Atlit-Yam is among the most remarkably well-preserved examples of human development in existence. Dating back to about 9,000 years ago and discovered in 1984, the settlement shows signs of complex dwellings, basic building technology and even wells, proving that human settlers in the area had already come a long way in social and technological development, as early as 6,000 BC. The city stretches across an impressively large area off the coast of Atlit – an Israeli village – and the structures can be found at a depth of only 8-12 meters below the surface of the Mediterranean Sea.
Situated near the Oren river on the Carmel coast, Atlit Yam covers an area of just over 40 square kilometers, and has already been excavated quite extensively. While archeologists have found square dwelling structures and wells, they have also discovered curious clues, such as piles of fish near the area where the coastline used to be – clues and details you can discover yourself diving around the area.
These signs seem to point to the fact that the settlement was abandoned in a hurry, and volcano studies seem to suggest that Mt Etna erupted in that time period – about 8,500 years ago. The violent eruption not only seems to be the reason behind the sudden abandonment of the city, but may have been the cause of it being submerged, due to tidal waves that have affected certain other coastal areas of the Mediterranean Sea as well. Yet the true mystery of the settlement is that, even after thousands of years, it has remained largely untouched.
Atlit Yam is an early city that dates back to the Neolithic era, around the 7th millennium BC. The submerged shipwrecks and settlements in the region are remarkably well-preserved and are able to show divers a clear window to the past of this unique community. Even the burial grounds are intact, offering an eerie view to the visitors. The site is huge, covering about 40 sq. km, and comprises twelve structures that have already been excavated, with courtyards and plazas between them – a landscape that will leave any diver in awe. Another interesting feature you will be able to see during your dive is a 5.5 m deep stone well at the bottom of which archeologists have discovered remnants of animal bones, wood and flint, suggesting that, at some point, the structured ceased to be used as a well, being turned into a disposal pit.
Today, Atlit Yam is considered one of Israel’s most famous prehistoric sites, and both scientists and tourist divers find it an incredibly interesting place to explore. Due to the relatively accessible depth and the gentle waters in the region, the city is quite easy to visit even by beginning divers. Atlit-Yam is seen by many as a modern day real life Neolithic “museum” that divers can investigate on a regular basis.