Norwich scientists confirm ‘ancient city’ found underwater off Greek island is actually ‘geological phenomenon’

The geological formation which was initially thought to be a lost underwater city off a Greek island

The geological formation which was initially thought to be a lost underwater city off a Greek island. The research was conducted by the University of East Anglia. Picture: Submitted - Credit: Archant

It had seemed like a stunning find, offering a vision of ancient civilisation now lost beneath the waves.

The geological formation which was initially thought to be a lost underwater city off a Greek island

The geological formation which was initially thought to be a lost underwater city off a Greek island. The research was conducted by the University of East Anglia. Picture: Submitted - Credit: Archant

Snorkelers diving off the coast of the Greek island of Zakynthos stumbled across what appeared to be paved floors, courtyards and colonnades, in a discovery archaeologists believed was a long lost city which vanished when engulfed by tidal waves.

But experts from Norwich have now established that - though no less impressive - the structures found are actually natural in origin.

The research, published today by the University of East Anglia (UEA) and the University of Athens, came after a team of British and Greek divers, archeologists and scientists investigated the mineral content and texture of the seemingly man-made formation.

They found that the unusual shapes were actually caused by a geological phenomenon that took place in the Pilocene era, up to five million years ago.

The geological formation which was initially thought to be a lost underwater city off a Greek island

The geological formation which was initially thought to be a lost underwater city off a Greek island. The research was conducted by the University of East Anglia. Picture: Submitted - Credit: Archant


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Professor Julian Andrews, of UEA's School of Environmental Sciences, said: 'The site was discovered by snorkelers and first thought to be an ancient city port, lost to the sea. There were what superficially looked like circular column bases, and paved floors. But mysteriously no other signs of life – such as pottery.

'We investigated the site, which is between two and five meters under water, and found that it is actually a natural geologically occurring phenomenon.'

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Mr Andrews, the lead author of the report, said 'disk and doughnut morphology' gave the impression of the column bases, while a change of chemistry in the sediment formed a natural sediment which appeared to be paved floors.

'In this case the cement was an unusual mineral called dolomite which rarely forms in seawater, but can be quite common in microbe-rich sediments,' he said.

'This kind of phenomenon is quite rare in shallow waters. Most similar discoveries tend to be many hundreds and often thousands of meters deep underwater.'

Zakynthos is better known as Zante, a popular holiday spot which welcomes thousands of revellers every year. The objects were found close to Alikanas Bay.

Do you have an unusual story we should be writing about? Email lauren.cope@archant.co.uk

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