Atlantis Enigma - Chapter 6
CHARTS DRAWN UP LONG BEFORE THE VOYAGES OF COLUMBUS SHOW THE AMERICAS, AND BOTH THE ARCTIC AND ANTARCTIC SEAS.
Pitcairn Island is an isolated, volcanic formation in the Pacific Ocean 1,350 miles south-east of Tahiti. It was named after the sailor who first sighted it in 1767, and is well known today because of the part it played in one of the most dramatic mutinies ever to take place aboard a British ship.
HMS Bounty was a 215-ton Royal Navy transport ship, assigned towards the end of the eighteenth century to a scheme for taking breadfruit trees from Tahiti to be replanted in the West Indies. The ship sailed to Tahiti under the command of William Bligh, a former shipmate of the famous explorer, Captain Cook. With its cargo of breadfruit trees, it was approaching the isle of Tonga on its return journey to Jamaica when, on 28 April 1789, it was seized by the Master's Mate, Fletcher Christian. Bligh was cast adrift in a longboat with eighteen crew members who had remained loyal to him.
Christian sailed the Bounty to Pitcairn where he, eight of his fellow mutineers and a number of Tahitian men and women, disembarked then burned the ship. They found the semi-tropical island something of a paradise, and established their own colony which went undiscovered until 1808.
The Bounty survivors, whose descendants make up the population of Pitcairn to this day, were not the first sailors to be shipwrecked on this Pacific speck. A rock inscription (which went unreported until 1870 and has been roundly ignored ever since) reads:
Our crew, wrecked in a storm, made land, thank God. We are people from the Manu region. We worship Ra in accordance with the scripture. We behold the sun and give voice.
Manu is a highland area of Libya. The Pitcairn inscription is in the Libyan dialect of ancient Egyptian.
In the early 1900s, a stone scarab - the premier ancient Egyptian symbol of good luck - was dug up in a cane field at Hambledon, Australia. In 1908, a farmer digging a hole for a fence post west of Cairns unearthed an Egyptian coin dating from the reign of Ptolemy X (107-88 BC). In 1969, Professor R. Gilroy, director of the Mount York History Museum at Mount Victoria, went on record, following the discovery of hieroglyphic carvings 50 miles south of Sydney, with the opinion that ancient Egyptians may have visited Australia.
Near the end of the nineteenth century, an article in the prestigious periodical Science, claimed that the ancient Egyptians had developed a ship-railway across the Isthmus of Corinth. Apart from the fact it used polished granite rails in place of metal, this astonishing work of engineering was very similar to its modern counterparts. A similar railway may have been used to take ships overland across the Suez Isthmus.
According to the Journal of the Polynesian Society, (16) chin tattoos popular among the women of Upper Egypt at the turn of the twentieth century were identical to those favored by Maori women in New Zealand. More curious still, the ornamental designs discovered on some of the oldest Egyptian mummies, are mirrored by the oldest traditional patterns of the Maori culture.
The Egyptians were not noted as mariners. Although there are a large number of ancient boat pits on the Giza plateau and two of them excavated in 1954 - contained the remains of actual boats, most Egyptologists consider their use was purely symbolic. They believe the boats were to be used by the pharaoh after death for his journey to the afterlife, or the stars. The few dissenting voices who think the boats were real boats tend to assume they got no further than the Nile. To the experts, it would be preposterous to suggest the ancient Egyptians ever visited New Zealand. All the same, there's hard evidence the ancient Egyptians traveled a lot further than Egyptologists give them credit for.
The greatest maritime civilization in the ancient Mediterranean was that of Minoan Crete, which began to develop, according to consensus chronology, around 2750 BC. It was, by any measure, an impressive culture.
When Arthur Evans excavated the Palace of Minos, at Knossos, in the early twentieth century, he discovered evidence of unbroken architectural and artistic development from Neolithic times. The palace itself rivaled anything ancient Egypt had to offer. It was a quadrangular complex of rooms and corridors grouped around a great central court. Seaward, a great portico of twelve pilasters gave access to the central court and a rectangular open-air theatre spoke of sophisticated entertainments. An eastern wing originally rose four perhaps five - stories above the slope of the valley, while to the south-east, domestic apartments had running water and even flush toilets. A wide stairway led to an upper floor. The north-east part of the palace was devoted to offices and storerooms. To the west was a series of storerooms containing great numbers of oil containers, many of them more than 5 feet tall. The state rooms yielded up a unique gypsum throne. Light was supplied from above by an ingenious system of wells, and colonnaded porticoes provided ventilation during hot Cretan summers. Both the interior and exterior of this great palace were decorated with brilliantly colored frescoes.
By far the most sophisticated pottery of the time was made in Crete. Finely honed skills and refined techniques brought it to such a peak of perfection that containers were often thin as eggshells. It was work that was widely appreciated. Minoan pottery has been found throughout the Aegean and as far as Cyprus, Egypt and the Levant.
Trade made the culture wealthy. Goldsmiths produced work of exceptionally high aesthetic value. They were aware of and used techniques such as granulation and filigree. Gold sheets were cut and stamped into beads or other designs to make necklaces and diadems. Clothing was often decorated with gold. Minoan craftsmen became renowned for their work with gems.
Unlike almost any other empire of the time, the Minoan rulers built no fortifications. They had no need to. Their military strength, like their economic success, was firmly founded on control of the sea lanes. Like Britain in the nineteenth century, it was sea power that kept the island safe - a policy that worked until about 1400 BC when an invasion from mainland Greece destroyed the culture. Until then, the Minoans were the undisputed masters of navigation in the Mediterranean, perhaps even in the entire world. An American historian thinks they owed their expertise to an even greater maritime civilization that existed in the Ice Age.
