Some 2,000 years ago, the Sea of Galilee in Israel became famous as
the Bible says Jesus and His apostle Peter walked on top of the water in
a spectacular miracle.
Now, a mysterious find from beneath the surface is bringing new attention to the ancient body of water.
Scientists have discovered a massive, “monumental” structure on the
sea’s floor, leaving experts puzzled as to what it actually is and how
and when it became located there.
are probing a giant, cone-shaped pile of boulders on the floor of
Israel's Sea of Galilee. The arrow points to a 4-inch fish swimming
beside the boulders. (courtesy Shmuel Marco)
The structure is basically a cone-shaped pile of boulders with an
estimated weight of 60,000 tons, which is heavier than most of today’s
Its height is nearly 32 feet, with a diameter of approximately 230
feet. In comparison, the outer stone circle at the well-known Stonehenge
monument in Britain has a diameter just half of that. Additionally, the
tallest stones of Stonehenge don’t reach as high as the Sea of Galilee
mysterious structure is cone-shaped, about 230 feet (70 meters) in
diameter and nearly 32 feet (10 meters) tall. It weighs an estimated
60,000 tons. (courtesy Shmuel Marco)
“Close inspection by scuba diving revealed that the structure is made
of basalt boulders up to 1 meter long with no apparent construction
pattern,” the researchers explain in the latest edition of the International Journal of Nautical Archaeology.
“The boulders have natural faces with no signs of cutting or
chiseling. Similarly, we did not find any sign of arrangement or walls
that delineate this structure. The boulders are bare without any
overgrowth. In contrast with the sandy terrain surrounding it, Tilapia
fish teem around the structure and between its blocks, probably taking
advantage of the hiding places and shelter that it offers.”
A sonar mapping of the sea’s southwestern portion first detected the
structure in the summer of 2003, and divers have since investigated the
site in person.
“The shape and composition of the submerged structure does not
resemble any natural feature. We therefore conclude that it is man-made
and might be termed a cairn,” the researchers say.
The circular structure was first detected in a sonar survey in the summer of 2003. (courtesy Shmuel Marco)
They explain there are questions that remain to be answered with
certainty, including precisely when it was built, its purpose and use,
and if it had been built as an underwater installation or on land during
low lake levels and later submerged.
“The purpose and usage of the structure may be connected to how it
was built,” the researchers say. “A possible interpretation for the
structure is related to the fact that it attracts fish and thus may be
interpreted as a part of a marine-based economy. If so, the structure
must have been built as an underwater structure. Stone-built
installations that are thought to be ancient fish nurseries are well
known in the Sea of Galilee. They are found near the shores at regular
“An alternative scenario is that the structure was built onshore,
when the water level was lower than today. The submergence could have
occurred either because of tectonic movement or because of rising water
The New Testament says both Jesus and Peter walked atop Israel's Sea of Galilee. (courtesy Benjamin McPherson)
Because of the massive size of the structure, the scientists conclude
“the effort invested in such an enterprise is indicative of a complex,
well-organized society, with planning skills and economic ability.
“The possible relation of the submerged stone structure to the
ancient settlements along the shores of the Sea of Galilee is of great
importance. Flourishing settlement systems existed along the shores in
the Bronze and Iron Ages, between the 4th and the 1st millennia B.C.
Urban centers such as Bet Yerah, Tel Hadar and Bethsaida were the
prominent settlements in biblical periods.
“The only period in this region for which megalithic structures can
be connected to settlement sites is the Early Bronze Age, between the
late 4th and the late 3rd millennia B.C. The monumental site of Khirbet
Beteiha, located some 30 kilometers north-east of the submerged stone
structure, comprises three concentric stone circles, the largest of
which is 56 meters in diameter.”
Researcher Yitzhak Paz, of the Israel Antiquities Authority and Ben-Gurion University, told LiveScience
he hopes soon an underwater expedition will set out to excavate the
structure, searching for artifacts to try to determine its date with
He said the Israel Antiquities Authority has a research branch capable of excavating it.
“We will try to do it in the near future, I hope, but it depends on a lot of factors,” he said.