It’s hard to believe that a few hundred or thousand years from now so many of the important landmarks we’re accustomed to today might be wiped out, torn down, or lost: the Eiffel Tower, the Colosseum, the Parthenon. Losing landmarks — and even entire civilizations — seems like an impossibility, but it’s happened before.
In fact, the thought of these long-lost civilizations is so tantalizing that some explorers have spent decades searching the globe for any hint of those who were lost to time. And recently, one team uncovered a vital clue that may shed light on the whereabouts of a society scientists thought was lost forever.
Take a look at any map and you’ll see Great Britain surrounded by ocean. We all assume the land of Wimbledon and afternoon tea was always an island, and why wouldn’t we? But it turns out, those murky waters are more mysterious than most of us even know.
Back in the 1800s, fishermen starting noticing something peculiar while out on the North Sea. Their nets caught things that certainly didn’t belong in the middle of the ocean, like lion fossils and a woolly mammoth’s skull. Archaeologists had a surprising explanation.
See, thousands of years ago, Great Britain was actually connected to the mainland. If it were like that today, you could walk right from Paris to London without ever seeing a drop of water!
This swath of land was named Doggerland after an old style of Dutch fishing boat, the dogger. Naturally, the discovery of this massive land formation ignited a fire in the archaeological community.
Driven to this “lost land,” archeologists (and some conspiracy theorists) developed a laundry list of questions and hypotheses. Could Doggerland, they wondered, be home to some fabled civilization? Some theorists had one civilization in mind.
Atlantis. The lost civilization has captivated treasure seekers and filmmakers for generations, but none ever found the much-storied nation. Of course, there was a good reason for that.
See, the mystery of Atlantis dates back all the way to 360 BCE when Plato mentioned it in writing for the first time. According to him, the civilization had thousands of chariots and futuristic technologies but was destroyed by the gods 9,000 years ago. But there were a few problems with that.
The work in which Plato mentioned Atlantis was an allegory, a fable meant to demonstrate some greater moral point of view. In other words, it’s entirely possible Atlantis was fictional. But that hasn’t stopped people from searching.
Ignatius Donnelly was an American Congressman in the 1860s who devoted most of his time to researching fringe theories with no scientific basis, like catastrophism and Shakespearean authorship. But his true passion was Atlantis.
Donnelly published a book arguing that there was once a giant mythical continent called Atlantis that had since fallen into the depths of the sea. Bizarre as it may sound, his book caught on, and soon Atlantis-mania was running wild on the nation.
Explorers have crisscrossed the globe in search of the forgotten civilization, but most expeditions, predictably enough, have been in vain. Still, some archaeologists have uncovered some strange things that aren’t so easily explained.
A recent expedition was led by Bruce Blackburn, a man with no background in archaeology or science, who explored a Spanish national park. Skeptics were surprised when the mission turned up something totally unexpected.
In the park, Blackburn reported he found evidence that there might have been buildings, and even temples, dating back 10,000 years. He was certain it was the lost city of Atlantis. Other critics weren’t so sure.
One such doubter compared recent Google Earth satellite photographs of the area with images from just a few years before and noticed the site Blackburn had “discovered” had disappeared.
It turned out it was no archaeological site at all but the remnants of a 2004 biological study conducted in the park. Atlantis truthers were dealt a blow, but a recent finding has given them some hope that their lost city is out there.
Scientists have been combing Doggerland for years, trying to find evidence of human civilization. Because the area used to be covered by spacious plains, many believe it would have been an attractive place for human settlements. As it turns out, they were right.
“The most pleasant places to live would have been on the great plains — which are now out at sea,” said Vincent Gaffney, a professor at Bradford University. “But it’s all been lost.” That is, until recently.
Gaffney’s team spent 11 days exploring Doggerland looking for signs of civilization, but they found something peculiar instead: there, on the seafloor, was an entire fossilized forest. The implications were staggering.
The location of the forest suggests there would likely have been human settlements nearby. “We are absolutely dead sure that we are very close to a settlement,” said Gaffney.
