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Discovery of ancient city under the sea

Finding a lost city under the sea maybe the stuff of bedtime stories, but for Dr Iain Stewart and Professor Suzanne Leroy the story came true in the summer of 2001 when they helped uncover the Ancient Greek city of Helike.

"What is pretty clear is that the city was struck by an earthquake," said Dr Stewart at the time, then working in Brunel's Department of Geography and Earth Sciences. "From an archaeological point of view it is most exciting. We had writings of it but now it is just starting to come to light. "Helike's precise location had long been the subject of debate among archaeologists, undoubtedly its most popular aspect being its association with the Legend of Atlantis.

Much like Atlantis, in the Golden Age of Ancient Greece, Helike was the centre for worshiping the seagod Poseidon. Found roughly 150km west of present-day Athens, a violent earthquake was said to have destroyed the city in 373 BC and it disappeared beneath the ocean. The possibility of the existence of Helike was first announced by Dr Dora Katsonpoulou, a Greek archaeologist, and Dr Steven Soter, an astrophysicist from the American Museum of Natural History. In the early 1990s, Dr Stewart began his first trips to the Greek coastal plain, hoping to help resurrect the city and collect data on how often major earthquakes occur in the region. He returned with Prof Leroy and other scientists. "We could see some skeletons and an old dagger," said Prof Leroy. "And we found some earrings and bones. We did mostly shallow drilling and the archaeologists worked on trenches using a digger. At the end of the day we would compare results and decide where to dig and core the next day."