Throughout history, mankind has been terrified by earthquakes. The ancients believed earthquakes were caused by a whale, a giant mole, or a storm being imprisoned within the earth's interior. In the Middle Ages many people believed an earthquake was a punishment for sin and a warning to the unrepentant. In the 16th century, an Italian scholar suggested that statues of Mercury and Saturn be placed on building walls to protect against earthquakes. In modem times, however the causes of earthquakes have been largely pinpointed. Earthquakes occur when there is a sudden dislocation of segments of the earth's crust.
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