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More Terrible than Atlantis?

March 15th, 2009

 

More Terrible than Atlantis?

 

Peter Fotis Kapnistos (copyright 2009)

 


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According to Plato, the “great and wonderful empire of Atlantis” ruled the prehistoric Mediterranean world as well as “the opposite continent” (of America), which surrounded “the true ocean.” Today the legend of Atlantis is mostly rejected and sporadically made fun of by writers who see it merely as a philosophical invention of Plato’s imagination. Yet we have reached a perilous stage in human history that might prove to be even more terrible than the fall of Atlantis. To comprehend the impending jeopardy, let’s look at some resemblances between ancient Atlantis and modern Britain.

 

thera3In 1623, Sir Francis Bacon published “The New Atlantis.” In that utopian novel he described a mythical ultramodern island whose citizens attempted to conquer nature and utilize their shared knowledge for the benefit of their civilization. But what if the scientific or industrial outlook they condoned was flawed — so faulty, in fact, that it would eventually produce the cataclysmic footprints of global warming?

  

The British Commonwealth is an intergovernmental group of 53 autonomous states. Most of them were parts of the British Empire (Britain established a dozen colonies in the New World). The term “Anglo-American” is nowadays used to jointly describe the United States and the United Kingdom. At the end of World War II, the US and Britain became founding members of the United Nations. Close military teamwork between the US and Britain created the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO). Britain was the most significant ally of the US in the Cold War and helped in nuclear research. When the British Empire diminished throughout the world, the United States emerged as the unmatched global superpower. 

  

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The word “Anglosphere” describes a group of anglophone (English-speaking) nations that share historical, political, and cultural features rooted in the historical saga of Britain. According to James Bennett, founder of The Anglosphere Institute: “Geographically, the densest nodes of the Anglosphere are found in the United States and the United Kingdom, while Anglophone regions of Canada, Australia, New Zealand, Ireland, and South Africa are powerful and populous outliers. The educated English-speaking populations of the Caribbean, Oceania, Africa and India pertain to the Anglosphere to various degrees.”

 

The solution to ranking the power of modern Britain is a “network commonwealth.” Perhaps the network rule is how we should also reflect on Plato’s Atlantis. His unfinished narratives in the dialogs Critias and Timaeus spotlight a central island. But Plato also stated that Atlantis was in fact a sizable network of ten governments.

 

“Each of the ten kings, in his own division and in his own city, had the absolute control of the citizens, and in many cases of the laws, punishing and slaying whomsoever he would.”

 

Plato gave us the outline of a commanding sea-faring civilization whose kingdoms must have initially been islands or continental harbors — stepping-stones, as it were, or network seaports between Atlantis and the coasts of Europe and America. But the heart of the empire was “the island in which the palace was situated.” In the same way, Britain today, despite its small size, is the recognized focus of an enormous supporting network, which we call the Anglosphere.

 

Plato’s account was first derived from Solon (c. 638 BC–558 BC), who had been told by Egyptian priests of the loss of a great island empire. In recent times, geographical and archeological facts suggest that the disintegration of Atlantis may be related to a massive Bronze Age volcanic eruption in the Mediterranean Sea, which produced a flooded caldera and destroyed a highly developed Minoan civilization on the Greek island of Thera, also known as Santorini.

 

 

In 2006, an international team of scientists found that the second largest volcanic eruption in human history, the massive Bronze Age eruption of Thera in Greece, was much larger and more widespread than previously believed. Scientists found deposits of volcanic pumice and ash 10 to 80 meters thick extending out 20 to 30 kilometers in all directions from the Greek island of Santorini. “These deposits have changed our thinking about the total volume of erupted material from the Minoan eruption,” said volcanologist Haraldur Sigurdsson.

