Atlantis existed, yes, but is not hidden underwater as so many seem to believe. Atlantis is in fact occulted by a much more powerful force: a SEP field.
Yes, “SEP field”: acronym for Somebody Else’s Problem field, a fictious technology (but a very common natural occurrence) devised by the genial science fiction author Douglas Adams.
According to the British writer, the SEP field is much more efficient than mere invisibility when you want to hide something. If you make that object just invisible people can always find it using other senses, such as tact, but if you cover it with a SEP field, people will just ignore it. They will look directly at it and consider it automatically not their incumbence, they will go around it and not even notice they did.
SEP fields require very low energy to function because of the natural tendency of people to see things as somebody else’s problems most of the time.
Of course, SEP fields as technology only exist in fiction but the same process happens naturally (or sometimes maybe induced by skilful psychology) all the time. Illusionists are actually masters in provoking this effect among their audiences but it happens all the time spontaneously.
It’s actually called Inattentional Blindness.
The most well known study demonstrating inattentional blindness was conducted by Daniel Simons of the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign and Christopher Chabris of Harvard University. Their study, a contemporized version of earlier studies conducted by Ulric Neisser , asked subjects to watch a short video in which two groups of people (wearing black and white t-shirts) pass a basketball back among themselves. The subjects are told to either count the number of passes made by one of the teams, or to keep count of bounce passes vs. aerial passes. In different versions of the video a woman walks through the scene carrying an umbrella, or wearing a full gorilla suit. In one version the woman in the gorilla suit even stops in the middle, faces the camera, and pounds her chest before walking out of the scene. After watching the video the subjects are asked if they saw anything out of the ordinary take place. In most groups 50% of the subjects did not report seeing the gorilla. [source: Wikipedia]
The real Atlantis may not be dressed in a gorilla suit pounding its chest in the middle of the screen everyone is looking at… but still most Atlantists are actually looking for something else somewhere else (mostly underwater) and they would disregard the real thing as trivial and even nonsensical even if somebody called their attention upon it, what actually nobody (except myself sometimes) does.
The only ones studying it (and not too much) are serious archaeologists who, obviously do not believe in the myth of Atlantis nor would easily make any sort of connection between what they are digging and mapping and a much distorted legend normally disregarded as the most disreputable of fields a scholar could pay attention to: pseudo-science.
Hence the real thing remains hidden in the middle of the screen. It may not be pounding its chest but has been known for many decades now and yet never connected to Atlantis.
Until I happened to look at it with the corner of the eye (which is the only way to uncover a SEP, it seems).
I wasn’t looking for Atlantis at all. I was just trying to figure out the origins of my ancestors (I’m Basque) and for that I had to take a very deep look at pan-European prehistory, specially late prehistory, since Neolithic.
It’s a very interesting subject in fact, specially if you happen to like history, though it’s largely hidden by the obscurity of scholarly objective terminology and fragmentation of studies. So it really took me some time to get the whole picture and even today I’m not totally certain of everything.
But I have a pretty good idea anyhow.
And among all the stones and bones, slowly but steadily, each day more clearly defined arose, not from under the water but rather from under the academic oceans of papers and books (and ultimately from under the soil) the ruins of Atlantis almost perfectly contextualized and, while not exact, approximate enough to what Plato described some 2400 years ago as to start claiming (quite surprised): you found Atlantis, man.
While some other Greek myths mention almost accidentally Atlantis, the main source is Plato. He was a conservative Athenian philosopher whose ideas were recycled by Greco-Roman Christianity (Neo-Platonism). He’s counted among the most important thinkers of Ancient Europe and, while we can or not agree with his theories, he was a serious scholarly man, not any extravagant fool, even if Diogenes accused him of vanity and his idealist thought has been largely transcended by modern science.
In fact it is his authority what has weighted the most to consider Atlantis existence at least as plausible.
Plato talks of Atlantis mostly in his unfinished dialogue Critias, additionally he also mentions it in the Timaeus. He makes his uncle (or maybe his great-grand-uncle) Critias to narrate the epic story of how Athens defeated Atlantis “9000 years before”. The story is said to have been told to him by most famous Athenian statesman Solon, who in turn had learned it from Egyptian priests. This most respectable genealogy of sources seems to make the story credible, even if some of its details may have been obscured or distorted by the oral transmission.
According to Plato (and allegedly Critias, Solon and the Egyptian priests of Sais), in the beginning the god of the seas Poseidon obtained the “island of Atlantis”:
Towards the sea and in the centre of the island there was a very fair and fertile plain, and near the centre, about fifty stadia from the plain, there was a low mountain in which dwelt a man named Evenor and his wife Leucippe, and their daughter Cleito, of whom Poseidon became enamoured.
