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Mainstream Science & it's Resistance to an Alternate History

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Author Topic: Mainstream Science & it's Resistance to an Alternate History  (Read 894 times)
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« on: June 16, 2007, 08:53:31 pm »

Hello again to everyone. I collect documentaries on ancient history, read all I can find on the topic. It seems to me not only plausible, but very likely that we are missing millions of episodes about our past. Millions would actually be an understatement.

Most documentaries I see on this topic are quiet bland. They'll pay homage to the various Atlantis theories then settle on the idea they like best at the end. It's often bland material, never as up to date as the actual research is, and usually performed with an agenda: either to link Crete, Santorini with the idea of Atlantis or that Plato made the whole thing up. Fine, if they have to opinion. I'm a realist and know that only concrete evidence will prove otherwise (although according to polls, most people already believe that Atlantis existed, uninformed naives they must be  ).

The documentary, "Atlantis Uncovered," is of a different fare, though. Produced by the BBC, it's theme actually seems to be that people who believe in Atlantis are actually racists for believing in it. I don't believe that (I'm certainly not one), and I don't believe I met anyone in my time here that could be called one as well.

If people aren't mad at this accusation, they had better be.

Science has every right to demand proof before it labels something a "discover," and rewreites the history books. What it has no right to do is to stereotype people like those of us here for searching for events they may bave lost, let alone casting rocks at our motives.

But I digress, let's get into what I'm mad about:
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"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 called the Pillars of Heracles; the island was larger than Libya and Asia put together..."

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« Reply #1 on: June 16, 2007, 08:57:49 pm »

Prehistory 'paradigm-shift' Debate

The long-running controversy over whether civilisation developed independantly in various locations around the world, or whether it developed in one place and spread throughout the world from there, is getting increasingly heated. As amateur and professional archæologists alike discover artifacts, monuments, and odd structures both on land and under the sea which do not fit in with the current model of prehistory as taught in our schools and universities, the apologists for the 'standard paradigm' are becoming ever more hysterically defensive, it seems.

Whilst on the other end of the spectrum, increasingly gullible millions are lapping up the nonsense of those who seem to feel that everyone in authority in Egypt is deliberately 'spoiling' their fun by 'preventing THEM' from revealing the truth that the Giza monuments hold the secrets of a 'Lost Civilisation' in prehistoric times. In particular the Director of the Giza Pyramids, Zahi Hawass, has come in for some pretty harsh criticism from the ever-growing exponents of the "Giza Conspiracy" theory, and he has recently commented on the problems caused by some of the so-called 'New-Age Egyptologists'. The belief amongst these 'researchers' is that the Great Pyramid of Khufu, and the Great Sphinx, hold the secrets of Atlantis.

Dirty tricks abound, and in apparent unholy alliance with certain elements in the world's media, this could not have been more evident than in the 1999 two-part BBC "Horizon" programme purporting to give the advocates of Atlantis, and the existence of a lost civilisation, a fair and honest hearing.

Entitled "Atlantis Uncovered", Part I, broadcast in Wales, Scotland, England and the North of Ireland, on Thursday, November 28th 1999, began quite sensibly by outlining the existence of pyramid structures on both sides of the Atlantic ocean, in Egypt and Mesoamerica. Unfortunately, it then went on to detail the work of various archæologists and prehistorians in a manner that had been selectively edited to destroy the credibility of almost everyone who has investigated the many archæological anomalies that exist all over the world.

To the amazement and disgust of many of the viewers - some well informed archæologically, others innocently curious about the mysteries of the past - the programme deteriorated into a dangerous farce that, despite Feder disclaiming as much, still left many viewers with the impression that even those simply 'interested' in the many myths and legends about Atlantis were on a 'slippery slope' leading to neo-nazi fascism, genocide and holocaust.

The following comments are quoted verbatim from the programme, and will give a good idea of the apparent 'hidden agenda' that the BBC production team seems to have kept from many of those they interviewed for the programme. The narrator was Dilly Barlow, who, after asking the opinions of a number of archæologists about Atlantis, and receiving responses such as "preposterous", "misleading", "insideous", "garbage", "and you could summarise it by saying codswallop", attempted her own summing-up.

Barlow: "But in spite of all the evidence the lure of a lost civilisation is more powerful than ever."

It then cut to a computer-enhanced scene of people apparently 'floating' up the sides of a Mesoamerican pyramid.

Barlow: "Every year crowds flock to ancient sites in search of lost wisdom. Science continues to be ignored by a public yearning for the romance of a more mysterious past. Should this be dismissed as harmless fantasy? History has shown that fantasies about the past can lead to disaster."

It then cut to archæologist, Prof. Colin Renfrew, who was sat in front of an impressive building, presumably at Cambridge University, and apparently staged to add credibility to the mischief the BBC "Horizon" team then either allowed, or encouraged, him to pour upon those whose views on prehistory differ from his own:

Renfrew: "It is dangerous when people have myths about their own past which have no foundation in reality. We've seen myths of that kind in our own time have tragic consequences. The National Socialists in Germany - the Nazis - had the notion of Aryan supremacy, and the Holocaust was built on pernicious myths of that kind."

On it's own not a truer word about the Nazis could ever have been spoken. But in the context of the vested interests archæologists like Colin Renfrew have in perpetuating the incomplete picture of prehistory we are still being fed in our schools and colleges, his comments took on a pernicious slant of their own. Outrageously, the next scene cut to original colour archive footage of goose-stepping Nazis singing and marching with Swastika banners.

Barlow: "The Nazi idea of an Aryan elite is well documented. What is less well known is that prominent Nazis believed that the 'master race' originated in Atlantis. One of the most passionate believers was Heinrich Himmler, head of the SS. Himmler directed German scientists to seek the descendants of the Aryan super-race in places from the Andes to Tibet."

From here it cut to monochrome archive footage of a blond-haired man measuring the head of a Tibetan woman.

Barlow: "They scrutinised the physical features of the natives in search of any shred of evidence to support Himmler's notion that his Aryan ancestors - the Atlanteans - had lived there. These claims to an ancestral heritage in Atlantis fed the Nazi's belief in the supremacy of an Aryan master-race."

The programme then cut to archæologist, Dr. Ken Feder, of the Central Connecticut State University, for an appropriate comment to end the programme with.

Feder: "When we come to something like the lost continent of Atlantis we are better off knowing that civilisations developed more or less independently - just so nobody can say 'some people are better than others, some are smarter than others'. Because we know what happens down the line when we believe that. So I'm not going to tell you that belief in Atlantis is necessarily the first step to genocide or holocaust. But what I'm telling you is we're on a very slippery slope if we believe in fantasies, and that those fantasies lead us down to places we really don't want to go."

As the credits rolled up the screen from the bottom, a male narrator voiced-over:

"Next week, in the second of this two-part 'special', Horizon examines the controversial theory of best-selling author, Graham Hancock, which is challenging mainstream archaeology."
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"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 called the Pillars of Heracles; the island was larger than Libya and Asia put together..."
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« Reply #2 on: June 16, 2007, 08:58:59 pm »

A transcript of the program, for those interested:

Atlantis Uncovered
BBC Two 9.30pm 28 October 1999

NARRATOR (DILLY BARLOW): There is a theory that the origins of civilisation lie at the bottom of the ocean; that there was once a great kingdom called Atlantis, home to an advanced and sophisticated society. The story goes that it perished in a flood around 12,000 years ago, but a few survivors escaped in ships and brought civilisation to the primitive peoples around the world. Atlantis is one of the most popular, yet controversial, ideas of the age. Could it possible be true? Beneath the thick canopy of the Guatemalan jungle lies a place of tantalising mystery. When scientists first flew over these peaks 60 years ago they thought they were the tops of volcanoes. They turned out to be the pyramids of an ancient, lost city. They called the city Nakbe.

