The vast ocean holds many ancient secrets, but scientists say the presumed ‘lost city’ recently discovered near the Greek island Zakynthos is not one of them. Divers stumbled upon what appeared to be circular columns and paved platforms on the ocean’s floor and believed they had found the remains of a lost civilization. Upon further inspection, the site turns out to have been formed naturally, around five million years ago.

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After the initial discovery of the site, which is between two and five meters (six and 16 feet) underwater, Greek authorities dismissed the notion that it could be an ancient lost city. To be sure, a research team conducted an analysis of the mineral content and texture of the submerged formations. Professor Julian Andrews, from the University of East Anglia‘s School of Environmental Sciences worked with Professor Michael Stamatakis from the Department of Geology and Geoenvironment at the University of Athens to evaluate the site.

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“The site was discovered by snorkelers and first thought to be an ancient city port, lost to the sea,” Andrews said in a press release. “There were what superficially looked like circular column bases, and paved floors. But mysteriously no other signs of life–such as pottery.”

What observers mistook for columns turned out to simply be the result of hydrocarbon seeps, areas of the sea floor where natural gases occur. The gases rise up through the sea floor, pushing sand and other matter upward and outward. With the help of the moving water, the result is a donut-shaped formation practically designed to confuse visiting tourists.

The findings were published this week in the journal Marine and Petroleum Geology.

Via CNN

Images via University of East Anglia