Poseidon married Cleito and together they had five pairs of twin sons who became the chiefs of the ten Atlantean realms. But, first of all, Poseidon protected the low mountain with a series of rings of variable size.
Atlas, the eldest son, was made chief of the center of the island while the other brothers received other portions. Their kingdom extended, according to Plato, as far as Egypt and Thyrrenia (Etruria, modern Tuscany and nearby parts of Italy).
Now Atlas had a fair posterity, and great treasures derived from mines--among them that precious metal orichalcum; and there was abundance of wood, and herds of elephants, and pastures for animals of all kinds, and fragrant herbs, and grasses, and trees bearing fruit. These they used, and employed themselves in constructing their temples, and palaces, and harbours, and docks, in the following manner:--First, they bridged over the zones of sea, and made a way to and from the royal palace which they built in the centre island. This ancient palace was ornamented by successive generations; and they dug a canal which passed through the zones of land from the island to the sea. The zones of earth were surrounded by walls made of stone of divers colours, black and white and red, which they sometimes intermingled for the sake of ornament; and as they quarried they hollowed out beneath the edges of the zones double docks having roofs of rock. The outermost of the walls was coated with brass, the second with tin, and the third, which was the wall of the citadel, flashed with the red light of orichalcum. In the interior of the citadel was a holy temple, dedicated to Cleito and Poseidon, and surrounded by an enclosure of gold, and there was Poseidon's own temple, which was covered with silver, and the pinnacles with gold.
Nobody knows yet for sure what orichalcum might be, tough the name seems to mean in Greek “mountain copper”. It’s Latin transliteration aurichalcum (gold+copper) has led some to believe it could be a gold-copper alloy, while others speculate that it might be amber because of its reddish color.
The impressive kingdom was ruled in the following manner:
Each of the ten kings was absolute in his own city and kingdom. The relations of the different governments to one another were determined by the injunctions of Poseidon, which had been inscribed by the first kings on a column of orichalcum in the temple of Poseidon, at which the kings and princes gathered together and held a festival every fifth and every sixth year alternately. Around the temple ranged the bulls of Poseidon, one of which the ten kings caught and sacrificed, shedding the blood of the victim over the inscription, and vowing not to transgress the laws of their father Poseidon. When night came, they put on azure robes and gave judgment against offenders. The most important of their laws related to their dealings with one another. They were not to take up arms against one another, and were to come to the rescue if any of their brethren were attacked. They were to deliberate in common about war, and the king was not to have the power of life and death over his kinsmen, unless he had the assent of the majority.
In brief: it was a confederacy of ten realms, whose monarchs considered each other as basically equal, even if one of them, the lord of the city of Atlantis, the heir of Atlas, had the primacy an was considered as supreme king.
Allegedly the Atlanteans gradually became less divine and more human and therefore greedy of their riches. Zeus hence decided to punish them (and there is where the narration ends unfinished).
The other details about Atlantis as known to Plato appear in the Timaeus, where Critias (again) describes it as being beyond the Pillars of Herakles (Strait of Gibraltar) and again ruling as far east as Tyrrhenia in Europe and Egypt in Libya (Africa). He continues:
This mighty power was arrayed against Egypt and Hellas and all the countries bordering on the Mediterranean. Then your city (Athens) did bravely, and won renown over the whole earth. For at the peril of her own existence, and when the other Hellenes had deserted her, she repelled the invader, and of her own accord gave liberty to all the nations within the Pillars. A little while afterwards there were great earthquakes and floods, and your warrior race all sank into the earth; and the great island of Atlantis also disappeared in the sea. This is the explanation of the shallows which are found in that part of the Atlantic ocean.
After this explanation, the dialogue enters into other matters and Atlantis is not mentioned again.
There are also a couple of obscure Greek myths that mention Atlantis.
One is the legend of Myrina, Queen of the Amazons, whose legend has several versions but fights against the Atlanteans in all of them. In some she is eventually defeated and killed while in other versions (maybe more elaborated and less genuine) she triumphs over the Atlanteans and then allies with them, following her glorious march through Africa and West Asia until she is killed in Anatolia.
The other mentions Uranos (not Atlas) as first king of Atlantis and discoverer of Astronomy.
The Atlantic Ocean was already called that way (or rather “Atlantic Sea”) in ancient times, though it was also referred as the Ocean Sea because of the titan Oceanos.
