Researchers discovered a massive, roughly 10,000-year-old monolith under the Mediterranean Sea. Dubbed the “underwater Stonehenge,” scientists are trying to explain the mysterious monument.
The discovery is astonishing to archeologists, revealing that ancient peoples had technology and engineering skills exceeding what was previously thought. The civilization that built the giant rock monolith was destroyed when the Mediterranean sea rose dramatically because of melting glaciers at the end of the last ice age, also known as the Last Glacial Maximum.
According to NewsCom.au, the rectangular stone block, now broken in two, weighs an estimated 15 tons and dates to approximately 9,350 years ago in the Mesolithic age. It was cut and transported 300 meters away from a rock outcrop and transported to the Pantelleria Vecchia Bank near Sicily.
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Researchers believe the area was an archipelago at the time, but it’s now roughly 40 meters under water, along with all traces of the native people’s religion and culture.
Emanuele Lodolo from the National Institute of Oceanography and Experimental Geophysics in Trieste, Italy, explained that the technology required to cut, transport, and erect the enormous rock must have been impressive.
“This discovery reveals the technological innovation and development achieved by the Mesolithic inhabitants in the Sicilian Channel region. Such an effort undoubtedly reveals important technical skills and great engineering.”
The researchers also discovered three unusual holes drilled into the monolith, another technique the Mediterranean people appear to have mastered. The purpose of the stone rock is still a mystery, according to Discovery News.
Lodolo explained, “Most likely the structure was functional to the settlement.”
“These people were used to fishing and trading with the neighboring islands. It could have been some sort of a lighthouse or an anchoring system, for example.”
It’s also not clear if the monolith was part of a complex of similar stone structures or simply a solitary rock.
In any case, the discovery illustrates a technical prowess that few other Mesolithic cultures could replicate.
The most famous stone complex from that era is Göbekli Tepe in Turkey. The site includes 200 stone pillars each weighing about 20 tons. That complex was built about 11,600 years ago, Stonehenge in comparison was built about 4,000 to 5,000 years ago.
Of course, there might still be plenty more to discover under the water as Lodolo explained.
“If we want to trace the origins of civilization in the Mediterranean region, we must focus on the now-submerged shelf areas.”
Lodolo and professor Zvi Ben-Abraham, at Tel Aviv University, published the full results of their study on the Mediterranean monolith in the Journal of Archeological Science.
[Image Credit: National Park Service/Wikimedia Commons]