The Bay of Gradina, on the west coast of Korčula island in Croatia, hides a remarkable archaeological find: a stone road that dates back to 7,000 years ago and connects an ancient man-made island to the mainland.
The road was built by the Hvar culture, a Neolithic maritime society that lived in this region. The road was discovered by Igor Borzić, a researcher from the University of Zadar, who noticed some unusual structures underwater while exploring nearby sites on land.
The road is about 4 meters wide and consists of stones piled on top of each other. It is one of several artifacts that reveal the sophisticated engineering and agricultural skills of the Hvar culture.
The road and its surroundings are now a natural reserve and a testimony to the ancient Greek system of land division called chora, which has survived for more than two millennia.
“In underwater archaeological research of the submerged neolithic site of Soline on the island of Korčula, archaeologists found remains that surprised them,” said the University of Zadar in a statement posted to Facebook on Sunday.
“Namely, beneath the layers of sea mud, they discovered a road that connected the sunken prehistoric settlement of the Hvar culture with the coast of the island of Korčula.”
Flint blades, stone axes, and fragments of millstones were also recovered from the underwater ruins, according to the team. The artifacts shed light on the mysterious Hvar peoples, who settled on the islands and coasts of the northeast Adriatic Sea some 7,000 years ago.
The underwater research is a collaboration between multiple scientists and institutions, according to the university, and is being led by archaeologist Mate Parica, who has been investigating the site for several years.
Many Hvar ruins and artifacts have been discovered underwater, including a settlement that was constructed on top of an artificially created island. The newly discovered road linked this island to the coast of Korčula, according to the statement. Hvar peoples also left behind ornaments and pottery, as well as evidence of subsistence farming and burial rituals.
In addition to underwater surveys, archaeologists are also excavating ancient sites on land, including a cave in the nearby town of Vela Luka that has been occupied for at least 19,000 years by many different cultures, including the Hvar.