The discovery of ancient artifacts is a fascinating prospect. Not only is it incredible to learn about where we came from and the lives that our ancestors lived, but it’s humbling that many of these discoveries leave us scratching our heads and asking: how did they build it? How did it get there? Is that even possible?
Although we are continuously unearthing artifacts on land, with Earth being covered in 70 percent water, there’s no telling what’s waiting to be discovered beneath the surface whether it’s an ocean, river, or lake. Though we may never recover all of the histories lost to the sinking of cities or rising of water levels, here are some of the things we have found so far.
Remains From The First Naval Battle
In 2013, it was announced that archeologists found the remains of what is the first ancient naval battle ever discovered. It is believed to have taken place off of the coast of Sicily at the Battle of the Egadi Islands, which was the last conflict of the first Punic War in 241 BC. An array of 2,000-year-old artifacts were discovered at the bottom of the ocean floor ranging from weapons, battering rams, helmets, armor, and pieces of ships. At the battle, it is figured that 50 Carthaginian ships were sunk by the Romans, resulting in the deaths of over 10,000 men. A bloody way to conclude history’s first naval battle.
The Sunken City of Pavlopetri
Off of the coast of southern Laconia in Greece, there is an ancient underwater city dating back to 5,000 years ago. Named Pavlopetri, it is considered to be the oldest known submerged city in the world. From what has been discovered, it appears that the city was well designed with roads, temples, gardens, storehouses, homes, and a functioning water system. In 2009, it had been announced that the city extends to over nine acres and is believed to have been inhabited in 2800 BC. The city is thought to have sunk in 1000 BC due to earthquakes and shifting land, yet the city is still so preserved that archeologists have been able to create incredibly accurate 3D models of the once inhabited city.
Lost Egyptian City Of Heracleion
In 2000, French underwater archeologist Franck Goddio, along with a team from the European Institute of Underwater Archaeology, discovered the ruins of a 1,200-year-old lost city 30 feet under the water of the Mediterranean Sea in Aboukir Bay, near Alexandria. The city was known as Heracleion to the Greeks and Thonis to the Egyptians and was discovered to have been a mandatory port of entry for trade between the Mediterranean and the Nile. There have been hundreds of artifacts unearthed ranging from religious 16-foot stone sculpture to gold coins, and weights from Athens. The city was believed to have sunk due to an earthquake due to the weight of the cities large buildings on the clay and soil below.
The Ancient Shipwreck Capital of the World
Since 2015, 22 shipwrecks from ancient Greece have been discovered in the Fourni archipelago. Today, the Fourni archipelago is a small collection of the relatively insignificant islands, but in ancient times, it was one of the most established places for maritime trade. The dozens of shipwrecks range from 480 to 700 BC and even as late as the 16th century and earned the title of the “ancient shipwreck capital of the world.” The artifacts collected from the shipwrecks have helped historians learn much about the evolution of sailing and the lives of the sailors over hundreds of years.
The Hanneke Wrome
In 2015, it was announced that an archeological diving team aided by Finland’s most experienced shipwreck researcher Rauno Koivusaari discovered the remains of the 15th-century Hanseatic ship named the Hanneke Wrome. The Hanneke Wrome was one of two ships on their way from Germany when it sank off of the coast of Finland along with the 200 people aboard. According to historical documents, it was carrying a cargo of 200 parcels of fabric, 1,200 barrels of honey, 10,000 gold coins and jewelry estimated to be around $150 million. From the wreckage recovered, the crew is certain that it was the Hanneke Wrome and the gold is expected to be recovered.
The Antikythera Shipwreck
In 1900, a ship, now known as the Antikythera shipwreck was discovered by a group of sponge divers off of the west coast of Antikythera, a small Greek island located between Crete and Peloponnese. It is estimated that the ship sank while sailing from Asia Minor to Rome around 60 BC. The ship wreckage has produced numerous artifacts such as fine jewelry, bronze statues, glassware and more, there was also an artifact discovered now known as the Antikythera Mechanism that could predict eclipses and showed the movement of the sun and other planets. Although the ship has been known about for over 100 years, archeologists say there’s still much more to be discovered.
