The Lost City of Atlanta


…er, I mean Atlantis. The legendary city of, um, legend, that is much more than an airport. I’m sure at this point a fair portion of everyone knows the tale of the doomed advanced civilization that lived on a Utopian island somewhere either in the Mediterranean or the Atlantic Ocean. These unfortunate citizens did something or other (it really depends who you ask…) to incur the wrath of Zeus, Poseidon, Yaweh (perhaps all 3?) and the entire island along with its inhabitants was lost to the waves. Some say a small contingent managed to escape the destruction and settled elsewhere to impart their wisdom and technology on the developing peoples of the world (Egypt, Peru, Mexico, England, Greece…) but most believe the entire populous perished beneath the perilous…precipitation? Ok, so alliteration didn’t work. You’ll have to forgive me, as it is a signature of the Access Hollywood scripts (Farrah’s follicle fad!) While I gather my thoughts and data, here’s a picture of Atlantis!

Ah, lovely Atlantis! It turns out the fabled island is alive and well…in Dubai. But seriously, Atlantis was first mentioned by Plato is his dialogues Timaeus and Critias around 360 BC. By his accounts, Atlantis was a naval power lying “in front of the Pillars of Hercules” that conquered many parts of Western Europe and Africa 9,000 years before the time of Solon (c. 9600 BC) After a failed attempt to invade Athens, Atlantis sank into the ocean “in a single day and night of misfortune” and Poseidon may or may not have been involved. In any case, this tale, which may have just been a fable of sorts, spawned a whole mess of Atlantean tales and expeditions to find the ruined island. In fact, this one story has become so ingrained into the social fabric of history that the island was included on many early maps because people assumed it would be out there somewhere in the ocean!
Por ejemplo, here we have a small section of the 1669 Mundus Subterraneus by Anthanasius Kircher. This Dutch map (since the Dutch were the map masters back in the day) stuck the mythical island right between America and Africa. Apparently someone made it there and mapped the rivers too…

The Dutch were not the only ones who included Atlantis in their world maps, since most people felt that Plato’s description was accurate enough to have been real. There was all that space out in the ocean beyond the Pillars of Hercules (or Strait of Gibraltar if you prefer…) so why not stick an island there?
It seemed like a good idea well into the 19th century, and that’s just what some people did!

This map, from Ignatius Donelly’s Atlantis: the Antediluvian World published in 1882, provides us with a world map and an the approximate extent of the Atlantean empire! Who knew?

In the early days of the 20th century, our good buddy Edgar Cayce arrived on the scene and took Atlantean lore to a whole new level. In case you are not familiar with Mr. Cayce and his works/theories/crazyspeak, Wikipedia has created a convenient page for you to learn all about these things.
For those of you who are familiar with Cayce, I can hear you laughing through the internet and know that I laugh with you. Homeboy was crazy. Seriously. A full-blown Pyramidiot if you will.

Moving on. Even today, people are still looking for Atlantis. There are several places that people keep returning to time and time again. Of course, everyone is still scouring the Atlantis ocean floor in hopes that something may turn up as the Atlantic is what you run into once you get past the Pillars of Hercules. Other favorite locations are in Bermuda (that one ‘road’ underwater that is super popular with the scuba fans) and various locations in the Mediterranean. The Greek island of Santorini is particularly popular because it has a long and colorful history of being on the wrong side of volcanic and seismic activity. The whole area has well-documented events of catastrophic events that have decimated entire populations (Minoans, I’m looking at you). Tsunamis, volcanic eruptions and earthquakes have all caused serious damage to the Mediterranean over the millenia, and more than once things have fallen into the ocean or have been lost to the waves so it is fair to see how many of these islands have been tapped as potential locations for Atlantis. For those of you who prefer an unconventional option, Antarctica is also on the list.

In my humble archaeological opinion, I don’t know if an Atlantis as Plato described it really existed. To me, it seems more like a fable reminding people to act right or risk the wrath of a deity. I find it really hard to believe that there was one single outpost of an ‘advanced civilization’ while everyone else on the planet was grunting around with hand axes and basic spears and these guys were building complex machinery and talking with aliens or whatnot. I think that ancient people were more than capable of constructing large-scale monuments because religion, devotion and creativity inspire you like that. Just because we don’t fully understand how they did it then without our fancy machines doesn’t mean they couldn’t do it. It just means they did it in a way we wouldn’t think of immediately…or at all. Think outside the box! Or pyramid, or henge…

Stay tuned for next week’s post in which we uncover the many secrets of Atlantis’ sister civilization in the Pacific, Lemuria!

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