Long ago, a landmass roughly the size of Greenland was demolished in an epic cataclysm, according to geologists who recently discovered this lost continent.

This ancient continent, believe to have existed hundreds of millions of years ago, was swallowed by the literally earth-shifting changes that began in the Mediterranean as the early landmass known as Pangea began to break up.

According to a recent study, as portions of land from this ancient mother continent slowly separated and drifted away from one another, oceans began to open in the rifts between the newly formed continents, submerging former areas of exposed land.

Greater Adria

Dubbed Greater Adria, this once impressive landmass separated from modern-day Spain and southern France, initially remaining an island continent itself before finally being displaced by an order of several subduction zones, according to the new report.

The study, co-authored by D. J.J. van Hinsbergen, notes in the paper’s abstract, “The region has been the cradle for the development of geodynamic concepts that link crustal evolution to continental break-up, oceanic and continental subduction, and mantle dynamics in general.”

The study refers to the Mediterranean region as “intensely deformed” as a result of these processes, noting the use of state-of-the-art 3D numeric modeling tools which helped make reconstructions of how the Mediterranean looked as far back as the Jurassic period possible. The study also relied on Gplates, a modern computer software platform that, made available for free within the last few years, became fundamental in recreating and mapping the ancient Mediterranean due to the program’s accessibility. 

Mythic Associations

The discussion of a “lost continent” in the Mediterranean inevitably brings to mind notions of the famous mythical Atlantis, although the fact that both the newly rediscovered Greater Adria and the legends of Atlantis are deemed “lost” continents is about the extent of the similarity. Arguably, the discovery of ancient parts of the world that were once landmasses millions of years ago rivals the interest and intrigue that Atlantis has managed to maintain over the centuries.

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Nonetheless, the mythical references—largely due to the location—have been prevalent in the reporting of this discovery by various media outlets. As Robin Andrews wrote for National Geographic, “As [Greater Adria] dove into the hellish depths of the mantle, the top layer of the continent was scraped away, as if a titan were peeling a colossal apple.

“This wreckage was dumped onto the overlying plates,” Andrews says, “ready to form future mountains along the spine of Italy, as well as in Turkey, Greece, the Alps, and the Balkans.”

It is indeed hard not to associate such epic earth changes to mythology, as these discoveries tell of a world as it existed long before our own, and inhabited by life unlike anything seen on our planet today.

The study, co-authored by D. J.J. van Hinsbergen, is titled “Orogenic architecture of the Mediterranean region and kinematic reconstruction of its tectonic evolution since the Triassic,” and appeared in Science Direct.

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Micah Hanks

Author: Micah Hanks

Micah Hanks is a writer, researcher, and podcaster. His interests include areas of history, science, archaeology, philosophy, and the study of anomalous phenomena in nature. He can be reached at info@micahhanks.com.

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