The region we now know as the Persian Gulf was once a vast and fertile valley, but it was swallowed up by the Indian Ocean about 8,000 years ago. Now one archaeologist believes evidence for a lost human civilization may have been drowned along with it, according to eScienceNews.

The startling hypothesis, proposed by University of Birmingham researcher Jeffrey Rose, was recently published in the journal Current Anthropology.

Although evidence for a lost civilization is presently hard to come by due to its proposed watery resting place, Rose believes that the recent discovery of a wave of human settlements along the shores of the Gulf, dating to about 7,500 years ago, hints toward a deeper origin.

"Where before there had been but a handful of scattered hunting camps, suddenly, over 60 new archaeological sites appear virtually overnight," Rose said. "These settlements boast well-built, permanent stone houses, long-distance trade networks, elaborately decorated pottery, domesticated animals, and even evidence for one of the oldest boats in the world."

The odds that a sophisticated coastal culture should suddenly pop up out of thin air, without any precursor culture, are highly unlikely. Rose suggests it's far more likely that those settlements bubbled up, so to speak, from underneath the Gulf instead.

"Perhaps it is no coincidence that the founding of such remarkably well developed communities along the shoreline corresponds with the flooding of the Persian Gulf basin around 8,000 years ago," Rose said. "These new colonists may have come from the heart of the Gulf, displaced by rising water levels that plunged the once fertile landscape beneath the waters of the Indian Ocean."

Historical sea level data shows that the Gulf basin would have been above water beginning about 75,000 years ago. Up until the time it flooded, it certainly would have been the ideal location for the rise of an early human civilization. With fresh water supplied by the Tigris, Euphrates, Karun, and Wadi Baton Rivers, the basin would have offered a fertile oasis to its human inhabitants.

"The presence of human groups in the oasis fundamentally alters our understanding of human emergence and cultural evolution in the ancient Near East," Rose suggested.

Could a lost Gulf civilization be the origin of ancient flood stories? What about the lost city of Atlantis? These might be far-fetched suggestions, but until archaeologists start looking for real evidence of Rose's lost civilization beneath the Gulf's surface, nobody can really know for sure.

Bryan Nelson ( @@brynelson ) writes about everything from environmental problems here on Earth to big questions in space.

Is there an ancient lost civilization under the Persian Gulf?
Evidence for a lost civilization hidden underneath the Persian Gulf could rewrite human history.