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Things just keep getting older: A new paper in the Journal of Archaeological Science has claimed the discovery of a man-made 12 metre long monolith on the bottom of the sea-floor between the island of Sicily and the Tunisian coastline.

Researchers believe the site was abandoned as it was inundated by the rising sea at the end of the last Ice Age, almost 10,000 years ago (although they seem careful not to suggest when the monolith may have been created…though one of their samples appears to date to around 40,000 B.P.?).

The discovery was made at ‘Adventure Plateau’ – the shallowest part of the entire Sicilian Channel, but a location that saw the most dramatic and intense consequences of changing sea levels at the time. During the Last Glacial Maximum, the area formed a southern peninsula of the Sicilian mainland.

The monolith, found at a water depth of 40 metres, is broken into two parts, and has what appear to be three regular-sized holes bored into it, one which passes right through, and two others part-way through midway along it.

Various angles of the monolith
The massive stone was first discovered in late 2012, when detailed sonar sea-floor surveys were conducted in the area. Follow-up scans encouraged researchers to send divers down in 2013 and 2014, who collected rock samples and took around 8 hours of video.

After analysis of various aspects of the discovery, the researchers concluded that the block was made by human hands:

From the data we have here presented and analysed, it can be inferred that the monolith discovered in the PVB is not a natural feature, but man-made. The elements that combine to formulate this interpretation can be listed as follows:

  • the monolith has a rather regular shape;
  • the monolith has three regular holes of similar diameter: one that crosses it completely on its top, and another two at two sides of the monolith; there are no reasonable known natural processes that may produce these elements;
  • the monolith is made from stone other than those which constitute all the neighbouring outcrops, and is quite isolated with respect to them; and
  • the lithology and age of the rock that makes up the monolith are similar to those that make up the blocks of the rectilinear ridge closing the embayment.

The presence of the monolith suggests extensive human activity in the PVB. It was cut and extracted as a single stone from the outer rectilinear ridge situated about 300 m to the south, and then transported and possibly erected. From the size of the monolith, we may presume that it weights about 15 t.

The researchers noted that as a consequence of the discovery, “the belief that our ancestors lacked the knowledge, skill and technology to exploit marine resources or make sea crossings, must be progressively abandoned…recent findings of submerged archaeology have definitively removed the idea of “technological primitivism” often attributed to hunter-gatherers coastal settlers.”

Image showing the flooding of the area
Readers of alternative historian Graham Hancock’s 2003 book Underworld: Flooded Kingdoms of the Ice Age might be interested in the conclusion reached by these researchers in 2015: that “the vast majority of marine geophysicist and archaeologists have now realized that to trace the origins of civilization in the Mediterranean region, it is necessary to focus research in the now submerged shelf areas.”

Obviously, further investigation and debate will be required before this discovery is confirmed. Will this monolith be consigned to the ‘mystery’ category along with other underwater sites such as Yonaguni and Bimini Road, or will it completely rewrite the history books like Göbekli Tepe?

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