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The Sciences

Mysterious Monolith in the Sicilian Channel

Underwater monolith, with its evenly spaced holes, is part of a mystery surrounding the 9,000-year-old site.

monolith site
A 3-D view of the monolith site. Emanuele Lodolo et al./Journal of Archaeological Science: Reports 3 (2015) 398–407

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It’s not the fabled Atlantis, but it is tantalizing: Researchers studying the Mediterranean’s Sicilian Channel, an area now underwater but partially exposed as recently as 9,000 years ago, found a 40-foot-long monolith, broken in two, with uniform, regularly spaced holes that could not be explained through any natural process. Analysis confirmed the monolith was quarried from a rock formation about 1,000 feet from its resting place.

monolith
A composite photo shows divers exploring the monolith, which split in half, in its resting spot in the Sicilian Channel. The monolith features several regularly spaced holes that don’t appear to have occurred through any natural processes. Scientists estimate the monolith weighs about 15 tons and was cut as a single stone from a nearby quarry more than 10,000 years ago. Emanuele Lodolo et al./Journal of Archaeological Science: Reports 3 (2015) 398–407

Still a mystery: Who created the monolith and other possibly man-made features nearby, including concentric circles and what may be a breakwater that’s more than 250 feet long? “We have opened the door to the unknown,” notes lead researcher Emanuele Lodolo, whose team published the find in the September issue of Journal of Archaeological Science: Reports.

monolith-map
The Sicilian Channel, where the monolith was discovered, has experienced great variation in sea level. About 19,000 years ago, water levels were 130 meters lower than now (red line). When the monolith was quarried, levels were roughly 50 meters lower than today. Emanuele Lodolo et al./Journal of Archaeological Science: Reports 3 (2015) 398–407

[This article originally appeared in print as "What Lies Beneath."]

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