Mysterious Underwater 'Lost City' Found To Be Geological Formation Engineered By Microbes

First Posted: Jun 06, 2016 06:19 AM EDT

The recently discovered underwater ruins near the island of Zakynthos, Greece may not really be a sunken city. The "lost city" is actually a natural phenomenon that creates stone formations.

The structures that were discovered by underwater divers which were originally thought to be ruins of an ancient city like a leftover part of cobblestone floors, courtyards and columns. However, when Greek authorities examined it carefully, they found that there were no sign of human life that may have existed along with the city. There were no pottery shards, coins or even tools. Now, researchers explained that the structures were not made by humans at all. According to Science American, the ruins were formed naturally and sculpted by the breakdown of methane gas within the ocean floor millions of years ago.

Archaeologists connected with the Ephorate of Underwater Antiquities of Greece, a department within the Greek Ministry of Culture specializing in marine archaeology, looked at the sight carefully and found no evidence to suggest that this was an ancient city. Live Science reported that the Greek Ministry brought researchers from the University of East Anglia and the University of Athens to investigate the oddly shaped structures after suspecting that there may be a geological explanation to the formation of structures.

"The site was discovered by snorkelers and first thought to be an ancient city port, lost to the sea," lead study author Julian Andrews, a professor at UEA's School of Environmental Sciences, said in a statement. "There were what superficially looked like circular column bases and paved floors but, mysteriously, no other signs of life - such as pottery."

In a piece published by Tech Times, it said that through the X-rays, microscopy and stable isotope analyses, the research team analyzed the texture of the objects underwater, as well as their mineral content. After the analysis, the team found out that these formations were actually caused by natural geological event.

Andrews said that the structures, especially those that looked like the bases of column resulted from the mineralization of seeps made of hydrocarbon. This can often be seen in both ancient and present-day seafloor settings.

The way some of these objects were lined up shows there may be an underwater fault that partially ruptured the surface of the seafloor. This fault may have also emitted gases, such as methane, into the ocean. Andrews also said that microorganisms may have used the carbon included in methane as fuel to drive the oxidation of the sediment. This changed the chemistry of the stones, and created a natural kind of cement known as concretion.

The cement that was formed in the Zakynthos ruins was made of a mineral known as dolomite, which can be found in sediments rich in microbes. "These features are proof of natural methane seeping out of rock from hydrocarbon reservoirs," Andrews said.

"The same thing happens in the North Sea, and it is also similar to the effects of fracking, when humans essentially speed up or enhance the phenomena."

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