Lost Greek City That May Have Inspired Atlantis Myth Gives Up Secrets

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A diver explores
the sunken settlement beneath the waters off southern Greece.
Photograph: Handout

The secrets
of a lost city that may have inspired one of the world’s most enduring
myths – the fable of Atlantis – have been brought to light
from beneath the waters off southern Greece.

Explored by
an Anglo-Greek team of archaeologists and marine geologists and
known as Pavlopetri, the sunken settlement dates back some 5,000
years to the time of Homer’s heroes and in terms of size and wealth
of detail is unprecedented, experts say.

is now no doubt that this is the oldest submerged town in the world,"
said Dr Jon Henderson, associate professor of underwater archaeology
at the University of Nottingham. "It has remains dating from
2800 to 1200 BC, long before the glory days of classical Greece.
There are older sunken sites in the world but none can be considered
to be planned towns such as this, which is why it is unique."

The site, which
straddles 30,000 square meters of ocean floor off the southern Peloponnese,
is believed to have been consumed by the sea around 1000 BC. Although
discovered by a British oceanographer some 40 years ago, it was
only this year that marine archaeologists, aided by digital technology,
were able to properly survey the ruins.

What they found
surpassed all expectations. Thanks to shifting sands and the settlement’s
enclosure in a protected bay, the exploration revealed a world of
buildings, courtyards, main streets, rock-cut tombs and religious
structures. In addition, the seabed was replete with thousands of
shards of pottery.

"We found
ceramics dating back to the end of the stone age, which suggested
that the settlement was occupied some 5,000 years ago, at least
1,200 years earlier than originally thought," said Henderson,
who co-directed the underwater survey.

"Our investigations
also revealed over 9,000 square meters of new buildings. But what
really took us by surprise was the discovery of a possible megaron,
a monumental structure with a large rectangular hall, which also
suggests that the town had been used by an elite, and automatically
raised the status of the settlement."

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22, 2009

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