DR. RICHARD HANSEN (University of California, Los Angeles): I could see Nakbe on the horizon and I knew that it needed to be investigated because of the implications that it had for the development of civilisation. What were the processes that led a simple hunting and gathering group to a great and magnificent ancient civilisation? I felt like it was necessary to get to Nakbe and understand that.

NARRATOR: This is a place that might solve the greatest mystery of our past: how did humans rise from barbarity to civilisation? It's the question that drives archaeology.

RICHARD HANSEN: This is a fabulous site. It's a wonderful opportunity to view the human process in action through an ancient window.

NARRATOR: Most archaeologists believe civilisation did not come from Atlantis, but if they dig deep enough at places like Nakbe perhaps they'll find they're wrong. Archaeologists have been discovering lost cities like Nakbe since the first Europeans went in search of colonies abroad. All over the world in places that were totally unconnected they stumbled upon the spectacular remains of ancient societies. The locals often knew nothing about the people who'd built these monuments.

DR. KEN FEDER (Central Connecticut State University): Archaeology was conducted largely by adventurers and rogues who went out to some horrible place in the middle of nowhere and discovered some ancient kingdom or lost civilisation and after all, if you have people finding forgotten tombs in Ancient Egypt and people finding lost civilisations in the middle of the tropical rainforest of Mexico, it certainly must have peaked people's curiosity at the time.

NARRATOR: The ancient world they discovered was full of impossible coincidences. Of all the structures they could have built ancient civilisations on both sides of the Atlantic chose to build pyramids. Of all the ways of disposing of their dead they had mummified them. Instead of alphabets they had written in strange pictures - hieroglyphs. Archaeologists had no way of dating most of these wonders. To many it seemed inconceivable that these similar societies could have evolved separately. It was logical to think they'd all started as one unique culture that spread, but others disagreed.

PROF. COLIN RENFREW (University of Cambridge): There really was a dilemma as to whether human civilisation had a single origin or whether in fact complex society (civilisation) is something that happened independently in Egypt, in China, in Meso-America, in a whole series of places and that really was a hotly debated dilemma.

NARRATOR: One solution to this dilemma emerged from the depths of mythology. It was Plato who first wrote of a super-civilisation - Atlantis - lost in a flood long ago. After Plato, the story was forgotten for 2,000 years, but in 1882 the myth of Atlantis was resurrected by one man: Ignatius Donnelly. He argued that while the rest of the world lived in Stone Age barbarity one group of people began to think differently. They alone embarked on the road to civilisation in their homeland: Atlantis. Instead of hunting and gathering food to survive, the Atlantians thought of farming. Over time, they developed into a complex society. They learned astronomy and evolved religion, writing, monuments and art - the key developments of civilisation. Donnelly argued that it was impossible that more than one group of people could have evolved in this particular way.

KEN FEDER: So in Donnelly's mind Atlantis is the source of all civilisation and that from the shores of Atlantis boats went in all directions bringing civilisation to Mexico, South America, Egypt and Mesopotamia. Those cultures all are the remnant of the once great and proud civilisation of Atlantis which was right in-between them.

NARRATOR: The Atlantis theory made perfect sense. Its tremendous popularity endures today. Ken Feder has found that in a typical year 4 out of 5 of his new archaeology students believe that Atlantis might really have existed. The idea is so pervasive that part of Feder's course is to put it to the test.

KEN FEDER: There are pyramids in Egypt, there are pyramids in Mexico. Pyramids in Egypt, pyramids in Meso-America, they must have a single common source. What's the source? Atlantis. In the Old World, writing systems developed based on hieroglyphs, Egyptian hieroglyphs. In the New World the Maya wrote in hieroglyphs. Hieroglyphs the west side of the Atlantic, hieroglyphs on the east side of the Atlantic. Coincidence? You're Ignatius Donnelly, you don't think so. There must have been a common source. Where's the common source? Halfway between - Atlantis.

NARRATOR: Since Donnelly the flood of interest in Atlantis has never abated. A century later it's been the subject of over 2,000 books and scores of expeditions to seek the sunken kingdom. The archaeologists' verdict?

ARCHAEOLOGIST: Preposterous.




COLIN RENFREW: And you could summarise it by saying a loads of codswallop.

NARRATOR: Archaeologists revile Atlantis. Why do they reject what seems a logical theory of how civilisation began? There are many reasons. One lies in a revolution in archaeology that began back in the 50s. The invention of carbon dating changed our view of the past forever. For the first time scientists could tell the age of a site by chemically testing samples. When the great, ancient sites around the world were dated the results were shocking. They'd been built thousands of years apart. This was a real blow to any thought that there was a single source for all civilisation.

COLIN RENFREW: The radiocarbon dates absolutely didn't bear it out at all and then it turned out that the reason they didn't conform was that the basic storyline was plain wrong, so it was a very significant change.

NARRATOR: Archaeologists now came to believe civilisation had been developed independently by many different peoples, but no everyone was convinced.


NARRATOR: Despite all the evidence, Atlantis grew even more popular. The myth has been endlessly reinvented to explain the mysterious similarities between the ancient cultures. Erich von Däniken famously claimed the lost civilisation came from outer space.

ERICH VON DÄNIKEN: I tried to prove that this planet has been visited by beings from outer space several times in antiquity. They made with our forefathers a kind of artificial mutation and finally these wizards from outer space have gone into archaeological artefacts.

NARRATOR: Chariots of the Gods sold more than 11 million copies, but scientists were horrified.

DR CARL SAGAN: If you think of these claims, if only they were true, they would be amazingly interesting; that we have been visited by beings from elsewhere who not only have created our civilisation for us, but mated with human beings that, in my view, are much more likely to successfully mate with a petunia than an extraterrestrial.

NARRATOR: Today the myth is so powerful that it continues to challenge conventional science. The latest exponent, Graham Hancock, doesn't call it Atlantis, but he, too, puts the case for a lost civilisation around 12,000 years ago.

GRAHAM HANCOCK (from Newsnight 1998): It's perfectly possible, it's not loony, it's reasonable, it's rational, it's balanced to propose that we could have lost an episode of human history at that time, and that's what the entire mythical testimony of the world says, and the Atlantis story is just one part of a very broad tradition.

NARRATOR: The theory remains strangely irresistible. If it were true it would mean that science has really got it wrong. The whole of human history would have to be rewritten. Excavating American Indian sites in New England, Ken Feder has become an expert in recognising the kind of evidence that will prove whether or not Atlantis was the source of all civilisation.

KEN FEDER: All this rock, as long as you cut it along a straight line, it will break along that straight line as you quarry. What we want to do is to see how many of the stones...

NARRATOR: He can spot the telltale signs of a long, uninterrupted development of a native culture over thousands of years, or the clues to a sudden arrival of strangers, like Atlantians, from elsewhere.

KEN FEDER: There's one thing that an archaeologists knows, wherever people go they leave behind a mess. In this area, for example, there's a long, long sequence of ceramic manufacture by local people, by the native people. They develop pottery. They made pottery that looked like this. It's very thick walled, there's a lot of grit added to the clay. We find this over the course of 3,000 years here in southern New England and we recognise this as locally made pottery. When we look at a site like this, we suddenly find a completely different style, a different kind of ceramic, glazed, painted with a print on it, there's writing on it, we even know who made this material because it's got the name on it. We can trace that name to the potter in England. There's no intermediate step between this local pottery and this pottery, there's no sequence of development. It's abundantly clear we have a new culture and new people moving in.

NARRATOR: The English pottery marked the moment when foreigners arrived in this part of America. The test is the same for the hallmarks of ancient civilisation, like pyramids or writing. If they were brought by an Atlantian super-race they should appear suddenly superimposed on Stone Age life with no precursors, but if the local people created them there should be slow steps of development over thousands of years. When archaeologists study the greatest symbols of civilisation what do they find? The pyramids of Egypt were built as tombs for the Pharaohs. Most celebrated are those at Giza, built around 2,500BC, but these are not the first. What came before was puzzling. At Dahshur are two earlier pyramids, one of them so misshapen it's known as the Bent Pyramid.

