Atlantis Enigma - Chapter 2
ORTHODOXY CLAIMS THERE IS SCARCELY A WORD OF PLATO'S LONG DESCRIPTION OF ATLANTIS AND ITS CULTURE THAT COULD POSSIBLY BE TRUE.
In 1969, archaeologists discovered twelve fossil footprints between Woolongong and Gerringong, Australia. The prints are 1 million years old.
In 1997, thermoluminescence dating techniques, applied to human artifacts discovered at the Jinmium site in Australia's Northern Territories, produced dates of 116,000 and 176,000 years BP (before Pleistocene). The findings were promptly disputed by scientists brought up to believe that modern man only appeared around 100,000 BP and even then was strictly confined to Africa. Although it was widely accepted that the Jinmium finds related to modern man, they simply couldn't be as old as 116,000 years (let alone 176,000). The geochronologist R. Roberts suggested their actual age was 10,000 years.
The Australian finds were not the first evidence to suggest modern humanity has been wandering this planet longer than the scientists allow. In 1970, for example, construction workers on a dam near Demirkopru, in Turkey, discovered a set of human foot-prints pressed into volcanic ash. One is now on display at the Natural History Museum in Stockholm, Sweden. Best estimates place it at 250,000 years old.
In 1928, an entire human skeleton unearthed at Ipswich, England, seemed to bear a minimum date of 330,000 years. A human jaw and some paleoliths of similar antiquity were discovered in the same year at Moulin Quignon, in France. The finds reinforced the much earlier discovery (in 1868) of a 330,000-year-old partial human skeleton at Clichy. The orthodox consensus dismissed the remains as forgeries and hoaxes.
The orthodox consensus has largely ignored the (600,000-year-old neoliths discovered at Gehe, China, in 1989 and the human femurs from Trimil in Java, found in 1973 and dated at 830,000 years BP. It has also ignored finds in Siberia, England, France and Italy which indicate human habitation of those countries prior to 1 million years BP, the time most orthodox scientists believe the first hominid (Homo erectus) had only just started thinking seriously about leaving Africa. Worse still for the orthodox consensus, England, Belgium, India, Pakistan and Italy are just a few of the countries that have yielded up implements in strata older than the 2 million years assigned to the evolution of Homo habilis, the first tool-user. Habilis was, in any case, supposed never to have left his native Africa.
But however many such finds appear - and the few mentioned are just the very small tip of a very large iceberg - they do not shake the paradigm of a linear evolution. They only suggest it started sooner than we thought.
The archaeological term 'tanged point complex' refers to some-thing of a prehistoric mystery - the sudden appearance, in the ninth millennium BC, of a wholly new type of arrowhead. These arrowheads have been found in astonishingly large quantities along the coast of north-west Europe and the Near East. Nobody knows where they came from.
By a curious coincidence, burial sites of this era begin, for the first time, to show signs of violent death. Earlier burials some-times yield up broken bones, but with no indication that these were anything but accidental. In the Djebel Sahaba excavation, by contrast, fifty-nine burials have accompanying arrowheads lodged in the rib-cages, spines and other bones. The same pattern appears in the forty-four excavated graves at the Vasylivka III site on the Dnieper River. Clearly those burials, and others like them, are warrior graves.
Rock paintings in the Spanish Levant, that area of the country fringing the Mediterranean, differ from earlier Magdalenian art in that they depict human figures in preference to animals. But not just any figures. Again and again these paintings, which date to the ninth millennium BC, depict bowmen in the heat of battle.
Putting the available evidence together, it would appear that humanity had at long last discovered the pleasures of war . . . at just about the time Plato claimed Atlantis launched its great invasion.
Of course, a great prehistoric war involving cave-dwelling bow-men, using flint arrowheads, doesn't exactly tally with Plato's description of an advanced civilization on Atlantis - nor, indeed, with his description of the Athens which defeated it. He gives this description in his Critias, where, having discussed a mythical time when the gods divided Earth between them, he tells of the Athenians as comprising various classes of citizenry, some of whom were concerned with manufacturing while others were engaged in agriculture. There was a separate military class composed of men and women, both of whom engaged in regular military exercises and wore full armor. The various classes and occupations had their own living quarters, built using timber and stone. On the slopes of what later became the Acropolis, lived the craftsmen and farmers who worked in the neighborhood. Higher up was a temple of Athena surrounded by a single wall. Within this enclosure lived a standing army of 20,000. Their homes, gymnasia and winter mess-rooms were on the northern side, although in summer they tended to move to the southern side where they may have spent most of their time in the open. This military establishment was the acknowledged leader not only of Athens, but of Greece as a whole and was widely admired throughout Europe and Asia.
This interesting fantasy conflicts directly with what the archaeologists have told us about prehistoric Greece. At the time of which Plato spoke, the world was still in the grip of the Ice Age. Agriculture had not yet developed, let alone the advanced concept of manufacturing. Nobody wore armor or lived in houses. The most advanced form of dwelling was the cave. The first stone temple to Athena on the Acropolis was not built until 580 BC, more than 9,000 years after the time Plato was describing. Before then, the best Greece had to offer was a few primitive mud-brick shrines.
