An ancient limestone monolith scientists believe to be at least 10,000 years old — one much like the monoliths half its age erected at Stonehenge — has been discovered at the bottom of the Mediterranean Sea. Although it now rests in two pieces lengthwise on the sea floor just off Sicily’s shoreline, the massive stone once stood upright, archaeologists say, and towered to a height of 40 feet.
UPI reported August 10 that archaeologists from Israel and Italy, studying what used to be a series of islands called the Sicilian Channel Islands, discovered the monolith, but, just like those who have and continue to study Stonehenge, they are at a loss to explain its purpose. When it actually was on land, the massive object stood on Pantelleria Vecchia Bank, one of those now submerged islands.
“This discovery reveals the technological innovation and development achieved by the Mesolithic inhabitants in the Sicilian Channel region,” Emanuele Lodolo, from the National Institute of Oceanography and Experimental Geophysics in Trieste, Italy, told Discovery News. “Such an effort undoubtedly reveals important technical skills and great engineering. Most likely the structure was functional to the settlement. These people were used to fishing and trading with the neighboring islands. It could have been some sort of a lighthouse or an anchoring system, for example.”
Archaeologists know that the people that inhabited the Sicilian Channel islands were driven inland by rising waters some 9,500 years ago. The archaeological discovery of the Mediterranean monolith reveals that the islanders were technologically advanced, the authors of the study wrote.
“The monolith found, made of a single, large block, required a cutting, extraction, transportation and installation, which undoubtedly reveals important technical skills and great engineering,” Lodolo and co-author Zvi Ben-Avraham, from the Department of Earth Sciences at Tel Aviv University, wrote of the find in an article published in the Journal of Archaeological Science. But that wasn’t all. The researchers wrote: “The monolith has three regular holes of similar diameter: one that crosses it completely on its top, and another two at two sides of the monolith; there are no reasonable known natural processes that may produce these elements.”
Lodolo told Discovery News, “Almost everything that we do know about prehistoric cultures derives from settlements that are now on land. On the contrary, an extensive archaeological record of early settlings lies on the sea-floor of our continental shelves.” He added that in order to find “the origins of civilization in the Mediterranean region, we must focus on the now-submerged shelf areas.”
The monolith is an important find in the study of Mesolithic — between Paleolithic and Neolithic — peoples and seems to indicate that somewhat advanced civilizations were extant prior to the ancient Roman and Greek civilizations. As noted by Discovery News, the most famous Mesolithic archaeological discovery to date is Gobekli Tepe in southeastern Turkey. An extensive monumental temple complex that a German archaeological team first began excavating in the 1960s, Gobekli Tepe has been dated to be as old as 11,600 years. It is believed to be a religious center or sanctuary of a settlement.