3/30/02 7:51:18 AM Pacific Standard Time

Scientists probe 'sunken city,' civilization in Cuba

March 29, 2002 Posted: 9:58 PM EST (0258 GMT)

HAVANA, Cuba (Reuters) -- Scientific investigators said
Friday they hope to better determine later this year if an
unusual rock formation deep off Cuba's coast could be a
sunken city from a previously unknown ancient civilization.

"These are extremely peculiar structures ... They have
captured all our imagination," Cuban geologist Manuel
Iturralde said at a conference after a week on a boat over
the site.

"If I had to explain this geologically, I would have a hard
time," he told reporters later, saying examination of rock
samples due to be collected in a few months should shed
further light on the formation off the Guanahacabibes
Peninsula on Cuba's western tip.

Iturralde, research director of Cuba's Natural History
Museum, has joined Canadian exploration company Advanced
Digital Communications (ADC) in efforts to solve the mystery
of the smooth, geometrically shaped, granite-like rocks.
They are laid out in structures resembling pyramids, roads
and other structures at more than 600 meters deep (2,000
feet) in a 20 km-square (7-3/4 mile-square) area.

ADC has suggested they might belong to a civilization that
colonized the American continent thousands of years ago,
possibly sitting on an island that was sunk to great depths
by cataclysmic earth movement such as an earthquake.

That theory, and its inevitable parallel with the myth of
the lost city of Atlantis, has provoked skepticism from some
scientists around the world who say the depth and age -- ADC
has spoken of at least 6,000 years' old -- were not

Some European archaeologists said the stones, stumbled upon
in July 2000 while ADC was hunting with sonar equipment for
treasure and sunken Spanish galleons, could be formed by
natural limestone.

But Iturralde's conclusion that there is no immediately
apparent natural explanation for the rocks has lent credence
to ADC's theory.

'Need for an open mind'

"It appears like there is some kind of intelligent design in
the structure's configuration and planning," ADC's
Soviet-born Canadian ocean engineer, Paulina Zelitsky, said
on the sidelines of the geophysical conference in Havana.

"I have worked in this field over 30 years and I have never
before seen natural structures shaped with such intelligent
symmetry and plan. From the very first moment, I was
suspecting that these structures were not natural."

While Iturralde gave evidence in his paper Friday for
seismic movement at the site, and possible submerging of the
land, he drew short of definitively concluding the rocks
were not shaped by nature. If, however, that theory was
proven, it would revolutionize understanding of the history
of the Americas, he told reporters.

"It would change a lot our knowledge of humans and the
evolution of the Americas," Iturralde said.

"Recently, a French archaeologist found some evidence of
people being here in South America 40,000 years ago,
something we never expect, so you need to be always open to
things that you are not expecting, that are not in the
framework of present-day knowledge ... We may have found
something that nobody has thought about."

ADC plans to take a specially designed robot to the site in
a few months to take samples of the rocks and the sediment
they are embedded in to try to date them and seek signs they
may have once been on dry land. They will also be searching
for any sign of human life such as drawings, sculptures or

"To drill samples from these structures is not easy because
they look like granite. And to drill granite at a depth of
600 meters is very difficult," Zelitsky said.

She said their discoveries could make history. "I think we
are talking about the origins of the American continent.
There are many hypotheses about how the continent was
colonized ... There is quite a controversy, and I think our
discovery will be the first physical evidence of the true
origins of developed civilization in the Americas."