While many ancient Greeks did not believe the Platonian narration, others did. A disciple of a disciple of Plato, Crantor, travelled to Egypt to find evidence of this account. While his work is lost, Proclos claimed that he did find columns with hieroglyphics that narrated the story more or less as Plato told it. Nevertheless this could be inconsistent with Plato’s account that rather seems to mention papyrus as the original source. This Proclus is also responsible of the belief that the island of Atlantis was “a thousand stadia long” (about 200,000 km, what can only correspond to a continent such as America).
Sadly the arguably respectable Platonian reference to this semi-mythical city and kingdom has been atrociously obscured and distorted by modern romantics, obscurantists and Nazis.
As mentioned above Proclus contributed to exaggerate the size of Atlantis but the big deformations of the account really happened in modern times. The first one to do that was Francis Bacon, who decided that Atlantis and America had to be one and the same.
But the real reinvention of Atlantis was a product of the romantic 19th century. Several Mexican scholars suggested that Atlantis had to be somehow the Aztec or Mayan civilization. Meanwhile in the United States, Ignatius Donnelly made up the story that Atlantis was an antediluvian civilization that gave rise to all others. His speculation, contained in the once famous book Atlantis: the Antediluvian World became the source of all modern confusionist ideas about the mythical civilization.
It’s worth to take a look to Donnelly’s ideas to realize what Atlantis actually was not, rather than what it was, according to the original source. Donnelly claims:
Ø That there was in fact a large island in the middle of the Atlantic Ocean which was Atlantis
Ø That Plato’s account must be taken word by word (what he himself doesn’t)
Ø That Atlantis is where humankind first developed civilization
Ø That the civilized Atlanteans colonized America, Europe, the Mediterranean and India
Ø That the garden of Eden and similar references in other cultures was located in Atlantis
Ø That the gods and goddesses of many peoples of the world were actually real princes of Atlantis
Ø That the true religion of Atlanteans was Sun worship, that had persisted among Incas and ancient Egyptians
Ø That ancient Egypt was the first and foremost colony of Atlantis and hence preserved better its culture
Ø That European Bronze Age came from Atlantis, though Atlanteans also manufactured iron
Ø That the Phoenician alphabet was that of Atlantis, that somehow Mayan hieroglyphics were also the Atlantean alphabet
Ø That Atlantis was the original seat of the Aryan family of nations (i.e. Indo-European speakers), as well as Semites and possibly Turanians (Turks)
Ø That Atlantis perished in a catastrophe in which the whole island sunk into the Ocean with almost all its inhabitants and that only a few people escaped on boat, what’s the origin of Noah’s and similar myths
Briefly: a total nonsense made up only by his vivid imagination but that became very popular and was later used by other less candid people to create totally absurd fundational myths.
Soon after psycho-vultures like Edgar Cayce, Madam Blavatski and Rudolph Steiner were predating Donnelly’s ideas and admixing them with other semi-mythical stuff to create their own mythologies and make the strangests of predictions.
Politicians also predated on the distorted version of Atlantis invented Donnelly. Some socialists imagined Atlantis as an utopic society but the most damaging manipulation of this recycled myth was made by the Nazis, who equated the alleged Atlantean “super-race” with Aryan or Nordic at their best convenience.
All this caused a major disrepute of Atlantis, as both myth and possible historical fact, and the issue became a bête noire of our times. No wonder.
1. It was a realm (apparently an island) beyond the Gibraltar Strait, aka the Pillars of Hercules.
2. It was a confederation of 10 monarchs
3. It ruled (lead) a vast array of countries both in the Atlantic and in the Mediterranean: Libya (North Africa) and Tyrrhenia (Italy) are specifically mentioned
4. It was at war with a Athens in a forgotten period (Mycenaean Greece, logically)
5. It knew of metallurgy but no bronze nor much less iron/steel is mentioned
6. It was connected to the sea by a canal aprox. 10 km. long
7. It was destroyed by a tsunami or similar catastrophe
These are the more important facts that the legend tells.
How many Copper Age (Chalcolithic) civilizations were “beyond the Pillars”? Archaeology has only found one: Vila Nova de Sao Pedro culture (VNSP) in central Portugal, whose main town was the so called Castro do Zambujal, a large town for its time and a very ancient civilization that span for some 1300 years in total. Was it an island? Actually not. It was two peninsulas that nevertheless could be perceived as “islands” for any traveller sailing to them from the south and the Mediterranean Sea.
Was it a confederation of 10 kings? Impossible to tell for sure but there is a fact that seems to confirm it: apart of the normal megalithic tombs (dolmens) there are exactly ten more sophisticated designs of the artificial cave type in that area. Artificial caves were one of the several neo-megalithic designs that appeared in southern Iberia and SE France in the Chalcolithic period, since c. 3000 BCE. These special designs of tombs could well belong to the top families of the area and, why not?, to the rulers of it.
