Submerged ruins, human settlements and their context

The remains of countless ancient buildings and settlements are now submerged under water. Some remains are testimony to subsiding soil, others to the results of earthquakes, flooding, landslides or erosion. Some buildings were, however, originally built on the water, as are still today’s Kampongs in Malaysia.


Submerged ruins can be of considerable importance. While Atlantis remains a legend, archaeological underwater sites the size of Pompeii have been discovered. Some are the remains of the first settlements in an area, while others were built during the apex of sophisticated ancient civilizations.

Examples of submerged ruins include:

  • The remnants of the lighthouse and Cleopatra’s palace in the bay of Alexandria; 
  • the city of Pavlopetri, which is 5.000 years old;
  • Parts of the world heritage site at Mahabalipuram, India; 
  • The site of Dwarka, India, featuring remains of an ancient port, temples and settlements from 1500-1400 BC;
  • Jamaica’s Port Royal, destroyed by an earthquake in 1692;
  • The remains of Santa Fe la Vieja in Argentina;
  • The Bulverket fortification in Gotland, Sweden – a medieval fortification in a lake, dating from 1130 AD.

Remains of Stone Age settlements

Some remnants of prehistoric settlements bear testimony to life some thousand years ago. Often artefacts found at such sites include pottery, log boats and timber remains.

Sites have been found for instance in:

  • Denmark, where 20,000 remains of Stone Age settlements have been located off the coast, as for instance in Tybrind Vig and Ronæs Skov in Gamborg Fjord;
  • La Marmotta, Italy, where a submerged settlement from ca 5,700 BC, abandoned ca 5,200 BC was discovered;
  • The Black Sea which still houses Mesolithic settlements that are 7,000 years old.

Remains of dwellings built on lakes and rivers

Many remains of dwellings constructed on small natural or artificial islands or on piles in the water (as is still the city of Venice), have been discovered.

Examples are:

  • Remains of ancient settlements in the Zurich lake and Lake Constance;
  • the crannogs of Ireland and Scotland;
  • La Colletière, France, a medieval lake-side dwelling;
  • A pile settlement in a river close to Pompeii, Italy.

Religious sites

Many traces of ancient water-related religious sites have been discovered, as for instance:

  • the remains of ancient holy lakes and channels in Florida and Greece;
  • a true Sea-henge, the sites “Holme 1” and “Holme 2”, which have been discovered off the coast of the English county of Norfolk. The sites consist of periodically submerged timber circles with small split oak trunks forming a circular enclosure.

Underwater sites

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