DR TOBY WILKINSON (University of Cambridge): Both these pyramids were built by one King, by King Sneferu and he came to this site and started on the pyramid behind us called the Bent Pyramid. As his masons were working up the pyramid they discovered that in fact there were certain structural problems. The desert surface here is very unstable. They'd also been very slapdash about how they put the blocks together and so the structure started to subside and it was decided then at that point to start a new pyramid, which we call the Red Pyramid, to the north.

NARRATOR: Sneferu's builders didn't seem to know what they were doing.

TOBY WILKINSON: We can actually tell why King Sneferu's builders ran into problems here, if we look at the state of these blocks. They were using very poor quality mortar and they were setting the core blocks in a very haphazard way and we know that they learnt their lessons because when they started to build the Red Pyramid they used better quality mortar, they set the blocks more carefully and they founded the pyramid on a foundation of limestone to give it extra structural rigidity.

NARRATOR: If these pyramids were the work of Atlantians they must have been dodgy builders, but Egyptologists have another explanation. They see the Bent Pyramid as clear evidence of the Egyptians learning to build through a process of trial and error, and there are pyramids even older than the Bent Pyramid. The step pyramid at Saqqara is a smaller and simpler structure. A whole century before Giza, the first of many steps towards perfection.

TOBY WILKINSON: It's certainly true that pyramids do evolve and one can trace the evolution of them through the step pyramid and finally to the true pyramids that we see behind us. They didn't appear fully-fledged overnight.

NARRATOR: But if the Atlantians didn't bring the art of pyramid building, how did the idea begin? Archaeologists believe the answer lies 250 miles south along the Nile, in a place more mysterious still: Abydos, the ancient capital of Egypt. Gunter Dreyer has spent the last 20 years excavating at Abydos. Hidden away in the desert, this seemed an unpromising place to look for the origins of the great pyramids.

DR GUNTER DREYER (German Archaeological Institute, Cairo): At the beginning it was a little bit a risk. We didn't know what we might find. In archaeology you try. You may suppose things, but better try and look.

NARRATOR: When Dreyer began to excavate he came upon something unexpected, something more than 600 years older than Giza.

GUNTER DREYER: The first trial trench we came upon a very large tomb, very large tomb indeed, of a size we never expected for that period. When we dug and the first wall came out we had the tomb there and then another chamber beside the first one, and another, and another. It didn't stop.

NARRATOR: An underground tomb with chambers that had once been full of treasure. A simple version of what lies below the pyramids. This was proof of a tradition stretching back centuries. Dreyer has now excavated hundreds of tombs at Abydos. They began with simple pits in the ground and slowly progressed to great underground monuments.

GUNTER DREYER: So from the very first tombs of that size it developed over 1,000 years to that size and the next step to the pyramids is not a bigger one than those we have seen before.

NARRATOR: Other teams at Abydos excavated monuments built above ground. Compared to the pyramid sites they showed remarkable similarities. The same bricks laid in the same way to build the same style of walls with doorways in the same positions. Abydos had revealed a thousand year record of incremental steps leading towards the pyramids, the mark of a gradual, local development. There was no trace of Atlantis. But these revelations don't explain the mystery at the heart of the Atlantian argument: the strange coincidence that pyramids were also built on the other side of the Atlantic. Central America is teeming with pyramids, those of the Toltec, the Aztec, Teotihuacan and most renowned of all, the Maya. Who had built all these pyramids and were they connected to the ones in Egypt? The only way to find out was to discover their origins. The lost city of Nakbe is one of the earliest sites of the Maya. It dates from a thousand years before the peak of Mayan civilisation. Richard Hansen blazed a trail to Nakbe through the jungle. In 12 years of excavations Hansen has left no stone unturned. He has traced Nakbe back to an original, primitive settlement of wooden houses, but around 800BC life began slowly to develop.

RICHARD HANSEN: As they gained in wealth and in status they begin to increase the size and scale of their houses and they begin to quarry stone, rather crudely, I mean in a primitive fashion begin to extract stones of fairly modest size, stones this shape and stack them in small constructions. They get larger and larger and larger until between 600 and 400BC they are extracting stones of extraordinary size and dimension. These stones were up to a metre long and half a metre high and half a metre thick.

NARRATOR: What Hansen has uncovered is a native tradition that grew from small stones to complex constructions over 6 centuries. Some of these ruined pyramids are among the first monuments of the Maya.

RICHARD HANSEN: You've got monumental architecture up to 72 metres in height, we have elaborate platforms, causeways, terraces, the entire trappings of complex society is developed by this period of time.

NARRATOR: In all his years of excavation Hansen has found no traces of Atlantians and no mysterious connection to the pyramids of Egypt.

RICHARD HANSEN: This building is radically different from Egyptian pyramids. These structures served as religious temples. There were stairways going to the summit, there were rituals performed at the top. This is all part of a long tradition of architectural development and a long tradition of intense religious belief.

NARRATOR: It took centuries more for the Maya to perfect their technique. But the Maya are only part of the Meso-American story. Standing alone in the Oaxaca Valley in southern Mexico is a place even more revealing than Nakbe: Monte Alban. The first archaeologists who came here couldn't tell who had built it. When the site was carbon dated the result was a shock. These pyramids were the oldest in the Americas, older even than the first Mayan monuments of this scale. What mysterious people had built them? The only way to find the answer was to dig throughout the valley for clues. This work is still going on.

GARY FEINMAN: ...use anything that's in the corner of this wall...

NARRATOR: Gary and Linda Feinman are uncovering a new site - El Palmillo.

GARY FEINMAN: ...there's a second pot underneath, but that also appears to be broken.

LINDA FEINMAN (Field Museum, Chicago): We've had many faces of occupation up here where we have a wall and then we have another house foundation that was placed over that wall and then a plaster floor that was put over that later and in several areas we've got 3 or 4 levels of houses.

NARRATOR: Layer after painstaking layer throughout the valley archaeologists have sought the answer to the mystery of Monte Alban.

LINDA FEINMAN: It's been fascinating, it's been a surprise every day. As soon as we started it was always oh look at this, here's another wall, oh, oh look at this, I've got plaster, oh look at this, that we've got, I've got a, a burial.

MAN: Gary, we've got another offering here. It's like peat. It looks like carnivore teeth.

LINDA FEINMAN: That's real.

MAN: Oh boy.

LINDA: What's that down there, maybe that is a jaw.

MAN: It might be, he might have been buried with a dog.

LINDA: I think there's a dog in here... Oh my. Yeah, yeah that's a dog.

MAN: That's a dog.

MAN: That's a dog.

NARRATOR: Little by little, archaeologists throughout the valley have revealed no less than the birth of a new civilisation: the Zapotec, who evolved as gradually and as independently as did the Maya.

DR. GARY FEINMAN (Field Museum, Chicago): Well what we see here is a lot of signs of continuity in terms of how people built their houses, how people buried their dead and these things bear continuities to patterns that we see back to the earliest occupations at Monte Alban and sometimes even before.

NARRATOR: Archaeology has revealed the startling fact that in one small corner of the world the long road to a similar monument building society was taken by at least two different groups of people independently, proof that it could have happened all over the world again and again. There's a simple reason why so many ancient peoples built pyramids. Before engineers had invented the dome, the spire or structural steel a sloping pile was the only high structure you could build. If you wanted a high showy monument when all there was to build with was heavy stone it had to be a pyramid. It didn't take a master race from Atlantis to work it out.

KEN FEDER: So let's cross off pyramids. Pyramids don't make a very good argument for Ignatius Donnelly's claim that there's a common source in the middle of the Atlantic. Well what about writing? I mean that's a very sophisticated technology. Well we do have writing on both sides of the Atlantic, so does that mean there's a common source for the writing? Well again one would think that if there's a common source for the writing then the writing on either side of the Atlantic would be the same, even identical. It's coming from the same place - Atlantis.

