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Chinese Science Bulletin, Volume 64, Issue 1: 107-120(2019) https://doi.org/10.1360/N972018-00740

Nan'ao, an archaeological site of Song dynasty destroyed by tsunami

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  • ReceivedSep 25, 2018
  • AcceptedNov 6, 2018
  • PublishedDec 7, 2018

Abstract

It has remained unknown whether the coastline of the mainland of China was ever hit by tsunamis due to the lack of geological investigations and reliable historical records. In 2013, we found sedimentary and biological evidence on Dongdao Island of Xisha Archipelago, indicating that a tsunami occurred in the South China Sea and struck the island about a thousand years ago. Results of tsunami modelling suggest that the possible trigger of the tsunami is an earthquake in the Manila Trench, and that the coastlines of Guangdong, Hainan provinces of China and those of Thailand are under the impact of the tsunami. In this study, a geological investigation was conducted on Nan'ao Island of Guangdong Province to study the influence of the South China Sea tsunami. Tsunami deposits were identified in the coastal sedimentary profiles, and the radiocarbon ages of the samples are about 1000 a BP, identical to the age of the tsunami hitting Dongdao Island. The deposit layer contains small marine shells. The sedimentary samples have the same grain size distributions with the coastal sands, suggesting that the deposits have a coastal or nearshore sand origin. The sea level of the study area for the past 1500 years was 0.5 m lower than the present level; therefore the deposit layers was not sandy deposits formed by high sea level. There are no large rivers on the island, so the deposits were not formed by river, either. The absence of planar stratification and numerous individual laminations, typical textures of sandy storm deposits, excludes the influence of storm deposits. The single-layer, homogeneous and structureless textures presented by the deposit layers are indicative of rapid deposition. Giant boulders, typically requiring strong waves to transport, were distributed near the sampling sites. All these evidences strongly support that the southeastern coast of the island was struck by the paleotsunami. The calendar age of a bone sample collected from the event layer is 1090±20 AD (14C age: 860±20 a BP). The dating results of the tsunami deposits of Xisha Archipelago ranges from 1017 to 1034 AD. Besides, the coastal regions of Chaozhou were struck by destructive sea wave in 1076 AD as recorded by historical archive. Taking all the chronological data into account, we conclude that the time of South China Sea tsunami is 1076 AD. The deposit layer also contains shards of ceramics, which were identified as Song dynasty ceramics. Ceramics remains produced before and after the Song dynasty were absent in the deposits. We analyzed the temporal distribution of the cultural relics of Nan'ao Island and found that the amount of the relics significantly decreased after the tsunami and remained low until the late Ming dynasty. Beside, more than 15000 ancient coins were retrieved in Nan'ao One, a shipwreck 2 km south off Nan'ao Island, and the characters on the coins indicated that they belonged to the 69-a period before the tsunami. These cultural evidences indicate a drastic cultural decline caused by the tsunami. This study confirms the risk of tsunamis in the South China Sea. Such risk should be considered in future planning and construction of nuclear power plant, harbor and petroleum reserve structure in the coastlines of China. This study also shows the cultural consequence of the tsunami and suggests archaeological excavation of the Song-dynasty relics of Nan'ao.


Funded by

中国科学院战略性先导科技专项(XDA11030104)

中国科学院重点部署(特支)

项目(KZZDEW-TZ-15-2)


Acknowledgment

感谢中国科学技术大学人文学院张居中教授、中国古陶瓷学会副会长李广宁研究员协助了瓷器、陶器残片的鉴定, 感谢南澳县博物馆黄迎涛馆长带领我们参观博物馆馆藏文物, 提供南澳岛金石文物资料.


Contributions statement

同等贡献

Equally contributed to this work


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  • Figure 1

    The study area and sampling sites. (a) The location of Nan'ao Island. The brown area represents the ancient boundary of Chaozhou Prefecture. (b) The topography map of Nan'ao Island. (c) The sedimentary profiles of Songjing and Aoqiancun (red dots) and the coastal boulders (grey dot). (d) The sedimentary profiles of Qingaowan. (e) The sampling sites of Jiuxi'ao sandy deposits (red dots) and the location of the boulders (grey dots)

  • Figure 2

    The numerical simulation results of the South China Sea tsunami. The red dots represent Nan'ao Island. (a)−(f) The six scenarios caused by the six fault segments of Manila trench. COMCOT was used as the simulation program[12]. The locations of the fault segments and the earthquake parameters are from Liu et al. [13]

  • Figure 3

    The sea level change and temporal distribution of storm surges of the study area. (a) The sea level change of the Han River delta since the mid-Holocene[14]. (b) Temporal distribution of level I (tidal rise≥151 cm above the warning standard) and II (tidal rise 81−150 cm above the warning standard) storm surges hitting Guangdong Province from 1949 to 2008[15]

  • Figure 4

    The sedimentary profiles and their characteristics of the study area. (a) Songjing sedimentary profile. The section between the white dashed lines is layer A, which contains marine shells and shards of ceramics. (b) The 14C ages and mean grain sizes of the Songjing samples. (c) Aoqiancun sedimentary profile. The section between the white dashed lines is layer B. (d) The 14C ages and mean grain sizes of the Aoqiancun samples. (e) The 14C ages and TOC of the Qingaowan samples. (f) The 14C ages and LOI of the NA6 samples. Data of NA6 are from Ref. [21]. The blue shaded area represents the tsunami layer

  • Figure 5

    The grain size distribution curves of the sedimentary samples. The blue curves represent the tsunami layer samples and the yellow ones represent beach sands. (a) Songjing profile. (b) Aoqiancun profile. (c) Qingaowan profile. (d) Jiuxi'ao sand layer. The vertical axis of (d) corresponds to the distance to the coastline of Jiuxi'ao

  • Figure 6

    (Color online) Sand layer and boulders of Jiuxi'ao and the giant costal boulders of Songjing. (a) Jiuxi'ao sand layer and the brown-colored soil layer beneath the sand. (b) Boulders distributed along the hill root of Jiuxi'ao. (c) The giant boulders northwest of Songjing profile

  • Figure 7

    (Color online) The Song dynasty ceramics (a−h) and a stone mortar (i) of Song dynasty distributed along the sampling site of Songjing profile

  • Figure 8

    (Color online) Ages of the archaeological relics of Nan'ao. (a) Archaeological relics and ancient construction sites. Data are from Refs. [8, 9]. (b) The coins of the shipwreck, Nan'ao One, and their ages

  • Table 1   Table 1 14C dating results of the samples

    实验室编号

    样品编号

    剖面

    深度(cm)

    样品材料

    14C年龄(a BP)

    2σ 范围(AD/BC)

    UGAMS-20132

    SJ-WB2

    宋井

    80

    贝壳

    1150±25

    777~792, 801~849, 852~970

    UGAMS-20133

    SJ-WB3

    105

    陆地动物残骨

    1090±20

    894~932, 936~996, 1007~1011

    UGAMS-20136

    SJ-CP

    110

    沉积物

    1180±20

    773~893, 934~936

    UGAMS-20131

    SJ-WB1

    150

    贝壳

    1310±20

    660~717, 742~776

    UGAMS-20127

    AQ

    澳前村

    102

    陆地动物残骨

    860±20

    1058~1075, 1154~1224

    UGAMS-20137

    QAW-U

    青澳湾

    70

    沉积物

    670±20

    1279~1310, 1360~1387

    UGAMS-20138

    QAW-M1

    110

    沉积物

    1630±20

    356~364, 381~433, 457~468, 488~533

    UGAMS-20139

    QAW-M2

    130

    沉积物

    1870±20

    79~215

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