Research on the Hunt for Prehistoric Underwater Village


Research teams will go back to prehistoric times next week to hunt underwater for remnants of possibly the oldest village in Europe. They will have to journey into the depths of a Greek bay known as Kiladha. The very name of the bay may tell a lot about why it was chosen for the search. Kiladha is the Greek word for valley, so it is likely that the water is covering what used to be dry land. The archaeologists speculate that this area may be where farming populations formed one of the first villages in Europe.

Close to the bay is the Franchti Cave. This area is a major prehistoric site that has produced findings on Neolithic populations. It is believed that the site was inhabited some 40,000 years ago. Ornaments and pottery that indicated minor remnants of a village were found in the cave. Researchers have estimated that the excavated area was occupied by settlers on and off for 35,000 years.

The theory is that a village may have sunk during Neolithic times. Discovery of this village would lead to more knowledge of the Neolithic population in this area. Still, there are no ruins of prehistoric buildings on the site, leading the team to believe that the answer is lying at the bottom of the bay. In order to assess the landscape beneath Greece’s waters, the team, from the University of Geneva, had to call on modern technology to help in their ancient search.

The MS Tûranor PlanetSolar, the world’s largest solar-powered boat, arrived in Greece this week to lend a hand. Last year the boat became the first of its kind to travel around the world and earlier this year, it was used by the university to measure currents and aerosols in the Gulf Stream. This proved a useful tactic, since the focus of the study was climate change. The solar-powered boat does not release any emissions that would have otherwise influenced the data being collected. The low environmental impact is a plus that will allow the research team to conduct geographical measurements to model the underwater landscape and hunt for signs of a prehistoric village or any human activity.

Mission leader Julien Beck realized that during the course of the research, the team had failed to acknowledge the significance of prehistoric seafaring. The Franchti cave site indicated that the settlers travelled from the east by sea. This is contradictory to previous beliefs that settlers traveled by land from the southeast, up through Greece and Bulgaria. The topic has created some debate in the research community, but a separate study was able to give evidence of the seafaring claim. Through gene analysis, an international team of researchers confirmed that the majority of Neolithic migrants came from lands that would require travel by sea along the coast.

The aim of the research is to form an understanding of how farming communities managed to expand across the continent, and to determine their relationship to the sea. Along with the MS Tûranor another vessel will be coming from the Hellenic Centre for Marine Research. This boat will help to scan and map the underwater landscape as the research team hunts for indicators of the prehistoric village.

By Kamille Dawkins


Science Daily
The Verge

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