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The Desk's Mystery Series

I know you like this kind of thing so maybe you can get to the bottom of it. There was a debate on a talk show here about Atlantis. One guy said it was all made up by Plato as an example of the wrath of the gods making everything men do futile, the other guy said it was a real place. What do you think about it?
- A (now defunct) forum user.

      "The futility of man," is a good way to put this one. Not a week after a user on a forum sent the Desk that message, the forum shut down. Except perhaps this wasn't the wrath of the gods, but the act of a shaky hosting service and a webmaster with other things to do, so much for making plans.
      But, we shall soldier on anyway and look at ...

"the lost Civilization of -


      As with everything else in this series, we'll look at the subject, and not look at the subject, and judge a couple of other underwater cities that have been found here and there that probably aren't the right one, one is off India and the other was found near the coast of Yonaguni Jima, Japan (the last stop before Taiwan), neither of which 'should be there' according to mainstream scientific theory about civilization and sea level. We'll stop for a time and ponder some Greek myths, and then take a scenic drive around the ruined island of Santorini (Thira / Thera) which the Minoan civilization called home until a volcano had other ideas. Along the way we'll check in with the Sleeping Prophet and listen to the theme song of a canceled science fiction show.
      And then, in the end, we'll come to some sort of conclusion. At least that's the plan.

"I never did anything worth doing by accident, nor did any of my inventions come by accident; they came by work."
Plato (427 -347 +/-)

      Which brings up our first point, who was Plato?

      First off, he appears to have been a real person, a man of Athens, as it were, born to an aristocratic family, well educated, and fairly famous in his own time, to the point of being invited to join a junta called the Oligarchy of the Thirty installed by the Spartans to run Athens after it lost the Peloponnesian War. Fortunately for us, he declined the offer. Later the atrocities committed by the Thirty in just a year had a profound impact on Plato and may have colored his later retelling of a certain history which we'll get to in a bit.
      Plato is best known as our primary source for what we know about his mentor, Socrates. Plato in turn was a teacher of Aristotle, who when considered with Pythagoras, who preceded Socrates, and with Eucleides (Euclid) thrown in to complete the starting lineup, form the basis for what we know as the world of classical philosophy.
      We know for certain that Plato did write a number of the Dialogues which now bear his name. However, there is also some suspicion about others, several have been corrupted by either age or neglect, others were rewritten later by lesser men, and so on. There are also several, for example the somewhat odd and very short work, The Rival Lovers which either was written by somebody else, perhaps a student, and then ascribed to Plato, or was an incomplete manuscript by him that was then rewritten later and included in the Plato canon as authentic.
      Even if the works that are under serious question are removed, his body of work is still enormous and remarkable in its scope of subjects dealing with knowledge, politics, business and almost everything else humans do.

"Man - a being in search of meaning. " - Plato

      From this far out it is easy to see the Eastern influence on Plato's overall view of humanity and our role in the world and the universe at large. For one, he definitely believed in reincarnation, and thought that the life of a philosopher was the final stage on the long road the soul took to its final perfection. Well, of course he would, he was a philosopher. Perhaps he would have thought differently if he had been born into a family of bakers or goat herders.
      Whether or not Plato traveled abroad in his youth beyond the various athletic contests at which he excelled isn't clear. However, it is known that Plato's wealthy and influential father was able to give his son the best education money could buy, some of which probably came in from the East along the extensive Athenian trade routes, which Plato by all accounts soaked up like a sponge. As to whether Plato was the youngest child of the family, the jury, after 2400 years or so, is still out.
      It was only later on in his life that he became a student of Socrates, even though he may have known the older philosopher his whole life. And it was after the man was condemned to death after the overthrow of the Oligarchy and the restoration of Democracy in Athens that that Plato gave up on politics and spent the rest of his life writing and teaching.

      It may have been in that education that Plato had heard the story of the ancient kingdom in the sea, or perhaps it was a story told by some of his grandparents who may have been of various royal households. It appears that he was the first to associate the name of the ocean named "Atlas's Sea" (where the god stood to hold up the heavens), with the mysterious lost civilization and its island in the midst of the Atlantic. Maybe he read a manuscript from Solon (who had reportedly been to Thebes and seen the engravings we'll come to when we get there), or one of the other ancient writers and got the idea there. Some of those old timers have been proven out to have relayed stories that were built on a framework of reality instead of simply being tall tales and fantasy.
      Case in point:

"Some things you will think of yourself, some things God will put into your mind"
- Homer, The Odyssey (link below)
      If you wish, you can bring up one of the online map services, and find Turkey, then zoom in on the western end of the peninsula, particularly a dozen miles or so south east of the coastal city of Canakkale on the Dardanelles Strait, and find an area just west of the town of Tevfikiye and close in until you can see a large area of exposed ruins.
      Meet the ancient City of Troy.
      The town and its war that for years and years academics said were total myths and just part of a rich heritage of Greek stories. Interesting as literature, but not real places and events.
      Oh, well.
      The story of its rediscovery, and the vindication of Homer's tale, is one of the high points in history for those who gaze at "Orthodox History" with open skepticism and suspicion.
      Perchance, Atlantis is another Troy?

