Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Where's Atlantis?

Talking about Atlantis in 20,000 Leagues yesterday got me thinking about the Lost Continent again. I've always been interested in the legends, but not enough to really do any research about it. Without making a scholarly endeavor out of it, I thought it might be good to start collecting some of the various theories about the place, just to round out my knowledge. I found three right away.

I should say before I get into this that I take the same approach to Atlantis legends that I do stories about UFOs and other supernatural phenomena. It's the Fox Mulder approach: "I want to believe." I'm a skeptic, but not a judgmental one. I think it's possible for all sorts of things to exist in the world that are unexplained by current science. I just haven't yet seen any evidence for them myself.

The Atlantis legend of course has its origins in Plato. One day I'll take the plunge and read Plato's descriptions for myself, but for now, the Unexplained Mysteries blog's summary will have to do. There's nothing much there that I haven't heard before, but if you're unfamiliar with Plato's account, that'll get catch you up to where I'm at anyway. Later, when I'm feeling motivated, I'll dig into the original text and report back.

I watched an episode of Mystery Hunters last night that explored a theory that Atlantis might have existed in what's now Santorini, Greece. It's a kids' show and never gets too deep into its subject matter, but I've enjoyed other episodes I've seen. There's usually some information I've never heard before - like the Santorini theory about Atlantis - so it's a nice starting point for some light, easily digested research.

What's attractive about Santorini as a possible location for Atlantis is that it was the site of a massive volcanic eruption that did indeed send a large chunk of it to the bottom of the Mediterranean. You can see the volcano in the middle of the lagoon formed by Santorini on the right and the smaller island of Therasia on the left.

Unfortunately, there's plenty of archaeological evidence that the society living on Santorini at the time of the eruption was Minoan, not Atlantean (whatever that might look like).

Luminary Mind believes that Atlantis has become the Canary Islands and Madeira, just northwest of Morocco. In that theory, Atlantis was connected to Morocco by a series of land bridges that were either destroyed in the same volcanic eruption that took Atlantis or were wiped out later in the Great Flood. It's kind of a cool theory, but there's no evidence for it other than the author's claiming that it happened that way.

And unfortunately, the author claims a lot of special, insightful knowledge about Atlantis' culture and technology. It's all very New Age. I'd forgotten the huge connection between Atlantis and New Age philosophy. It makes the pursuit of knowledge about Atlantis less attractive. I'm all for the technologically advanced, lost civilization. I even like the idea of aliens building the pyramids; that's just cool. Magic crystals and enlightened dolphins don't do a thing for me though.

Still, Atlantis in the Canary Islands: not bad. I'm not discounting that one until I learn more about it.

Even cooler though is the idea that the continent of Atlantis is what we now call South America. Jim Allen believes that the continent of Atlantis and the island city of Atlantis were two different places, and that it was only the island city that sank into the sea. What's more, the island city didn't sink into the Atlantic ocean, but into the inland Lake Poopo in modern day Bolivia.

He has tons of geographic, anthropological, linguistic, and even historical evidence to back him up. He also offers a reasonable explanation for the Atlantean metal orichulcum. What he doesn't have is archaeological evidence, but he points to other sites of submerged cities in South America suggesting that there might be something there that just hasn't been found yet.

It's pretty compelling, fascinating stuff and I really like it except for one reason. It doesn't leave open the possibility of an undersea kingdom populated by giant seahorse-riding merfolk. Still, in the search for historic Atlantis (if such a place ever existed), I like Allen's the best.

(He also includes a translation of the entire Atlantis passage from Plato as well as links to other Atlantis sites. It's your Atlantis one-stop shop and I'll be exploring it a lot more.)

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