 

An eruption of this size likely had far-reaching impacts on the environment and civilizations in the region. The much-smaller Krakatau eruption of 1883 in Indonesia created a 100-foot-high tsunami that killed 36,000 people, as well as pyroclastic flows that traveled 40 kilometers across the surface of the seas killing 1,000 people on nearby islands. The Thera eruption would likely have generated an even larger tsunami and pyroclastic flows that traveled much farther over the surface of the sea… Thera has erupted numerous times over the last 400,000 years, four of which were of such magnitude that the island collapsed and craters were formed. Some scientists believe the massive eruption 3,600 years ago was responsible for the disappearance of the Minoan culture on nearby Crete. Others link the eruption to the disappearance of the legendary island of Atlantis. (Todd McLeish, “Santorini eruption much larger than originally believed,” University Rhode Island, 8-23-2006)

 

The extensive range of the Thera eruption is shown by the wide distribution of Bronze Age tephra, found in both deep-sea sediments of the Aegean, Mediterranean, and Black Sea, and in archeological sites throughout the Mediterranean coast. It is essential to understand that at least four separate eruptions detached by significant time-spans ultimately triggered the collapse of the island. This point suggests that the civilization of Thera was perhaps much older than the last eruption we know of at around 1600 B.C.

 

A peculiar oddity of the Santorini-Akrotiri excavations is that human remains weren’t discovered there. The entire population of the Minoan port safely evacuated before the last massive eruption 3,600 years ago. But when, and where, did they go?

 

Several years ago, I worked with Professor Spyridon Marinatos, the archaeologist who discovered the ruins of Akrotiri on the island of Thera. I was the assistant of Spiros Tsavdaroglou, an official photographer for the National Archaeological Museum of Greece. We photographed Minoan and Mycenaean sites and artifacts for Professor Marinatos, who was one of the premier Greek archaeologists of the 20th century (his name is mentioned in the video game Indiana Jones and the Fate of Atlantis). As I tried to figure out where misplaced citizens of a Bronze Age volcanic island could have migrated to, I now and again discussed with my friend Frank Pantages the phonetic origins of the ancient name: TE-RA. The name Santorini was given to the island by the Venetians in the 1200s, in honor of Saint Irene. Before then it was known as Kalliste (the most beautiful one), Strongyle (the circular one), or Thera.

 

Some researchers link the TE-RA (or Qera) vocal sounds to Tiresias, the most famous soothsayer of ancient Greek mythology. With a lifespan of seven lives, the prophet of Thebes was transformed into a woman, turned back into a man, and finally struck blind. Perhaps more interesting is the fact that the Bible gives the name of Abraham’s father as Terah: “And Joshua said unto all the people, Thus saith the LORD God of Israel, Your fathers dwelt on the other side of the flood in old time, even Terah, the father of Abraham, and the father of Nachor: and they served other gods.” (Joshua 24:2) The “other gods” were possibly idols or pagan deities such as Atlas and Poseidon. The phrase, “on the other side of the flood” is recognized to signify beyond the Euphrates River.

 

Author and social reformer of the 1800s Ignatius Donnelly said that links are made in the Old Testament to the “islands of the sea,” especially in Isaiah and Ezekiel. What had an inland people, like the Jews, to do with distant seas and islands? Did these hints grow out of traditions linking their race with islands in the sea?

 

Presently, Spanish researchers are setting up excavations in the national park of Donana, in Andalusia, after having confirmed thanks to satellite photos the existence of great artificial structures which could belong to the mysterious and ancient city of Tartessos, which modern studies and readings of the Greek authors believe to have identified with Plato’s Atlantis. Two Germans, lecturer Werner Wickboldt and physicist Rainer Kuehne, relaunched the theory of Atlantis-Tartessos in 2004, beginning from these results.

 

In a topical commentary, “Comparison of Atlantis and the Sea Peoples,” Dr Kuhne suggested that the Atlantean warriors could be identified with the Sea Peoples who are mentioned in inscriptions of around 1180 BC under Pharaoh Ramses III. Dr Kuhne supported the idea of comparison between Plato’s description of the Atlanteans and the description of the Sea Peoples by Ramses III.