But if Plato was off target with his description of prehistoric Greece, he was almost off the planet when he started to describe Atlantis.
Atlantis, claimed Plato, comprised a broad plain with a low central hill enclosed by concentric rings of water and land. In the center were two springs, one cold, one hot, suggesting volcanic action. The island's soil was exceptionally fertile. It produced extensive forests and supported an abundance of wildlife, notably elephants.
Politically, the island was divided into ten territories, each under the rule of its own king. The territories seemed to hold together in a loose federation with the kings meeting each fifth and sixth year to sort out disputes by discussion and consensus. The laws they lived by were engraved on a pillar in the temple of Poseidon.
Although there were imports, the island as a whole was economically self-sufficient. Metals were mined extensively and cereal crops cultivated. Fruit farming was a widespread occupation with the fruit pressed for juice or oil - the latter product suggesting the possibility of olive groves, or something similar.
The Atlanteans constructed temples, palaces, docks and bridges. Among their more impressive engineering works was a canal 295 feet wide, 100 feet deep and '50 stadia' long. A Greek stadium varied in length locally from 505 to 705 feet and while we can't know for sure which measure Plato was using, the minimum length of the Atlantean canal must have been 4.8 miles.
The ringed moats around the central island were supposed to have been built by the god Poseidon, which may be another way of saying they occurred naturally. But Atlantean engineers linked them with channels deep enough and wide enough to permit the passage of a trireme, a manoeuvrable Mediterranean warship about 120 feet long and 18 feet wide. Stone walls were built, then faced with bronze, and a now unknown (or possibly just untranslated ) precious metal called orichalcum.
A temple to Poseidon, the ruling deity of Atlantis, was a stadium long, 328 feet wide and proportionately high. Its exterior walls were plated in silver with various relief's highlighted in gold. There were a great many sophisticated artworks - Plato writes of a massive gold statue in a chariot drawn by six winged horses, surrounded by representations of 100 Nereids (sea-living goddesses) riding on dolphins. Around the temple there were also lifelike statues of the Atlantean kings and other personages of importance.
The central plain also showed signs of the Atlantean love of monumental engineering. It was surrounded by an artificial ditch 100 feet deep, a full stadium wide and, since it surrounded the entire plain, 10,000 stadia long. (Plato himself balked at these figures, but claimed to report them exactly as they had been given to him by Solon.)
Apart from its engineering prowess, the culture of the Atlanteans was advanced by any measure. Plato's account indicates they had domesticated the horse - there was a large public arena built for racing - and invented the chariot. They seem to have had metal weapons, an inference drawn from the fact that such weapons were specifically banned for the ritual slaughter of bulls. Writing had been developed) although Plato gives no indication of how far literacy extended into the general population. Wine-making was known and practiced, as was the weaving of cloth and the use of dyes. Farming techniques were sophisticated. The island supported two harvests a year, one in winter watered by reliable rainfall, one in summer using extensive irrigation. The art of navigation was well developed: Atlantis was a maritime culture with a standing navy of some 1,200 ships.
It is difficult to know where to start in comparing this romantic picture with prehistoric reality as propounded by the orthodox consensus.
First of all, the concept of a political federation is far too sophisticated for the world as it was more than 11,000 years ago. What you had at the time were scattered communities whose life was dominated by food gathering and hunting. Even the idea of a king, in the sense it was known to the Greeks of Plato's day, is far too advanced for the era. There may have been tribal chieftains, but not the formal division of territory under a single leader that Plato describes.
Equally out of order is the notion that the Atlanteans cultivated cereal crops and orchards. As we've already seen, agriculture was not developed anywhere on Earth before the ending of the Ice Age. And remembering the Ice Age, which was, of course, unknown to Plato, helps us demolish the fantasy of a two-harvest year, even if we were to allow the equally outlandish notion that the Atlanteans knew about irrigation. The weather would simply have been too cold.
Next comes the question of mining and metalworking. According to Plato, the Atlanteans worked gold and silver and used some other (harder less precious) metal for weaponry. Bronze, an alloy of copper and tin, is specifically mentioned as a plating for walls. The modern term 'Bronze Age' describes a cultural development, not a specific time, but we know well enough when bronze was first used in various parts of the world. In Britain, for example, it did not appear until about 1900 BC. The Mediterranean peoples, possibly a better comparison with any supposed Atlantean civilization, began using it just over 1,000 years earlier. Nobody, but nobody, was using bronze in 9600 BC.
Nobody was fermenting grapes for wine, or riding horses either. Although the primitive peoples of the day may possibly have painted their faces and certainly painted some caves, there is no indication they used dyes to color their clothes, which, in any case, would have consisted of furs and skins.
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