A team of Italian and Israeli archaeologists has discovered an ancient Stonehenge-style monolith structure at the bottom of the Mediterranean Sea.
Scientists believe that the man-made limestone structure was made by the Mesolithic people who lived in the strings of islands that were once in the channel between Sicily and Tunisia. The monolith originally laid on Pantelleria Vecchia Bank, which is one of the now-submerged Sicilian Channel islands, where ancient Mediterranean civilizations flourished.
The people who inhabited these islands were forced to go inland when melting glaciers caused sea levels to rise higher and higher starting around 9,500 years ago, which occured after the Last Glacial Maximum, the last period in the climate history of the Earth when the ice sheets were at their most prominent.
"The Sicilian Channel is one of the shallow shelves of the central Mediterranean region where the consequences of changing sea-level were most dramatic and intense," experts explained. "The ancient geography of the Mediterranean Basin was profoundly changed by the increase in sea level following the Last Glacial Maximum."
The 10,000 year old monolith measures 40 feet in length and was discovered about 130 feet below the surface of the sea. It was discovered broken in two and resting on its side but researchers said that it would have likely stood upright rising over 40 feet in height.
Researchers believe that studying the newly discovered structure could provide further information about the culture of the people who created it.
The holes that weave through the structure's different parts provide evidence that it was man-made but just like Stonehenge, it remains uncertain why this structure was built.
Study researcher Emanuele Lodolo, from the National Institute of Oceanography and Experimental Geophysics in Trieste, Italy believe that the stone likely served a purpose to the community.
It is thought that the people in the area traded fish with their neighboring islands so it is possible that the structure may have been used as a light house or a local beacon for the seafarers. It could have even served as a place for anchoring boats.
Researchers said that the discovery offers evidence that the ancient Mesolithic inhabitants in the Sicilian Channel region were able to achieve technological innovation and development.
"Here we present morphological evidence, underwater observations, and results of petrographic analysis of a man-made, 12 m long monolith resting on the sea-floor of the embayment at a water depth of 40 m," the researchers wrote. "This discovery provides evidence for a significant Mesolithic human activity in the Sicilian Channel region."
Photo: Adriano Aurelio Araujo | Flickr