Ancient sunken city found off Mafia?

Could these be the ruins of the ancient city Rhapta?

Could these mysterious ruins just off the coast of Mafia be from the ancient city Rhapta?

A diver believes he may have located an ancient city off the coast of Mafia island.

Alan Sutton says first spotted the mysterious ruins by chance as he passed by the area in a helicopter at low tide years ago.

After several unsuccessful attempts, he was recently able to explore the 3.7 kilometre long ruins up close.

“What we found was far larger than expected. A series of what appear to be wide foundations ring a large area. Along the entire perimeter created by these foundations, many thousands of square and oblong blocks lie to either side. Some have fallen right off the foundation and others are still leaning against it,” says Sutton.

“Because of the tidal movements and relatively shallow depth, visibility in the area is not good. This is almost certainly why the structures have not been spotted before.”

An aerial view of the ruins, spotted at low tide.

An aerial view of the ruins, spotted at low tide.

“Geologically speaking Mafia Island is a sand island. There are no rocks in the area. Neither are there barrier reefs and the formation appeared highly unusual. The local fishermen in the area, who fish around the structures every day, say that long ago before the sea came in, people used to live there.”

Sutton says he spotted particular coral growth on some of the ruins — which resemble sandstone or cement — suggesting they had been submerged for over 550 years.

Given the building style is ‘unlike the architecture of other ruins in Tanzania,’ Sutton believes this could be Rhapta, an ancient trading post dating back to the first century CE.

Sutton has sent his findings to various authorities both on Mafia and abroad, but has yet to hear any feedback.

“Doubtless the site will keep archaeologists busy for many years.”

You can explore the ruins on Google Maps:

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About the Author

Daniel Hayduk
Daniel is Dar Post's news director. When not in the newsroom, he spends his days helping NGOs across the continent find their creative side.

1 Comment on "Ancient sunken city found off Mafia?"

  1. Thanks for sharing this story! We’d love to hear from any geologists or archaeologists in Tanzania who might be able to help solidify the ideas. If anyone knows someone who can help, please contact Dar Post.

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