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10 Incredible Submerged Ruins

Hestie Barnard Gerber

Unlike the fabled cities of Atlantis and Lemuria, the underwater ruins of the ancient Greek city of Helike were rediscovered in 2001. Buried underneath the remnants of a primordial lagoon, it is no longer a tantalizing mystery for writers, historians and enterprising explorers. A multitude of ancient cities and buildings have been found underneath the waters of our oceans. In the past couple of years, discovery claims surfaced of ancient underwater sites the size of Pompeii. As convincing as these claims are, no real proof has ever been found for the supposed Japan, Cambay and Cuba anomalies and these sites remain highly controversial. The following ten ruins serve as a reminder of Mother Nature’s might and of our glorious archaeological ancestry.

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Samabaj
Lake Atitlán, Guatemala

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Discovered in 1996, researchers have concluded that the ruins were originally an island until volcanic activity or a landslide sunk it 1700 years ago. The buildings were drowned before the era of Mayan rule and artifacts discovered have left the impression that the area was abandoned in a hurry. Several ceremonial monuments have been uncovered as well as altars, incense burners, ceramics and other artifacts. Excavations are extremely demanding as the visibility is close to none and everything is covered with a very thick layer of silt.

9

Cleopatra’s Palace
Alexandria, Egypt

Lost more than 1600 ago, Cleopatra’s palace as well as the temple of Isis was discovered in the archaeological waters of Alexandria. Legend holds that Cleopatra and Marc Anthony committed suicide to avoid capture by the Romans, who in turn destroyed and dispersed their belongings. Up to date, archaeologists have found three areas where they believe their tomb to be. More than 140 artifacts have been excavated so far, and excavation work continues to this day at the submerged royal quarters. Archaeologists are also researching the possibility of an underwater museum at the site.

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Pavlopetri
Peloponnese, Greece

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Pavlopetri is unique as it is the earliest submerged archaeological city to have been discovered. It had a layout of streets, courtyards, tombs and various buildings that has largely remained as it was millennia ago. Accurately mapped for the first time in 2009, archaeologists were amazed to discover the site sprawled more then 30,000 square meters. The town was engulfed around 1000 BC by an earthquake. A protected underwater cultural heritage site as listed by UNESCO, it remains in danger of being damaged by thieves, tourists and boat anchors.

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Atlit-Yam
Haifa, Israel

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Dating from around 7000 BC, this is one of the oldest and largest submerged human dwellings ever discovered. In fact, for 9000 years the granular ocean floor preserved the site so well, that bugs can still be found in the grain stores and the skeletons are still lying peacefully in their graves. The ruins were discovered in 1984 and immediately gave rise to different theories as to how the well-developed ancient village met its ultimate demise. From a tsunami to the gradual rise of the ocean due to the systematic melting of the glaciers, the events leading to its ultimate fate will forever be shrouded in mystery.

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Port Royal
Kingston Harbor, Jamaica

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Home to prostitutes and pirates, Port Royal used to be the “Wickedest City on Earth”. Founded in 1518, it was a notorious port city and popular abode for English and Dutch privateers until their governments cancelled their commissions to confiscate Spain’s ships. As the privateers became pirates, the port became the hotspot for pirates from as far away as Madagascar. Destroyed and sunk in part after an earthquake in 1692, excavations have yielded historical documents, various buildings, thoroughfares and actual preserved food. Various plans are in the pipeline to redevelop the town into a main tourist destination.

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Seahenge
Norfolk, England

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Seahenge, also known as Holme 1, consisted of a ring of fifty-five oak trunks that formed a circular enclosure with a large inverted oak stump in the centre. The trunks were placed in a trench and not in individual holes with their bark facing outwards and split sides facing inwards. Placed about 3 ft into the ground, we will never know how tall the trunks actually were. It was built around the 21st century BC. After its discovery in 1998, the site was excavated despite protests from Neo-pagan groups and the timbers were cleaned and placed in permanent storage. A recreated Seahenge was placed at the original site and a museum opened to the public in 2008.

4

The Shore Temple
Mahabalipuram, India

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The famous Mahabalipuram temple has always been encased in folklore. The legends spoke of seven temples that were so dazzling; the gods grew envious and sent a flood that submerged all but one of them, leaving the Shore Temple companionless. After the Tsunami of December 2004, a collapsed temple as well as several other structures and primordial rock sculptures used in the same era to decorate walls and religious shrines were exposed. It revived theories that Mahabalipuram formed part of the Seven Pagodas the first Europeans wrote about.

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Herakleion and Canopus
Abu Qir Bay, Egypt

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Herakleion and Canopus were the twin cities guarding the gateway to Egypt. Herakleion was also home to Menelaus, king of Sparta, during his famous 10-year war against Troy. More than 1200 years ago, the cities abruptly collapsed when a flood turned the ground on which they were built into silt. Until their discovery in 1999, the only proof of their existence came from the texts of a few venerable historians and Greek mythology. The ancient ruins were discovered at depths of 20 – 23 feet (7 m), frozen in time, with its many temples, statues and other dwellings still demonstrating its former glory.

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Baiae
Bay of Naples, Italy

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Baiae was the home port of the Western Imperial fleet of Rome. Playground of the filthy rich and infamous for its corruption and decadence the site has delivered numerous Roman sculptures. As a stockpile of casts were discovered, some believe a workshop probably mass-produced copies of original bronze sculptures for the Roman market. Baiae was annihilated by Muslim invaders in the 8th century AD and completely abandoned by 1500. Due to the volcanic activity of the area, the structure ultimately collapsed into the ocean.

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The Pharos
Alexandria, Egypt

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Between 1994 and 1998, a salvage inspection was executed at the ruins of the legendary ancient lighthouse of Alexandria. Even though archaeologists had an idea of its size, they were unprepared for the extent of the site’s proportions. Dispersed over 2,5 hectares were over 2,500 pieces of stonework: hundreds of columns, sphinxes, colossal statues, pharaonic monuments and mammoth granite blocks which came from the famous lighthouse. They learned that at least three colossal coupled statues stood at the foot of the Pharos, including one of Ptolemy in rose granite from Aswan. A feasibility study to add the bay of Alexandria to the list of UNESCO underwater cultural heritage areas is underway.