Ocean scientists have just announced the discovery of a huge prehistoric monolith off the coast of Sicily. The monument is on it’s side now, but would have been around 12 m tall. It’s located about 60 km south of Sicily under 40 meters of water. But that’s not what’s interesting about it. What’s most interesting is the sheer age of the thing, with most indicators pointing to it being ~10,000 years old. This predates farming, writing and civilisation as we know it.

At this time that area of the sea would have been….well, not sea.  Which explains how people got their prehistoric monolith there. The prehistoric monolith appears to have been cut out of nearby rock as one piece and dragged to its current location. And how do we know it was dragged and not simply a natural formation? The discoverers point to the regularity of its shape, along with regular holes carved into the thing at regular intervals. Regularity is the hallmark of humans. We like things to be neat.

But how do we know this prehistoric monolith really is 10,000 years old? Unfortunately no artefacts were found with the rock that could be dated. Instead the discoverers had to rely on estimating when sea levels would have submerged the site. It had to be at least that old. Or it could be much older. Or our data on sea levels might be imperfect (which it kind of is). As such, you should probably take the date with a pinch of salt.

Yet even if we assumed it really was that old, why is this significant? Well, it’s because a fairly hefty population would likely be needed to move such a piece of rock. Large populations are rather hard to sustain on a hunter-gatherer lifestyle for extended periods. With farming and cities and all that it’s no issue, but if you’re trying to live off the land it can be a bit tricky.

So the fact they were able to have all these people living together for however long was needed might suggest they were already shifting towards our modern way of life. And it’s not the only case of hunter-gatherers making this shift. Göbekli Tepe is another prehistoric, pre-civilisation monument that was created by people in this “transitional” period (complete with its own prehistoric monolith).

One of the pillars from Gobekli Tepe

Except Göbekli Tepe is located in the Middle East, where farming and all that stuff eventually developed. So it makes sense that proto-farmers might be living in the region at that point. As far as we know nobody invented farming in Sicily. In fact, as far as we can tell when farming did arrive in continental Europe, it did so because it was imported from the people living near Göbekli Tepe.

So what’s actually interesting about this find is the implication that many different groups were en-route to developing our modern way of life. What was it that was driving so many people, so far apart in the same direction?

I don’t have an answer for that last question, but I’m ruddy curious. Feel free to leave a comment if you have a clue.


Lodolo, E., & Ben-Avraham, Z. (2015). A submerged prehistoric monolith in the Sicilian Channel (central Mediterranean Sea): Evidence for Mesolithic human activity.Journal of Archaeological Science: Reports, 3, 398-407.

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Keven · 30th July 2015 at 6:23 pm

Interesting article. But when even I can spot spelling errors it makes me question its accuracy.

    Adam Benton · 30th July 2015 at 8:04 pm

    Spelling isn’t my strong point, if you point out specifics I’ll be happy to correct them

      Max Cinta · 5th August 2015 at 8:11 am

      Adam: I think I might be able to help render an ideal about lifting, and moving heavy objects off the ocean floor. I believe that if we freeze enough of the water in, and around the heavy object, it will float. I just learned that the ammonia in a deep freeze system has a boiling point of minus 28 Degrees F.

        Max Cinta · 5th August 2015 at 8:12 am

        I guess I forgot to mention that ice floats!

        Adam Benton · 5th August 2015 at 11:43 am

        Are you trying to suggest this is how they moved the monolith originally? Because there is an easier answer. When it was made sea levels were lower and it wasn’t underwater!

      Michel · 5th August 2015 at 10:28 am

      It’s located about 60 km south of Sicily under 40 meters of ocean.
      There is no ocean, there’s only the Mediterranen sea.

        Adam Benton · 5th August 2015 at 11:39 am

        My inner oceanographer is ashamed at the mistake

Malcolm Thomas · 30th July 2015 at 8:00 pm

Adam. I understand that the native Americans of the Pacific NW were able to live a settled life with no farming, based on the abundance of wild resources. The coast being a key factor. Could the same apply here? A coastal community with sufficient natural abundance to support settlement without farming?