 

 

 

One recent theory equates Atlantis with Spartel Island, a mud shoal in the straits of Gibraltar that sank into the sea 11,000 years ago. Plato described Atlantis as having a “plain.” Dr Kuehne said this might be the plain that extends today from Spain’s southern coast up to the city of Seville. The high mountains described by the Greek scholar could be the Sierra Morena and Sierra Nevada. (Paul Rincon, Satellite images ‘show Atlantis,’ BBC News Online, June 6, 2004)

 

The geologist of the Spanish researchers group, Antonio Rodriguez said that the results from the geological examinations suggest a tsunami happened around 1500 BC. But what caused the tsunami? According to tsunami expert Costas Synolakis, from the University of Southern California, the study of ancient tsunamis is in its infancy and people have not, until now, really known what to look for. Scientists have obtained radiocarbon dates for deposits that show a tsunami could have wiped out the coast of Minoan Crete and disturbed its capital at Knossos at the same time as the eruption of the Santorini volcano, in the middle of the second millennium BC.

 

Recent scientific work has established that the Santorini eruption was up to 10 times more powerful than the eruption of Krakatoa in 1883. It caused massive climatic disruption and the blast was heard over 3000 miles away. Costas Synolakis thinks that the collapse of Santorini’s giant volcanic cone into the sea during the eruption was the mechanism that generated a wave large enough to destroy the Minoan coastal towns. It is not clear if the tsunami could have reached inland to the Minoan capital at Knossos, but the fallout from the volcano would have carried other consequences – massive ash falls and crop failure. With their ports, trading fleet and navy destroyed, the Minoans would never have fully recovered. (Harvey Lilley, “The wave that destroyed Atlantis,” BBC NEWS, April 20, 2007)

 

According to a BBC report by Tabitha Morgan in 2004, researchers claimed to have found convincing evidence that locates the site of the lost kingdom of Atlantis off the coast of Cyprus. The American team spent six days scanning the Mediterranean Sea bed between Cyprus and Syria using sonar technology. They believed they found evidence of massive, manmade structures beneath the ocean floor, including two straight, 2-km (1.25 mile) long walls on a hill. “The hill, as a whole, basically looks like a walled, hillside territory and this hillside territory matches Plato’s description of the Acropolis hill with perfect precision,” Robert Sarmast, the research team leader told the BBC.

 

At the present time, other explorers place Atlantis as far off as the South China Sea. The search for Atlantis has led archaeologists to the Caribbean, the Azores, Canaries, Iceland, Crete, Tunisia, Sweden, the coast of Western Africa and even the Sahara.

 

As said by Edgar Cayce (Doug Yurchey, “Psychic Flyby over Atlantis,” Feb 2009), Atlantis with its ten kings governed a great network of sea peoples in what is now the Atlantic Ocean between the Gulf of Mexico and the Mediterranean Sea: “In America, traces of Atlantean rituals and ceremonies are to be found among many of the Indian tribes. In Central America and Egypt ancient ruins show definite Atlantean influences, while in both places there will be uncovered records of Atlantean history, duplicate accounts of the early civilizations that will explain much of the early Jewish records as found in the Bible.”

 

Plato said the kingdoms of Atlantis were larger than Libya and Asia combined and “aggressed wantonly against the whole of Europe and Asia.” Perhaps Plato’s Atlantis was one consolidated empire from Egypt to Peru. St. Clement, in his Epistle to the Corinthians, also claimed that there were other worlds beyond the ocean. A 2006 documentary by filmmaker Simcha Jacobovici called “The Exodus Decoded” suggested that the eruption of the Santorini volcano caused the biblical plagues described against Egypt, re-dating the eruption to c. 1500 BC. The film claimed the Hyksos were the Israelites and that some of them may have originally been from Mycenae.

