Douwe van Hinsbergen, a geologist at Utrecht University in the Netherlands, has been exploring one of the most dramatic of these lost continents — known as Greater Adria. In a paper published in early September in the journal Gondwana Research, he and his colleagues studied rocks around and beneath the Mediterranean Sea to reveal the full extent of Greater Adria for the first time. “It’s enormous! About the size and rough shape as Greenland,” he says.
If you don’t recall seeing Greater Adria on a map, there’s a reason for that. It is completely buried — not under the ocean, but beneath southern Europe. About 140 million years ago, the two continents began to collide. Greater Adria got bulldozed and buried in the process and mostly sank beneath what is now Italy, Greece and the Baltics. […]
Van Hinsbergen notes that rocks from Greater Adria got scraped off and incorporated onto the Alps, while whole chunks got embedded in southern Italy and Croatia. Even the parts of Greater Adria that got shoved dozens of miles down into the mantle, the layer below the crust, continue to influence modern Europe.
Under tremendous heat and pressure and over tens of millions of years, limestone rocks from Greater Adria turned into marble. Friction between Greater Adria and Europe then pulled the sunken rocks back to the surface, where people found them and mined them. “That’s where the marble came from that the Romans and the Greeks used for their temples,” van Hinsbergen says.