Archaeologists disappointed by findings at “sunken city”

Archaeologists disappointed by findings at “sunken city”

Underwater formations off the Greek island of Zakynthos not lost city after all. PHOTO: University of Athens

Several years ago, snorkelers stumbled upon what appeared to be a sunken city off the coast of Greece, complete with columns and column bases, and the government sent in a team of archeologists to investigate.

According to the New York Times, the investigators had initially thought they had found the remains of a former Greek city that had been swallowed by rising sea levels, or perhaps decimated by an earthquake eons ago.

As they began their mission of discovery among the supposed ruins, they began to notice what it was they were not finding, namely any other evidence of life around the area.  Typically, in any ancient city that is uncovered, you will at least find broken shards of pottery, and all sorts of things that indicated the life the inhabitants were living at the time of the destruction.

But not so, at this location.  That’s when the researchers began to look a little more closely, and finding the real reason there were no signs of life around the formations.  Turns out, the columns and bases were formed naturally by ancient microbes instead of ancient people.

Investigators called the area a “cold seep,” meaning an area where pockets of methane seeped through the sea floor and into the sediments at the bottom.  There, the methane interacted with bacteria in the sediments that consume methane, and the resulting chemical reaction formed dolomite, which cemented the particles of sediment in place.  The process, known as concretion, formed columns and other shapes, depending on which direction the methane was flowing.

Dr. Julian Andrews, geochemist at the University of East Anglia in England, said the research indicated the process of concretion likely occurred several million years ago, deeper in the sediments, and the current structures have been exposed by time and sea erosion.

In short, the formations, covered by between six and sixteen feet of sea water, were just a naturally occurring phenomenon, much to the dismay of the archeologists.  Discoveries like this one have been found elsewhere, but normally occur in deeper water.

Andrews added the structures are quite beautiful in their own right, but they were similar to a reef, and will probably be more useful as a refuge to fish than as a tourist attraction.

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