The ocean is the lifeblood of Earth, covering more than 70 percent of the planet’s surface, driving weather and supporting all living organisms. Throughout history, the ocean has been a vital source of sustenance, transport, commerce, growth and inspiration. Yet for all of our reliance on the ocean, 95% of this realm remains unexplored, unseen by human eyes.
Back ashore and many years ago, before huge earthquakes and floods, there were cities which had their own history and culture, emperors and gods to obey. They had their own rules and habits. Now, all of them represent significant archaeological findings in recent history but many of them are, in some way, more mysterious about their origin.
Maybe there are some secrets that we are not ready to learn about and some of them, because of the endless ocean, we may never know! Many of you’d try to find more details about these submerged cities while some of you will just enjoy the underwater world. So, here are 10 of the most amazing cities found underwater:
The Neolithic Village of Atlit Yam, Israel
Not far off the coast of the village of Atlit, in the Mediterranean Sea, near Haifa in Israel, lies the submerged ruins of the ancient Neolithic site of Atlit Yam. The prehistoric settlement, which dates back to the 7th millennium BC, has been so well preserved by the sandy seabed that a mysterious stone circle still stands as it was first erected, and dozens of human skeletons lay undisturbed in their graves. Atlit Yam is one of the oldest and largest sunken settlements ever found.
Today, Atlit Yam lies between 8 – 12 meters beneath sea level and covered an area of 40,000 square meters. The site was discovered in 1984 by the archaeologist Ehud Galili and, since then, underwater excavations have unearthed numerous houses, stone-built water wells, ritual installations, stone-paved areas, thousands of flora and fauna remains and also dozens of human remains.
The Ancient City of Pavlopetri, Greece
Wouldn’t it be cool if you could visit a Greek city that was so old, it was around during the time period of the Iliad? Well, actually you can! In this case, the only catch is that it’s currently submerged beneath about four meters of water.
The city, which is believed by archaeologists to be around 5,000 years old, is still remarkably well preserved and contains around 9 acres of ancient houses, gardens, temples, even evidence of an ancient yet complex plumbing system.
According to sources, it’s the oldest known submerged city on the planet. It was said that the famed Greek epic poem, known as the Iliad, was set in this location.
The Ancient City of Port Royal, Jamaica
Founded in 1518. After some infamous pirates’ visiting, such as Blackbeard and Calico Jack, Port Royal became a center notorious for pirates’ activities. As it flourished, between 1655 and 1692, grew faster than any city founded in the New World and became the most important trading post in the Caribbean Sea. Their free-spending inhabitants were throwing their money into gambling, whores and drinking. So, the town developed the reputation of wickedness and impiety.
The city had a population of 6,500 inhabitants. However, a massive 7.5 earthquake, in 1692, spelled disaster for the city, causing its foundations to give way. Two-thirds of the city sank into the sea, that swallowed 2,000 people and wounded another 3,000.
Port Royal is like an underwater Las Vegas. According to UNESCO.org, it was the most wicked and sinful city on the planet and some people say that it still remains underwater as testament to the punishment believed to have been cast down upon the people by God.
Rummu’s Underwater Prison, Estonia
It belongs to Rummu town, which is located in northwestern Estonia, about 40 kilometers west from Tallinn. This small town had a nearby Limestone Quarry, which was founded on 1 January 1938 together with Murru Soviet Prison.
In 1991, when the Soviet Union collapsed, Estonia again gained its independence and limestone mining was ended. Soon enough, the quarry became a “quarry lake” thus resulting the flooding of buildings within the former soviet prison.
Nowadays, the local people of Rummu fondly refer to the newly formed lake as “The Blue Lagoon”. This once eerie place, which held about a thousand inmates, is now an amazingly popular and mesmerizing beach where people swim in the deep blue water during the summer and dive almost yearlong.
The Ancient City of Dwarka in Gulf of Khambhat, India
Lord Krishna was considered a myth, but the ruins of an ancient city, that be discovered in 2000, are forcing experts to take a second look into the Indian tale. Besides, Dwarka turned out to be real. Lord Krishna’s city had 70,000 palaces, all made of precious metals such as gold and silver. Upon his death, they sank into the sea. The ruins are 131 feet beneath the surface of modern-day Dwarka’s bay. Divers discovered ruins of the city, hidden deep beneath the Arabian Sea.
