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Atlantis Quest - Uncovering the Secrets That Prove Plato Right
Nearly two and a half millennia ago, Greek philosopher, Plato, wrote two dialogs, Timaeus and Critias , which remain in our imaginations today. Here is where we receive the story of Atlantis — a large island in the North Atlantic which sank in a day and a night.
The name evokes a sense of mystery and of secrets unrevealed. The name has inspired resorts, video games, novels, motion pictures and even the name of an American space shuttle. But was there any truth to the story? Perhaps most scientists and all self-proclaimed "skeptics" believe Plato made up the story, perhaps inspired from other, more recent events.
Atlantis Location Poll
If Atlantis Was Real, Where Was It?
No doubt about it, scientists are human. They each possess their own ego and are subject to human frailties just like the rest of us.
In North American anthropology, the "Clovis first" doctrine held sway for many years. To question that dogma was to risk one's career. Many scientists were afraid to dig below the Clovis horizon (the stratum dating to the time of earliest habitation at Clovis, New Mexico) for fear of what they would find there that could jeopardize their careers.
Science had met a barrier of ego and was crippled by it.
More than a century ago, scientists looked upon myth and judged it as unworthy of further investigation. This left the field wide open, and amateur investigator, Heinrich Schliemann, scooped up the discovery of Troy. Buoyed by this find, more discoveries were made confirming that other myths were based on reality including, Mycenaean Greece and Minoan Crete. Then, it took more than a century for scientists to get around to discovering proof of Amazon warriors in the burial kurgans of Southern Russia. And not long ago, another amateur found what may have been the real island of Ithaca, home of Ulysses, hero of the Trojan War.
What do these have to do with Atlantis? Nothing, directly. They do show, however, that skepticism can blind us as much as help us in a quest to discover the truth of something. Why do scientists use it? Perhaps they need the restraint found in some forms of skepticism. The milder, more benign form of skepticism resembles selfless restraint, but still contains the built-in bias, "doubt." The other end of the skeptical spectrum contains self-indulgent ridicule and out-of-hand dismissiveness. These contain no restraint at all, and are most crippling in any investigation.
Selfless restraint, or humility, is a much better paradigm for science. Humility in the face of truth allows one to see that truth, whatever it is, and not to be blinded by preconceived notions. With this new paradigm in mind, let us take a look at the facts.
This is the book that started it all! Plato's two dialogs. And this is my preferred translation--by Sir Desmond Lee.
Plato's Lost Island Empire
Along with his teacher, Socrates, and his student, Aristotle, Plato (c.428–c.348 BC) was amongst the great thinkers who shaped Western civilization.
In his two "Atlantis" dialogs, Plato relates the conversation between his mentor, Socrates, and three others, Timaeus, Critias and Hermocrates. Therein, Critias tells a story handed down over several generations from Solon, the great Athenian wise man of two centuries earlier. While traveling in Egypt, about 600 BC, Solon learned from an elder Egyptian priest of Saïs the story of Atlantis.
Atlantis was a great empire which reigned from a large island in the Atlantic Ocean. It lay just outside the Pillars of Herakles (Strait of Gibraltar), the nearest portion facing a region of Southern Spain, called by the Phoenicians in Plato's time, "Gadira" (modern Cádiz, Spain). In size, the island was equivalent to Libya and Asia combined. Now, in those days, "Libya" meant all of coastal North Africa, except Egypt, while "Asia" meant "Asia Minor" (most of modern Turkey). This might be roughly one to two times the size of Texas (the largest of the contiguous United States).
Atlantis was an advanced civilization, with a great fleet of ships, great armies and cavalry, plus a great city with marvelous buildings built of many kinds of stone, and a city with concentric circular canals and circular islands, the walls of which were plated with various metals. The empire had colonies within the Mediterranean, up to the Tyrrhenian Sea in the North, and up to Egypt in the South. They also held colonies across the great ocean on the other, unnamed continent and its islands.
The priest told Solon that Atlantis had attacked the prehistoric inhabitants of Athens, nine thousand years ago. Not long afterward, Atlantis was swallowed by the sea in the period of a day and a night. This was accompanied by great earthquakes and massive flooding in the region of prehistoric Athens. Both the aggressors and the defenders were destroyed, all about 9600 BC.
Geology of Atlantis
Perhaps the strongest argument against Atlantis as Plato told the story, is that there is nothing in the North Atlantic which allows for the past existence of a large island. Some refer to Atlantis as a "continent," but Plato was very clear to describe it as merely a large island, very different from the continent on which he lived and the unnamed continent across the Atlantic Ocean. The problem with the geological assertion is that there is indeed a great deal in the geology of the Atlantic which allows for Atlantis.
