Sunken Cities, Harbours and Islands are to be found all over the world. Sometimes these were caused by local seismic, tectonic or volcanic events. A greater number were undoubtedly caused by the rising sea levels that followed the deglaciation at the end of the last Ice Age. This deglaciation continues today as the greenhouse gases produced by human activity threatens to raise sea levels further that could inundate a number of our major cities that could lead to dramatic social and economic consequences.
The flooding of Atlantis, as recorded by Plato, continues to prompt opportunistic writers to try to link any new discovery of submerged structures with this prehistoric catastrophe. Cuba, The Baltic Sea, Malta, and Southern Spain, among others, have all been touted as Atlantis on this basis. Many more are yet to be discovered that will attract this same spurious identification. There is also the possibility that a sunken structure from Atlantis will be discovered that will not be identified as such.
Even more depressing is the possibility that mankind may have to wait until the inevitable next ice age, when the sea levels again drop, before we will have our best opportunity to identify the true location of Plato’s city. That is assuming that we are still around and in a position to scientifically search for the site of this enduring mystery.
The most spectacular sunken city recently discovered is undoubtedly that of Thonis-Heracleion off the coast of modern Alexandria(c). A close second might be the city found in the Gulf of Cambay in India, for which claims of extreme antiquity have been made, however, archaeologist Justin Morris from the British Museum said more work would need to be undertaken before the site could be categorically said to belong to a 9,000 year old civilisation.
The sunken town of Dunwich was once the 10th largest settlement in England and is frequently referred to as ‘Britain’s Atlantis’. However it was inundated relatively recently, in 1286 AD, and obviously has no connection with Plato’s Atlantis. Modern technology has now enabled an accurate mapping of this old town(b). Similarly, the German city of Rungholt was flooded by the Wadden Sea less than a century later(d).
In 2009 the lost city of Bathonea was rediscovered just 20 km from Istanbul. Evidence of human habitation in an area dated to earlier than 10,000 BC has been found. Millennia later a Greek settlement was established on the site and later expanded by the Romans. Excavation of the partially submerged city may take up to a century. The discovery of cities such as Bathonea understandably raise hopes that someday the remains of Atlantis may also be found.
In 2017, also in Turkey a sunken city has been found in the waters of Lake Van in the far east of the country(e).
A Swedish website dedicated to underwater archaeology, lists a number of known sunken cities(a).
The Scilly Isles are located south west of Cornwall’s Land’s End in the Atlantic Ocean. The islands were more extensive before the ending of the last Ice Age and their inundation following the melting of the glaciers undoubtedly produced the numerous legends in the region of sunken cities and lost civilisations. Apparently there was once a paved causeway joining some of the islands and according to an 18th century report, it was then under 8 feet of water. Even earlier in the 3rd century AD, Solinus referred to the Scillies in the singular as insulam Siluram.
O.G.S. Crawford, who was the first Archaeology Officer with the British Ordnance Survey, was also the founder in 1927 of Antiquity which continues today. In its first edition(c) he wrote of the earlier Scillies as a single landmass and its relationship to the legend of Lyonesse(b).
Some writers have identified the Scillies as the Cassiterides (Isles of Tin) referred to by Pliny the Elder. However, there are no known tin deposits on the islands, although it is possible that before the ocean levels rose ore deposits were accessible, similar to those in nearby Devon and Cornwall, but this inundation probably occurred before the technology existed to exploit its use.
In more recent times the Russian Scientist Viatcheslav Koudriavtsev was convinced that Atlantis was located on the Celtic Shelf near the Scilly Isles. He specifically identified an underwater feature know as the Little Sole Bank, whose highest point is just 75 metres beneath the ocean’s surface. He had been promoting his theory since 1995 and eventually obtained official government permission to carry out explorations in the area, but he was unable to raise the necessary funds to carry out the operation.
In 2009, excavations on St. Agnes in the Scillies revealed a remarkable Bronze Age pottery sherd which seems to depict the earliest know image of a sailing boat ever found in the United Kingdom(a).
In 1651, the Netherlands declared war on the Scillies, a little detail that was forgotten until 1986, when a peace treaty was finally signed(d) !
(c) http://antiquity.ac.uk/archive (Jan. 2019 access restricted)