In 2001, it was found out that there were huge geometrical structures 120ft below the surface. Bones and teeth seems to be 9,500 years old, in contrast to the 4,500 year-old history about the birth of civilization in Ancient Mesopotamia. It’s one of the seven oldest cities in India and Scientific Study suggest it may be among the most ancient discoveries of our time. Experts now think the ancient city could have existed as early as 7500 BCE.
The Sunken City of Baiae, Italy
Baiae, which was located over natural volcanic vents, was famous for its healing medicinal hot springs. Some of antiquity’s most powerful figures such as Nero, Cicero, and Caesar were known to have visited the city and a number of them actually built permanent vacation villas there.
Unfortunately, the good times were not to last and the city was sacked by Saracens in the 8th Century. By 1500, the remains of the formerly luxurious town were abandoned. After the city remains were emptied, the water level slowly rose due to the same volcanic vents that were once a draw to the area, and most of the ancient ruins were drowned under the shallow waters of the bay.
Today, the ancient remains of Baiae can be visited in one of the world’s few underwater archeological parks. Visitors can view the crumbled structures and amazingly preserved statuary of the city through glass-bottomed boats or scuba dives which allow people to actually swim among copious ruins.
The Ancient City of Thonis – Heracleion, Egypt
After searching for years, by screening the vast area of the Abu Qir Bay off the coast of Egypt, archaeologist Goddio and his team saw a colossal face emerge from the watery shadows. This amazingly intact Egyptian monument, commissioned by the Pharaoh Nectanebo I (378-362 BC), helped explorers identify the ancient city of Thonis – Heracleion in 2000, completely submerged 6.5 kilometers off Alexandria’s coast.
Among the underwater ruins were 64 ships, 700 anchors, a treasure trove of gold coins, statues and the remains of a massive temple to the god Amun-Gereb. He also found many tiny sarcophagi for the animals that were brought there as offerings. The ruins and artifacts are remarkably preserved and give a glimpse into what was, 2300 years ago, one of the great port cities of the world. The Thonis – Heracleion city (the Egyptian and Greek names of the city) enjoyed a golden age as the only harbor of entry for Greek ships entering Egypt, before the founding of the city of Alexandria in 331 B.C.
Built around its grand temple, the city was criss-crossed with a network of canals (a kind of ancient Egyptian Venice) and its islands were home to small sanctuaries and homes. Once a grand city, today its history is largely obscured and no one is quite sure how it ended up entirely underwater, but It’s believed to have sunk in the 8th Century.
According to Greek Mythology, this was the place where Helen visited Paris before the Trojan War erupted.
The Pyramids of Yonaguni – Jima, Japan
Along the coast of Yonaguni – Jima, lying near the southern end of Japan, divers were able to discover mysterious underwater pyramids and rock terraces in the 1980s. It is believed that the discovery is about the remnants of the mythical city of Mu, an ancient civilization that vanished under the waves. The remains date back to 5,000 years, on the basis of some stalactites that found inside the caves, that sank with the city.
There are various theories about Pyramid of Yonaguni. Some scientists claim that, despite its staircases and eerie similarities to South American temples of the same style, the whole thing is just a big coincidence of a rock formation. Others, for obvious reasons, claim that it’s an ancient ruin with fascinating implications.
The Ancient City of Alexandria (Cleopatra’s Palace), Egypt
This ancient city, that was ruled by Cleopatra, was rediscovered in 1998. However, it was found out that the city was almost perfectly preserved underwater. The remaining testament to its great history, more than 2,000 years ago, still remains almost intact. Archeologists are looking forward to study the relics.
Among the treasures, recovered from ancient Alexandria, was a sphinx, made by granite, which is believed that its face represent that of Ptolemy XII, father of famous Egyptian Queen Cleopatra VII.
The “Lion City” of Quiandao Lake, China
China’s Shi Cheng or “Lion City” fell victim at the hands of mankind rather than a natural disaster. The government planned to create a hydroelectric dam, the Xin’an Dam, which is accidentally created a lake. The city was submerged 130ft underwater with a maze of temples, roads, arches, and houses. The city may has been submerged around 60 years ago but it was about 1,400 years old, as many parts of that city were built in 1300s.
It was then virtually forgotten until divers begin to “rediscover” it in 2001. Interest in the underwater city of Shi Cheng was once again piqued when Chinese National Geography published an article full of pictures and hypothetical illustrations of what the city might have looked like.
The well-preserved streets of “Lion City” feature over 250 ornately carved archways including stunning depictions of dragons, phoenixes, lions and other cultural icons.