Surprising Human Remains
On various occasions from 1983 to 1997, a sinkhole in Florida’s Aucilla River was explored with nothing discovered worthy of note except for a mastodon tusk with questionable human-related cut marks. Archeologists deemed the area not worth studying because of the conditions and lack of artifacts. However, from 2012 to 2014, numerous artifacts were discovered that were undoubtedly human such as stone tools, bones, and a primitive human knife. This discovery meant that humans had inhabited the area more than 1,000 years before previously thought. The findings were over 14,550 years old, and it has been concluded that the sinkhole was nothing more than a small pond at the time where early humans had settled.
An Ancient Battlefield Yards Off-Shore
In 2015, an international team of archeologists believes that they have found the island that was once the location of the ancient city of Kane. Located in the eastern Aegean Sea, it is also believed to be where the Battle of Arginusae took place between the Spartans and Athenians in 406 BC at the end of the Peloponnesian war. The Arginusae islands, now known as the Garip islands, are only a few hundred yards off of the coast of Turkey and a third island that was believed to be the where Kane was located. It was also discovered that the island was possibly connected to the peninsula by a land bridge in ancient times, however, has been washed away due to erosion.
A Girl Discovered a 1,500-Year-Old Sword at the Bottom of a Swedish Lake
Saga Vanecek was having a regular day when she discovered something incredible. The 8-year-old girl was searching for rocks near her family’s cabin in southern Sweden when she found a 33-inch sword.
Saga found the weapon, held it into the air and shouted, “Daddy, I found a sword!” The discovery launched Saga into the spotlight and now, people are calling her the “Queen of Sweden” and “Queen of the North.” The sword, which is made of wood, leather, and metal is estimated to be around 1,500 years old and from the Viking era. It’s currently at the Smithsonian
Ancient Turkish Ruins In Lake Van
In 2017, in an archeological dive to explore Turkey’s lake Van, an underwater fortress was discovered. The lake is a deep blue color and a popular tourist attraction, so this came as a surprise to most. The archeological site spans around a kilometer and the visible areas of the fortress walls range from 10 to 13 feet. It is assumed that these ruins are around 3,000 years old and were probably constructed during the Iron Age Urartian period and that Lake Van was a hub for the ancient society of Urartu. It is believed that the rising lake levels eventually submerged the city and a rock inscription, the oldest documented Urartian record can be found in the lake.
Located in Mexico’s Yucatán Peninsula, a flooded sinkhole known as Sac Uayum has been explored by underwater archeologists and has led to some interesting discoveries. The sinkhole is a cenote, which is a natural pit from the collapse of limestone which exposes the groundwater beneath. Although the cenote is believed to be cursed and haunted by a local legend for centuries, when explored by archeologists, it was discovered that there were two connected chambers with human bones scattering the floor. The skulls were not typical but were elongated, a practice performed to young children in ancient times. This discovery led the archeologists to believe cenote was not a sacrificial site but a burial ground for plague victims.
The Danish Figurehead
In 2015, the figurehead of the 15th-century Danish warship Gribshunde was brought up from the depths. The Gribshunde which means “Grip Dog” in English had been at the bottom of the Baltic Sea since 1495. The figurehead was intended to strike fear into the heart of its enemies and features a sea monster with a dragon’s face and lion ears with a person being eaten in its mouth. Figureheads were used as a form of identification so that people could recognize various vessels without the need for reading or writing. The ship served as the flagship for King Hans of Denmark royal fleet until it caught on fire off the coast of Sweden and remained at the bottom until it was discovered in the 1970’s and then identified in 2015.
India’s Lost City
In 2001, marine scientists discovered remains 120 feet underwater in the Gulf of Cambay off the western coast of India. They concluded that the remains are from the ancient holy city of Dwarka, which is now one of the best-studied underwater sites in India. They discovered a large number of stone structures that are scattered over a vast area and is believed to be a city from Hindu myth. These findings have helped archeologists conclude that Dwarka was one of the busiest trading centers on the west coast of ancient India and that the remains could be from between the Historical and late medieval period and that the city existed well before it was flooded.
