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ANCIENT LOST METROPOLIS ON SEABED

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FORGOTTEN METROPOLIS ON SEABED

 

FROM G.S. MUDUR

 

New Delhi, May 19:

Scientists have discovered the ruins of an ancient city submerged in

the Gulf of Cambay, about 20 km off the Gujarat coast.

The city's structures, most of them under the seabed, resemble those

found earlier at sites of the Harappan civilisation, science and

technology minister Murli Manohar Joshi today said.

 

The structures, submerged under 30 metres of water and stretching

across nine kilometres, include what look like dwellings laid out in

regular geometric patterns, a granary, a great bath, and a citadel,

he said.

 

The submerged structures could be the largest underwater settlement

discovered off the Indian coast since marine archaeology was

initiated in the country in the Eighties. In the past two decades,

scientists have discovered several submerged ports off the coasts of

Gujarat, Maharashtra, and Tamil Nadu.

 

Scientists from the National Institute of Ocean Technology (Niot) in

Chennai stumbled upon the seabed's "unusual features" during routine

geological surveys off the western coastline in December last year.

They spent the past six months using sophisticated acoustic devices

and software to probe the submerged structures aboard ships.

 

The institute plans to deploy remote-operated vehicles and divers to

explore the underwater city in the next phase of investigation

scheduled to begin in November. "In our next mission, we hope to

scoop out archaeological material from the city," Niot director

Muthukamatchi Ravindran said. The tides and turbidity make it

difficult to work on the seabed during the monsoon.

 

It is not yet known when, why, and how fast the sea engulfed the

structures in the Gulf of Cambay. Geologists suspect that a series of

powerful earthquakes could have triggered the submergence of land.

 

"High-intensity earthquakes are known to have caused changes in land

elevation in Gujarat in the past which may have led to submergence of

some areas," said Harsh Gupta, a leading geologist and secretary of

the department of ocean development. The Gujarat earthquake this year

had caused a land elevation of 1 metre in Bhuj, while an 1819

earthquake in Kutch led to a 6-metre elevation.

 

"There are some fascinating things down there," Ravindran said. The

acoustic "radar" has revealed a 40 m by 40 m structure with steps

leading down to a tank, said to be a great bath, and a 97 m by 24 m

citadel.

 

While Mohenjodaro has a great bath, archaeologists have excavated

citadels at several Harappan sites, including Harappa, Kalibangan,

Lothal, and Dholavira.

 

The dwellings in the Gulf of Cambay are laid out in straight lines

with sizes ranging from 6 m by 8 m to 12 m by 16 m. Seabed studies

indicate that freshwater once flowed in the region. "That may have

been the river along which this city once flourished," said

Srinivasan Badrinarayanan, a Niot geologist.

 

Channel-like features in the city also indicate a drainage system.

Some structures are beneath the seabed. About three metres of the

edifice believed to be the citadel is visible while the rest is

hidden under the seabed.

 

Scientists will be able to date the submerged structures when they

recover datable archaeological material like pottery or bones from

the site.

 

In the Eighties, scientists from the National Institute of

Oceanography in Goa had dated pottery and seals found off Bet Dwarka

island in the Gulf of Kutch as 3,500 years old — likely relics of a

post-Harappan civilisation. The Harappan civilisation spanned 2600 BC

to 1900 BC.

 

The Niot may work jointly with the Goan institute to investigate the

site.

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