Ancient settlement under sea
Representational image - Baltic coastReuters

A Swedish Stone Age settlement, described in media reports as "Atlantis", has been discovered by divers in the Baltic Sea, revealing well-preserved artefacts from an 11,000-year-old lost era.

The sunken remains of the settlement, believed to be the oldest ever found in the Nordic region, were discovered by Professor Bjorn Nilsson from Soderton University in Sweden.

Professor Nilsson was participating in a three-year excavation in collaboration with Lunds University at an underwater site at Hano, a sandy bay off the coast of Skane County in Sweden.

"What we have here is maybe one of the oldest settlements from the first more permanent sites in Scania and in Sweden full stop," Professor Nilsson told The Local.

One of the most prized findings was an abandoned harpoon carving made from animal bone which was discarded into the water along with other objects.

The other big finds are the bones of an auroch, an ancestor of modern-day cattle, which became extinct in the early 1600s.

Wood pieces, flint tools, animal horns and antlers have also been found.

The bones and organic substances are well-preserved under water due to gyttja, black, glue-like sediment formed when peat decays. Organic artefacts buried under peat are conserved due to absence of oxygen in peat.

"If the settlement was on dry land we would only have the stone-based things, nothing organic," said Professor Nilsson.

He added: "Around 11,000 years ago there was a build-up in the area, a lagoon of sorts, and all the tree and bone pieces are preserved in it."

This find is considered quite crucial as it also sheds light on the period when such tools were used in the evolution of human civilisation.

The dig will be continued, as archaeologists expect to find a host of other settlement remains from the pre-historic site. Researchers are particularly keen on finding possible burial spots in the region.

Nilsson also cautioned that the "lousy Swedish tabloids" had given a deluded picture of the historic find by labelling the remains as "Sweden's Atlantis." He explained that people were nomadic at the time, and that there was no permanent village or civilisation as envisaged in Plato's accounts of "Atlantis".

Besides, the remains found under sea do not suggest submergence of a settlement, but rather are believed to have been abandoned by the nomads living on land.

However, the professor said the findings are "world-class" and "one-of-a-kind".

"What we found here is totally new for us - the whole diving team is really thrilled. They're having the time of their lives down there," Nilsson said.

He said that it was extremely rare to find evidence from the Stone Age so untouched by the corrosive forces of nature.