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The Storm that Darkened the Entire World:
Did a Tsunami Strike Java and Sumatra During Ancient Times?
By Dr. Caesar Voûte and Mark Long

Southeast Asia
Fig. 1: Southeast Asia

Although the catastrophic tsunami that struck Southern Asia on 27 December 2004 may have seemed to some as if it had been unleashed right out of the blue, historical accounts from around the region suggest it would be dangerous to dismiss last year's natural disaster as a one-time fluke.

The violent eruption of Krakatoa that took place in 1883 had likewise triggered a devastating tsunami. Moreover, the eruption of Sumbawa Island's Mount Tambora in 1815 ranks as the most explosive volcanic event known to have taken place over the course of the past 10,000 years. Ancient Sri Lankan chronicles such as the Mahavamsa and the Rajavaliya also tell us that India's island neighbor had borne the brunt of cataclysmic floods as far back as 2,200 years ago.

But what is not generally appreciated is that an Old Javanese manuscript kept in the royal palace of the Sultan of Surakarta describes yet another natural catastrophe of gargantuan proportions ? one that may very well have played a pivotal role in shaping the development of ancient civilizations across a swath of Southeast Asia extending from Java and Sumatra to the Isthmus of Kra on the Malay Peninsula. It is this last record which so poignantly reminds us of the adage that warns: "Those who fail to remember the past are condemned to repeat it."

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