7 Amazing Underwater Structures

June 2, 2014 Updated: June 2, 2014

City of Shi Cheng

Discovered in 2001 under a man-made lake in Chun’an County, Zhejiang Province in China, at the foot of Wu Shi Mountain (Five Lion Mountain), is a city called Shi Cheng, or Lion City. Submerged in 1959, the city is dated to the Eastern Han Dynasty of A.D. 25–200. The city itself is over 1,800 years old and spans the length of 62 football fields. It was once a political and economic hub, and unlike other cities of its time, it boasts five gates instead of four. Sitting at a depth of 26 to 40 meters makes Shi Cheng a challenge for divers to explore and fully document.

City of Heracleion 

Heracleion (or Thonis), a submerged city in the Abu Qir Bay near Alexandria, Egypt, was once Egypt’s main port. The city is thought to have been named after Hercules and once visited by Helen of Troy, but it sank into the sea around the sixth century A.D., where it remained for the next 1,200 years until its discovery. Initially, Heracleion was thought to be a legend mentioned by Homer. Nautical archaeologists have discovered gold coins, 16-foot sculptures, inscribed slabs, and sarcophagi with mummified animals.

Ruins of Yonaguni Island

Japan’s Yonaguni Island yields one of the most mysterious sets of nautical ruins to date. Estimated to be 14,000 years old, the Yonaguni ruins have several structures, including a large pyramid 600 feet wide and 90 feet tall with five distinct levels and what appear to be stairs. Tool marks and carvings have been documented on several of the structures; however, debate on whether the ruins are man-made or naturally occurring continues to this day. University of Tokyo professor Teruaki Ishii determined that the submersion of the structures occurred at the end of the last ice age, around 10,000 years ago. Tools and unknown hieroglyphs have been found on land in the surrounding region.

Ruins of Nan Madol

Soun Nan-leng (Reef of Heaven), now known as the city of Nan Madol, sits off the eastern shore of Pohnpei Island in Micronesia. Also known as the Venice of the Pacific, these ruins consist of 92 small, artificially created islets. The megaliths use stones weighing up to 50 tons, creating a series of canals through the islets—hence the name Nan Madol, or Spaces Between. Researchers remain baffled as to how and why the islets were constructed in the ocean—as opposed to on land—since those inhabiting the island would have needed to go inland for food and water. According to local lore, survivors from the theoretical lost continent of Mu, which sank into the ocean 12,000 years ago, constructed the island.

Ruins of Cambay

The discovery at Bay of Cambay, India, took the world by surprise. The 9,500-year-old city, called the Dwarka Kingdom, defied the current belief that no organized civilization could have existed earlier than 5,500 years ago. It is a civilization said to have been submerged by prehistoric floods. The city is equipped with streets and sewage drains, and it is 5 miles long. The city, which is off the coast of the modern-day city of Dwarka, is said to have been a city of the Hindu God Krishna.

City of Pavlopetri

Pavlopetri, Greece is believed to belong to the Mycenaean period in 2,800 B.C. Sitting below the ocean only 3 to 4 meters off the coast of southern Laconia in Greece, the city includes chamber tombs, graves, streets, and courtyards. During its time, Pavlopetri was thought to have been a harbor for local and distant trade throughout the Mediterranean.

Cone in the Sea of Galilee

In the depths of the Sea of Galilee, Israel, lies a structure of monumental proportions. Detected in 2003 and published in the International Journal of Nautical Archaeology, it remains a mystery as to why, when, or by whom the structure was built. Its construction would have been a monumental undertaking, requiring organization and economic prosperity. The structure is cone-shaped, made from unhewn basalt cobbles and boulders, weighs an estimated 60,000 tons, and is nearly 32 feet high. Some estimate the structure to be more than 4,000 years old, as several of the surrounding megalithic structures are from the third millennium B.C.