While a group of archaeologists, led by Oscar-winning director James Cameron, has been trying to unearth the truth behind the famous legend of Atlantis, another group has detected traces of yet another ancient continent beneath the Indian Ocean. Archaeologists believe that this is a leftover continent from the time that the supercontinent, Gondwana, split up to form the continent as we know them today. The discovery can aid historians in understanding the geological history of earth in a better way.
Continents and Oceans
The mineral, zircon, was found in Mauritius, which dates back 3 billion years, when Mauritius did not even exist. “Earth is made up of two parts – continents, which are old, and oceans, which are “young.” On the continents you find rocks that are over four billion years old, but you find nothing like that in the oceans, as this is where new rocks are formed,” explained Professor Lewis Ashwal, lead author on the paper “Archaean zircons in Miocene oceanic hotspot rocks establish ancient continental crust beneath Mauritius,” Phys reported.
Zircon is a mineral found in volcanic rocks, brought to the earth’s surface by lava. The discovery of this mineral suggested that a much older continent exists underneath the continent of Mauritius. This mineral mainly exists in granites of a continent and contains trace amounts of uranium, thorium and lead. As such, they have the ability to preserve the geological record of a place quite well.
Criticism Against Ashwal’s Theory
However, Ashwal’s and his team’s observation and conclusion have been met with some criticism. Other geological theorists suggested that the traces of zircon discovered on the island could have been blown there by the wind. It could have been transported by vehicular dust or other means as well. However, Ashwal is fairly determined that the zircon found in Mauritius, always existed there.
“The fact that we found the ancient zircons in rock (6-million-year-old trachyte), corroborates the previous study and refutes any suggestion of wind-blown, wave-transported or pumice-rafted zircons for explaining the earlier results,” said Ashwal. He further explained that there are many ancient continents that are yet to be discovered, underneath the Indian Ocean. This is due to the fact that when Gondwana broke up, billions of years ago, it did not divide into neat chunks. Instead, splinters and fragments of the supercontinent were thrust everywhere along the oceanic expansion.
For now, the archaeologists have named the newly discovered continental remains “Mauritia,” CBC reported. There is still a lot to be learned about the nature of the mineral and its date of existence. Mauritia is not Atlantis, but it can open up equally exciting number of possibilities.