The Pantelleria Bank Monolith
In 2015, during a mapping of the seafloor around Sicily, researchers discovered a monolith that was over 39 feet at the bottom of the Mediterranean in an area known as the Pantelleria Bank. The researchers then sent divers down only to discover that the monolith had been broken in half, but many pieces of evidence established that it was, in fact, man-made and probably around the Mesolithic period around 10,000 years ago. Because it had three holes all with similar diameters and the stone didn’t match the rocks on the ocean floor, it was thought that the holes were most likely used to hold torches and acted like a lighthouse all of those thousands of years ago.
The Yonaguni Monument
In 1985, a 600 foot wide and 90-foot high monument was discovered off of the coast of Japan by a dive tour operator. After the monument had been tested, it was estimated to date around 10,000 BC, which is more than 5,000 years before the first pyramids were built in Egypt. Some claim that the structure is a piece of sandstone that was modified by humans when it was still above water, explaining the rectangular cuts and unidentifiable hieroglyphs. Others, however, believe that it is a natural formation formed by seismic activity and that the marking is just scratching on the rock.
The Sea of Galilee Structure
In 2003, an underwater cone-shaped structure that is made up of pieces of basalt cobbles and boulders in the Sea of Galilee was discovered. It weighs an estimated 60,000 tons and rises 32 feet high and has a diameter around 230 feet. It appears to be a giant pyramid-like formation of rocks piled on top of each other in no specific order. It has been confirmed to absolutely be man-made and it is believed that the structure was originally built on land but was eventually covered by the sea. Researchers have also come to conclude that the structure could date back to be over 4,000 years old and belongs to the third millennium BC. They are, however, unsure of its purpose.
The Hidden Sphinx
In 2014, a team of underwater archeologists studying a shipwreck near the coast of the Bahamas stumbled upon an artifact that they were not expecting. What they found under the water was a statue resembling the Egyptian Great Sphinx. Historian jack Neilson notes that “its construction confirms beyond a shadow of a doubt, that the statue is of Middle Eastern origin” and most likely directly from Egypt. The chemical analysis of the monument showed that it was almost positively taken from a quarry near Wadi Rahanu, an Egyptian region known for its quarrying in 3500 BC. Although how it got there is still masked in mystery it is assumed that it has been below the waters or more than 2,500 years.
Lake Michigan’s Stonehenge
In 2007, while scanning for shipwrecks in Lake Michigan, Mark Holley, a professor of underwater archaeology at Northwestern Michigan University and his colleague Brian Abbot found something of interest. Using sonar equipment, they found a row of stones that seemed out of place and sent divers down to investigate. They found a line of stones in a featureless lake bed as well as what looks like the carving of a mastodon on one of the stones, an animal that was believed to have been extinct for 10,000 years. Although there are no clear facts and an investigation is underway, both researchers, as well as skeptics, believe that the structure and the supposed hieroglyphs are worth looking into.
The Uluburun Shipwreck
In 1982, Sponge Diver Mehmet Çakir discovered the Uluburun Shipwreck, a Late Bronze Age shipwreck dating back to the 14th century BC. He was able to identify the wreck because he, as well as most sponge divers, had been trained by the Institute of Nautical Archeology in how to spot such discoveries. The wreck was discovered close to the east shore of Grand Cape and south-western Turkey. There were eleven consecutive campaigns which took months between 1984 and 1994 totaling 22,413 dives which resulted in uncovering some of the greatest Late Bronze Age artifacts to ever come out of the Mediterranean.
First Olive Oil Production Center
Off of the coast of Haifa Israel, a 7,500-year-old well has been discovered as well as the remains of what appears to be a Neolithic village. The artifacts date back from a pre-metal and pre-pottery village that is now 16 feet underwater due to rising sea levels over time. The discovery helps provide further evidence as to how prehistoric societies worked, traded and used the environment around them to survive. At the site, they also discovered thousands of crushed olive stones and what looks to be early olive oil production technology, begging the question if this was the oldest olive oil production center in the world.
