BBC: Lost city 'could rewrite history'
Aug 29, 2004 06:50 AM
"The whole model of the origins of civilisation will have to be remade from
Lost city 'could rewrite history'
Saturday, 19 January, 2002, 06:33 GMT
The city is believed to predate the Harappan civilisation
By BBC News Online's Tom Housden
The remains of what has been described as a huge lost city may force
historians and archaeologists to radically reconsider their view of ancient human
Marine scientists say archaeological remains discovered 36 metres (120 feet)
underwater in the Gulf of Cambay off the western coast of India could be over
9,000 years old.
The vast city - which is five miles long and two miles wide - is believed to
predate the oldest known remains in the subcontinent by more than 5,000 years.
The site was discovered by chance last year by oceanographers from India's
National Institute of Ocean Technology conducting a survey of pollution.
Using sidescan sonar - which sends a beam of sound waves down to the bottom
of the ocean they identified huge geometrical structures at a depth of 120ft.
Debris recovered from the site - including construction material, pottery,
sections of walls, beads, sculpture and human bones and teeth has been carbon
dated and found to be nearly 9,500 years old.
The city is believed to be even older than the ancient Harappan civilisation,
which dates back around 4,000 years.
Marine archaeologists have used a technique known as sub-bottom profiling to
show that the buildings remains stand on enormous foundations.
Author and film-maker Graham Hancock - who has written extensively on the
uncovering of ancient civilisations - told BBC News Online that the evidence was
"The [oceanographers] found that they were dealing with two large blocks of
apparently man made structures.
"Cities on this scale are not known in the archaeological record until
roughly 4,500 years ago when the first big cities begin to appear in Mesopotamia.
"Nothing else on the scale of the underwater cities of Cambay is known. The
first cities of the historical period are as far away from these cities as we
are today from the pyramids of Egypt," he said.
This, Mr Hancock told BBC News Online, could have massive repercussions for
our view of the ancient world.
"There's a huge chronological problem in this discovery. It means that the
whole model of the origins of civilisation with which archaeologists have been
working will have to be remade from scratch," he said.
However, archaeologist Justin Morris from the British Museum said more work
would need to be undertaken before the site could be categorically said to
belong to a 9,000 year old civilisation.
"Culturally speaking, in that part of the world there were no civilisations
prior to about 2,500 BC. What's happening before then mainly consisted of
small, village settlements," he told BBC News Online.
Dr Morris added that artefacts from the site would need to be very carefully
analysed, and pointed out that the C14 carbon dating process is not without
its error margins.
It is believed that the area was submerged as ice caps melted at the end of
the last ice age 9-10,000 years ago
Although the first signs of a significant find came eight months ago,
exploring the area has been extremely difficult because the remains lie in highly
treacherous waters, with strong currents and rip tides.
The Indian Minister for Human Resources and ocean development said a group
had been formed to oversee further studies in the area.
"We have to find out what happened then ... where and how this civilisation
vanished," he said.
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