The legend of Atlantis, which is considered to be one of the most enduring myths in the world, may have been inspired by the secrets of a lost city uncovered from beneath the waters off the coast of southern Greece. Ceramics that date back to the late Neolithic period have been discovered by archaeologists excavating the world’s oldest submerged settlement. Their finding shows that Pavlopetri, located off the coast of southern Laconia in Greece, was inhabited approximately 5,000 years ago. This is at least 1,200 years earlier than was previously believed.
Nic Flemming, a researcher at the University of Southampton’s Institute of Oceanography, unearthed the underwater ruins of a village from at least 5,000 years ago in the 1960s. The archaeological site is located in the Peloponnesus region of southern Greece, close to a small village called Pavlopetri. It is the earliest known planned underwater settlement, 4 meters (13.12 feet) below the surface.
Following Flemming’s rediscovery of the location in 1968, the site was investigated by a group of archaeologists from the University of Cambridge. The location was found and documented for the first time in 1904 by the geologist Folkion Negris. Then, in 2009, the University of Nottingham began a five-year project with the Ephorate of Underwater Antiquities of the Hellenic Ministry of Culture and Tourism and the Hellenic Centre for Marine Research to study the town of Pavlopetri. This project was directed by John C. Henderson and was carried out under the direction of the University of Nottingham. (Source)
“There 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.” (Source)
At first, the archaeologists who made the discovery thought that it belonged to a city that existed during the time of the Mycenaeans. However, further investigation proved that it was actually far older. After discovering and identifying artifacts that dated back to the Bronze Age, researchers were able to hone in on the exact year when Pavlopetri was first inhabited as 2800 BC. It is possible that the aspect of this location that stands out the most is the fact that its general layout has been preserved up until this point. As a result, archaeologists consider it to be a site of exceptional significance.
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According to the findings of the researchers, the city was likely drowned after a string of three devastating earthquakes that occurred in the region around 1000 BC. These violent earthquake episodes, which resulted in the city never being able to re-emerge from the bottom of the sea, had an important influence on the city’s ability to keep its original characteristics. Because it has not been subject to human influence, its mysteries remained a mystery for thousands of years.
The area that is covered by the submerged remains is greater than 150,000 square feet. The port city of Pavlopetri was known for its thriving economy and activity. Additional digs will result in the discovery of new knowledge regarding ancient marine trade routes, commerce, religion, government, and daily life.
The location has the potential to become a popular tourist destination if it is managed properly and furnished with amenities such as an on-shore museum, guided snorkeling trips, and glass-bottom boat cruises. “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,” explained in The Guardian Dr. Jon Henderson from the University of Nottingham team who managed the Pavlopetri Underwater Archaeology Project.
The city existed during the time period depicted in the celebrated ancient Greek epic poem Iliad. The site was occupied earlier to 2800 B.C., according to research conducted in 2009, which uncovered that it encompasses roughly 9 acres (36,421 square meters). Despite sinking so long ago, the city’s layout is still evident, and at least 15 buildings have been discovered. The arrangement of the city is so evident that the head of the Nottingham archaeological team was able to make what they consider to be an extraordinarily realistic 3D recreation of the city.
According to historians, the ancient city served as a commercial hub for the Minoan and Mycenaean civilizations. Large clay storage containers, statues, common tools, and more items are dispersed throughout the site. It is unknown what the city’s original name was and what function it played in the ancient world. “It is a rare find, and it is significant because, as a submerged site, it was never reoccupied and therefore represents a frozen moment of the past,” commented Elias Spondylis of the Greek Ministry of Culture. (Source)
In 2011, Pavlopetri was featured in the documentary “Pavlopetri – The City Beneath the Waves,” produced by the BBC. The documentary contained 3D representations of the city map and the structures that make up the city. According to UNESCO, Pavlopetri was established more than 5000 years ago and was one of the first cities to be “planned” with distinct residential areas, administrative buildings, factories for the manufacturing of pottery, markets, and other public spaces.
Pavlopetri was included on the World Monuments Watch in 2016, a global program that works to protect heritage locations that are under threat, to support local conservation and protection efforts. As part of these efforts, the Greek Chapter of ARCH International organized a Watch Day to raise awareness about the site.