Mongolian Invasion Shipwreck Discovered
During the 13th century, the grandson of Ghengis Khan, Kublai Khan led the Mongols in an attempt to invade Japan twice in 1274 and 1281 AD. Yet, the attempts were futile as on both occasions, the fleets were destroyed due to massive typhoons. Then in 2014, one of the Mongolian ships was discovered off of the coast of Takashima Island and Nagasaki Prefecture. The ship was found 45 feet underwater using sonar equipment and when divers went down, they discovered that the ship was relatively well-preserved and provides further insight into the intentions of the ship as well as sailing back in that time period.
Lost Kingdom Of Cleopatra
Located in the waters off Alexandria, Egypt, the Lost Kingdom of Cleopatra was hidden from the world for 1,600 years. A team of marine archaeologists, led by Frenchman Franck Goddio started excavating the ancient city in 1998. The city is believed to have become submerged after several earthquakes and tidal waves claimed the area. Shockingly, several artifacts remained mostly intact upon the discovery. Among the discovers was Cleopatra’s royal living quarters. The ocean palace also featured shipwrecks, red granite columns, and statues of the goddess Isis. A sphinx was also discovered as divers continued to explore the Lost Kingdom of Cleopatra.
Port Royal, Jamaica
Port Royal was once referred to as the “Wickedest City on Earth” because of rampant piracy, alcohol consumption (mostly rum) and enough prostitution to handle the onslaught of pirates. In 1692 part of Port Royal sank into the sea after an earthquake rocked the area. 13 acres from the city sunk 50 feet into Kingston Harbor, where it remains today. In 1981, archaeologists began to investigate the lost city with help from the Nautical Archaeology Program of Texas A&M University. Researchers unearthed various historical documents, organic artifacts and thousands of pieces of architectural debris.
Baiae and Portus Julius, Italy
Like many of the cities that were lost to the past, Baiae was lost to the world for centuries after it sunk into the ocean. The ancient Roman town, which overlooked the Bay of Naples, was built on a volcanic tract of land which led to structural instability. The town was home to rich Romans and emperors who spent time in lavish villas. The town was also attached to Portus Julius, the Roman Empire’s largest naval base. The city was the Roman equivalent of Las Vegas, a hedonistic destination for the most elite members of society. You can view the city today through glass-bottomed boats, snorkeling tours, and scuba dives which all provide a unique hands-on experience.
The Silfra Rift
A giant fissure in the ocean might now seem fascinating but the Sifra rift is unique for many reasons. First, it is a freshwater fissure that divides the North American and Eurasian plates. Second, the fissure is continuing to separate at a rate of 2 cm per year. That means North American and Europe are moving in separate directions. Finally, the fissure offers some of the most unique and stunning underwater vistas ever discovered by divers. If you are a certified diver and you’re looking for a unique adventure that most people never get to experience, you might want to consider a trip along the Sifra rift.
Baltic Sea Anomaly
This artistic representation of the Baltic Sea Anomaly shows a mesmerizing underwater discovery that led to some interesting theories. A sonar image taken in the summer of 2011 by Peter Lindberg, Dennis Åsberg, and their Swedish “Ocean X” diving team unearthed an object of “non-natural” origin. Tabloid newspapers quickly claimed the men had found a sunken UFO. After further research experts have speculated that the Baltic Sea Anomaly is a natural geological formation. Small samples from the formation revealed granite, gneiss, and sandstone. Also discovered was a single loose piece of volcanic rock. Despite their findings, some people still believe the formation might be that of a secretive Germany submarine which sank years prior.
‘The Mystery Circle’ Of Japan
When Japanese photographer and scuba diver Yoji Ookata was diving 80 feet below sea level in southern Japan he never expected to discover “The Mystery Circle.” As we’ve learned from other examples, conspiracy theorists were the first to claim the underwater circles were created by UFOs. It was later discovered that a small fish created the shapes. Researchers found that the Japanese pufferfish makes the circles as part of its mating ritual. The puffer fish also uses the geometric pattern to help protect its eggs. Regardless of how the shape is made, it was a major discovery that is still being studied by oceanographers.
