- Note - This story was originally revealed
by Laura Lee nearly a year ago. For her update on this amazing discovery,
see link at end of this article.
- A STRUCTURE thought to be the world's
oldest building, nearly twice the age of the great pyramids of Egypt, has
been discovered. The rectangular stone ziggurat under the sea off the coast
of Japan could be the first evidence of a previously unknown Stone Age
civilisation, say archeologists.
- The monument is 600ft wide and 90ft high
and has been dated to at least 8000BC. The oldest pyramid in Egypt, the
Step Pyramid at Saqqara, was constructed more than 5,000 years later.
- The structure off Yonaguni, a small island
southwest of Okinawa, was first discovered 75ft underwater by scuba divers
10 years ago and locals believed it was a natural phenomenon.
- Professor Masaki Kimura, a geologist
at Ryukyu University in Okinawa, was the first scientist to investigate
the site and has concluded that the mysterious five-layer structure was
man-made. "The object has not been manufactured by nature. If that
had been the case, one would expect debris from erosion to have collected
around the site, but there are no rock fragments there," he said.
- The discovery of what appears to be a
road surrounding the building was further evidence that the structure was
made by humans, he added.
- Robert Schoch, professor of geology at
Boston University, dived at the site last month. "It basically looks
like a series of huge steps, each about a metre high. Essentially, it's
a cliff face like the side of a stepped pyramid. It's a very interesting
structure," he said. "It's possible that natural water erosion
combined with the process of cracked rocks splitting created such a structure,
but I haven't come across such processes creating a structure as sharp
- Further evidence that the structure is
the work of humans came with the discovery of smaller underwater stone
mounds nearby. Like the main building, these mini-ziggurats are made of
stepped slabs and are about 10m wide and 2m high.
- Kimura said it was too early to know
who built the monument or its purpose. "The structure could be an
ancient religious shrine, possibly celebrating an ancient deity resembling
the god Nirai-Kanai, whom locals say gave happiness to the people of Okinawa
from beyond the sea. This could be evidence of a new culture as there are
no records of a people intelligent enough to have built such a monument
10,000 years ago," he said.
- "This could only have been done
by a people with a high degree of technology, probably coming from the
Asian continent, where the oldest civilisations originate. There would
have to have been some sort of machinery involved to have created such
a huge structure."
- Teruaki Ishii, professor of geology at
Tokyo University, said the structure dated back to at least 8000BC when
the land on which it was constructed was submerged at the end of the last
ice age. "I hope this site is artificial as it would be very exciting.
But at this time I feel it is too early to say. I think the structure could
be natural, but part of it may have been made," he said.
- The first signs of civilisation in Japan
are traced to the Neolithic period around 9000BC. The people at this time
lived as hunters and food-gatherers. There is nothing in the archeological
record to suggest the presence of a culture advanced enough to have built
a structure like the ziggurat.
- British archeologists are, however, cautiously
enthusiastic about the discovery which will be featured this summer in
a Channel 4 documentary.
- Jim Mower, an archeologist at University
College London, said: "If it is confirmed that the site is as old
as 10,000 years and is man-made, then this is going to change an awful
lot of the previous thinking on southeast Asian history. It would put the
people who made the monument on a par with the ancient civilisation of
Mesopotamia and the Indus Valley."
- Note - Click here for further information
and 16 stunning underwater color photos courtesy of Laura Lee.