A CIRCULAR structure lying at the bottom of the Sea of Galilee could contain the secrets of ancient life in the Middle East, researchers believe.
But the Israeli researchers have no way of finding out what lies beneath because they lack the funding to carry out a full-scale under-water excavation.
The archaeologists, who have seen grainy images of the conical structure, are trying to raise money to enable them to access the submerged stones that were first seen in a routine scan in 2003.
“It’s very enigmatic, it’s very interesting, but the bottom line is we don’t know when it’s from, we don’t know what it’s connected to, we don’t know its function,” said Dani Nadel, an archaeologist at the University of Haifa, who is one of several researchers studying the discovery. “We only know it is there, it is huge and it is unusual.” Archaeologists said the only way they can properly assess the structure is through an underwater excavation, a painstakingly slow process that can cost several hundred thousand pounds. If such an excavation is to take place, archaeologists said they believed it would be the first in the Sea of Galilee, an ancient lake which is home to historical remnants dating back thousands of years and the setting of many Bible scenes.
In contrast, Israeli researchers have carried out many excavations in the Mediterranean and Red Seas.
Much of the researchers’ limited knowledge about this structure was from the sonar scan a decade ago. Initial dives shortly afterwards revealed more information. In an article in the International Journal of Nautical Archaeology published earlier this year, researchers disclosed it was asymmetrical, made of basalt boulders and that “fish teem around the structure and between its blocks”.
The cone-shaped structure is found at a depth of between 9 to 40ft, about half a kilometre from the sea’s south-western shore. Its base is buried under sediment.
The authors conclude the structure is man-made of stones from nearby, and it weighs about 60,000 tons. The authors wrote it “is indicative of a complex, well-organised society, with planning skills and economic ability”.
The rest is a mystery. Yitzhak Paz, an archaeologist with the Israel Antiquities Authority who is involved in the project, said that based on the build-up of sediment, it is between 2,000 and 12,000 years old. Based on other sites and artefacts found in the region, the research places the site’s origin some time during the third millennium BC.
“The period is hard for us to determine. No scientific work was carried out there, no excavations, no surveys. We have no artefacts from the structure,” the researcher added.
Archaeologists were also cautious about guessing the structure’s purpose.
They said possibilities included a burial site, a place of worship or even a fish nursery, which were common in the area. But they said they wanted to avoid speculation because they have so little information.
It was not even clear if the structure was built on shore when the sea stood at a low level, or if it was constructed underwater.
Researchers believe it was built on land, an indication of the sea’s low level at the time.
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