A Massive Underwater River In The Black Sea
Rivers are not only found above sea level. Researchers were charting the Black Sea when they discovered an undersea river that features its own trees with leaves, waterfalls, and various other formations. If the river was not underwater it would be the sixth largest in the world in terms of volume flowing through it. To put this special find into perspective, it is 350 times larger than the River Thames and 10 times greater than the biggest river in Europe. Mother nature has a way of throwing us through a hoop and underwater sea rivers might be one of her most amazing finds.
Discovered in 2008, Loki’s Castle has nothing to do with the mythology of Thor or even a castle. Instead, Loki’s Castle features five active hydrothermal vents located between Greenland and Norway. The unique structure offers huge metal deposits and is home to at least 20 new animal species that live off the heat from the vents which can reach 320º C. The Norwegian government was baffled by the discovery and have been working to decide if corporations should be able to mine the areas metals. One possibility is that the area could be turned into a national park, much in the same vein as Yellowstone. Here’s to hoping the underwater discovery remains unaltered for many generations.
The Lost Continent Of Mu
Kihachiro Aratake discovered the “Lost Continent of Mu” in 1987. There is still some debate as to whether his discovery is actually the lost continent. Mu is supposedly a land much like Atlantis. It’s believed the entire population of Mu was forced to flee the area after a natural catastrophe struck the continent and it quickly sank. Researchers believe the citizens of Mu would go on to found civilizations like those in Egypt and Mesoamerica. Aratake discovered various underwater ruins 20 feet below the surface of the water. A grandstand for the Sea Gods features a 250-foot base and lies 100 feet below the ocean’s surface while rising to a height of 80 feet. Researchers soon discovered that that structure was made from very fine sandstones and mudstones of the Lower Miocene Yaeyama Group.
The Lost Pyramids Of Azores
Many of the most spectacular underwater discoveries on our list were unearthed by professional oceanographers and divers. However, the lost pyramids of Azores were discovered by Diocleiano Silva, an amateur yachtsman. While sailing, Silva’s sonar picked several very large objects between the islands of São Miguel and Terceira in the Azores in Portugal. Upon the first examination, the structures appeared to be 180-foot tall pyramids that rested 40 meters below sea level. Researchers are still not sure if the pyramids were man-made or created by a natural phenomenon. Some researchers have questioned if the discovery could finally reveal the mythical continent of Atlantis.
The Zhemchug Canyon is the largest and deepest submarine canyon ever discovered. The canyon lies in the Bering Sea and is 1.84 km deep, making it deeper than the Grand Canyon. The drainage area of the mammoth canyon is 11,350 km2 with a volume of 5800 km3. Zhemchug features cold, oxygen-rich waters that well up from the deep into the canyon. That oxygen-rich water provides sustenance to an enormous array and variety of life forms that call the area home. Amazingly, researchers believe there are still many more deepwater canyons that we have yet to discover throughout the world’s oceans.
The Lost Mahabalipuram Pagodas
Residents of Mahabalipuram, India was raised listening to the story of their lost history. For centuries, people in the area talked of seven pagodas so spectacular the gods became jealous and had six of them sunk into the sea. Historians long considered the stories nothing more than mythology. In 2004, a tsunami hit the area and 500 meters of the ocean receded. The natural event revealed a long, straight row of large rocks and some statues and small structures. The Archaeological Society of India and the Indian Navy immediately started searching for other ruins. It was soon discovered that the row of large stones was part of a 6-foot-high, 70-meter-long wall. Oher submerged temples and one cave temple was soon discovered within 500 meters of the shore. It’s still not clear if the discovery is part of the pagodas myth.
The Mariana Trench
The Mariana Trench is the deepest part of the world’s oceans. Discovered in the Pacific Ocean in 1875, the trench is located to the east of the Mariana Islands. The trench is 11 kilometers long and features a mind-boggling depth of 36,201 feet. The trench is home only to a small amount of sea-life, most notably giant single-cell amoebas called xenophyophores that measure 4-inches. The Mariana Trench is also the playground of flatfish, shrimp and tiny organisms that live along its seabed. Because of its massive depth, only four manned and unmanned descents have been made to the bottom of the trench since the 1960s.
