Ancient Temples in the Himalaya Reveal Signs of Past Earthquakes
News Network Archaeology
Archeological analyses in Northwest India are telling us more about the largest historical earthquake’s in that region. 7th-century A.D. temples found in the Kashmir “seismic gap” of the Northwest Himalayas, are being closely looked at by archaeoseismologists. These specialized archaeologists are taking note of any deformations, such as inclination of pillars or collapsed structures. This data gives them an idea of the magnitude of the earthquake that caused these deformations. While it is known that the earthquakes of 1555 and 1905 in the Northwest Himalaya range were of magnitudes 7.5 or greater, until this research was conducted in the towns of Chamba and Bharmour, the extent of the rupture zones for these past earthquakes was underestimated. With the findings at the temple in Chamba, we can assume that the 1555 Kashmir earthquake (~7.6 magnitude) was the source of the damage. We also can assume that the damage in Bharmour temples occurred during the 1905 Kangra earthquake (7.5 magnitude).
In the case of the analyses of these ancient temples in India, archaeologists have the challenge of differentiating the causes of some deformations. For example, tilted pillars could be a sign of years of aging or signs of a past earthquake. As we have learned, different methods of examination can tell archeologists various things about the past. In this case, archeologists look for consistency in the damages of pillars. They know that if there is a regular pattern of damage, then the deformation is not caused by simply aging. This archaeological work tells us valuable information about the historical earthquake record in the region.