Map of VNSP culture and surroundings in the Chalcolithic (Copper Age), c. 2600-1800 BCE
Did it rule a vast territory as described by Plato? Technically not: the extent of VNSP itself is quite reduced, basically including the historical Portuguese region of Estremadura: the two peninsulas of central Portugal, where Lisbon and Setúbal are. But when we consider the whole Megalithic phenomenon at the time of arrival of bronze technology and Mycenaean influences in some parts of Iberia, it did precisely extend to all the area described by Plato.
Europe and the Mediterranean c. 1500 BCE
Red: VNSP (Atlantis); Orange: Megalithic area (Atlantean influence)
Blue shades: some Indo-European cultures, including Mycenaean Greece; Purple shades: likely Mycenaean area of influence in Iberia
Green: Hittites and area of Influence
Yellow: Egyptian Empire
Magenta: Babylonian Empire
Squares: major cities
X: main tin mining areas
It is hard to evaluate, based only in archaeological data, how much influential VNSP was in the context of Megalithic culture, yet we must not forget that Megalithism was initially conceived in SW Iberia, not far from where VNSP towns would stand and that it was probably a phenomenon with a religious dimension. It is possible that the main (almost only) civilization of this cultural area was rather influential in the rest. This is attested at least in the period of 2100-1900 BCE, when VNSP became without doubt the cultural center of SW Europe and maybe beyond. The commercial connections of the urbanized area of SW Europe, including VNSP, extended then to the Baltic (amber) and to Northern Africa (ivory, ostrich eggshells). While its impossible to determine the exact socio-political network of this immense cultural area, it’s clear that VNSP was no small player in it but rather the opposite.
Was it at war with Athens or otherwise with Mycenaean Greeks? This is a most interesting issue, maybe the most central of all. VNSP, whose walled towns were erected c. 2600 BCE, clearly pre-dates Mycenaean civilization and its period of greater splendor was maybe around 2000 BCE, when it temporarily became the main center of the Bell Beaker phenomenon. Yet it was still standing in the Mycenaean period (c.1800-1100 BCE).
Nevertheless it is precisely c. 1800 when the other major megalithic civilization of Iberia, Los Millares, was replaced by El Argar, who possessed knowledge of bronze metallurgy. El Argar was not anymore megalithic and instead used individual burials in cists, first, and later in large jars known as pithoi. Both new burial practices seem to come from the Aegean region, and that is with certainty the case of the strange custom of pithoi burials. Also glass beads have been found that relate this culture and neighbouring Bronze of Levante with the Eastern Mediterranean.
South of VNSP, the Chalcolithic towns are replaced by a diffuse group of uncertain origin, who know of bronze at least to the point of having knives of this material and who also follow the new custom of individual burial in cists. Exception must be made of a handful of principal tombs, also individual, that have an original design of three open circles engrained with each other (grabsystem burials). This group gradually expanded northwards until reaching its maximum extension in the Atalaia horizon shown in the map above.
Additionally, the semi-desertic region of La Mancha is colonized in a very military fashion, with fortresses built on artificial hills called motillas. Only in the south of this area, near Sierra Morena, a few towns are found. This colonization was not directly made by El Argar culture but by its northern neighbours of the Levante region, that nevertheless can easily be seen in the area of influence of El Argar. Both El Argar and the Bronze of Levante cultures are at the roots of what would be later known as Iberians, who seem to share a common cultural background and possibly language.
What do all these changes mean? To me they imply a long conflict between El Argar and VNSP for the control of the most strategical resource of the Bronze Age: tin and the routes leading to it. In all the Euro-Mediterranean region the main tin producer areas were NW Iberia and SW Britain. We know that, in a later period, Phoenicians traded with tin from these areas and that for that purpose they founded the most strategic colony of Gadir (modern Cádiz) - their very first colony, not surprisingly. In the Bronze Age, tin was even more strategic: while a pseudo-bronze can be made with copper and arsenium, true bronze, sturdier than sweet iron, needs of copper and tin. Copper was rather abundant but tin was relatively scarce and hence quite a valuable and strategic resource.
Naturally VNSP controlled this trade from its strategical position and its cultural-political Megalithic network. El Argar and its allies, including probably Mycenaean Greeks, needed to open alternative routes and weaken the dominant position of VNSP-Atlantis. Colonizing La Mancha was a necessary step to guarantee access to the plateau herders of Cogotas culture, who could mediate in this trade at least with NW Iberia. Unsettling SW Iberia, maybe by invasion of barbarian mercenary tribes, was also useful to erode the power of VNSP in its most immediate hinterland. We cannot say for sure how each actor played in the complex semicolonial political game but I believe the basic roles are as stated here.
