Lost continent of 'Atlantis' discovered in Australia in study

During recent research, researchers from Griffith and Wollongong Universities in Australia discovered a large expanse of submerged land off the country's coast that may have been home to a population of half a million. Sonar mapping revealed a landscape almost twice the size of the United Kingdom.

A kind of Australian version of the legendary continent of Atlantis, the underwater territory showed signs of freshwater rivers and lakes in an area so large that it could be used today as a continental bridge for the migration of inhabitants from present-day Indonesia to Australia, says the study recently published in the journal Quaternary Science Reviews.

According to lead author Kasih Norman, from Griffith, this ancient expanse of Australian land that is now submerged was once part of from a paleocontinent called Sahul, which united the current regions of Australia, New Guinea and Tasmania.

A habitable and populated continent?

Between 71,000 and 59,000 years ago, the Australian sea was 40 meters lower than today.Between 71,000 and 59,000 years ago, the Australian sea was 40 meters lower than today.Source: Getty Images

The new study upends a long-held belief that Australia's continental margins were unproductive. According to the authors, between 71,000 and 59,000 years ago, sea level was almost 40 meters lower than it is today. At the time, it was possible to reach a necklace-shaped archipelago on the northwestern tip of the continent by canoe.

With the end of the ice age, the polar ice caps began to melt, causing the sea to rise, between around 14 thousand and 14.5 thousand years ago, from around 1 meter per year to almost 5 meters. According to Norman, “in this 400-year period, more than 100 thousand square kilometers of land were submerged.”

Genomes of native peoples confirm escape from the submerged continent

At the end of the ice age, new populations arrived on the island at the edge of the sunken shelf.At the end of the ice age, new populations arrived on the island at the edge of the sunken shelf.Source: Getty Images

Between 12,000 and 9,000 years, the pattern was repeated and another 100,000 square kilometers were swallowed by the sea. As a result, the inhabitants witnessed the rapid change of the landscape in front of them, and ended up being pushed further and further back, to escape that invasive coast that was flooding everything, says Norman.

Coincidentally, this theory was confirmed by another recent study, published in Nature, carried out by scientists from other Australian universities and the National Indigenous Genomics Center. Studying the genetics of people living on the Tiwi Islands, on the edge of the shelf, scientists discovered that, at the end of the last glacial period, new populations arrived in that region.

Furthermore, around 14,000 years ago, and then between 12,000 and 9,000 years ago, the archaeological record from the peripheral regions of present-day Australia reveals a considerable increase in the deposit of stone tools. This “is typically interpreted to mean that there are a lot more people suddenly arriving in that area,” Norman concludes.

Stay up to date with the latest studies on the evolution of planet Earth here at TecMundo. If you wish, enjoy discovering the largest asteroid crater in the world, buried in Australia.

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