"And Poseidon, receiving for his lot the island of Atlantis, begat children by a mortal woman, and settled them in a part of the island..."
- Plato's dialogue: CRITIAS

      Just in the Mediterranean Sea there are two hundred, more or less, ancient cities that are now underwater. And you can add to that at least a handful that have been documented under the Black sea. These range from everything from those that can be accounted for, such as some parts of ancient Alexandria that may, in fact, include the ruins of the famous lighthouse to parts of Thera, which we mentioned before and will come back to, which had a really bad day long ago.
      Moving East from there, you encounter a huge city, some eight kilometers long by three wide (5 by 2 in miles), under thirty six meters (120 feet) of the Indian Ocean near where Lord Krishna once ruled the legendary Dwarka. (Link to BBC story below). Of course those who have an interest in denying such things have dismissed it as everything from an offshore garbage dump and a shipwreck to an out and out hoax.

      So we move on to Japan, where next to an island not far from Taiwan is the dive base for descents to the Yonaguni Pyramid or Monument. The main structure resembles a step pyramid, hence the name, where the base is under about thirty meters (100 feet) of water.
      Its detractors say that the entire building, including the passages made up of square corners that end in a series of stairs, and tightly fitted monoliths comprising tunnels and windows are all a natural formation.

      There's another one near Cuba where a dive at Cabo de San Antonio will reveal carved blocks, geometric monuments, and even streets that have a somewhat familiar feel.
      Not far away between Florida and the main islands of The Bahamas you find the Bimini road and a submerged harbor.
      And again, traditional archeologists and their ilk pronounce these stones as the natural product of coral who have spent time studying Greek Geometry.
      They point out that when sea levels were low enough that these areas were high and dry, that humans were living as wandering bands of Pleistocene hunter gatherers who were trying to survive the Ice Age.
      When the continental shelf areas around Cuba, Japan, or Taiwan were coastal instead of flooded about ten thousand years ago, humans were chasing Mammoths around with crude stone spears and axes. Not building complex metropolises with elaborate temples and public squares.


      Well, so those who have gone to State Schools in the US and the UK for the last hundred years or so have been taught. But if you look at some of the ancient Hindu books that talk about Dwarka and Krishna's battle for his city, or listen to the oral history of the Maya for that matter, you might wonder if those textbooks aren't due to be recycled.
      It wasn't until 2001 that the ancient Greek city of Helike was rediscovered along the coast of the Gulf of Corinth and all the Greek Mythology books that mentioned it as an 'old wives tale' had to edit a few paragraphs. Yes, the city had been there, and yes it had been destroyed, possibly by an earthquake caused tsunami in 373 BC, during Plato's lifetime.
      Which brings us neatly around that circle back to where Plato's story may have come from.

The Akrotiri Connection

      A hundred miles (160 Kilometers) or so due north of the city of Heraklion on Crete, in the middle of an empty spot of the Aegean Sea there is an island which resembles a backward 'C' with some spare parts hanging around it.
      This is the modern island of Santorini, or Thira, as some make it.
      It used to be pretty much a whole island, and not a broken soup bowl. That is, it was until one day somewhere along about 1630 (or so) BC. That's when much of the island itself, including its civilization that had running water in their homes, vanished in a puff of smoke as somewhere around sixty to one hundred cubic kilometers of rubble blew skyward creating a tsunami that reached every shoreline of the Mediterranean.
      The so called 'Minoan eruption' was so powerful that it is a benchmark in the way that scientists date Bronze Age cultures. The climate change brought about by the eruption caused crops to fail in China. Throughout the Northern Hemisphere ancient trees can be dated by their lack of growth rings for a couple of years around that time.
      For all practical purposes, the disruption to the region from the eruption, and then the collapse of the caldera that gave the island the shape we see today, including massive tsunamis that wiped away coastal Crete and may have also damage areas as far away as mainland Italy and Malta, combined with a related series of earthquakes, effectively led to the end of the Minoan empire.