 

Bearing in mind that human remains weren’t discovered at the Santorini-Akrotiri excavations, we might picture a Bronze Age migration towards Mesopotamia (perhaps current with the birth of Terah) generations before the last major eruption. As it happens, Ignatius Donnelly tried to evaluate a key climate condition he coined “the Antediluvian World.” In 1882, the Representative from Minnesota argued that Plato’s end of Atlantis represents the doomed kingdoms of the Deluge or Great Flood (submerged by falling atmospheric moisture, sea level changes, and perhaps a massive first eruption of Thera).

 

More recently, French scientist Jacques Collina-Girard, from the University of the Mediterranean in Aix-en-Provence, said Atlantis could have been sited on an island close to the Strait of Gibraltar, and would have vanished below the waves about 11,000 years ago – just as Plato said it did, because the melting and gradual retreat of glacial ice sheets produced a change in sea level.

 

“There was an island in front of the ‘Pillars of Hercules’,” what we would now call the Strait of Gibraltar, Collina-Girard told New Scientist magazine. Named Spartel, this island lay to the west of the Strait just as the Greek philosopher described. The Strait was longer and narrower than today, and enclosed a harbor-like inland sea. (Atlantis ‘obviously near Gibraltar,’ BBC News, September 20, 2001)

 

Collina-Girard’s evidence was based on a study of sea levels that prevailed as the last Ice Age was ending. His assessment of the coral reef data showed the coastline off the tip of Spain and around Gibraltar 19,000 years ago to have been 130 meters (422 feet) below what it is today. This would have exposed an archipelago, with an island at the spot where Plato reported Atlantis to be.

 

The closing stages of the Ice Age marked the end of Neanderthal populations and the emergence of modern man. Researchers nowadays suppose that Neanderthal was a clever sea-faring species drawn into extinction when the last Ice Age was winding up. In 2006, Spanish investigators said that they found proof that Neanderthal man reached Europe from Africa not just via the Middle East but also by sailing, swimming or floating across the Strait of Gibraltar:

 

Although the scientists have not yet reached definite conclusions, they say the evidence that Neanderthal man mastered some primitive techniques for crossing the sea into Europe from the coast near Ceuta looks promising. If the theory could be proved, and a two-pronged arrival of Neanderthal man accepted, it would help solve some of the mysteries thrown up by prehistoric sites around Europe. (Giles Tremlett, “Neanderthal man floated into Europe, say Spanish researchers,” Guardian, January 18, 2006)

 

neanderNeanderthal was the dominant Ice Age man in Europe and western Asia who apparently learned how to sail and float across the open sea before the emergence of the anatomically modern human. In his 2005 book “The Singing Neanderthal: The Origins of Music, Language, Mind and Body,” British archaeologist Steven Mithen liberally credited linguist Alison Wray, who first suggested that a “holistic prehistoric utterance” could have a meaning. By 2008, Dr. Robert McCarthy, an assistant professor of anthropology in the Dorothy F. Schmidt College of Arts and Letters at Florida Atlantic University, reconstructed vocal tracts that simulate the sound of the Neanderthal voice. The vocal tracts show that Neanderthal could speak (although in a different way than modern man) and even sing — as he presumably sailed across Ice Age seas.

 

Neanderthals were not as stupid as they have been portrayed, according to a recent study showing their stone tools were just as good as those made by the early ancestors of modern humans, Homo sapiens. “Our research disputes a major pillar holding up the long-held assumption that Homo sapiens were more advanced than Neanderthals. It is time for archaeologists to start searching for other reasons why Neanderthals became extinct,” said Metin Eren, a graduate student at Exeter University. Neanderthal tools found in England show that our early human relatives hunted with blades and spear tips that were pretty sophisticated, rivaling those made by modern humans.

 

A new analysis of Ice Age sailors suggests Neanderthal may have mastered techniques for crossing the sea into Europe. Prehistoric remains of hunter-gatherer communities found at a site in north Africa are remarkably similar to those found in southern Spain, and imply a Neanderthal ability to travel across stretches of sea.