Charles Hapgood is a professor at Keene State College, New Hampshire. His specialty is the history of science. One of his early books, "Earth's Shifting Crust", carried an endorsement from Albert Einstein, who found it contained 'ideas of great importance to everything that is related to the history of the earth's surface'. Hapgood has also produced ideas of considerable importance to our understanding of prehistory. He believes, for example, that there existed in the remote depths of the last Ice Age, long before the appearance of the known historical cultures of Sumeria, Egypt, Greece and Rome, an ancient civilization more advanced than any of them.
It was a civilization that, if limited to a single location, had trade links across the globe - and might even have been a world-wide culture in the sense that the social and economic ideas developed largely in Britain and the United States now form the basis of a Westernized culture that is making inroads into virtually every region on the planet.
Hapgood has concluded that his Ice Age civilization was probably more advanced - at least in some respects - than the great early cultures of ancient Egypt, Babylon, Greece and Rome. Indeed, he believes that in the specific areas of astronomy, navigation, mathematics, map-making and shipbuilding, it was more advanced than any country in the world earlier than the eighteenth century AD. He believes scientists of the prehistoric civilization were capable of calculating the exact length of the solar year to a tolerance of two seconds . . . that its geographers had accurately measured the circumference of the Earth . . . that its mathematicians had a knowledge of spherical trigonometry . . . that its astronomers knew of the moons of Jupiter and the satellites of Saturn.
From the accomplishments of this civilization, Hapgood has deduced an organized government and considerable economic resources. He is convinced it excelled in the arts of navigation to such a degree that it explored the Arctic and Antarctic seas, something not accomplished by our own culture until the nineteenth century. He is certain it had discovered a practical means of calculating longitude, something only achieved again in the 1700s.
Against the background of the current scientific paradigm in which the professor himself was educated, these are extraordinary beliefs. But Hapgood claims hard evidence. Every one of his conclusions is based on the careful analysis of ancient maps, themselves copies of originals whose structure indicates they were first drawn in the depths of prehistory. Hapgood speculates that while the charts originated with an unknown people, their knowledge was inherited by the Minoan sea kings of ancient Crete and the Phoenicians, who became for a thousand years the greatest sailors in the ancient world.
The prehistoric charts were possibly collected and studied in the great library at Alexandria, where compilations were extracted by the geographers who worked there. The library, which contained an estimated 1 million volumes and was reputed to embody the entire knowledge of the ancient world, fell foul of Julius Caesar whose attack on the city caused it to be burned to the ground. It was later restored and even enlarged, but in AD 391 was burned down by a Christian mob egged on by the patriarch Theophilus, and finally destroyed in the Arab conquest of Egypt 300 years later.
Although legend has it that the Arab destruction of the library was carried out because 'any wisdom not contained in the Koran was not worth keeping' the historical reality was that a body of ancient learning was preserved by Arab scholars throughout the Dark Ages. Hapgood believes that the maps created in the Ice Age may have been transferred to Constantinople, a noted center of learning, and carried off by the Venetians when they captured the city during the Fourth Crusade of AD 1204.
Most of the surviving charts which show prehistoric influence are of the Mediterranean and the Black Sea. But the more interesting and evidential take us further afield. Although drawn up long before the voyages of Columbus, these charts show the Americas, and both the Arctic and Antarctic seas. More astonishing still, the Antarctic continent is accurately mapped including contours which disappeared beneath an ice cap which is now more than a mile thick. We know the contours are accurate because of modern depth soundings. Hapgood simply assumes the ancient map-makers visited the continent before the ice cap formed.
With Hapgood's findings, almost all the elements of Plato's story are in place. Prehistorian Mary Settegast has presented evidence of many cultural and technological correspondences within the Straits of Gibraltar, including a great war in exactly the era Plato claimed.(17) Other equally respected archaeological sources have shown time and time again that the aspects of Plato's Atlantis, so long dismissed as mythic, are no more than the collecting together of prehistoric realities discovered elsewhere throughout the world.
There were massive engineering works carried out in the Ice Age. There were great cities built. Its peoples wore tailored clothing, drank wine, made cheese, inscribed written records, built ships and sailed the oceans to the farthest corners of the planet.
This is not to say, of course, that every part of the globe had achieved such cultural peaks, any more than every culture of the world today is based on computer technology. We still have our Bushmen and Aborigines pursuing an essentially Stone Age existence, and there are clear indications the same was true in prehistoric times.
Yet as Hapgood himself puts it:
The idea of the simple linear development of society from the culture of the ... Old Stone Age through the successive stages of the ... New Stone Age, Bronze and Iron Ages must be given up. . . . We shall now assume that, some 20,000 or more years ago, while Palaeolithic peoples held out in Europe, more advanced cultures existed elsewhere on earth.(18)
But suggestive though this weight of evidence may be, it still doesn't add up to Atlantis. Plato's throwaway mention of the twice-yearly Atlantean harvest is enough to give the tie to his fantasy. There could be no question of two harvests in an Ice Age. Unless, of course, our ideas about the Ice Age are all wrong, too.
(16) Issue 13, 1904.
(17) In Plato Prehistorian: 10,000 to 5000 B.C. Myth, Religion, Archaeology, Lindisfarne Press, New York, 1990.
(18) Quoted from Maps of the Ancient Sea Kings, by Charles H. Hapgood, Adventures Unlimited Press, Illinois, 1996.
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