NARRATOR: Writing is one of the greatest steps along the road to civilisation. Could it have come from Atlantis? Had Atlantian scribes brought writing to Egypt it should appear suddenly, a perfectly formed, complex system handed out to people who had no writing of their own. In Donnelly's day this was a convincing idea. In every tomb and every temple the hieroglyphs seemed equally elaborate. But at Abydos, Gunter Dreyer made an extraordinary discovery. In the first early tomb he found here, centuries older than the first known hieroglyphs, was scores of little labels with symbols. They were baffling.

GUNTER DREYER: We found about 160 of these little labels, most of them in one chamber on the floor. At the beginning we didn't understand what might be the meaning of these little labels. They have holes so they must have been fixed to something. Some show numbers so probably they indicated sizes or amounts, but those were the animal signs made no sense in the beginning, but when we tried to read them like hieroglyphs suddenly they made sense. Not all of them at the very beginning, but step by step we understood more and more of it.

NARRATOR: To Dreyer the symbols made no sense just as pictures. But when he read them according to the rules of later hieroglyphs their meaning fell into place. They were a simple system of record keeping: how much oil was in a jar or where a gift had come from. Dreyer had found the earliest known writing in Egypt. In later tombs he found more and more complex inscriptions. Over 500 years they led all the way to a full written language. The Egyptians didn't get their 3 R's from Atlantis.

GUNTER DREYER: Finding such objects is a great pleasure for an archaeologist. It's the best discovery you can make and it's the greatest thing to change the border between pre-history and history.

NARRATOR: But what could explain the apparent similarities between the Egyptian hieroglyphs and those of the Maya - the question that had fascinated the scholars of Donnelly's day. Both used pictures instead of letters. The Maya often wrote on columns called stele, like the Egyptians. Both used symbols that looked like strange combinations of humans and animals. Could there be a connection?

KEN FEDER: We need a system in which we have symbols. These symbols we can carve, or scratch or scrape or write with ink. That's a common thread, but it's a kind...

NARRATOR: When Ken Feder focuses on the contrasts between the ancient writing systems rather than the similarities things seem rather different.

KEN FEDER: If you know Egyptian hieroglyphs can you pick up a Maya stele and read it? Absolutely not. These writing systems are not mutually intelligible, they don't share signs, they don't share even the same techniques of, of writing them down. The Inca by the way, they don't have a writing system. They had quipoo and quipoo was a series of knots, knotted strings where the knots, what the knots looked like and their position on the string that those positions in fact could be read so that there were people who knew what those strings meant, who knew what the knots meant and could read those knots. Well it's awfully peculiar. If Atlantis is the source of writing all over the world well why in the world are they giving Egyptians one kind of hieroglyphs, they're giving cuneiform writing to the folks in ancient Mesopotamia and they're let, they're teaching the Inca to knot strings. I mean is this some sort of bizarre social experiment that the Atlantians are running?

NARRATOR: And there is one final enigma. There is no symbol for Atlantis in any of these ancient writings. The first person to mention, or perhaps invent, this word is Plato over 9,000 years after Atlantis was supposed to have existed.

KEN FEDER: If Atlantis really is at, in Plato's time 9,300 years old then it is absolutely stunning that we have no references, zero, not a few, not some ambiguous ones, nothing until 9300 years after the fact, so the fact that Plato was telling us this story in 400 or 380BC and there'd been no reference to it before that is absolutely stunning.

NARRATOR: Modern archaeology has told us what Ignatius Donnelly could not know, that great achievements of ancient societies were developed gradually over millennia in different ways, in different places by different people. But the myth of a lost civilisation lives on. Science may dismiss it as nonsense, but every year scores of new books reach millions of eager new readers who believe in this radically different version of history. From Plato to Hancock there's a common element: a date that keeps being connected with the lost civilisation, a date around 12,000 years ago. What was happening in the world at this magic moment and could it really be connected with Atlantis? It's known that 12,000 years ago humans still lived in Stone Age simplicity hunting and gathering their food, but evidence now shows that around this time they took the first great step towards civilisation: they learnt to cultivate crops. What inspired this momentous leap? Did the Atlantians come ashore with their box of seeds and their blueprint for civilisation? Excavations at Abu Hureyra in the Middle East revealed the answer. Here archaeologists found a typical hunter-gatherer settlement more than 12,000 years old. These people depended on wild grains for food, but when archaeologists began to dig they found something perplexing.

GORDON HILLMAN (University College London): What we expected to find from these hunter-gatherer levels at Abu Hureyra was lots of wild cereals and these are very characteristic, were very skinny and there were plenty of them, but very soon we started to find something that didn't belong there, was a bit weird. These were whacking great fat domestic grains. They didn't belong there. These are characteristic of agriculture, cultivation of some sort and the difference was very obvious. If you look at these grains here. I have two little skinny wild types and two chunky domestic types.

NARRATOR: Gordon Hillman knew that native cereal grains as fat as these do not exist in the wild. They could only exist as the result of human intervention. It was clear that the hunter-gatherers had begun to plant crops. The mystery was: why? Hillman and his team found a clue. Just before the fat grains appeared the wild cereals began to disappear. It started with those that needed most water, but later even the hardiest cereals vanished.

GORDON HILLMAN: What we seemed to have was a drought setting in that was knocking one food plant after the other, going forever more drought-resistant species. This changed our perspective of what was going on dramatically.

NARRATOR: Checked against known climatological data Hillman's evidence suddenly made sense. Fluctuations in the climate around this time plunged the whole area into drought. In a desperate bid to avoid starvation the hunter- gatherers discovered how to plant native grasses for food. Their efforts led to the first domesticated wheat and barley.

DAVID HARRIS (University College London): So that there came a point when most of these communities really had no option. They were into agriculture, they were stuck with it, whether they liked it or not and the rest, as they say, is history.

NARRATOR: But this could not explain the onset of farming on the other side of the world. If archaeologists could show it happened independently more than once it would destroy the Atlantian explanation. In seeking to reveal the origins of the Zapotec, archaeologists set out to find the first farmers in the Oaxaca Valley.

GARY FEINMAN: We knew that agricultural villages were established in the valley by 1500BC but how did that agriculture come about? That was a big question.

NARRATOR: The obvious place to look for clues was in the mountains where hunter-gatherers had lived. The people here had faced a perennial problem. A life of foraging high in the mountains where water was a long way off. When archaeologists studied the plant remains in this cave they found evidence of an ingenious solution. The hunter-gatherers had learnt to plant, but the first thing they grew wasn't food. They grew bottle gourds which they used to carry water. This is the first known plant domestication in the Americas, prompted not by hunger but by practicality. It was some 6,000 years after they began planting gourds that people here finally chose to settle in villages. By that time they were growing very different foods to those of the near eastern farmers: beans, chilli and maize. Had the Atlantians brought farming to the Americas there is no reason why they wouldn't have brought the same crops as already existed in the near east.

GARY FEINMAN: You cannot say that the plants that were domesticated in the near east would not have grown or done well here in Meso-America. In fact, we know that when the Spanish came over in the 16th century what they brought with them were many of those same plants - wheat, barley and then the animals - goat, sheep, cattle - and all of these things thrived in Meso-America and you still see them today.

NARRATOR: And there were many essential tools of farming the super-race from Atlantis failed to bring. The plough and the wheel were unknown in the Americas until the Spanish brought them, just 400 years ago.

DAVID HARRIS: Well I think that it would be a brave person indeed who, who would try to sustain an argument now against the evidence that agriculture was either introduced from some mysterious source, Atlantis or outer space or whatever, or indeed was just invented once and was then spread round the world by one or more groups of people because the evidence just does not support that kind of interpretation.

NARRATOR: But in spite of all the evidence, the allure of a lost civilisation is more powerful now than ever. Every year crowds flock to ancient sites in search of lost wisdom. Science continues to be ignored by a public yearning for the romance of a more mysterious past. Should this be dismissed as harmless fantasy? History has shown that fantasies about the past can lead to disaster.