    Adam Benton · 30th July 2015 at 8:03 pm

    That is certainly true, but such an existence required an intensification of hunting and gathering. Some argue that it is this intensification which ultimately lead to farming, hence why finding evidence of it (in the form of monuments that hint at a sedentary life) is so significant.

Mike · 30th July 2015 at 8:37 pm

The popular press seems to have missed this. I did though find an open access online copy the reference:: http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S2352409X15300535
Still basic skepticism tells me that I want to see more input from relevant scientists on this one.

    Adam Benton · 30th July 2015 at 8:39 pm

    Your skepticism isn’t unfounded. As I mentioned in the post, their dating methods give me personally pause for thought

Norman · 1st August 2015 at 3:07 pm

“What was it that was driving so many people, so far apart in the same direction?”

Climate change?

Did people learn that cooperating with each other instead of fighting benefited everyone?

Aliens? Yes, definitely aliens.

    Adam Benton · 1st August 2015 at 10:05 pm

    Climate change definitely seems to be one of the driving factors towards the invention of farming. It appears to have started becoming favourable for farming at around that time. Which does raise the interesting question: how much earlier could we have developed it if that pesky ice age hadn’t got in the way.

freaksidegeek · 1st August 2015 at 4:05 pm

Proofread paragraph 6.

Libby · 2nd August 2015 at 3:02 am

I rather liked your article and found it very readable. It was written as though you were talking. I wouldn’t worry about a small error in grammar if I were you.

    Adam Benton · 2nd August 2015 at 12:21 pm

    Thanks for your kind words, although being talkative and spelling things right aren’t mutually exclusive. So feel free to point out any mistakes

Eric Lipps · 2nd August 2015 at 1:39 pm

“Farming and all that stuff” didin’t only develop in the Middle East. It appears to have developed independently (as far as anyone knows)an several places, including the Yangtze, Mekong and Mississippi river valleys. Such valleys are ideal places for proto-civilizations to be established because they have a large steady source of water which can be used for farming, fishing and transportation. (in the Middle East it was the Nile-Euphrates delta.)

    Adam Benton · 2nd August 2015 at 3:04 pm

    That’s certainly true, although the Fertile Crescent is the only one of them really relevant to a dissuasion of early Sicilian farming

Caleb G. · 4th August 2015 at 3:58 pm

Am I the only one who started hearing Strauss’ “Also Sprach Zarathustra” in my head when I read the title of this blog post?

    Adam Benton · 4th August 2015 at 4:02 pm

    Unfortunately it’s underwater location makes it a bit hard for us to gather around it

Caleb G. · 4th August 2015 at 4:20 pm

True, but if we could gather around one on the moon, then we should be able to make it to the bottom of the Mediterranean. Perhaps James Cameron would lend us his sub.

Marty · 4th August 2015 at 8:31 pm

Graham Hancock in his book “Underworld” poses some of the same insights.

Chris Vail · 4th August 2015 at 8:47 pm

An article in the New York Times magazine about cave paintings made during the last Ice Age commented that they appear to be part of a single cultural horizon that lasted 25,000 years. During that time, of course, sea levels were lower, and if there had been any agricultural activity, evidence for such would now be under water. We do have evidence (lint from dyed linen fibers dated 35,000 years ago, ceramics dated 35,000 years ago, statuettes of anatomically correct obese women) that indicates life on the coast could have been much more advanced than life in the hills, or what remained after sea levels rose 10,000 years ago. And perhaps that explains why we don’t find many skeletons over 40 from those days.

It makes much more sense that the site at Gobekli Tepi was built by survivors of a civilization destroyed by rising sea levels than by hunter/gatherers who spontaneously decided to make a temple. Especially since modern wheat was developed 20 miles from the site, at about that time.

And if we did have a civilization that lasted 25,000 years, it probably would have reached around the Mediterranean and up the Atlantic coast to the Ice Sheet.

