Owen Jarus, LiveScience Contributor

Date: 09 April 2013 Time: 11:08 AM ET
Sea of Galilee, monumental structure, mysterious structure
This shot of the Sea of Galilee was taken near the old city of Tiberias. The newly discovered structure is located just to the south.
CREDIT: Deror Avi | Wikimedia

A giant “monumental” stone structure discovered beneath the waters of the Sea of Galilee in Israel has archaeologists puzzled as to its purpose and even how long ago it was built.

The mysterious structure is cone shaped, made of “unhewn basalt cobbles and boulders,” and weighs an estimated 60,000 tons the researchers said. That makes it heavier than most modern-day warships.

Rising nearly 32 feet (10 meters) high, it has a diameter of about 230 feet (70 meters). To put that in perspective, the outer stone circle of Stonehenge has a diameter just half that with its tallest stones not reaching that height. [See Photos of the Mysterious Sea of Galilee Structure]

It appears to be a giant cairn, rocks piled on top of each other. Structures like this are known from elsewhere in the world and are sometimes used to mark burials. Researchers do not know if the newly discovered structure was used for this purpose.

The structure was first detected in the summer of 2003 during a sonar survey of the southwest portion of the sea. Divers have since been down to investigate, they write in the latest issue of the International Journal of Nautical Archaeology.

Sea of Galilee, monumental structure, mysterious structure
The circular structure was first detected in a sonar survey of part of the sea in the summer of 2003.
CREDIT: Shmuel Marco

“Close inspection by scuba diving revealed that the structure is made of basalt boulders up to 1 m (3.2 feet) long with no apparent construction pattern,” the researchers write in their journal article. “The boulders have natural faces with no signs of cutting or chiselling. Similarly, we did not find any sign of arrangement or walls that delineate this structure.”

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