COLIN RENFREW: It is dangerous when people have myths about their own past which have no foundation in reality. We've seen myths of that kind in our own time have tragic consequences. The National Socialists in Germany, the Nazis, had the notion of Aryan supremacy and the Holocaust was built on pernicious myths of that kind.

NARRATOR: The Nazi idea of an Aryan elite is well documented. What is less well known is that prominent Nazis believed that the master race originated in Atlantis. One of the most passionate believers was Heinrich Himmler, Head of the SS. Himmler directed Germany scientists to seek the descendants of the Atlantian super-race in places from the Andes to Tibet. They scrutinised the physical features of the natives in search of any shred of evidence to support Himmler's notion that his Aryan ancestors, the Atlantians, had lived there. These claims to an ancestral heritage in Atlantis fed the Nazis belief in the supremacy of the Aryan master race.

KEN FEDER: When we come to something like the lost continent of Atlantis we are better off knowing that civilisations developed more or less independently just so nobody can say some people are better than others, some are smarter than others because we know what happens down the line when we believe that, so I'm not going to tell you that belief in Atlantis is necessarily the first step towards genocide, or Holocaust, but what I'm telling you is we are on a very slippery slope if we believe in fantasies and that those fantasies lead us down to places we really don't want to go.

VOICE: Next week in the second of this two-part special Horizon examines the controversial theory of best-selling author Graham Hancock which is challenging mainstream archaeology.

KEN FEDER: Do you believe in Atlantis?
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« Reply #3 on: June 16, 2007, 09:00:14 pm »

If you have watched as many of these as I have, the main person you'll see debunking the idea of Atlantis is Dr. Ken Feder. At first glance, Feder is am amiable oaf, on second glance, he is misinformed and agenda-driven.

Here is a sample of his arguments:

The skeptic's guide to Atlantis, Part II

By Tamar Simon, January 4, 2002

Dr. Ken Feder, Central Connecticut State University anthropology professor and premier Atlantis skeptic, likes to take issue with Atlantis theorists by chipping away at their "evidence" of Atlantis as a nation that once existed, and as the source of all civilization. (See The skeptic's guide to Atlantis, Part I) According to Feder, there are much simpler explanations for the emergence of such things as pyramids and pictorial language in ancient societies on either side of the Atlantic Ocean -- and for Plato's account of Atlantis itself.

Pyramid-building is in our power-hungry nature

Feder says that pyramids are simply another example of monumental architecture that occurs everywhere humans develop complex societies.

"Probably the earliest ones are utilitarian," he explains. "They need to build a complex irrigation system to feed a growing population, or a big wall around their settlement for protection. So they allow certain people to order the others around, in order to organize this labour."

But human nature doesn't allow the process to end there.

"What seems to happen is that once power is invested in the hands of an elite, those people are loathe to give it up when they are no longer needed to build the canals or walls," Feder says. "So the concentration of power becomes ritually sanctified: they justify their existence by saying we have helped you build these canals because the gods view us as being the right people to lead you and so we need bigger houses and big palaces or temples — or pyramids..."

Written language begins with pictures

As for the emergence of hieroglyphics in different parts of the world, Feder says you don't have to be a linguist to figure out that the first step in writing is to produce symbols that look like the concept you're trying to convey.

"The next step is, you don't have to take the time to draw 10 sheep if everyone agrees three lines that look like a sheep will represent sheep," he explains. "Those stylized images become even more stylized until you have a writing system. That's what happens everywhere but the individual pathways are different."

"Atlantis is a plot device!"

So why did Plato recount the story of Atlantis - and in such detail? Feder thinks the answer is obvious to anyone reads the Timaeus and Critais dialogues. Like any writer of fiction, Plato used realistic details that might have come from various places, including the near destruction of the Minoan civilization. But the purpose was only to lend verisimilitude and highlight his depiction of the true perfect society: ancient Athens.

"Socrates despairs that the conversation they had about a perfect society (which Plato wrote down as The Republic) is hypothetical, saying you don't get the essence of a lion from the painting of a lion," Feder points out. "So Socrates says to engage our perfect, hypothetical society in a suitable war to show how this perfection translates into reality."

According to Feder, Atlantis is merely a plot device, an incredibly sophisticated, wealthy, powerful nation that wants to dominate the entire known world — but is defeated in an enormous battle by a materially poor, technologically backward but spiritually pure society.

"[Atlantis is depicted] as a foil in such great detail that by the time they are defeated we are amazed," Feder explains. "We agree that Athens was the perfect society."

But if Atlantis is so obviously fictional, and there is no evidence to prove otherwise, why are we so attracted to the idea it did exist? Feder admits he is perplexed.

"I can't answer why people are enamoured of that idea," he sighs. "I find it frustrating because I think the stuff archeologists are finding in the ground is so incredibly fascinating that it doesn't need any window dressing. The idea that people on either side of the Atlantic could develop independently sophisticated civilizations is much more interesting than to say that a nation in the middle of the Atlantic gave them all these ideas!"
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« Reply #4 on: June 16, 2007, 09:00:59 pm »

More on Ken Feder:

Researcher Exposes Archaeological Fraud, Hoaxes

NEW BRITAIN, Conn., Oct. 31 (AScribe Newswire) -- If you're planning an expedition to search for the lost continent of Atlantis, or if you're seeking to visit foreign lands to prove that astronauts visited Earth during ancient times, you might want to speak with Kenneth L. Feder before making your travel plans.

Feder, a professor of anthropology at Central Connecticut State University, will tell you that there was no Atlantis and there were no ancient astronauts. And he will tell you in convincing fashion.

Feder is a leading authority on archaeological myths and fraud and, in fact, he's written a book on the subject, Frauds, Myths and Mysteries (McGraw-Hill Mayfield, 355 pages). First published in 1990 and now in its fourth edition, the book is widely used in college classrooms across the country. It also was recently named one of the best in its field by the readers of Skeptic magazine (, joining a list featuring the works of such well-known individuals as Carl Sagan, Isaac Asimov and Betrand Russell. The book's success has been remarkable, considering that it was initially rejected by 15 publishers.

"If it weren't for archaeological fraud no one would know my name," Feder said with a smile. Since his book was published, Feder has done interviews on archaeology fraud, myths and mysteries with the History Channel, the Learning Channel, the BBC and BBC Radio. The programs have been so popular that while visiting in France this summer, Feder was stopped by a man from Holland who recognized him from his appearances on the BBC.

Feder traces his interest in exposing archaeological fraud to the book, Chariots of the Gods? written by Swiss author Erich von Daniken. "I remember in college hearing a review of von Daniken's first book, late at night on some radio station," Feder said. "I remember thinking, 'This guy is whacked.' I read the book, and it was absolutely hilarious. That sort of inspired me to track down other things like it."

Feder's interest took on new meaning when he began teaching at Central in 1977. He was asked to develop an introductory anthropology course to attract new students to the discipline. "I was wracking my brain and then I thought, 'I bet students would be interested in this wacky stuff -- frauds and myths. Maybe that will draw kids in,'" he said. And he was right. Every year, the course, The Ancient World, is over-enrolled.

"This is a good course and it has evolved to become a course about science. My expertise is about the human past, and we focus on how scientists assess claims," Feder explained.

One problem with teaching the course was that the best book on the subject of archaeological myths went out of print in the mid-1960s. Other books were written, but they didn't quite fit Feder's purpose. That's what inspired him to write his book in which he explores a host of well-known and not-so-well-known frauds, myths and mysteries of archaeology. Included among the many topics are examinations of the Cardiff Giant, a hoax about the remains of a biblical giant discovered in New York state in 1869, and the Piltdown Man, an alleged missing-link skull found in England in 1912 that was hailed as a major discovery. The book also disputes visits by ancient space travelers and examines the origin of the story of the Lost Continent of Atlantis.

"Archaeology is blessed and cursed by being really popular," Feder said. "Most students come into my class knowing about archaeology, but the curse is that so much of the interest and excitement is generated by stuff that is just garbage."

