An A-Z Guide To The Search For Plato's Atlantis

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I have now published my new book, Joining The Dots, which offers a fresh look at the Atlantis mystery. I have addressed the critical questions of when, where and who, using Plato's own words, tempered with some critical thinking and a modicum of common sense.


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Archive 2790

#103: Genetic Manipulation

Frank Joseph

Mystery of the Land of Punt

The word Atlantis stems from the Classical Greek Atlantikos, for “Daughter of Atlas,” the mythical figure of a bearded titan supporting the sphere of the heavens, or zodiac, on his shoulders. As such, he was envisioned as the founder of astrology and astronomy on a large island in the Atlantic Ocean, which similarly derived from his name. It is rooted in the Sanskrit atla, or “the up-holder.”

Although, unlike Greek, ancient Egyptian did not stem from Indo-Aryan Sanskrit, variations of “At” recurred throughout the dynastic language of the Nile Valley to describe the sunken civilization. For example, Ataka is described in the Harris Papyrus, a 133-foot-long document dated April 14 (Epiphi 6), circa 1180 BC, summarizing in detail the political, cultural, religious, and military accomplishments of Rameses III. As Pharaoh of the XXth Dynasty, he defended his kingdom from invading “Sea Peoples” identified by some with Plato’s Atlanteans.

After their defeat, he declares in the Harris Papyrus, “I sent out an expedition to the land of Ataka for the great foundries of copper which are in that place. Our transport ships were loaded. Having located the foundries loaded with metal, loaded as myriads upon our ships, they sailed back to Egypt, arriving safely. The cargo was piled in stores as hundreds of thousands of the color of gold. I let the people see them like marvels.” Ataka appears to be an Egyptian linguistic inflection of the Atlanteans’ original name (the preformative “At” often designated Atlantean holdings), a reference that this author believes is to Michigan’s Upper Peninsula in North America, where they engaged in extensive copper mining. Plato himself describes them as preeminent miners of the world’s highest-grade copper (orichalcum).

Rameses mentions “foundries,” implying the large-scale mining operations that went on in Ataka, and which certainly existed throughout the Upper Great Lakes area up until his time when they were abruptly and coincidentally shut down. The great quantities of copper his expedition took from Ataka required transport ships sailing a great, hazardous distance (they returned “safely”), while their “color of gold” suggests Plato’s gold-like orichalcum and Michigan’s high-grade copper. Only from the Upper Peninsula could Rameses have obtained such large amounts of exceptional copper. The Egyptians were well accustomed to seeing riches of all kinds, but the prodigious stores of the world’s best copper made even them “marvel.”

It would appear, I believe, that after the ‘Atlantean’ defeat and capture by Rameses, they divulged the location of their copper sources in North America. His transports ventured a transatlantic crossing, “located the foundries loaded with metal, loaded as myriads upon our ships, they sailed back to Egypt.” He does not indicate any trade negotiations or military operations in Ataka but simple seizure of the vast amounts of copper, as though there was no one there with whom to barter or fight. Historians know that at this time, the early twelfth Century B.C., the Michigan mines were likewise abandoned. With the sudden, simultaneous collapse of this civilization, their copper treasure was easy pickings for the victorious Egyptians.

In the name Ataka, it is possible, may survive the closest reference to the Atlanteans’ copper-mining region in the Upper Great Lakes. Similarly, Atcha was an ancient Egyptian term for a distant, splendid, vanished city. It reappears on the other side of the world as Atchafalaya, the “Long River” to the Choctaw Indians of Louisiana. Its resemblance to the Egyptian Atcha is suggestive of Atlantis, especially in view of the Choctaws’ own deluge myth. Atum was among the most ancient of Egyptian deities associated with a Sacred Mountain, the origin of the first gods; Atum was the first divinity of creation. He created the Celestial Waters from which arose the Primal Mound. Shu, the Egyptian Atlas, declares in the Coffin Texts, “I am the son of Atum. Let him place me on his neck.” In Hittite mythology, Kumarbi, a giant arising from the Western Ocean, placed Upelluri on his mountainous neck, where he supported the sky, and is today regarded by mythologists as the Anatolian version of Atlas.

Atum says elsewhere in the same texts, “Let my son, Shu, be put beneath my daughter, Nut (the starry night sky), to keep guard for me over the Heavenly Supports, which exist in the twilight (the far west).” His position beneath Nut indicates Shu’s identification with Atlas as the patron of astronomy. “The Heavenly Supports” were known to Plato and his fellow Greeks as “the Pillars of Heracles,” beyond which lay Atlantis-Atum.