Where do most mountains exist on Earth? Any geologist will tell you that most mountains are formed near tectonic plate boundaries from the actions known as subduction (one plate sliding underneath the other), and crustal folding (the buckling caused by the friction between two moving plates). Crustal folding is also known as "mountain building," and if you build mountains tall enough in the middle of the ocean, they become islands.
If Atlantis was real, it existed along the Africa-Eurasia tectonic plate boundary in the Northeast Atlantic. There is much more to this geological aspect of our Atlantis quest, but too much to include in this short article. The full story includes not only the formation of the island from subduction and crustal folding, but also the establishment of the current pole of rotation (Euler pole), the evolution of the island to a peninsula of Eurasia and back to an island, and a final collapse caused as much by climate change as by any geological factors.
Proof of an Atlantis-like Event
While the geological arguments are at least plausible, we need proof. And, while we do not have direct proof of Atlantis, we have proof that something very, very big happened 9620 BC — practically a match for Plato's date for the Atlantis destruction. Each of these items is from a different branch of science:
• An abrupt and significant change in worldwide climate (end of Younger Dryas, 9620 BC)
• A moderately large volcanic event recorded in the Greenland ice cores (GISP2 survey, 9620.77 BC)
• A sudden, 2-meter drop in sea levels worldwide (9620 BC).
Each of the first two items could have been caused by something unrelated to Atlantis. The dates, though, make Atlantis the likeliest suspect.
The third item comes from a graph of 17,000 years of sea level change found in a 1989 Nature magazine article. Typically, such a small blip on a graph is ignored as "noise" in the data, an error in recording, or the result of some unrelated phenomenon. Both the date and the magnitude of the "blip," however, call attention to themselves.
Though on the original graph the date was different, the placement right at the end of the Younger Dryas (YD) proves to be interesting. The slow-down in sea level rise during the YD is quite apparent on the graph. And the magnitude of two meters is "just right" for the demise of Atlantis.
The data needs to be corroborated as a proxy for a real event. With such verification, this data point becomes the "smoking gun" in the death of Atlantis. Nothing else could have caused such a drop in worldwide sea levels. Only an Atlantis-sized landmass getting out of the "bathtub" of the world oceans could have caused the water level to have gone down that much.
Geology of Atlantis
We have genetic proof that an extended family on both sides of the Atlantic was separated about 12,000 years ago. This is about when Plato's Atlantis sank. Some of the Native American tribes of North America as well as the Basques of Western Europe share the mitochondrial DNA haplogroup X.
Hints within Language
The "children" of Atlantis likely would either have shared a common language or would have had related languages. The Native American tribes of North America, particularly those along the East coast, spoke agglutinative languages. Basque, Etruscan, Sumerian, Georgian, Dravidian and Mon Khmer are agglutinative languages or language families. Now, this fact does not say much, by itself. By analogy, it's like saying they all drove cars. Yet, some car models have the same manufacturer. These people may be culturally related.
- Mother: ama
- Father: aita
- Mother: ati
- Father: apa
- Female goddess: Ana
- Male god: Aita
- Mother: deda
- Father: mama
In Eurasia, the two most sentimentally favorite words show a distinct pattern within these languages across the two continents.
These words are "mother" and "father."
Most, if not all, modern linguists will tell you that you can't prove a relationship on such skimpy data. They may not tell you, however, that you cannot disprove a relationship, either.
Notice how the Basque for mother is similar to the Etruscan for father, while the Basque for father is similar to the Etruscan for mother. They appear to have been gender-swapped.
Yet, in the Etruscan pantheon, we find the name of a goddess similar to the Basque word for mother, and the name of a male god equivalent to the Basque word for father — not gender-swapped. Ana was the female goddess of beginnings, while Aita was the male god of endings (ruler of the dead).
It is possible that the Etruscans, in their prehistoric past (the era of the god and goddess), had women rule, and when men were handed the scepter, men became the new "mothers."
Notice also the apparent gender swap in Georgian.
Did the Children of Atlantis migrate across Eurasia, intermarrying with the people they encountered? Could their influences be found in other cultures?
Many of the Native American tribes of North America were matriarchal or matrilineal. And though the Basques were not matriarchal in recorded history, they do have a track record for strong women and their men do have the couvade (sympathetic pregnancy pains suffered by the men for their expectant wives).
