Divers in Sweden have discovered a rare collection of Stone Age artifacts buried deep beneath the Baltic Sea.
Archaeologists believe the relics were left by Swedish nomads 11,000 years ago and the discovery may be evidence of one of the oldest settlements ever found in the Nordic region.
Some of the relics are so well preserved, reports have dubbed the find ‘Sweden’s Atlantis’ and suggested the settlement may have been swallowed whole by the sea in the same way as the mythical island in the Atlantic Ocean.
The artifacts were discovered by Professor Bjorn Nilsson from Soderton University, and a team from Lunds University, during an archaeological dive at Hano, off the coast of Skane County in Sweden.
Buried 16 metres below the surface, Nilsson uncovered wood, flint tools, animal horns and ropes.
Among the most notable items found include a harpoon carving made from an animal bone, and the bones of an ancient animal called aurochs.
Aurochs are ancestors of modern-day cattle and lived through Europe before becoming extinct in the early 1600s. The last reported auroch died in Poland in 1627.
This find is significant because it suggests a date for when these items would have been used.
Many of the artifacts have been preserved because the diving location is rich in a sediment called gyttja.
THE MYSTERY OF ATLANTIS: A LARGE ISLAND SWALLOWED BY THE SEA
Atlantis is the name for the large island or continent said to have been swallowed up by the Atlantic Ocean centuries ago.
Tales of the mythical island first appeared in books by Greek philosopher Plato around 370BC.
In all of his books, Plato used interesting stories to contextualize and explain his ideas about government and philosophy and it is thought the story of Atlantis formed part of this.
However, this has also lead to claims the stories were made up purely for effect.
Despite this, many maps have previously featured Atlantis, including the Map of the New World by Sebastian Muller, 1540, pictured, that shows Atlantis Island in red at the bottom, labelled Nouus Orbis.
Atlantis was written about again in 1882 by Ignatius Donnelly who claimed Atlantis was not only real, but influenced cultures including the Egyptians and Mayans.
Studies of rock found at the bottom of the Atlantic Ocean concluded that there has never been a large island buried in the region, and many people now think Plato may have got the location of the island wrong.
Other claims suggest the island may have been near modern-day Santorini, off the coast of Greece.
Black, gel-like Gyttja is formed when peat begins to decay. As the peat is buried, the amount of oxygen drops and it is thought this lack of oxygen prevented the organic artifacts from being lost.
Nilsson told The Local: ‘Around 11,000 years ago there was a build-up in the area – a lagoon of sorts – and all the tree and bone pieces are preserved in it.
‘If the settlement was on dry land we would only have the stone-based things, nothing organic.’
The dive was part of a three-year excavation partially funded by the Swedish National Heritage Board.
Archaeologists are continuing the dig, and are now particularly interested to see whether there is also an ancient burial site in the region.