      OK, for comparison, the Mount Tambora eruption in 1815 caused the 'year without a summer'. Over 80,000 people were killed in Indonesia as a direct result of the eruption. A further 90,000 people or more died from starvation from the climatic change caused by the ash and gases pushed 50 kilometers (about 30 miles) into the atmosphere, as about 130 cubic kilometers of the mountain vanished. Snow fell in New England in June, and crop prices from China to France went through the roof.
      To be fair, the normal, regular, housekeeping types of eruptions had spewed out the normal, regular, run of the mill amount of ash and gas before and after Tambora. But it was the Super Volcano's load that tipped the scales and plunged the planet into a 'volcanic winter'.
      You can compare all of these at your leisure, and even add the smaller Krakatau eruption of 1883 to the mix, at the link below.

      And, oh, by the way. The volcano under Santorini that did the deed to the Minoans, and Tambora itself, is still active and cooking today. In fact, the center island at Santorini, visible on the satellite image, is the reforming mountain that will, one day, do it again.

      The Minoan culture was one of the most advanced for its time on the planet. As we mentioned, they had indoor plumbing, that worked! Including flushable toilets (see link below) in two and three story buildings with working shutters and light shafts to illuminate and cool interior rooms. They had an advanced civil service and governmental organization, and trade routes that covered their world and reached all the way to India and perhaps beyond. They alternated trading with Egypt and fighting them.

      The island of Thira, more or less in the heart of their territory, seemed ideal as a major shipping port, and indeed, it had everything you needed to build a spectacular city of colorful buildings. Including all of the natural stone Plato describes. All which can still be found on the exterior ring of the island.

"The stone which was used in the work they quarried from underneath the centre island, and from underneath the zones, on the outer as well as the inner side. One kind was white, another black, and a third red, and as they quarried, they at the same time hollowed out double docks, having roofs formed out of the native rock."

Plato's Dialogue: Critias Link to full text below

Enter the Egyptians.

      There is a couple of further pieces of support for the argument that Atlantis as described by Plato was somewhat closer to his home than 'beyond the Pillars of Heracles'.
      The first is from Akrotiri itself. A fresco has been unearthed in a ruined building that shows a 'map' of the city before the eruption. To make a long story short, it looked reasonably like the description of Atlantis from the book, including the ring of a canal around the city.

      The other is Keftiu as represented in tomb paintings in Thebes in Egypt that have a distinct Minoan flavor to them, including the representations of bulls, which were sacred to the islanders. And most mainstream Egyptologists agree that Keftiu was ancient Crete. And Crete was the primary seat of operations of the Minoan Empire.
      However, by the time the Egyptians called in an interior decorator to do the tombs at Thebes, about 1450 BC or so, the Minoan culture had already suffered the calamity and had been in decline for two centuries.
      So the reliefs could be a romanticized look back at a glory that was. And indeed, if the hilltop Palace at Knossos with its gleaming gypsum walls is a sample, yes, it was glorious at its height.
      And by the time Plato heard the retelling of the story, the tale was already a thousand years old, the gleaming palace, long gone.

      Let's put that time lapse in perspective here. One Thousand Years ago from, more or less today... Leif Ericson was running a sheep herding business in Newfoundland. The Song Dynasty was going great guns in China, and along the way, invents gunpowder. Skywatchers the world over record one of the brightest supernovas ever seen by man on 1 May 1006...
      Yeah, a thousand years is a long time. In most cases a human 'generation' is marked as 20 to 25 years. You do the math.

Other "Atlantis-es"

      Maya oral history talks about a great civilization that was swallowed by the sea, and we'll mention Krishna's city off the coast of India in a moment. And then there's Japan.... we'll take them one by one, starting with India and Japan and those on the wrong side of the Pillars.