The Etruscans were despised by their Roman neighbors to the South as well as by the Greeks, because of the power they gave their women. And what a male-chauvinistic point-of-view that is, especially if it was the women who allowed men to have power.
The Georgians also do not have a history of matriarchy, but their Queen Tamar ruled during their "Golden Age," and their Princess Medea was the strong-willed woman who betrayed her people to help Jason and the Argonauts steal the Golden Fleece from a golden dragon. Later, Medea was seen fleeing Athens, flying away on a golden dragon. And yet, we also have the clue of gender-swap between the Georgian words for mother and father.
And the Mon Khmer peoples, some of whom created the fabulous Khmer Empire centered on Angkor in present-day Cambodia, have a past which includes matriarchy. The Mon, today, are still matriarchal.
Are these clues telling us that Atlantis and its refugees were matriarchal?
There may be one myth which relates to the Atlantis story, though the name "Atlantis" is not used in it. This is the story of Goddess Athena's birth.
Some of the parallels between the two stories are striking. Some of the Atlantis side is extrapolated from Plato's writing.
• The most advanced civilization of all time.
• Swallowed whole by the sea.
• Refugees fled the "head" (capital) city, fully-mature as a civilization.
• Refugees held the military might and know-how to protect themselves.
• Mother, Metis, was the wisest individual of all time.
• Mother, Metis, was swallowed whole.
• Athena sprang full-grown from her father's head.
• Athena was born wearing armor.
These parallels do not prove a relationship between the two myths, but the possibility remains. If Metis represents the latter years of Atlantis before being swallowed whole, and if Athena represents the refugees born fully mature, then the parallels tell us that Atlantis and its refugees were matriarchal.
If, as I suspect, Medea had become disenchanted with the men in her life (bored with the men of her homeland, betrayed by her husband Jason, and outcast by her second husband, Aegeus, king of Athens), she may have thought to create her own tribe of women. Versions of the Medea myth vary, but if Medea gave birth to the band of women warriors, and if Colchis was related to Atlantis, what better name to give her new band than "Mother Atlantis" (ama-Atlan, Amazon)?
For a long time, an argument against the past reality of Atlantis could have been stated thusly, that there is no evidence that any civilization existed that far back. The recently found ruins at Göbekli Tepe, Turkey have been dated at 9500 BC. While these may not be related to Atlantis, they may be related to the ancient proto-Greeks who fought against Atlantis. And there are many places yet to be dug up by archaeologists. Likely, there are many more discoveries to be made.
Many of the places which might have included colonies of Atlantis are under many feet of water. Sea level when Atlantis sank was nearly two hundred feet lower than it is today. Those ancient coastlines are likely under many inches or feet of silt.
Colonies of Atlantis
Plato also mentioned colonies across the great ocean (Atlantic) on the islands and mainland of an unnamed continent (America?).
A great deal has been made of the fact that the Mesoamericans and Egyptians both built pyramids. The shape of the structures, by itself, does nothing to prove a link, however. Pyramids are stable and obvious shapes for building that can easily be originated by independent cultures.
Perhaps the most intriguing link to Atlantis are the underwater ruins found in the Caribbean. The breakwater near Bimini Island in the Bahamas remains the most controversial such find.
Myth to Reality
Was Atlantis a real place? We still do not know for certain. There are too many unanswered questions simply to close the book on the subject. With the right funding, some good educated guesses and a little luck, proof of Atlantis and its colonies could be found, if they exist at all.
The prospect of finding proof of Atlantis is intoxicating. Many researchers have already staked their reputations on putative finds of Atlantis in such locations as Scandinavia, Thera, the Andes of South America, Indonesia and even Antarctica. But what if Plato was correct? What if Atlantis is right where he said it was? Perhaps when James Cameron finishes his Avatar series of movies, he might be up for a new adventure, hunting down Atlantis. And the capital of Atlantis might not be as far down in the ocean as is the Titanic.
Atlantis: Plato Coincidence Series
- Atlantis Canals: How Those Mentioned by Plato Were Vital — Mission: Atlantis
PLATO COINCIDENCE SERIES: How Plato got it right about Atlantis This is the first in a series of articles on how Plato’s details about Atlantis are consistent with the real world. Plato could not have known the importance of these details,...
- Atlantis Geology: How Plato’s Location Was Perfect — Mission: Atlantis
Geology is the most critical element in discussing Atlantis. Plato got so much right about this, it's uncanny, unless the story was true.