Kemo D. (kemo_d7) wrote,
Kemo D.

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Japan's Underwater Ruins

Japan's Underwater Ruins...
Was it the remnant of some forgotten military coastal defense from the war? Or could it possibly date back to something entirely different and profoundly older? 

In March 1995, a sport diver unintentionally strayed beyond the standard safety parimeter near the south shore of Okinawa. A battleground for the last land campaign of World War II, the island was about to become the scene of another kind of drama. As he glided through unvisited depths some forty feet beneath the clear blue Pacific, the diver was suddenly confronted by what appeared to be a great stone building heavily encrusted with coral.

Approaching closer, he could see that the colossal structure was black and gaunt, a sunken arrangement of monolithic blocks, their original configuration obscured by the organic accretion of time. After encircling the anonymous monument several times and taking several photographs of it, he rose to the surface, reoriented himself and kicked for shore. Next day, photographs of his find appeared in Japan's largest newspapers. The structure sparked instant controversy and attracted crowds of diving archaeologists, newsmedia people and curious nonprofessionals, none of whom were able to ascertain its identity. They could not even agree if it was manmade, let alone ancient or modern. Was it the remnant of some forgotten military coastal defense from the war? Or could it possibly date back to something entirely different and profoundly older? 

Thanks to swift currents in the area, coral had been unable to gain any foothold on the structure, leaving it unobscured in the 100-foot visibility of the crystal-clear waters. It was certainly manmade and very old. It seemed nothing short of miraculous, an unbelievable vision standing in apparently unruined condition on the ocean floor. But its discovery was only the first of that summer's undersea revelations. Now fired by the possibility of more sunken structures in the area, teams of expert divers fanned out from the south coast of Okinawa using standard grid-search patterns. Their professional efforts were soon rewarded. Before the onset of autumn, they found five sub surface archaeological sites near three offshore islands.

The locations vary at depths from 100 to only 20 feet, but are all stylistically linked, despite the great variety of their architectural details. They comprise paved streets and crossroads, huge altar-like formations, grand staircases leading to broad plazas and processional ways surmounted by pairs of towering features resembling pylons. 

The sunken buildings are known to cover the ocean bottom (although not continuously) from the small island of Yonaguni in the southwest to Okinawa and its neighboring islands, Kerama and Aguni, some 311 miles. If, after all, ongoing exploration here does indeed reveal more structures linking Yonaguni with Okinawa, the individual sites may be separate components of a huge city lying at the bottom of the Pacific. 

The single largest structure so far discovered lies near the eastern shore of Yonaguni at 100 feet down. It is approximately 240 feet long, 90 feet across and 45 feet high. All the monuments appear to have been built from a granitic sandstone, although no internal passages or chambers have been found. To a degree, the underwater structures resemble ancient buildings on Okinawa itself, such as Nakagusuku Castle. More of a ceremonial edifice than a military installation, Nakagusuku dates back to the early centuries of the first millennium B.C., although its identity as a religious habitation site is older still. Its builders and the culture it originally expressed are unknown, although the precinct is still regarded with a superstitious awe by local Okinawans.

Okinawa's drowned structures find possible counterparts at the eastern limits of the Pacific Ocean, along Peruvian coasts. The most striking similarities occur at ancient Pachacamac, a sprawling religious city a few miles south of the modern capital at Lima. Although functioning into Inca times, as late as the sixteenth century, it pre-dated the Incas by at least 1,500 years and was the seat of South America's foremost oracle. Pilgrims visited Pachacamac from all over the Tiawantisuyu, the Inca Empire, until it was sacked and desecrated by the Spaniards under Francisco Pizarro's high-spirited brother, Hernando, with 22 heavily armed conquistadors. Enough of the sun-dried, mud-brick city remains, with its sweeping staircases and broad plazas, to suggest parallels with the sunken buildings around Okinawa. 

What evidence has so far been collected suggests that the site did not succumb to a sudden geologic catastrophe. Aside from one or two monuments leaning at irregular angles, none of them displays any structural damage, no cracks or fallen stones. Instead, they appear in unruined, virtually pristine condition. They were either overwhelmed by rising sea-levels, sank with a slowly collapsing land-mass, or some combination of both. Most researchers opt for the last scenario, since oceanographers tell us that sea-levels rose from 100 feet 1.7 million years ago. Even so, the Japanese sites must be very old. They are constantly being swept clean by strong currents, so radiocarbon dating material is not available.

The purposes for which they were made appear less difficult to understand, because their strongest resemblance to Hawaiian heiau implies that they were mostly ceremonial in nature. Their expansive staircases lead up to presently barren platforms, where wooden shrines and carved idols were probably set up for religious dramas.

Just who were their worshippers and builders suggests a word most professional American archaeologists are unable to pronounce. But, in view of the numerous accounts from hundreds of cultures around the Pacific of a flood that destroyed some former civilization, if Okinawa's sunken city is not lost Lemuria, then what is it?

Kemo D. (a.k.a. no.7)

Tags: archeology, mysteries of life
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