In deep water off the coast of Sicily, scientists have found a large and very mysterious monolith that is believed to have been hewn from rock some 10,000 years ago.
"Considering its shape and length, it can be called a Stonehenge-type monolith, but its age is remarkably older," Dr. Emanuele Lodolo, a marine geophysicist at the National Institute of Oceanography and Experimental Geophysics in Trieste, Italy and co-author of a new paper describing the discovery, told The Huffington Post in an email.
Stonehenge is believed to have been built 4,000 to 5,000 years ago.
The stone artifact--which is pierced by three holes--is about 12 meters long and roughly square in cross section, with each side measuring about 2 meters. It was discovered by a diver on Sept. 16, 2014 at a depth of about 40 meters on what was once an island in the Sicilian Channel, Lodolo said in the email.
Exactly who made the monolith? No one knows for sure, though evidence suggests that it was fashioned by members of an ancient Mediterranean culture who lived in the area until their land was swallowed by rising sea levels some 9,ooo years ago.
Lodolo said they probably came from mainland Sicily.
As for the monolith's purpose, it might have been "some sort of a lighthouse or an anchoring system," according to Lodolo.
In any case, the monolith suggests that its makers were more sophisticated than they're given credit for.
As Lodolo and his co-author, Tel Aviv University's Dr. Zvi Ben-Avraham, explain in the paper, the stone had to be cut, extracted from the ground, transported, and installed--feats that "reveal important technical skills and great engineering...the recent findings of submerged archaeology have definitively removed the idea of 'technological primitivism' often attributed to hunter-gatherers coastal settlers."
The paper was published in the September issue of the Journal of Archaeological Science.
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