      Almost every culture of any significant age talks about a city or entire country that vanished beneath the waves. Case in point the ancient Tamil legend that became Lemuria when a Western science writer needed to explain how animals in Madagascar could be similar to ones in India. Maps of the floor of the ocean reveal a substantial volcanic 'seamount' called the Kerguelen Plateau in the south central Indian Ocean around the Heard Islands near Antarctica which sank during the expansion of the Indian Ocean some twenty million years ago. Most likely, it was never above the surface even during the height of the most recent ice ages, and even if it was, it is thousands and thousands of miles from anything, and only a few degrees north of the Antarctic Circle. So if it were Atlantis, they had lousy weather.
      As far as can be told this far out, there has never been a continental sized land mass in the northern Indian Ocean. Islands, yes. Some of which may have been larger or connected to one another when sea levels were low enough to expose the other places we're talking about.
      But closer to the coast you find at least one massive town, now long submerged, that answers to the descriptions from various ancient Hindu texts as where Krishna fought his battle against rival gods to protect Dwarka. Well, the outcome for mortals when superior beings have disputes is seldom good for them, and the town was swallowed by the sea. It was found in the eighties then was confirmed as something besides a shipwreck in 2007 by an underwater survey team. Since then artifacts have been recovered, and continue to be found that point to long term occupation by a civilization that, by rights, shouldn't be there given the time frame when the area was open to the sky, which we'll come back to.
      Mainstream archeology's response to the discoveries and the reliable dating of the objects?

      When we come to Japan, at least going back as far as we're talking about, you also have to include some aspects of stories from the mainland of China and Korea. And they are thick with legends about cities lost beneath the waves. Voyages to discover mysterious island strongholds full of ancient treasure, medicine, and even technology.
      One of those stories revolves around the Lu-Chu islands, in the vicinity of the Yonaguni structure we've mentioned, and the infamous undersea 'Red Walls' of Taiwan as well on the other side of the larger island.

      There are submerged cities, and semi-submerged cities, and inundated cities all through the area between Asia and Australia and in that extended region. Some have been on TV, with, of course, open speculation about links to Atlantis, and some have yet to have their 'fifteen minutes'.
      One of the ones most usually talked about is the city of Nan Madol which is off, and on, and part of, the coast of the island of Pohnpei in Micronesia. How old is the original town? Who knows? It is generally accepted that people moved onto the islands some two thousand years ago, but to go back further than that you may need a set of swim fins.

      And Now Comes The Maya.

      Finding an accurate record of the various uncontaminated Maya/Aztec/Inca legends is almost impossible. Many of those so recorded have been 'fictionalize' to the point of fantasy, such as the seventeenth century novel El Carnero by Juan Rodríguez Freyle that recounts the possible origin of the famed city of gold, El Dorado.
      However, there are hints that all of them and especially the Maya talked about an old city now out in the sea. And it came complete with the usual assortment of wonders and riches.
      Which adds an interesting kink to the works. Perhaps, the 'city of gold', either one actual town or maybe seven or even more, depending on which legend you're talking about, that the Spanish were after had suffered a terminal case of an extremely high water table and was now at the bottom of the Gulf.
      And remember, the Maya and the others were fairly new in the region. The Olmecs go back a lot further than them in the north, and there was a civilization called the Chavin in South America that predate the Inca by a good bit. And there is some archeological evidence to indicate that they weren't even the earliest civilization On the continent. Or in the case of what we're talking about, 'offshore'.

When was Off-shore actually On-shore?

      It depends on where and when you are talking about. In general, something like in the middle of the last ice age, more or less ten thousand years ago, general mean sea level was about a hundred meters lower than today. More or less. About.
      Which means that much of the area offshore of our modern coast, along the Continental Shelf would have been either high and dry, or swampy and dotted with small islands. Much like the natural coastline is today.
      Just as when the various academics talk about the world during the time of the dinosaurs and how sea level was a hundred meters higher than it is today, which meant that places like Saint Louis had waves lapping at them.

      For Dwarka, it is probable that the town was 'Dwarka by the Sea' instead of '- in the Sea' for perhaps a couple of thousand years between nine and twelve thousand years ago, depending on how you run the dates for the height of the last ice age.

      In any case, the point is that the current shoreline we are familiar with is only where it is now because that's where it is now. Over the millennia it has moved up and down, sometimes dramatically over a short period of time, and not always exactly the same all over the planet.
      For a NON-man made example of this phenomenon that cannot be denied except by the most ardent 'steady stater' see the link below labeled "Bermuda underwater caves", or go do a search of your own for something like Chandelier Cave on Palau in the Pacific, or one of several sites in Mexico. Or, go there, whatever your checkbook will allow.

"The Sleeping Prophet" and Others.

      Now's a good time for a musical interlude.
      Right? Well, why not?
      The first link below is to the theme music for the show Stargate Atlantis where the premise is right up the alley of some of the theories out there about the ancient city and what happened to it. Except in this case, the 'Ancients' that built the fabled city didn't perish in a night of flame and smoke, they 'blasted off' and left, city and all, for another planet. Which means that the reason 'we' haven't found it yet is that... well, it isn't around here anymore.
      But the main theme of the show is a great piece of heroic science fiction music and will make a nice counterpoint to the next section. So, go start it and then continue on.

