The four largest historical earthquakes of central Chile in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries, 1647, 1657, 1730, and 1751, are studied using contemporary documents available in the Archivo General de Indias of Seville (Spain). These documents provide detailed information about these earthquakes. This is the first time these documents have been used directly for a seismological study. The 1647 earthquake practically destroyed the city of Santiago. Damage to the cathedral and main buildings is given in detail. The 1657 earthquake near the city of Concepción produced a large tsunami that further contributed to the damage. The 1730 earthquake, the largest of these events, caused damage in a large region that extended more than 1000 km from Copiapó in the north to Concepción in the south. This event caused heavy damage in Santiago and was followed by a large tsunami that affected the region between Valparaíso and Concepción. The 1751 Concepción earthquake was the next largest earthquake of this period. It affected a very large region from Santiago to Valdivia, including a large tsunami that destroyed Concepción and made it necessary to relocate the city. We suggest that this event was very similar in size and extent to that of Maule in 27 February 2010.
Online Material: Documents of the Archivo de Indias about the Chilean earthquakes of 1647, 1657, 1730, and 1751.