The remains of a huge underwater city off the western coast of India may force historians and archaeologists to radically reconsider their view of ancient human history. It?s believed that the area was submerged when ice caps melted at the end of the last ice age, 9-10,000 years ago.
Marine scientists say archaeological remains discovered 120 feet underwater in the Gulf of Cambay off the western coast of India could be over 9,000 years old. The vast city – which is five miles long and two miles wide – is believed to predate the oldest known remains in the subcontinent by more than 5,000 years.
The site was discovered by chance last year by oceanographers from India?s National Institute of Ocean Technology who were conducting a survey of pollution. Using sidescan sonar – which sends a beam of sound waves down to the bottom of the ocean – they identified huge geometrical structures at a depth of 120 feet. Debris recovered from the site – including construction material, pottery, sections of walls, beads, sculpture and human bones and teeth – has been carbon dated and found to be nearly 9,500 years old.
However, archaeologist Justin Morris from the British Museum says more work will need to be done before the site can be said to belong to a 9,000 year old civilization, since there can be errors in carbon dating. ?Culturally speaking, in that part of the world there were no civilizations prior to about 2,500 BC. What?s happening before then mainly consisted of small, village settlements,? he says.
Strong tides make investigations in the Cambay difficult. Marine scientists led by the Madras-based National Institute of Ocean Technology are solving this problem by taking acoustic images off the sea-bed and using dredging equipment to extract artifacts.
The Indian Minister for Ocean Technology, Murli Manohar Joshi, says the images indicate symmetrical man-made structures and also a paleo-river, with banks containing artifacts, such as pottery. Carbon dating on a block of wood brought up from the depths suggests it dates back to 7,595 BC. ?We have to find out what happened then … where and how this civilisation vanished,? he says.
The city is believed to be even older than the ancient Harappan civilisation, which dates back around 4,000 years and is the oldest on the subcontinent. Although Palaeolithic sites dating back around 20,000 years have been found on the coast of India?s western state of Gujarat before, this is the first time that man-made structures as old as 9,500 years have been found deep beneath the ocean surface.
Marine archaeologists have used a technique known as sub-bottom profiling to show that the buildings were built on enormous foundations. Graham Hancock, author of ?Fingerprints of the Gods,? says, ?The [oceanographers] found that they were dealing with two large blocks of apparently man made structures. Cities on this scale are not known in the archaeological record until roughly 4,500 years ago when the first big cities begin to appear in Mesopotamia. Nothing else on the scale of the underwater cities of Cambay is known. The first cities of the historical period are as far away from these cities as we are today from the pyramids of Egypt.?
Hancock feels this discovery could have a major influence on our view of the ancient world. ?There?s a huge chronological problem in this discovery. It means that the whole model of the origins of civilization with which archaeologists have been working will have to be remade from scratch,? he says.
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