Atum’s philological and mythic resemblance to Mount Atlas, wherein the Egyptian deity is likewise synonymous for the sacred mountain and the god, defines him as a religious representation of the original Atlantean homeland. Etelenty is the ancient Egyptian for “Atlantis,” as it appears in The Book of the Coming Forth by Day, better known today as The Book of the Dead, a series of religious texts buried with the deceased to help the soul along its underworld journey through death to its spiritual destiny. According to Dr. Ramses Seleem’s 2001 translation, “Etelenty” means “the land that has been divided and submerged by water.” Its Greek derivation is apparent, and was probably the same term Solon, the Athenian lawgiver visiting the Nile Delta around 500 B.C., heard spoken at Sais, which he transliterated into “Atlantis.”

That same source stretched so far as to identically touch the Nile Valley and the Valley of Mexico. Amimitl—the “Harpoon” or “Harpooner”—was a title applied to the Aztec god of the sea, Atlahua. His name is an apparent derivative of Atlas. He was also known as “He Who Divides the Waters” and “Inventor of the Trident,” both of which clearly define Atlantean associations. Plato told how the sea god, Poseidon “divided the waters from the land” to create Atlantis. Moreover, the trident was Poseidon’s emblem of maritime power. Brundage reports (p.93) that Atlahua was “venerated in a temple on the legendary island of Aztlan,” Atlantis, obviously enough. Remarkably, the Ancient Egyptians remembered the Mesentiu, “The Harpooners,” a culture-bearing people who arrived by sea from the Distant West to establish Dynastic Civilization at the Nile Delta.

Hathor is the Egyptian goddess of fiery destruction. She was identified in the wall texts of Medinet Habu, West Thebes, with a flaming “planet,” i.e., comet that destroyed the island home of the “Sea People” who invaded the Nile Delta in the early 12th Century BC. These were, I believe, the Atlanteans described by Plato in their attempted conquest of the Eastern Mediterranean. To extinguish the blazing island, she sank it beneath the sea. In what may be a variation of this same destruction, Hathor provoked the gods to inundate the world with a flood aimed at preventing her from burning up all humanity. In this version of her myth appears a dangerous comet threatening all human life but ending with a world deluge.

In ancient Egyptian tradition, “The Followers of Horus,” or Semu-Hor, were culture-bearers who arrived at the Nile Delta from Sekhet-aaru, “the Field of Reeds,” their sunken homeland in the Distant West. They worshipped Shu, the Egyptian Atlas, who was portrayed in temple art as a bearded man supporting the heavens while guarding the Four Pillars of the Sky. These were comparable to the Pillars of Heracles, or Straits of Gibraltar, which defined the Mediterranean limits of Atlantean influence and was a concept that placed Shu at the center of the world. In ancient Egypt, obelisks were known as “Pillars of Shu.” As Atlas meant “the Upholder,” so Shu was known as “He Who Holds Up.” He shared the title, “God of the Air,” with Ehecatl, his Aztec counterpart.

At-hothes is the earliest known name of Thaut (Thoth to the Greeks, who equated him with Hermes), the patron-god of wisdom, medicine, literature, and hieroglyphic writing, who arrived in Egypt after a deluge destroyed his home in the Distant West. These western origins, together with the “At” beginning his name, define him as an Atlantean deity. Arab tradition identifies him as the architect of Egypt’s Great Pyramid on the Giza Plateau. Aton was among the oldest deities worshiped in Egypt; he was the sun-god who alone ruled the universe. Egyptian tradition itself spoke of the Smsu-Hr, the Followers of Horus (the sun-god), highly civilized seafarers, who landed at the Nile Delta to found the first dynasties. Shortly thereafter, Aton dwindled to insignificance, as polytheism rapidly spread throughout the Nile Valley.

Thaut set up two columns, one of brick, the other of stone, on which were inscribed a pre-Deluge history. They were meant to survive both fire and flood and erected “in the Siriadic land,” a reference to Egypt where the rising of Sirius coincided with the annual inundation of the Nile Delta. In Egyptian myth, Thaut arrived at the Delta after cataclysmic flooding destroyed a former age, the Zep Tepi, or “First Time.” Doubtless, that ancient deluge symbolically correlated with the yearly rising of the Nile, because the results of both were abundance. With Thaut’s arrival, Pharaonic Civilization bloomed again following an excess of nature, just as the yearly over-flowing of the river brings fertile, alluvial soil.

He carried “emerald tablets” on which were engraved the documented wisdom of the First Time. The word “emerald” may not be literally understood but intended to imply a precious stone of some kind; or, more probably, it meant that the information preserved on the stones was precious. Thaut is credited in both Egyptian and Arab myth as the builder of the Great Pyramid. The story of his Siriadic Columns was told by two leading historians of Classical Times, Manetho, a third century BC. Egyptian priest commissioned to write a chronicle of Dynastic Civilization by the Ptolemies and Flavius Josephus, prominent Jewish scholar of the first century AD. Josephus ascribed the twin columns to Seth, who he described not as a god but a “patriarch.” Although worshiped from pre-Dynastic and early Dynastic times in Upper Egypt, Seth was thereafter demonized by the Followers of Horus, so little of his original cult may be inferred. Unique to the rest of the gods, however, he was a redhead, like many Atlanteans.

