Mathilda’s Weird World Weblog

May 19, 2008

The ‘how and why’ of drowned cities.

Filed under: Drowned cities — Tags: — mathilda37 @ 8:52 pm

A few years ago I was watching a TV series presented by Graham Hancock, and ever since then I’ve been hooked.

Unlike many other ‘lost ancients’ in myths, there’s a very real chance that there are cities lying submerged around the coasts of South East Asia and India/Pakistan, and even in the Mediterranean and the Caribbean. There is one really good reason for this. Sea levels are about 100m higher now than they were 10,000 years ago, about 140m higher than they were at the last glacial maximum 20,000 years ago. Anything could be under there.

Could ice age people have built cities?

Well, yes. 

Agriculture is the technology that makes city building possible.  Without farming you could never support enough people to make an urban life possible. So if you are looking for the traces of a lost civilisation, the first thing you need to ask is ‘what bulk carbohydrate crop were they growing?’

The domestication of rice in the far East (in Korea at least) goes back at least 15,000 years, and as far as anyone can tell the domestication of rice started in Southern Asia about the same time. How can we deduce that? Indian rice was domesticated seperately, before the Far Eastern rice had the time to be transported West (why go to the trouble of domesticating a new variety, if you already have a cultivar on hand?). This would seem to support the independent invention of rice farming about 15,000 years ago plus, in two seperate locations in Asia. Wheat farming has been dated to over 13,000 years ago in the Natufian village of Abu Hurerya , and probably dates a thousand or so years earlier in Northern Syria and Southern Turkey. All the strains of modern wheat are derived from one wild variety of wheat in Southern Turkey. So, you have three independant discoveries of farming while the ice age was in full swing and the sea levels were low. That’s not including possible taro farming by the early Jomon in Japan, at about the same time.

There is some disagreement as to whether legumes like chickpeas, or grains like wheat, were first domesticated in Near East. Personally I’d go with legumes as more likely, as they require less manual processing before you eat them, and grass gluten can be a problematic protein to metabolise. But, it seems a tolerance to gluten may have moved up the Nile from the Northern Nubia area about 18,000 years ago. See ‘the grain eaters of Wadi Kubbaniya’.

Farming necessitates a sedentary lifestyle, although not all hunter gatherers are nomads. Building skills were already in evidence before the transition to farming, and ceramics were in use by Europeans about 26,000 years ago, but only for art objects. They probably never used ceramics for pots as pottery is too heavy and fragile for a mobile lifestyle. But the use of pottery containers is a good indicator that you have a sedentary/agricultural population, not mobile hunter gatherers.

The technology level of stone age Eurasia is often underestimated. There is a common misconception that Europeans were wielding clubs and wearing uncured hides. A more accurate view would be that they were similar technologically to the plains Indians of America. Impressions of loomed cloth have been found in clay from about 30,000 years ago, and basketry was in use too. The domestication of the dog seems to have occured in China about 15,000 years ago. The cave art in places like Lascaux includes what appears to be simple astronomical observations and calendars. Just because they were hunter gatherers, doesn’t mean they were primitive. This reasonable level of technology prior to agriculture would have made the transition to a complex urban life much quicker once agriculture was adopted.

The oldest known stone temple in the world is the 11,500 years old site of Gobekli Tepe in Turkey. There is no way that this was a first attempt at construction. At the moment it’s been put down as the last cultural flowering of the hunter gatherers in the area, but I’m much more inclined to say that it was the effort of the first farmers. And it’s not like one year they were hunters, and the next farmers. It would have taken generations to change lifestyle.

 So here is my list of possible submerged cities, that have some supporting evidence.

Off the coast off Mahabalipuram

In the Bay of Cambay

Off the coast of Okinawa, called the Yonaguni monument.

I’ll add to the list as I find viable sites.


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