By David Iaconangelo, Apr 24, 2013 05:01 PM EDT
(PHOTO CREDIT: Creative Commons) The Sea of Galilee is the largest freshwater lake in Israel.
A mysterious, 60,000-ton stone structure has been found beneath about 30 feet of water at the bottom of the Sea of Galilee in Israel. Divers made the discovery back in 2003 using sonar to scan the bottom of the lake, but are only now sharing their findings in a scientific journal. The team believes the structure is a monument from a burial mound.
The monument is made of basalt rocks which took a conical form. It measures about 230 feet at the base of the structure and rises 32 feet high, about twice the size of the ancient stone circle at Stonehenge in England, according to CNN.
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Time reported that researcher Yitzhak Paz, of the Israel Antiquities Authority and Ben-Gurion University, had said the mound could date back more than 4,000 years to the third millennium B.C., as other phenomena from that period have been found close by. The Sea of Galilee is the largest freshwater lake in Israel and the lowest freshwater lake on Earth, sitting 693 feet below sea level. It reaches approximately 141 feet in depth, at the deepest points.
Shmuel Marco, a geophysicist at Tel Aviv University who was part of the team which made the discovery, told CNN, "We just bumped into it. Usually the bottom of the lake is quite smooth. We were surprised to find a large mound. Initially we didn't realize the importance of this but we consulted with a couple of archaeologists, and they said it looked like an unusually large Bronze Age statue."
But Dani Nadel, an archeologist from the University of Haifa who partnered on the site, says the purpose of the site remains an enigma.
"This is such a huge structure that it truly is something unusual. It could have been a big ceremonial structure, or a ramp. There could have once been statues on top of people in certain rituals. I mean, I'm really going wild here. The truth is we don't know how it was constructed, what its exact age is, how it was used, or how long ago it was used. We have several speculations, but we don't know much except that it's there and it's huge," he told CNN.
According to Time, the main theory of how the structure got there is that it was built on dry land and then ensconced by the lake when the water level rose. Other explanations include the idea that it was a fish nursery. Funding and plans for further excavations are being hashed out in order to ascertain for certain what its purpose was.