So while they probably won’t turn up the lost city of Atlantis, who knows what other untapped secrets lie in the depths of the North Sea? Settlements? Cities? Maybe even… a long-lost ark?
Legends of catastrophic floods are found in texts from ancient cultures all across the globe, and they share some strange similarities. A man builds a massive ship, the world floods, and the man waits out the storm on the boat until his Weather Channel app says it’s fine to go back outside.
According to the story that appears in the Bible and the Quran, God asks Noah to build a giant ark where he can wait out a world-destroying storm. Oh, and he needs to take two of every single kind of animal with him. But the holy texts weren’t Noah’s first appearances.
His story debuted centuries earlier in Mesopotamia, though he was called Ziusudra then. Later he showed up in a Babylonian story under the name Gilgamesh. Noah’s been talked about for a long, long time.
Given the mystery and power behind the original story, it’s no wonder that Hollywood has fallen in love with Noah. As the story of his ark became more and more popular, explorers began launching expeditions to search for what’s left of the boat.
But modern researchers are conflicted on the true story behind the ark. Some interpret the story literally, while many believe the flood might’ve been melting glacial ice as a result of the conclusion of the Ice Age.
One explorer, Robert Ballard, tried to prove this theory in 1989. He theorized that the Ark could have sunk to the bottom of the Black Sea after the glacial floods receded. But what he found surprised him.
After exploring hundreds of square miles beneath the sea, Ballard’s team miraculously discovered a 7,000-year-old settlement destroyed by floodwaters, but no signs of an ark. Though he ended up empty-handed, he wasn’t the last to go searching for the ship.
See, many ark-maniacs believe two blurry government photos of Mount Ararat (the supposed biblical resting place of the Ark) are hiding a secret that could confirm the ship’s location.
So in 2004, when businessman Daniel McGivern set out to explore the anomaly on Mount Ararat, many were disappointed when he was denied access by the Turkish government.
Another team went up into the Alborz Mountains in Iran and located what looked like an enormous blackened ruin. Though some thought this could be an ark candidate, others remarked it could just be a mineral deposit.
Most expeditions were sufficiently debunked as hoaxes. As one archaeologist said, “I don’t know of any expedition that ever went looking for the ark and didn’t find it.” But one group made a shocking discovery in 2007 that changed everything.
When a Hong Kong-based group called Noah’s Ark Ministries International (NAMI) traveled to Mount Arafat, they found something some archaeologists are struggling to explain.
About 13,000 feet up the mountain, NAMI explorers allegedly found large wooden compartments buried in the ground. And when they investigated the ruins further, they discovered something odd.
The group tested the materials using radiocarbon dating, and the age of the wood was revealed to be about 4,800 years old — around the time Noah was purported to have built his ark. One scholar, though, was not so sure.
Somehow believing both in the well-tested science of carbon dating and that God created the world just 6,000 years ago, he disagreed with their findings, purporting the wood should date back much more than 4,800 years. Others have different concerns.
Mount Ararat as the ark’s resting place is a modern concept, not specified in the Bible. “The whole notion is odd because the Bible tells you the ark landed somewhere in Urartu,” noted biblical scholar Jack Sasson. So what was the structure NAMI found?
Some scholars believe the structure could be an ancient shrine dedicated to where some thought the ark could be. But even then, the wood should be much younger for one simple reason: the Bible hadn’t been written 4,800 years ago!
Though the findings hadn’t been corroborated, Turkey planned to petition the United Nations to list the structure as a UNESCO World Heritage Site. They were, perhaps unsurprisingly, unsuccessful. Despite all the setbacks, NAMI stuck to their story.
“We believe that the wooden structure we entered is the same structure recorded in historical accounts,” said one member in a statement to the press, “and the same ancient boat indicated by the locals.”
So while no one can yet confirm the veracity of NAMI’s claims, ark-heads across the globe will continue to search high and low for signs of the biblical boat.