Anyhow, VNSP and Megalithism was already in decline. The very cultural phenomenon that had elevated Atlantis to its highest point of influence, the trading subculture of the Bell Beaker, had begun eroding Megalithic traditions in some regions, specially France. VNSP itself never seems to have acquired bronze technology. This was not necessarily a major handicap: in the same period Egyptians also lacked of bronze tech and yet stalemated with Hittites at Kadesh. But it was no doubt a sign of decreasing might and can also be seen as another sign of the conflict between El Argar and Atlantis for hegemony in Iberia and the control of the valuable merchandise of tin.
Did then Mycenaean Greeks fight a decisive battle against our Atlanteans of VNSP? Maybe. Not just the Platonian account mentions it but also some genuine Greek legends have Herakles adventuring to the Hesperides (the far west) to defeat the ruler of Erythia (in one work) and to steal the golden apples of the Hesperides (in another). If the legend of Herakles (Hercules) is based in a real character this must have lived in the Mycenaean period without doubt. In any case, the influence of Mycenaean Greece over El Argar is clear. I think that, while we lack of any direct material evidence that can be without doubt attributed to a Greek warrior fallen in the battlefield, we have enough indirect evidence of a quite intense relation between the Aegean and Iberia in this period, enough to alter the burial customs of SE Iberians into adopting the most original Greek usage of pithoi burials. Additionally, and somewhat ironically, tholoi tombs seem to have been imported into Greece precisely in this period too - and the only ones who used these structures as tombs before were southern Iberians.
Tholos tomb known as “Treasure of Atreus”, at Mycenae.
Tholoi were first used as tombs in Iberian Chalcolithic and only later adopted in Greece.
(image belonging to Wikimedia commons/Wikipedia – GNU license)
I do think that with all likehood Greeks fought in Iberia at some point of the El Argar-VNSP conflict. When, where and how exactly it’s hard to say.
Was Zambujal, the main town of VNSP and its logical capital, connected to the sea by a canal? Surprisingly enough the answer is yes. The German team of the Deutsches Archaölogisches Institut that has made the latest studies found that “until the 2nd half of the 2nd millennium B. C., Zambujal was at most 1 km away from a former marine branch”! Not just that:
The fortification itself seems to have been many times the size that was assumed until now. Probably, the bay mentioned above was of fundamental importance for the existence of the settlement, because on the one hand different materials used in Zambujal had to be brought in from distant sites (e. g. amphibolite, ivory, exotic items such as a cowrie snail, but probably also copper) and on the other hand, the produced copper articles had to be bartered. Additionally, the end of the occupation (…) seems to have been connected to the disappearance of the bay.
So we have a large city, much larger than it has been known until recently and whose total extension is still unknown, which was connected to the sea via a canal or marine branch and that vanished when the canal was silted for unknown reasons. Doesn’t this sound to Atlantis?
Which were the reasons of the silting? Natural sedimentation? Maybe but such a well organized civilization should have been able to dredge their most vital artery. I rather suspect that something more catastrophic happened: a massive marine earthquake followed by a tsunami, that not only silted the canal but also killed many and left the very infrastructure of this civilization suddenly in rags.
We have indeed a relatively recent historical example: in 1775 Lisbon was in fact destroyed by a huge tsunami. Europe and Africa are pushing against each other and sometimes they cause such violent phenomenons. Iberia is definitively not immune to earthquakes nor tsunamis, even if these aren’t too frequent. I suspect that, following the Platonian account and the evidence of silting associated to the end of this civilization, a similar earthquake to that of 1775 happened c. 1300 BCE.
So, what do you think? I am as certain as one can be that VNSP-Zambujal is the Atlantis of Plato and the Erythia of the Heraklean legend. I only lament that not enough research seems to be done and that information about this fascinating and mysterious civilization is so scarce, while absurd fantasies seem to dominate the imaginary regarding Atlantis, often only to fill the pockets of some smart and unscrupulous opportunists.
If you want to comment, you can find me at luis_aldamiz AT yahoo DOT es.
Disclaimer and notes:
This page contains numerous hyperlinks, mostly to relevant Wikipedia articles. Some are good other less so, they are just included as reference.
I have hotlinked and duly mentioned one image (tholos) I borrowed from Wikipedia. There are other two maps (VNSP, Bronze Age Iberia) that also are in Wikipedia archives but that are my own creations and have anti-copyright license therefore. Use them freely (but it would be nice if due credit is given).
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