The memorial pillars may have been the same stele inscribed with the history of Atlantis that were seen by Greek visitors to Neith’s temple at Sais, in the Nile Delta, Solon and Krantor, and upon which Plato’s Atlantean account was based. The Kritias describes a sacred column inscribed with ancestral laws at the center of the Temple of Poseidon in Atlantis. It seems related to Thaut’s “Siriadic Columns” and those mentioned by Plato.

Among the most direct references the ancient Egyptians made to Atlantis was a popular narrative of “the Shipwrecked Sailor,” thought to date to an early dynastic epoch but repeated and elaborated upon even in Ptolemaic times. An original papyrus of the story is in the possession of Russia’s Saint Petersburg Museum and dates to the XXth Dynasty, circa 1180 BC. Significantly, this is the same period in which Egypt defended herself against the “Sea People” invasion. The final destruction of Atlantis is believed by some investigators to have occurred in 1198 BC. The story of the “Shipwrecked Sailor” opens with a terrible storm, far out at sea. A freighter carrying miners is lost, and only one man clinging to some wreckage is eventually washed ashore at some distant island.

“Suddenly, I heard a thunderous noise,” he says. “I thought it must have been a great wave striking the beach. Trees swayed and the Earth shook.” These stirrings announced the arrival of the Serpent King, a huge, bearded creature overlaid with scales of gold and lapis lazuli. He carefully picked up the hapless sailor in his great jaws and carried him to his “resting place.” There he told the man about “this island in the middle of the sea, an Isle of the Blest, where nothing is lacking, and which is filled with all good things, a far country, unknown to men.” After a four-month stay, the king loads his guest down with gifts. “But when you leave this place,” he warns, “you will never see this island again, because it will be covered by the waves.”

Interestingly, the Serpent King referred to his island kingdom as “Punt.” This is the same ambiguous land generations of pharaohs visited with commercial expeditions, returning with rich trade goods, until the late thirteenth century BC when, some argue, the destruction of Atlantis occurred and with which it has been identified. Moreover, the Serpent King’s island is seismic (“the Earth shook”), “in the middle of the sea,” and “a far country unknown to men.” He calls his kingdom “the Isle of the Blest,” the same epitaph used by Greek and Roman writers to characterize Atlantis. His description of this island kingdom as rich in natural abundance (“where nothing is lacking and which is filled with all good things”) is reminiscent of Plato’s version of Atlantis: “The island itself provided much of what was required by them for the uses of life. All these that sacred isle lying beneath the sun brought forth fair and wondrous in infinite abundance” (Kritias).

In fact, the Serpent King himself leaves no doubt of his island’s Atlantean identity: “You will never see this island again, because it will be covered by the waves.” The Serpent King’s portrayal as a fabulous beast is transparently symbolic of a powerful monarch. The Pyramid Texts read, “Thou, Osiris, art great in thy name of the Great Green (the ocean). Lo, thou art round as the circle that encircles the Hanebu.” Howey commented (page 164), “Osiris was thus the serpent (dragon) that lying in the ocean, encircled the world”—-i.e., had power over it. The Hanebu may have been the “Sea Peoples” of Atlantis reported by the scribes of Ramses III in the wall-texts of his Victory Temple at Medinet Habu. The Serpent King’s appearance points up his royal provenance. The beard was an emblem of sovereign authority. Even Queen Hatshepsut had to wear a false beard during her reign. And his “scales” of gold and lapis lazuli represented his raiment. The sailor’s transportation to the Serpent King’s “resting place,” i.e., the palace, in the “great jaws”—-the edged weapons of his guards—is a metaphor for the power of command.

These mythic images shed light on the Feathered Serpent, the legendary founding father of Mesoamerican Civilization from across the Sunrise Sea. The Quiche Mayas’ foremost culture-hero was Votan, from Valum, the Kingdom of Serpents. Both Coatlicue and Mama Ocllo, the leading ladies of Aztec and Inca legend, respectively, belonged to “the race of serpents.” Amuraca, the Bochica Indians’ first chief, means “Serpent King.” Like the Egyptian Serpent King, Amuraca once ruled over an island in the midst of the sea.

The Serpent King tells his shipwrecked guest about “a young girl on whom the fire from heaven fell and burnt her to ashes.” Why this curious aside should be included in the tale, if not as an allusion to the celestial impact responsible for the Atlantean catastrophe, is otherwise inexplicable.

Frank Joseph is author of many books on Atlantis and ancient America. Recently, Before Atlantis: 20 Million Years of Human and Pre-Human Cultures. He is also the editor of Ancient American Magazine.