The Gondwana’s Islands
Before our planet’s terrestrial landforms separated there was a supercontinent called Gondwana. An international effort was organized to map the Perth Abyssal Plain in the Indian Ocean and scientists quickly located two submerged islands 1.5 kilometers (0.9 mi) below the surface. The area was nearly the size of Tasmania and was deemed to be “micro-continents” that connected India and Australia before their separation. The Gondwana pieces that once connected the continents together became islands when the Indian and Australian coasts moved further apart. Researchers believe studying these micro-continents will change established beliefs about how plate tectonics broke apart the pieces that became India, Australia, and Antarctica.
A Missing Part Of The Earth’s Crust
Did you know there is a hole in the Earth? Scientists are not exactly sure why it exists but they have a theory. Researchers were examining the ocean’s floor when they noticed the gap in the Atlantic ocean between the Caribbean and Cape Verde Islands. Researchers found a spot on the Ocean’s floor just three miles below the surface that is missing part of the Earth’s crust. The sea floor is typically 4.3 miles thick but an “alarming” amount of that crust was missing on approximately several thousand miles of surface area. Researchers found serpentinite, which forms when seawater comes into contact with the mantle. Scientists believe the mantle didn’t melt as it should have under normal circumstances. There was likely a tear from a traumatic event that left behind a weakened section of Earth’s crust.
A Massive And Unexplained Phytoplankton Bloom
Scientists from NASA headed out on an expedition to the Arctic Ocean and soon discovered something under the sea ice that stumped them. A phytoplankton bloom that stretched 72 miles was found. Previous phytoplankton blooms discoveries were only found when ice packs melted during summer. This discovery was found under three feet of ice. Even more baffling, the organisms doubled their population several times a day. In the open sea, a bloom grows only when there’s enough sun for growth. Even then, it typically takes two to three days for growth to be witnessed. The Arctic bloom is now the largest of its kind and may be the result of warmer weather thinning the ice, allowing in more sunlight. If the phytoplankton continues to bloom earlier, the food chain could be broken and bring about massive sea life-based starvation.
The Bimini Road
The Bimini Road was first discovered in 1930. The “road” is a 20-foot mysterious pathway located in the Bahamas. Even after nearly nine decades, researchers still argue over whether the pathway was man-made or the result of mother nature. There has even been speculation that the pathway is the last remnants from the mythical lost city of Atlantis. While the argument over how the Bimini Road came into existence remains strong, it has become a popular destination for scuba divers as they visit the Bahamas and want to visit the destination and come up with a theory of their very own.
The Mysterious Julia Sound
The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) was recording ocean sounds in 1999 when their equipment picked up an eerie sound in the deep and dark depths of the Pacific Ocean. The strange noise sound lasted for around 15 seconds and sounded like cooing or whining. NOAA believes the sound could have been the result of an Antarctic iceberg rising from the seafloor. Theories have surfaced but we will likely never know exactly what caused the Julia Sound. With only 5% of the ocean explored, we are likely to hear a lot more unknown and creepy sounds in the future.
Sunken Locomotives From The 1850s
This might not be an ancient discovery but it’s equally shrouded in mystery. In 1985 several steam locomotives from the 1850s were discovered at the bottom of the ocean. This graveyard was unearthed by chance by Paul Hepler as he was mapping the bottom of the ocean near New Jersey with a magnetometer. “I didn’t know what it was at first because the water was dirty and the visibility was so bad back then,’ he told a local newspaper. “Once I got a better look at it in later dives, I could see they were locomotives.” There are no public records that reveal the disposal of the two locomotives Hepler discovered.
In early 2014, underwater archaeologists were diving in the Bahamas when they discovered an ancient shipwreck. They were baffled to discover a sphinx among the ship’s wreckage. The shipwreck was incredibly difficult to study because of surrounding coral and general corrosion. Eventually, researchers announced that the shipwreck was almost certainly from the Middle East. The ship’s limestone is believed to have come from Wadi Rahanu, a region in Egypt known for its limestone quarrying since 3500 B.C. They believe the Sphinx may have been at the bottom of the ocean for upwards of 2500 years. More research is being conducted but the fragile nature of the find means slow progress for researchers.