      Edgar Cayce is an interesting character, and his insights cannot be easily explained other than over his twenty year professional career he said so much about so many different topics that some of the ten thousand (or more) predictions had to be true. Just as with the carpet bombing raids of WWII by both the Allies and the German Air Force, the idea was that if you covered a big enough area, you were bound to get something important at least once in awhile.
      But then again, Cayce seemed at least somewhat obsessive about the island, and spoke extensively about it in his trance readings, some of which are available through various sources, including his "A.R.E." which is linked below.
      In spite of many who trumpet about the "Bimini Road" and related underwater structures being Atlantian, nothing else found so far in the "New World" resembles the account in Plato's works as closely as the buildings in and around Santorini and Crete.
      There is some at least passing evidence that various ancient sea faring cultures had contact with each other. So it is quite possible that the Ancient Maya knew the Minoans who were in touch with the Dwarkan's who had met the ancient Japanese, whose fishing fleet had been as far South America, which has been proven as well, and so on. And as the sea levels rose, the tales of the floundering of those cities and eventual loss of contact lead to the births of the myths from around the world.

      Other seers and prophets and visionaries and so on have weighed in on the legend ranging from the totally discredited up.
      Everybody from Nostradamus to Madam Blavatsky had something to say about the lost continent. And most seemed to be spinning something said by Plato one way or the other.
      Which brings us back to this. The only authoritative ancient source that is admittedly relaying information that was even then ancient is Plato. Well, him and the tomb wall at Thebes and that fresco under the volcanic ash of Santorini.

      So, after all of that, for the Desk's take on it?
      The only reason anybody still believes in a "Lost City of Atlantis" is because they want to.

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      "...The whole of Europe and Asia, and to which your city put an end. This power came forth out of the Atlantic Ocean, for in those days the Atlantic was navigable; and there was an island situated in front of the straits which are by you called the Pillars of Heracles; the island was larger than Libya and Asia put together, and was the way to other islands, and from these you might pass to the whole of the opposite continent which surrounded the true ocean; for this sea which is within the Straits of Heracles is only a harbour, having a narrow entrance, but that other is a real sea, and the surrounding land may be most truly called a boundless continent. Now in this island of Atlantis there was a great and wonderful empire which had rule over the whole island and several others, and over parts of the continent, and, furthermore, the men of Atlantis had subjected the parts of Libya within the columns of Heracles as far as Egypt, and of Europe as far as Tyrrhenia. ...
      "But afterwards there occurred violent earthquakes and floods; and in a single day and night of misfortune all your warlike men in a body sank into the earth, and the island of Atlantis in like manner disappeared in the depths of the sea. For which reason the sea in those parts is impassable and impenetrable, because there is a shoal of mud in the way; and this was caused by the subsidence of the island."
by Plato, written about 360 BC
translated by Benjamin Jowett
New York, C. Scribner's Sons, (1871)
      "...And Poseidon, receiving for his lot the island of Atlantis, begat children by a mortal woman, and settled them in a part of the island, which I will describe. Looking towards the sea, but in the centre of the whole island, there was a plain which is said to have been the fairest of all plains and very fertile. Near the plain again, and also in the centre of the island at a distance of about fifty stadia, there was a mountain not very high on any side.
      In this mountain there dwelt one of the earth born primeval men of that country, whose name was Evenor, and he had a wife named Leucippe, and they had an only daughter who was called Cleito. ...
      "There were many special laws affecting the several kings inscribed about the temples, but the most important was the following: They were not to take up arms against one another, and they were all to come to the rescue if anyone in any of their cities attempted to overthrow the royal house; like their ancestors, they were to deliberate in common about war and other matters, giving the supremacy to the descendants of Atlas. And the king was not to have the power of life and death over any of his kinsmen unless he had the assent of the majority of the ten."

      Such was the vast power which the god settled in the lost island of Atlantis.

by Plato written about 360 BC
translated by Benjamin Jowett
New York, C. Scribner's Sons, (1871)
Related Desk Articles:

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[NOTE: All listed archeological sites, relics, ancient civilizations, countries, gods, and whateveritis's, are owned by other entities. No disparagement or disrespect is intended. No endorsement of the Desk of them, or by them of the Desk is to be inferred. The author has never been to Atlantis, nor does it plan on going there anytime soon as its SCUBA certification is long expired.
      The Desk is solely responsible for the analysis and conclusions hereby presented. If the reader has any issues with anything in the article they may contact the Desk through the usual channels.
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