    Adam Benton · 4th August 2015 at 10:42 pm

    The idea that cave paintings were all made by a single culture is a laughable idea. Distinct cultural groups can be observed in the artwork within a particular region, let alone across the entire span of the Upper Palaeolithic. Mobiliary art (statues, pendants and the like) and tools further confirm some fairly significant cultural differences across Europe.

    It’s also worth noting that you can track gradually increasing resource intensification (and the technology gradually improving to make it possible) over thousands of years; leading up to the emergence of farming. This gradual improvement in resource gathering would seem to contradict the notion that there was some ancient agricultural civilisation hiding in the mysteries of Europe.

Eric · 4th August 2015 at 8:59 pm

Interesting article. I’m just not clear as to why they are convinced this stone is a monolith.

    Adam Benton · 4th August 2015 at 10:32 pm

    It’s a regular shape with regular holes carved into it; along with a fairly consistent one running through the middle. That said, some further studies – perhaps identifying toolmarks – would be ideal.

      TransparencyCNP · 5th August 2015 at 6:54 am

      The paper was written for geologists. I guess they would understand why it is not one of these:

        Adam Benton · 5th August 2015 at 11:40 am

        It was definitely written for that audience. I want to see some follow up where archaeologists get their hands on this monolith

TransparencyCNP · 4th August 2015 at 11:14 pm

Isn’t it possible that the monolith was being floated somewhere on a raft (eg. to Pantelleria island) and accidentally sank? This could have happened thousands of years later, when sea levels were higher.

They don’t seem to consider this in the paper:

    Adam Benton · 4th August 2015 at 11:19 pm

    It was made from rock sourced very close by. In other words, the source of the stone was submerged at the same time, so it can’t have been created later

TransparencyCNP · 5th August 2015 at 12:25 am

According to the paper:
“Its length is 12 m, with a recognizable squared section of about 2 m”
“From the size of the monolith, we may presume that it weights about 15 t.”

That doesn’t seem right, since limestone weighs 2.5 t / cubic metre.

    Adam Benton · 5th August 2015 at 12:55 am

    They took samples from the rock and were able to diagnose it as a particular kind of structure. I can only assume this influenced their calculations; beyond just using generic limestone figures.

    That said the methodology for that part is rather lacking, some more detail would be nice.

Karen · 5th August 2015 at 12:50 am

If you think about Atlantis, you will have your answer. They had the capability to move large objects. It is probably an artifact from their civilization.

    Adam Benton · 5th August 2015 at 12:59 am

    People who aren’t from Atlantis can also move large objects though.

      Ben Gruagach · 6th August 2015 at 3:38 pm

      It’s also a mistake to assume that it takes a lot of people to move large stones. Here’s an example of a guy using very basic levers to move really big, heavy things all by himself. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pCvx5gSnfW4

Tyndale Israel · 5th August 2015 at 12:54 am


“You read books and find statements that such and such a society or archeological site is (claimed to be) 20,000 years old. We learn rather abruptly that these numbers, these ancient ages, are not known (speculations and imaginative guesses); in fact, it is about the time of the First Dynasty in Egypt that the last (earliest) historical date of any any real certainty has been established.”
Willard Libby, Nobel Laureate for development of radiocarbon dating

“According to astronomical observations, galaxies like our own experience about one supernova (a violently-exploding star) every 30 years. The gas and dust remnants from such explosions (like the Crab Nebula) expand outward rapidly and should remain visible for over a million years. Yet the nearby parts of our galaxy in which we could observe such gas and dust shells contain only about 200 supernova remnants. That number is consistent with only about 7,000 years worth of supernovas.”

    Adam Benton · 5th August 2015 at 1:01 am

    I’m not quite sure what supernovas have to do with monoliths. But radiocarbon dating was significant because it – and the other radiometric techniques that followed – were the first chance we had to develop dates that weren’t just speculation. So-called “absolute” dating was a revolution for archaeology Willard Libby kicked off.

