Photo Credit: Daily Mail
By: Eva Gruber
According to Plato, after falling out of favor with the gods, The city of Atlantis sank into the Atlantic Ocean and disappeared forever. Or so the myth goes. Much lore and speculation surrounding the island, its inhabitants, its location, and its veracity have been discussed over the centuries.
Who needs Atlantis, though, when we have real cities lost to the mystery of waters and forgotten by man? Intrepid maritime archaeologists have discovered, described, and excavated many underwater cities, helping to revise modern history as we know it.
For thousands of years, the ancient Egyptian city of Thonis-Heracleion was long forgotten, sunken beneath the warm waters of the Mediterranean. That is, until its rediscovery in 2001by the European Institute for Underwater Archaeology (IEASM).
Photo Credit: Source
Almost completely erased from history, its name only existed in ancient texts and rare inscriptions. Lying at the mouth of the Nile, Thonis-Heracleion was a major trade city of commercial value for the ancient Egyptians, and the port of entry for all ships entering the Nile.
Thonic-Heracleion existed before the foundation of the famous port city of Alexandria in 331 BCE, with its golden age likely in the 6th-4th centuries BCE.
The city sunk beneath the waves in the 2nd century CE, likely due to liquefaction of the sediments on which it was built – possibly caused by tremors in the earth. Its rediscovery and excavation is one of the greatest of the modern era.
Photo Credit: The British Museum
The city has been explored over the past two decades by Italian archaeologist Franck Goddio, and redefines the relationship between the ancient societies of Greece and Egypt.
The archaeological discoveries have highlighted how important the port city of Thonis-Heracleion was. The remains of at least 69 ships have been discovered in its basins and canals. Among the incredible discoveries are many statues, plaques, obelisks, and items from daily life exhibiting a blend of ancient Greek and ancient Egyptian aesthetics.
The Mulifauna Site, Upolu, Samoa
Three thousand years ago, the Lapita people (who were the original settlers of the islands of Polynesia and Micronesia) built a stilt village at the Mulifauna Site on the coast of the island of Upolu.
The Lapita people left the region that is now Taiwan to eke out a living on the tropical Pacific Islands. They were excellent fishermen, as well as skilled artisans. Their distinct pottery can be seen in the some 4,000 pottery shards found around the site that confirms the heritage of the residents.
Photo Credit: Source
This site is at least one confirmed Lapita village, although there may be many more. The islands have experienced so much change in water level over the past thousands of years that coastlines have sunken and risen beneath the waves.
Dwarka, Gulf of Khambhat, India
In 2002, researchers studying water pollution accidentally discovered the remains of an ancient city in the Gulf of Khambhat – 120 feet underwater.
The intriguing thing about this mysterious city is that human bone fragments found at the site have been dated to around 9,500 years old. Assuming the high accuracy of carbon dating, this dramatically sets back the timeline of human history. The oldest known human settlement in the world was thought to be Aleppo in Mesopotamia (modern-day Syria), which was occupied around 5,000 years ago.
This discovery has got a lot of archaeologists talking. 10,000 years ago was the end of the last Ice Age. And as glaciers around the world melted, sea levels rose drastically – drowning out cities like this one and hiding its secrets until modern times.
Once a coastal city representing the vices and decadence of the Roman Empire, Baiae held vacation homes for aristocrats including the likes of the Emperors Julius Caesar and Nero. Situated near active geothermal vents, there were many bath and pleasure houses in the area.
Photo Credit: Parco Archeologico Sommer Sodibaia
Attacked in the 8th century by Saracens, it never fully recovered. It was eventually completely abandoned in 1500, on account of it also sinking beneath the water and making it difficult for anyone without gills to live there.
The ruins now comprise and underwater archaeological park, where visitors can boat across the surface, or dive below and come face-to-face with classic Roman sculptures and architecture.
Built during the Han dynasty at the beginning of the millenium, Shicheng (“Lion City”) was filled with intricately-carved stone architecture.
The valley was purposefully flooded in 1959 during the creation of a hydroelectric station. 300,000 people had to be relocated due to the project, many of whom had lineages linked to the city going back hundreds of years.
Photo Credit: Daily Mail
After the flooding, the ancient city was largely forgotten about. It was “rediscovered” in 2001 when the Chinese government sent an expedition to the lake to see what remained of the city. They found the entire town was intact, including wooden beams and stairs.
In 2011, new pictures published by Chinese National Geography impressed the public and invigorated interest. During the past few years growing interest in scuba diving has spurred further underwater exploration of the city, which lies undisturbed at a depth of 85 – 130 ft.