Feder's interest in archaeology began when he was a little over three years old. "I wanted to grow up and be a dinosaur. When I figured out I couldn't be a dinosaur, I decided to be a guy who studies dinosaurs and that led to an interest in archaeology," he said.

But wasn't until his sophomore year at the State University of New York, Stony Brook that Feder became serious about his childhood obsession. During that year, he took an anthropology course and wrote a research paper that caught the attention of a graduate teaching student. The graduate student encouraged Feder to pursue a degree in anthropology, which Feder initially resisted until he learned that anthropology includes the study of the human past (archaeology), as well as the present. He had found his niche and eventually went on to earn his Ph.D. in anthropology from the University of Connecticut.

The decision to become a teacher was easy for Feder, because his father had been a teacher. "I'm a lot like my dad. I'm very comfortable talking to people," he said. "When I was in high school, the way I studied was that I closed the door to my room, and I would give a lecture to myself. I figured that if I could explain a topic out loud and off the top of my head, that meant that I really understood it. It's like practicing in front of a mirror. I guess I became good at it."

At Central, Feder says his goal is not to produce more archaeologists, but to get his students to think critically about the past and the world we live in. "What distinguishes us from other animals is our brain and vast intelligence. What are we going to fill it up with? I just happen to be interested in the dim mists of antiquity. All of us are fascinated by other countries. The past is a foreign country, there's a book by that title, and that's what archaeology is like. There were people who lived right here 5,000 years ago, and studying them is like visiting a foreign country.

"Archaeologists are like kids," he continued. "We get to play in the dirt and pretend to be detectives and try to figure out things about places and people who aren't here any more. We get to do that as part of our profession. What's better than that?"

Media Contact: Dean Golembeski, CSU System Public Relations, 860-493-0093 Mark McLaughlin, CCSU Public Relations, 860-832-0065
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« Reply #5 on: June 16, 2007, 09:02:03 pm »

Feder debunks the Robert Sarmast discoveries:

Archaeologist Roots Out Historical Hooey

CCSU researcher says lost city of Atlantis a myth

Published on 11/26/2004

The lost land of Atlantis has been discovered. Again.

In a press conference last week, a U.S. researcher named Robert Sarmast announced that his six-day expedition had detected evidence of man-made structures on the Mediterranean seabed off Cyprus. Not only had sonar scanners picked up the ghostly contours of walls and trenches on a rectangular landmass, he said, but these features matched the descriptions in the original account of Atlantis.

In the years before he died in 347 B.C., the Greek philosopher Plato wrote about Atlantis as a wildly advanced civilization that was wiped out in a flash 9,000 years before his time.

“We cannot yet provide tangible proof in the form of bricks and mortar, as the artifacts are still buried under several meters of sediment,” Sarmast said in an accompanying press release, “but the circumstantial and other evidence is now irrefutable.”

When he read about this declaration on the BBC's Web site, Kenneth Feder didn't even have to get out of his desk chair to dispute it.

An archaeologist who has taught at Central Connecticut State University for more than 25 years, Feder rejects Sarmast's claim and the countless others that have come before it with the same simple argument — namely, that Atlantis' only location was in the imagination of the man who first described it.

But that rationale hasn't prevented Feder from using the myth for his own purposes.

“My agenda is to use this stuff to teach what we really know about the past,” he says.

Feder, who lives in West Simsbury, focuses most of his own field work along the Farmington River, unearthing evidence of the Indians and settlers who subsisted there. But through the years, Feder has nurtured an expertise in historical hooey on the side.

First published in 1990, his book “Frauds, Myths, and Mysteries: Science and Pseudoscience in Archaeology” is about to go into its fifth edition. Last month he lectured on Atlantis at a gathering of skeptics in Italy. And he holds forth on the watery mystery in a documentary scheduled for broadcast on the National Geographic Channel program “Naked Science.”

Tucked in his stuffed campus office where the “Donner Party Cookbook” sits on a shelf below a cartoon of a pre-human Homer Simpson, Feder says he makes one demand of Atlantis enthusiasts.

“My rule is you can't even use the word Atlantis in a sentence unless you can tell me you've read Plato.”

The legend of the lost continent emerges in dialogues between Socrates and his students that Plato wrote down. The point that many people miss, Feder says, is that most of these instructive dialogues were fictional, like conversations between characters in a play.

“Atlantis is a plot device. Plato has a very specific agenda in his mind, and he needs Atlantis to prove what he's trying to say,” Feder says.

The student Critias tells his teacher the “true” story of the powerful but morally corrupt land of Atlantis, which goes to war with the weak but noble Athens. The evil empire gets whipped in battle by its worthier opponent before eventually getting swallowed in a cataclysm of floods and eruptions.

“That is the Atlantis story told by Plato,” Feder says. “It's ‘Star Wars' circa 350 B.C.”

That's the line that a producer wanted Feder to use in a documentary a few years ago. But there was a catch. Would Feder be willing to tailor his yarn to make Atlantis seem real? Or at least leave its existence open-ended?

Feder refused and soon discovered that the “documentary film” was in fact a glorified advertisement for the 2001 animated Disney movie “Atlantis: The Lost Empire.” Feder says several of his colleagues who had signed on unwittingly later watched in horror as their drastically edited words were spliced with cartoon scenes of underwater action.

But maybe that kind of appropriation explains why the legend still lingers. Severed long ago from the context that a famous Greek gave it, Atlantis becomes a ghost story, a lost treasure, a mysterious monster.

“For a lot of people, this would just be really cool if it were true,” Feder says. “It would be really cool if Bigfoot were real. I don't really know that it is or isn't, but it's cool to tell stories about it at 2 in the morning.”

The big legends wax and wane with the years. The Bermuda Triangle. Ancient astronauts. The UFO encounters at Roswell. But Feder thinks he's seen an increase in people's belief in the unbelievable.

The professor often starts new classes with a survey, asking students about their take on certain aspects of history. Twenty years ago, about 30 percent of his students said that Atlantis existed. But by 2000, almost half of the surveyed students were believers.

“I think that pattern directly reflects how many documentaries on (pseudoscientific subjects) show up on television, especially cable TV,” Feder says.

Whether the media drives public interest or vice versa, it's obvious that legends like Atlantis will always hold cultural currency.

Perhaps that's why Robert Sarmast, who gave up a career in architecture to pursue Atlantis, rushed to announce his findings to the international press instead of trying to publish them in a peer-reviewed journal, the only way to secure credibility in the scientific community.

“I'm going to assume that the guy's honest and sincere and he really thinks there's this connection,” Feder says of Sarmast. “But for anyone looking at it from the outside, there just isn't enough information.”

Interesting that, despite his efforts to prove otherwise, more people believe in Atlantis entering Feder's class now than twenty years ago. Perhaps, he's a poor spokesman for his position.

There is a pattern in Feder's arguments against the Atlantis that most here will see without anyone having to point out to him. The things he mentioned - pyramid building, Atlantis as a source for common writing - those are ideas created by Ignatius Donnelly, not Plato.

Feder suggests that his students read Plato, yet it's clear he hasn't studied him.

