Collecting samples from the blocks and the sediment in which they are imbedded is the next step toward determining the origin of these curious structures.
Temples Beneath The Sea
Off the coast of Mahabalipuram, in Tamil Nadu, South India, the discovery of a complex of submerged ruins has sparked an investigation into their origin. Local lore has long held that the area once boasted seven magnificent temples, but that six of these were swallowed by the sea. The seventh, and only remaining temple, still stands on the shore.
Stories passed from one generation to the next tell of a large, beautiful city that once occupied the area. The legends say the ancient metropolis was destroyed by the gods who were jealous of its beauty, and sent a flood to bury it beneath the waves.
Best-selling author Graham Hancock spent several years cataloging and studying these myths. When he returned to the area as part of an expedition team jointly sponsored by Great Britain's Scientific Exploration Society (SES) and India's National Institute of Oceanography (NIO), the goal was to search beneath the sea and make a detailed survey that would confirm the existence of the temples, and investigate the date of their destruction.
Local fishermen raised on the legends were able to point the team to a dive site where the ruins were located. Expedition leader Monty Halls described the excitement the team felt on discovering the underwater structures.
"The initial feeling was one of disbelief," Halls recalled. "The sheer scale of the site was so impressive, and the fact that it was so close to shore. This gradually gave way to absolute elation."
Diving in challenging conditions, the team found the "foundation of walls, broken pillars, steps, and many scattered stone blocks," said Kamlesh Vora, a marine archaeologist with NIO.
Vora, Halls, and the rest of the team were quickly convinced that they had made a major discovery of man-made structures. "Here there would be no furrowed brows, no peering at reefs from different angles, no dusting for elusive archaeological fingerprints," said Halls. "Here man was everywhere."
Still, the Mahabalipuram expedition has created as many questions as it has answered.
"It is very rewarding that we have found something of such significance," Halls said. "However, the real questions still demand answers: How old is it? How extensive is it? What artifacts remain hidden in the ruins? For these reasons we must return as soon as possible and give this wonderful site the scientific and disciplined inspection it deserves."
Vora agrees that much work remains to be done on the site, which spreads over an area of several square miles. "We will have to carry out extensive explorations beyond this area to find out if the man-made structures observed underwater are indeed of the same temple complex," he said.
"All structures are made of granite stone which is locally available," Vora continued. "The archaeological and inscriptional evidence of sites on land near shore indicate a possible date of construction of these structures between 1,500 to 1,200 years before present. We now need to carry out detailed explorations and searches for datable antiquities and inscriptional evidences on the finds."
If the Mahabalipuram ruins are found to be of the same temple complex as the shore temple, the discovery would lend credence to the local tales that outsiders have often disregarded as legend.
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