 

blogad08According to some researchers, certain Homo sapien bones have anatomical features that could only have arisen if the adult female in question had Neanderthal interbreeding as part of her ancestral lineage. However scientists who sequenced the mitochondrial DNA of a 38,000-year-old Neanderthal returned no evidence of ancestral interbreeding with our long-lost cousins.

 

Collina-Girard’s Spartel Island data around Gibraltar approximately 20,000 years ago overlaps with new facts from the last known Neanderthal refuge in southern Iberia that indicates the final population was probably beaten by a cold spell at that time. Experts reported the research from the Gibraltar Museum and Spain. They said a climate downturn might have caused a drought, placing pressure on the last surviving Neanderthals by reducing their supplies of fresh water and killing off the animals they hunted. However in another recent study, a multidisciplinary French-American research team with expertise in archaeology, past climates, and ecology reported that Neanderthal extinction was principally a result of competition with Cro-Magnon populations, rather than the consequences of climate change.

 

If Neanderthal was a wily sailor capable of song and speech, modern man had to prevail by floating a better vessel. In this sense, perhaps the story of Noah’s voyage announced the emergence of Cro-Magnon at the end of the Ice Age as falling atmospheric moisture (or torrential rainwater), rising sea levels, and seismic activity contributed to the doom of Neanderthal man. But even from the prehistoric Spartel Island position, Thera still sparks off the most violent volcanic eruption in the western hemisphere. Only the volcano of Mount Tambora in Indonesia can match it on Earth. Thera has erupted numerous times over the last 400,000 years and has disturbed various sea kingdoms that sought to control the Pillars of Hercules, including perhaps even the Neanderthal. In the same way that early churches were often constructed over the ruins of pre-Christian temples, perhaps ancient mythologies and allegories of Atlantis were essentially pieced together from the memories of Ice Age lore.

 

Ignatius Donnelly remarked: “There are in Plato’s narrative no marvels; no myths; no tales of gods, gorgons, hobgoblins, or giants. It is a plain and reasonable history of a people who built temples, ships, and canals; who lived by agriculture and commerce: who, in pursuit of trade, reached out to all the countries around them.” In other words, it is just as normal to accept the likelihood of an Atlantis history, as it is to suppose that a great network of English-speaking governments should grow up around the small British Isles — without gods and demons. Plato was perhaps not reporting a departed sea myth, but an overlooked geopolitical domain example.

 

When looking at the British Isles on our maps, their slight size makes some of us sigh and wonder: Thousands of years from today, will people still suppose that a small group of islands might connect the cultures of the emancipated world? Will the world’s prized Anglosphere be finally set aside as just another old-fashioned myth?

 

In February 2009, Google Earth users who observed a sea map with a grid of lines or “roads of Atlantis” submerged west of the Canary Islands were told they were artifacts of the data collection process. Bathymetric (or sea floor terrain) data is collected from boats using sonar to take measurements of the sea floor. The lines reflect the path of the boat as it gathers the data.

 

Bruce Duensing (“The Roaring Silence: An Alien view of The Singularity and Atlantis,” Feb 2009) freshly commented on Atlantis self-indulgence: “Knowledge exceeding being is the myth of Atlantis, which unlike others who take it as an historical fact, I see this legendary civilization as the one we live in referred to in metaphorical terms in the psychology of this state of affairs as first proposed by Plato.”

 

Nevertheless, James Lovelock, famous for his Gaia theory of the Earth as a kind of living organism, recently said that climate change will wipe out most life on Earth by the end of this century and mankind is too late to avert catastrophe. Without a doubt, if the present sea levels change, an island-sustained network habitat might suffer a fate more terrible than the fall of Atlantis. A thin hope left is the possibility of one day being able to remove carbon from the atmosphere.

 

 

 

(MARCH 2009) PETER FOT K KAPNISTOS, ICARIAN SEA, GR, 83300.

 


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