In fact, almost all his comments pertain to the fantasy created by Donnelly, they have nothing to do with Plato's words at all. Easier to dispute Donnelly than the very credible account told by Plato. In another interview, he refers to the account as "this little story told by Plato."
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« Reply #6 on: June 16, 2007, 09:04:19 pm »

An article putting in a plug for the book, the Atlantis Syndrome:

An article dealing with archaeology from the dark side:
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« Reply #7 on: June 16, 2007, 09:06:44 pm »

Even though this piece runs contrary to my own point of view, I found it very entertaining so I will print it in it's entirety:


Most people prefer odd stories to a reasoned and reasonable analysis. Religions are full of odd stories. There also many outside of religion. One such is Atlantis; the source, 2 dialogues of Plato. But Plato is unreliable both by his own admission and because he was taken to imitating the poets. The feud between poets and philosophers was first recorded in the saying of Empedocles (492-432 BC, from Acragas, Sicily) who accused the poets of telling monstrous lies, a fact repeated by Plato. Plato, on over 2-dozen occasions in his dialogues, imitated the poets--an example of ironic criticism. My favorite of those tales is in the Symposium, where Plato has the poet & play write Aristophanes, presenting a mythic explanation for human sexuality--not too different from the tales told by Hesiod on the ages of man. In the first age of man the a God made man four legged with two heads and two sets of sex organs, but Zeus finding them too powerful had Apollo separate them down the middle. Depending on their prior sex (male-male, male-female, or female-female), the new two-legged version had the sexual preference determined. There are several mythic tales found in the Republic, some to which he admits their purpose of making the citizens better. A combination of purposes exists for Plato's myths. Atlantis is the most famous of his mythic tales.

A good indication of a position being without merit is the dearth of experts who assume that position. Consider the Atlantis myth. Its only sources are two dialogues by Plato (below).[ii], and there is no archaelolgical support, not for the date given by Plato, 9,300 years prior. (Some suggest that the destruction of Theta in the 15th century BC gave rise to the legend).

In the Skeptic, Vol. 3, 2002, is a two page article on point. A television documentary was being done on Atlantis. The producer approached Ken Feder, of Central Connecticut State, for they wanted to interview a reputable, university anthropologist who was of the opinion that there is some sort of historical and cultural connection between Atlantis and the native civilizations of the ancient New World (Ken Feder, p. 11). But there werent any. Simply put, there is no evidence of a great civilization 11,600 years ago, neither in the New World or the Old World.

Telling of the quality of our capitalistic media is the exchange between Feder and the producer:

The producer seemed interested in my perspective but nevertheless wondered if I might be willing to tone down my skeptical musings just a bit for the camera and adopt more of a fence-sitting position about the lost continent. Of course I was unwilling to do that and I asked him what seemed to me an obvious question: "If you are doing a documentary about Atlantis, why no simply ask experts, let them express their opinions, and present those opinions honestly to the audience: Why search for a university archaeologist with a particular point of view, especially one that none of us seem to have?" His response at first mystified me.

"Well," he said, "We are doing this documentary for ABC." . . . .

And there you have it: a television program, packaged to look like a science documentary that was, in reality, a product, most decidedly not a science, but of marketing, what amounted to a infomercial for a cartoon. [The owner of ABC is Disney, which has just come out with a cartoon movie on Atlantis in the New World.]--Skeptic, supra.

The point of all this is that Atlantis is a literary product of Plato, and his Greek audience, who listened to his dialogues being read, knew this. Unfortunately the typical educated American knows less than the educated Greekthey lack both the rational skills and the concentration to follow a dialogue of Plato. And their lack of reason is demonstrated by the continued acceptance of mythic tales as factual though we live in the scientific age.


Aristophanes had his day (about 40 years before the Symposium was written): read his play Clouds (Arrowsmith has by far the best translation).

[ii] Those who make a religion of myths claim an Egyptian source for Platos tale of Atlantis. However, the Sea People in Egyptian history, turn out to bebased on the best archaeological evidenceto be Greeks from the islands. Their attempt to settle the Nile Delta was rebuffed, so they migrated to the Levant region, where they came to be known, centuries later in Hebrew lore as the Philistines. "A group of Aegean origin, the Philistines were one of the Sea Peoples who ravaged the eastern Mediterranean world subsequent to the collapse of Mycenaean civilization at the end of the Late Bronze Age." The Oxford Companion to the Bible, Oxford University Press, 1993, p. 591. This conclusion is based primarily on the poetry found at Ekron (Tel Miqne), Ashdod, and other sites, which is clearly Mycenaean. Other evidence is from burial practices, housing, and crafts.


Critias: Friend Hermocrates, you, who are stationed last and have another in front of you, have not lost heart as yet; the gravity of the situation will soon be revealed to you; meanwhile I accept your exhortations and encouragements. But besides the gods and goddesses whom you have mentioned, I would specially invoke Mnemosyne; for all the important part of my discourse is dependent on her favour, and if I can recollect and recite enough of what was said by the priests and brought hither by Solon, I doubt not that I shall satisfy the requirements of this theatre.

And now, making no more excuses, I will proceed.

Let me begin by observing first of all, that nine thousand was the sum of years which had elapsed since the war which was said to have taken place between those who dwelt outside the Pillars of Heracles and all who dwelt within them; this war I am going to describe. Of the combatants on the one side, the city of Athens was reported to have been the leader and to have fought out the war; the combatants on the other side were commanded by the kings of Atlantis, which, as was saying, was an island greater in extent than Libya and Asia, and when afterwards sunk by an earthquake, became an impassable barrier of mud to voyagers sailing from hence to any part of the ocean.

The progress of the history will unfold the various nations of barbarians and families of Hellenes which then existed, as they successively appear on the scene; but I must describe first of all Athenians of that day, and their enemies who fought with them, and then the respective powers and governments of the two kingdoms. Let us give the precedence to Athens.

In the days of old the gods had the whole earth distributed among them by allotment. There was no quarrelling; for you cannot rightly suppose that the gods did not know what was proper for each of them to have, or, knowing this, that they would seek to procure for themselves by contention that which more properly belonged to others. They all of them by just apportionment obtained what they wanted, and peopled their own districts; and when they had peopled them they tended us, their nurselings and possessions, as shepherds tend their flocks, excepting only that they did not use blows or bodily force, as shepherds do, but governed us like pilots from the stern of the vessel, which is an easy way of guiding animals, holding our souls by the rudder of persuasion according to their own pleasure;-thus did they guide all mortal creatures.

Now different gods had their allotments in different places which they set in order. Hephaestus and Athene, who were brother and sister, and sprang from the same father, having a common nature, and being united also in the love of philosophy and art, both obtained as their common portion this land, which was naturally adapted for wisdom and virtue; and there they implanted brave children of the soil, and put into their minds the order of government; their names are preserved, but their actions have disappeared by reason of the destruction of those who received the tradition, and the lapse of ages.

For when there were any survivors, as I have already said, they were men who dwelt in the mountains; and they were ignorant of the art of writing, and had heard only the names of the chiefs of the land, but very little about their actions. The names they were willing enough to give to their children; but the virtues and the laws of their predecessors, they knew only by obscure traditions; and as they themselves and their children lacked for many generations the necessaries of life, they directed their attention to the supply of their wants, and of them they conversed, to the neglect of events that had happened in times long past; for mythology and the enquiry into antiquity are first introduced into cities when they begin to have leisure, and when they see that the necessaries of life have already been provided, but not before. And this is reason why the names of the ancients have been preserved to us and not their actions.

This I infer because Solon said that the priests in their narrative of that war mentioned most of the names which are recorded prior to the time of Theseus, such as Cecrops, and Erechtheus, and Erichthonius, and Erysichthon, and the names of the women in like manner. Moreover, since military pursuits were then common to men and women, the men of those days in accordance with the custom of the time set up a figure and image of the goddess in full armour, to be a testimony that all animals which associate together, male as well as female, may, if they please, practise in common the virtue which belongs to them without distinction of sex.

From the Symposium, Jawette translation, link:

Yes, said Aristophanes, who followed, the hiccough is gone; not, however, until I applied the sneezing; and I wonder whether the harmony of the body has a love of such noises and ticklings, for I no sooner applied the sneezing than I was cured.

Eryximachus said: Beware, friend Aristophanes, although you are going to speak, you are making fun of me; and I shall have [189b] to watch and see whether I cannot have a laugh at your expense, when you might speak in peace.

You are quite right, said Aristophanes, laughing. I will unsay my words; but do you please not to watch me, as I fear that in the speech which I am about to make, instead of others laughing with me, which is to the manner born of our muse and would be all the better, I shall only be laughed at by them.

