Archaeologists discover ancient 60,000-ton structure beneath Sea of Galilee

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Apr 11, 2013, 12:47 PM EDT (Updated)

Put on your Indiana Jones hat, folks, and let's find out what the dawn of humanity has to offer.

It's not uncommon for remnants of ancient civilizations to get buried, drowned or otherwise lost to time. That's the reason we have archaeologists in the first place. But it's rare that a find is quite so huge (both literally and metaphorically) as this one.

There's a stone structure in the depths of the Sea of Galiliee. If estimations are right, it's huge (230 feet in diameter and 32 feet high) and incredibly old (about 4,000 years). Scientists can confirm a few things about the structure. What's of immediate importance is that, without question, it is manmade and not an act of nature. This gargantuan beastie is cone-shaped and bult of "unhewn basalt cobbles and boulders." We're talking about something that weighs somewhere in the ballpark of 60,000 tons. So the weight of an actual ballpark packed with people, basically.

But what is it and why is it? Based on primary inspection it seems like some kind of cairn or burial marker. There doesn't seem to be any specific design for the structure, and the rocks used were not altered in any clear way.

The time estimate is crucial in understanding this structure. If it is roughly 4,000 years old, that would put its creation around the same time as some large cities of that era. Specifically, it could have been around the same time as an ancient city researchers refer to as "Bet Yerah" or "Khirbet Kerak." Researcher Yitzhak Paz, of the Israel Antiquities Authority, explains that "It's the most powerfuland fortified town in this region and, as a matter of fact, in the whole of Israel." We're talking about some 5,000 people living inside a heavily fortified structure. Archaeologist Raphael Greenberg says, "They also indicate the existence of some kind of municipal authority able to maintain public structures." That's massively impressive for the time.

Despite the structure hidden in the Sea of Galilee's rudimentary construction, it's still a marvel that it was built at all. According to the research team analyzing the site, the "effort invested in such an enterprise is indicative of a complex, well-organized society, with planning skills and economic ability."

Could it be that this is where the peoples of Bet Yerah buried and honored their dead? Is this a proverbial city of the dead? Oh, how we wish we could go back in time and know for sure. For now, we can only hope funding can be raised to further exhume and research this fascinating structure that could give us a glimpse into our own past.

(via NBC News)

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