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Earthquakes & Ancient Temples

August 11, 2016

Geologists in India are measuring damage to ancient temples in order to better understand past earthquakes.


A damaged and clamped pillar at Lakshi Narayan temple in Chamba, India. Damage likely occurred during the 1555 Kashmir earthquake. (Mayank Joshi)


A temple to temblors. I’m Bob Hirshon and this is Science Update.

In the northwestern Himalayas of Kashmir, historic records mention major earthquakes over the centuries, some of them devastating.

VIKRAM THAKUR (Wadia Institute of Himalayan Geology):

The problem is the recorded history is not very scientific or technical.


That’s Wadia Institute of Himalayan Geology researcher Vikram Thakur. To better understand the magnitude of past earthquakes, he and student Mayank Joshi quantified damage to ancient temples in the form of cracks, uneven floors, tilted pillars, and sliding rooftops. In Seismological Research Letters, they identify regions of Kashmir at particular risk for future temblors based on their earthquake history. Thakur adds that many of today’s structures aren’t even as robust as the old temples. He says the findings will help improve local building codes.


Earthquakes don’t kill people, you know, it’s the buildings. We have to build better.


I’m Bob Hirshon, for AAAS, the science society.

Story by Susanne Bard