The ruins of a submerged town covering an area of 30,000 square metres off the southern Peloponnese in Greece has now been surveyed by marine archaeologists. Although it was discovered by an oceanographer 40 years ago, it is only now that it can be properly surveyed, thanks to digital technology.
Thanks to the fact that the settlement is located in a protected bay and to shifting sands, the explorers were able to discover a world of buildings, courtyards, main streets, rock-cut tombs and religious structures. Thousands of shards of pottery were also discovered in the seabed.
"There is now no doubt that this is the oldest submerged town in the world," said Dr Jon Henderson, associate professor of underwater archaeology at the University of Nottingham. "It has remains dating from 2800 to 1200 BC, long before the glory days of classical Greece. There are older sunken sites in the world but none can be considered to be planned towns such as this, which is why it is unique."
"We found ceramics dating back to the end of the stone age, which suggested that the settlement was occupied some 5,000 years ago, at least 1,200 years earlier than originally thought," said Henderson, who co-directed the underwater survey.
"Our investigations also revealed over 9,000 square meters of new buildings. But what really took us by surprise was the discovery of a possible megaron, a monumental structure with a large rectangular hall, which also suggests that the town had been used by an elite, and automatically raised the status of the settlement."
More than any other underwater site so far, the find offers potential insights into the workings of Mycenaean society.
It has yet to be understood why the settlement sank. Theories include sea level changes, ground subsidence as the result of earthquakes, or a tsunami. It is, however, the first time a sunken city has been found in Greece that predates the time that Plato wrote his tale of the sunken continent of Atlantis.