David Johnson · 5th August 2015 at 1:29 am

I’m a 57 y.o.w.m. painter/artist working on a project that spans approximately 6,000 years. I am referring to the “Neolithic” site of Newgrange in Ireland. What is of great interest to me is the idea that sites such as this and Stonehedge, as well as others, predate the pyramids and reflect on a culture peopled by individuals who had the vision, understanding and foresight to attempt to, not only expand their understanding of the world and its place in the universe, but to leave a “marker” that reveals their level of intellectual development. I believe that these people were far more advanced than many may have previously believed. If Newgrange was built approximately 3500 years ago and Stonehenge shortly after, some insightful assumptions must be made concerning the timeline for a peoples to unite and create such monuments. The “science” alone is not easily mastered and takes generations of handing down knowledge from one generation to the next. For instance, if we look at our current western culture, we will see some “revolutionary insights” that lead to new discoveries, on a percent of per capita basis. With a much smaller population base, the insights that lead to new discoveries are going to be much fewer. My point being that the culture that created these monuments were very well established in order to expound energies on these grand and great undertakings. I believe there was a much larger culture (“civilization” may be too strong) that existed and that it had a high level of sophistication in terms of understanding where they/we were/are in the universe. I believe it was this wide spread culture that existed in Europe that paved the way (both physically and meta-physically) for future cultures to overtake and ultimately eclipse them.

Anonymous · 5th August 2015 at 2:00 am

@Malcom Try Charles Mann’s 1491 for reading on America’s prior to Columbus visit.

wailingminutiae · 5th August 2015 at 2:50 am

The Gobekli Tepe site in Anatolia was the dead give away. The Giza Pyramids are much older than we have been led to believe. Sumeria dates back further in Mesopotamia to before the Great Flood. We really have no idea what we are doing at this point because so much of human history has been lost to us…

verbatim613 · 5th August 2015 at 6:39 am

It’s all that d*** “global warming” causing those ancient monoliths to end up buried. Maybe in another 10,000 years one of our monoliths will end up buried off the coast of Sicily, too.

    Adam Benton · 5th August 2015 at 6:42 am

    Yes, if only that ice age had kept on trucking we would have a lot more interesting archaeology about

Brittaney · 5th August 2015 at 8:57 am

I believe we have moving this way for longer than we are ready to accept. We have only regressed in our ways of thinking and openess. But one day soon I believe we will come together in a complete conscience… a mind as one. A way our species was designed.. such as a raven or a crow and many other animals

Brittaney · 5th August 2015 at 8:59 am

to say that i mean we are only stupid now compared to the past

Larry · 5th August 2015 at 11:41 am

Subtle precognition. Have books with copyright. self proclaimed expert… would look good on business card…Subtle precognition can span generations and cause many associated mental states. One of which is the bleeding of information as instinct from the far future. I could write more but no one gets it… LS

    Adam Benton · 5th August 2015 at 11:43 am

    Nobody gets it because you aren’t making much sense

Ken · 5th August 2015 at 4:31 pm

I have a hard time believing that the photo in this article was taken at the location indicated. I dive in and around Sicily every year. First, most locations 60 KM from the coast are much deeper than 40 meters but there are some shallow spots. But secondly and most importantly light diffuses with increased depth and there is no way this photo was shot in 40 meters or 120 ft. of water. It would be pitch black and if flash was used you could tell that as well. this photo appears to be from about 40 ft. of depth not 40 meters. I also noticed the sea plants which require light and decrease with depth. Just a thought regarding light and diving.

Laura Hano · 5th August 2015 at 11:10 pm

The idea that there were holes drilled into it, like other monoliths, makes me wonder if it could be a tool of measurement in relation to the skies. Or, if technology was more advanced than ours in certain aspects (and it was, Egyptions had a more efficient lifting system than our strongest cranes) then perhaps the reason these are found all over the world, is because they were indeed communicating with eachother using a technology we are not able to identify. “What was it that was driving so many people, so far apart in the same direction?” Communication.

joarc2013 · 11th August 2015 at 3:07 pm

I get it Larry! Seems there is far more we don’t know than what we do know.. But it makes life far more interesting dunnit?!

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