiped out 1,590 years ago when a giant volcano erupted. This revealed a new study that uncovered the timeline with a Greenland ice core and charred remains of the event
- Radiocarbon measurements date a massive eruption of the Ilopango volcano in El Salvador for the first time to AD 431
- The explosion was over 50 times larger than Mount Saint Helens
- It killed everything within 25 miles and made an area twice that size uninhabitable for over a century
- Analysis of an ice core in Greenland confirmed that ash had been transported over 4,300 miles
- But the timing is wrong to lead to a strange 1
Scientists have recorded the date of a devastating volcano that rocked Mayan civilization more than a millennium ago.
It has long been known that the Ilopango volcano in present-day El Salvador had a major eruption during the early classical Mayan period between AD 300 and AD 600 – but an exact date has escaped researchers so far.
By performing radiocarbon dating of a charred mahogany tree found in ash deposits, archaeologists have dated the massive explosion to a few years after AD 431.
To confirm their results, the researchers used 3D models to estimate that the plume rose 28 miles into the upper atmosphere.
From there, air currents carried it to Antarctica more than 4,300 miles away.
The analysis of an ice core extracted in Greenland showed the same chemical composition and confirmed their hypothesis – the violent eruption occurred 1,590 years ago.
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By radiocarbon dating a charred mahogany tree found in ash deposits, archaeologists have dated the eruption of the Ilopango volcano to a few years after AD 431
Today the Ilopango Caldera is a crater lake, less than ten kilometers from today’s San Salvador.
It is part of the El Salvador volcanic arc, a chain of 20 active volcanoes that is one of the most seismically active regions in Central America.
This eruption nearly 1,600 years ago covered more than 770,000 square miles of Central America with white ash and earned it the name “Tierra Blanca Joven” – Spanish for “young white earth”.
“It would have been dark for at least a week in this region,” said lead author Victoria Smith, an archaeologist at Oxford University.
The eruption covered more than 770,000 square miles of Central America in white ash, earning it the name “Tierra Blanca Joven” – Spanish for “young white earth”. Researchers estimate that its plume rose 28 miles into the upper atmosphere
Tierra Blanca Joven was over 50 times larger than Mount Saint Helens in 1980, Smith added.
The volume of its pyroclastic flows – fast-moving streams of gas, volcanic ash, and pumice that can reach 1,830 ° F – was ten times that of the mountain. Vesuvius when he buried Pompeii.
It killed every living being within 40 kilometers and made an area twice as large uninhabitable for a century and a half.
“We believe the lack of ceramic production in the general area is due to people not being there,” Smith told Ars Technica.
Tierra Blanca Joven killed everything within 40 kilometers and made an area twice as large uninhabitable for a century and a half. But the Mayan civilization survived, having by then expanded across Central America
But it did not have a serious impact on the rest of the Mayan civilization, which by then had spread across Central America.
The study, published in 2019, blamed Tierra Blanca Joven for an 18-month global slowdown around AD 536, marked by cloudy skies, crop failures, and famine as far as China, Science Magazine reported.
But Smith’s research puts the outbreak more than a century earlier.
Based on her team’s analysis, Tierra Blanca Joven likely lowered summer temperatures in the southern hemisphere for a few years.
HOW CAN RESEARCHERS PREDICT VOLCANIC ERUPTIONS?
Eric Dunham, Associate Professor at Stanford University’s School of Earth, Energy and Environmental Sciences, explains, “Volcanoes are complex and there are currently no one-size-fits-all means of predicting eruptions. Most likely there will never be. ‘
However, there are indicators of increased volcanic activity that researchers can use to predict volcanic eruptions.
Researchers can track indicators such as:
- Volcanic infrasound: When the lava lake rises in the crater of an open volcano, which is a sign of a possible eruption, the pitch or frequency of the sounds produced by the magma tends to increase.
- Seismic activity: Before an eruption, seismic activity almost always increases in the form of small earthquakes and tremors as magma moves through the volcano’s “sanitary system”.
- Gas emissions: As magma approaches the surface and the pressure decreases, gases escape. Sulfur dioxide is one of the main constituents of volcanic gases, and increasing amounts of it indicate increasing amounts of magma near the surface of a volcano.
- Soil deformation: Changes to the soil surface of a volcano (volcanic deformation) occur as swelling, subsidence, or cracking that may be caused by magma, gas, or other liquids (usually water) moving underground, or by movements in the earth’s crust due to Movements along a fault lines. The swelling of a volcanic can signals that magma has accumulated near the surface.
Source: United States Geological Survey