August 12, 2015

Mesolithic monolith from Sicilian Channel

Journal of Archaeological Science: Reports Volume 3, September 2015, Pages 398–407

A submerged monolith in the Sicilian Channel (central Mediterranean Sea): Evidence for Mesolithic human activity

Emanuele Lodolo, Zvi Ben-Avraham

The ancient geography of the Mediterranean Basin was profoundly changed by the increase in sea level following the Last Glacial Maximum. This global event has led to the retreat of the coastlines, especially in lowland areas and shallow shelves, such as the Sicilian Channel. The NW sector of this shelf, known as Adventure Plateau, is studded by isolated shoals mostly composed of Late Miocene carbonate rocks and by some volcanic edifices. These shoals, until at least the Early Holocene, formed an archipelago of several islands separated by stretches of extremely shallow sea. One of these submerged features – the Pantelleria Vecchia Bank – located 60 km south of Sicily, has been extensively surveyed using geophysical and geological methods. It is composed of two main shoals, connected seaward by a rectilinear ridge which encloses an embayment. Here we present morphological evidence, underwater observations, and results of petrographic analysis of a man-made, 12 m long monolith resting on the sea-floor of the embayment at a water depth of 40 m. It is broken into two parts, and has three regular holes: one at its end which passes through from part to part, the others in two of its sides. The monolith is composed of calcirudites of Late Pleistocene age, as determined from radiocarbon measurements conducted on several shell fragments extracted from the rock samples. The same age and composition characterize the metre-size blocks forming the rectilinear ridge. The rest of the rocks composing the shoals are mostly Tortonian limestones–sandstones, as revealed by their fossil content. Extrapolating ages from the local sea level curve, we infer that seawater inundated the inner lands at 9350 ± 200 year B.P., the upper limit which can be reasonably taken for the site abandonment. This discovery provides evidence for a significant Mesolithic human activity in the Sicilian Channel region.



Grogard said...

Very interesting. I wish they could do a detailed dig.

Maju said...

As I wrote in my blog, there are two alternatives to the monolith being that old:

1. That the local orography has changed, what is not at all implausible considering it is a very active geological area. If so, the monolith would have only been submerged when the subduction took place.

2. That the monolith was being transported between islands or along the coast in a barge or ship, which sunk. This may explain why the rock is broken in two almost by half, probably at the point where the monolith hit the sea floor.

So it does not need to be from the end of the Ice Age, it can well be more recent. It's even possible that it never was erected (if the sinking theory is correct). Most likely IMO it dates from the Megalithic period in the area, which affected Malta and parts of Sicily.

Donald said...

No comments, yet? One of the most important news of the century... A mesolithic koinè with Gobleki Tepe and who know other submerged monuments...

dsunlin said...

This all assumes that the monolith hadn't fallen off an ancient Roman ship.