For centuries, man has been fascinated with the lost continent of Atlantis, but a new discovery by geologists proves that another lost continent has been hiding beneath Europe all this time, just waiting to be found.
According to Science, a supercontinent — named Greater Adria — slid under the European continent millions of years ago:
“The only visible remnants of the continent … are limestones and other rocks found in the mountain ranges of southern Europe. Scientists believe these rocks started out as marine sediments and were later scraped off the landmass’s surface and lifted up through the collision of tectonic plates. Yet the size, shape, and history of the original landmass—much of which lay beneath shallow tropical seas for millions of years—have been tough to reconstruct.”
Douwe van Hinsbergen, a geologist at Utrecht University in the Netherlands, is the lead author of the paper on Greater Adria, and he notes that the lost continent had an incredibly complicated and even violent history:
“About 140 million years ago, it was a Greenland-size landmass, largely submerged in a tropical sea, where sediments collected and slowly turned into rock. Then, as it collided with what is now Europe between 100 million and 120 million years ago, it shattered into pieces and was shoved beneath that continent. Only a fraction of Greater Adria’s rocks, scraped off in the collision, remained on Earth’s surface for geologists to discover.”
Finding Greater Adria
The initial stages of proving the existence of Greater Adria was painstaking work. It began with studying orientations inside the magnetic minerals that had been formed by bacteria in the rocks which align with the magnetic field of Earth, Ancient Origins explains:
“When these bacteria die, the residual magnetic minerals left behind in the sediment eventually turn into rock, locking in the bacteria’s original orientations, which the researchers reverse engineered taking them back hundreds of millions of years.”
In some ways, trying to piece together the evidence proving that Adria was real all those years back was somewhat like assembling a globe-sized puzzle with billions of pieces, some of which have disappeared over hundreds of millions of years:
“(The) team of researchers worked like a squad of highly-trained antique restorers working on a smashed Ming vase, first collecting, then bringing together large rocks that had once been married from strings of volcanoes and coral reefs.”
Moving in Mysterious Ways
Another extremely odd featured of Greater Adria was the way in which it moved over the course of time. Instead of merely floating north, the ancient continent moved counterclockwise:
“Although the tectonic collision happened at speeds of no more than 3 to 4 centimeters per year, the inexorable smash-up shattered the 100-kilometer-thick bit of crust and sent most of it deep within Earth’s mantle.”
As a result of what happened hundreds of millions of years ago, if you were to stand on the mountains adjacent to the Adriatic Sea today, you’d be walking across what’s left of a continent that has gone below the European land mass and now surfaces in the form of geysers and volcanoes, the only visible proof that Adria was once a massive landmass which has now disappeared.
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Featured Image: Monti Sibillini, Le Marche, Italy by Marcel Oosterwijk/Flickr