Do you expect to shoot your bolt and escape, Aristophanes? Well, perhaps if you are very careful and bear in mind that you will be called to account, [189c] I may be induced to let you off.

Aristophanes professed to open another vein of discourse; he had a mind to praise Love in another way, unlike that either of Pausanias or Eryximachus. Mankind, he said, judging by their neglect of him, have never, as I think, at all understood the power of Love. For if they had understood him they would surely have built noble temples and altars, and offered solemn sacrifices in his honour; but this is not done, and most certainly ought to be done: [189d] since of all the gods he is the best friend of men, the helper and the healer of the ills which are the great impediment to the happiness of the race. I will try to describe his power to you, and you shall teach the rest of the world what I am teaching you. In the first place, let me treat of the nature of man and what has happened to it; for the original human nature was not like the present, but different. [189e] The sexes were not two as they are now, but originally three in number; there was man, woman, and the union of the two, having a name corresponding to this double nature, which had once a real existence, but is now lost, and the word "Androgynous" is only preserved as a term of reproach. In the second place, the primeval man was round, his back and sides forming a circle; and he had four hands and four feet, one head with two faces, looking opposite ways, [190a] set on a round neck and precisely alike; also four ears, two privy members, and the remainder to correspond. He could walk upright as men now do, backwards or forwards as he pleased, and he could also roll over and over at a great pace, turning on his four hands and four feet, eight in all, like tumblers going over and over with their legs in the air; this was when he wanted [190b] to run fast. Now the sexes were three, and such as I have described them; because the sun, moon, and earth are three; and the man was originally the child of the sun, the woman of the earth, and the man-woman of the moon, which is made up of sun and earth, and they were all round and moved round and round like their parents. Terrible was their might and strength, and the thoughts of their hearts were great, and they made an attack upon the gods; of them is told the tale of [190c] Otys and Ephialtes who, as Homer says, dared to scale heaven, and would have laid hands upon the gods. Doubt reigned in the celestial councils. Should they kill them and annihilate the race with thunderbolts, as they had done the giants, then there would be an end of the sacrifices and worship which men offered to them; but, on the other hand, the gods could not suffer their insolence to be unrestrained. At last, after a good deal of reflection, Zeus discovered a way. He said: "Methinks I have a plan which will humble their pride and improve their manners; men shall continue to exist, [190d] but I will cut them in two and then they will be diminished in strength and increased in numbers; this will have the advantage of making them more profitable to us. They shall walk upright on two legs, and if they continue insolent and will not be quiet, I will split them again and they shall hop about on a single leg." He spoke and cut men in two, like a sorb-apple which is halved for pickling, or as you might divide an egg with a hair; [190e] and as he cut them one after another, he bade Apollo give the face and the half of the neck a turn in order that the man might contemplate the section of himself: he would thus learn a lesson of humility. Apollo was also bidden to heal their wounds and compose their forms. So he gave a turn to the face and pulled the skin from the sides all over that which in our language is called the belly, like the purses which draw in, and he made one mouth at the centre, which he fastened in a knot (the same which is called the navel); [191a] he also moulded the breast and took out most of the wrinkles, much as a shoemaker might smooth leather upon a last; he left a few, however, in the region of the belly and navel, as a memorial of the primeval state. After the division the two parts of man, each desiring his other half, came together, and throwing their arms about one another, entwined in mutual embraces, [191b] longing to grow into one, they were on the point of dying from hunger and self-neglect, because they did not like to do anything apart; and when one of the halves died and the other survived, the survivor sought another mate, man or woman as we call them, -- being the sections of entire men or women, -- and clung to that. They were being destroyed, when Zeus in pity of them invented a new plan: he turned the parts of generation round to the front, for this had not been always their position, and they sowed the seed no longer as hitherto like grasshoppers in the ground, but in one another; [191c] and after the transposition the male generated in the female in order that by the mutual embraces of man and woman they might breed, and the race might continue; or if man came to man they might be satisfied, and rest, and go their ways to the business of life: so ancient is the desire of one another which is implanted [191d] in us, reuniting our original nature, making one of two, and healing the state of man. Each of us when separated, having one side only, like a flat fish, is but the indenture of a man, and he is always looking for his other half. Men who are a section of that double nature which was once called Androgynous are lovers of women; adulterers are generally of this breed, [191e] and also adulterous women who lust after men: the women who are a section of the woman do not care for men, but have female attachments; the female companions are of this sort. But they who are a section of the male follow the male, and while they are young, being slices of the original man, [192a] they hang about men and embrace them, and they are themselves the best of boys and youths, because they have the most manly nature. Some indeed assert that they are shameless, but this is not true; for they do not act thus from any want of shame, but because they are valiant and manly, and have a manly countenance, and they embrace that which is like them. And these when they grow up become our statesmen, [192b] and these only, which is a great proof of the truth of what I am saying. When they reach manhood they are lovers of youth, and are not naturally inclined to marry or beget children, -- if at all, they do so only in obedience to the law; but they are satisfied if they may be allowed to live with one another unwedded; and such a nature is prone to love and ready to return love, always embracing that which is akin to him. And when one of them [192c] meets with his other half, the actual half of himself, whether he be a lover of youth or a lover of another sort, the pair are lost in an amazement of love and friendship and intimacy, and will not be out of the other's sight, as I may say, even for a moment: these are the people who pass their whole lives together; yet they could not explain what they desire of one another. For the intense yearning which each of them has towards the other does not appear to be the desire of lover's intercourse, but of something else which the soul of either evidently desires and cannot tell, [192d] and of which she has only a dark and doubtful presentiment. Suppose Hephaestus, with his instruments, to come to the pair who are lying side by side and to say to them, "What do you people want of one another?" they would be unable to explain. And suppose further, that when he saw their perplexity he said: "Do you desire to be wholly one; always day and night to be [192e] in one another's company? for if this is what you desire, I am ready to melt you into one and let you grow together, so that being two you shall become one, and while you live a common life as if you were a single man, and after your death in the world below still be one departed soul instead of two -- I ask whether this is what you lovingly desire, and whether you are satisfied to attain this?" -- there is not a man of them who when he heard the proposal would deny or would not acknowledge that this meeting and melting into one another, this becoming one instead of two, was the very expression of his ancient need. [193a] And the reason is that human nature was originally one and we were a whole, and the desire and pursuit of the whole is called love. There was a time, I say, when we were one, but now because of the wickedness of mankind God has dispersed us, as the Arcadians were dispersed into villages by the Lacedaemonians. And if we are not obedient to the gods, there is a danger that we shall be split up again and go about in basso-relievo, like the profile figures having only half a nose which are sculptured on monuments, and that we shall be like tallies. Wherefore let us exhort all men to piety, that we may avoid evil, [193b] and obtain the good, of which Love is to us the lord and minister; and let no one oppose him -- he is the enemy of the gods who oppose him. For if we are friends of the God and at peace with him we shall find our own true loves, which rarely happens in this world at present. I am serious, and therefore I must beg Eryximachus not to make fun or to find any allusion [193c] in what I am saying to Pausanias and Agathon, who, as I suspect, are both of the manly nature, and belong to the class which I have been describing. But my words have a wider application -- they include men and women everywhere; and I believe that if our loves were perfectly accomplished, and each one returning to his primeval nature had his original true love, then our race would be happy. And if this would be best of all, the best in the next degree and under present circumstances must be the nearest approach to such a union; [193d] and that will be the attainment of a congenial love. Wherefore, if we would praise him who has given to us the benefit, we must praise the god Love, who is our greatest benefactor, both leading us in this life back to our own nature, and giving us high hopes for the future, for he promises that if we are pious, he will restore us to our original state, and heal us and make us happy and blessed. This, Eryximachus, is my discourse of love, which although different to yours, I must beg you to leave unassailed by the shafts of your ridicule, in order that each may have his turn; each, or rather either, [193e] for Agathon and Socrates are the only ones left.
« Last Edit: June 16, 2007, 09:09:45 pm by Helios » Report Spam   Logged

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