Fr. Athanasius Kircher (1602-1680) was a German Jesuit scholar and a professor of ethics and mathematics at the University of Würzburg. In his day he was considered one of the greatest authorities in Europe on Chinese and Egyptian cultures, archaeology, ancient languages and astronomy. However, he was not without his detractors, one of whom was Decartes who robustly attacked Kircher’s scientific abilities. Kircher’s writings filled 44 folio volumes.
Kircher claimed to have deciphered the ancient Egyptian hieroglyphics, but this was later shown to be totally unfounded and drew highly critical comment such as that of the Egyptologist Sir E. A. Wallis Budge who wrote in 1910: Many writers pretended to have found the key to the hieroglyphics, and many more professed, with a shameless impudence which is hard to understand in these days, to translate the contents of the texts into a modern tongue. Foremost among such pretenders must be mentioned Athanasius Kircher, who, in the 17th century, declared that he had found the key to the hieroglyphic inscriptions; the translations which he prints in his Oedipus Aegyptiacus are utter nonsense, but as they were put forth in a learned tongue many people at the time believed they were correct. A more recent critique is available online(b).
When it is realised that more than a century was to pass after Kircher’s death before the Rosetta Stone was discovered and the work of Champollion finally gave us a reliable decipherment of Egyptian hieroglyphics, it is quite reasonable to treat Kircher’s translation as purely speculative. His efforts in this regard were recently described as ‘illusory’.
In recent times Kircher has regained widespread fame because of the map, published in his Mundus Subterraneus , which among a range of subjects(c), outlines Atlantis (Insula Atlantis) between Africa and America. This Latin text can now be read or downloaded online(a). In this book he was the first to propose that the Canaries and the Azores were the mountain peaks of sunken Atlantis. His famous map has north shown at the bottom with Africa and Spain on the left and America on the right. There is no particular significance in this fact as the convention of having North at the top of maps is a relatively recent and generally attributed to the controversial 8th century Irish cleric, Virgil of Salzburg, who was eventually appointed bishop of that city and later canonised as St. Virgilius. A Latin label on the map reads: “site of Atlantis, now beneath the sea, according to the beliefs of the Egyptians and the description of Plato. A chart based on beliefs and descriptios clearly shows that his offering is speculative and not a real map, although some claim that it is an ‘authentic’ depiction of Atlantis, such as can be seen on an hour-long YouTube video from a 1997 conference(g).
It is claimed that it was Kircher’s map that prompted Rand and Rose Flem-Ath to begin their extensive investigation of ancient maps, which led to the publication of When the Sky Fell, outlining their evidence for Atlantis being located in Antarctica.
Recently, Doug Fisher has drawn attention to the similarities between a 1592 map of South America by Abraham Ortelius and Kircher’s Atlantis map when inverted(e). Some further background information on Kircher’s map is to be found online(f).
Dale Drinnon has offered an example of Saharan rock art (see right) as a possible ‘prehistoric prototype’ of Kircher’s map(d)!* I can only describe the idea as highly speculative, at best.*
In 2004 a book with the enticing title of Athanasius Kircher: The Last Man Who Knew Everything was published. It was edited by Paula Findlen and includes essays by leading historians of our day.
(d) http://frontiers-of-anthropology.blogspot.ie/2011/08/possible-prehistoric-prototype-of.html (link broken Sept. 2018)
*(e) http://atlantismaps.com/chapter_7.html (Link broken Nov. 2018) New replacement site is now being developed – http://www.copheetheory.com/*
Caphtor (Kaphtor) is a place referred to in the Bible (Jer. 47.4, Amos 9.7) and located by traditional Hebrew sources to have been near Pelusium in the eastern Nile Delta. The late Walter Baucum also identified Caphtor with the Egyptian Kaft-ur in the Delta occupied by the Philistines[183.309]. A. H. Sayce, a respected 19th century Assyriologist, among others, also placed Caphtor in the Delta.
Immanuel Velikovsky pointed out(a), that if Caphtor is not another name for Cyprus, then it is the only large island in the region that has no biblical name. This possible Cyprus connection is discussed on the Internet. John Strange shares this view in a recent book.
While most commentators today equate Caphtor with Crete, the evidence is far from clear. As Manuel Robbins points out[856.316], the identification of Caphtor with Crete “is based on not one but a string of assumptions. If any of these assumptions are wrong, the conclusion fails, and these assumptions are shaky.”
Robbins also disputes the identification of the Egyptian Keftiu with Caphtor. He offers pictorial evidence from tombs on the west bank of the Nile opposite Thebes that might equally suggest Syria as the home of Caphtor, but it is also far from conclusive.
Baucum offers evidence that the Egyptians also used Keftiu when referring to north of the Orontes River (Syria), Cyprus, Cilicia (S.W. Turkey) as well as Crete. He also attributes the exclusive association of Caphtor with Crete to Champollion’s guessed at identification of the Philistines as one of the Sea Peoples!
A chapter in a book by Nissim Raphael Ganor bluntly states that “THE PHILISTINES AND THE ‘SEA PEOPLES’ NOT THE SAME ENTITY” is worth reading for anyone studying this controversy(c).
Another writer, Yair Davidy in his Lost Israelite Identity[1375.208] claims that there was another Keftiu in Northern Europe. Jürgen Spanuth claimed that caphtor and the Norse ‘holmr Asgard’ mean the same[015.94], namely, “the island of the heaven-pillar”. More recent support for a Northern Europe Caphtor is offered by Eckart Kahlhofer who, like Spanuth, also claims it as the location of Atlantis and adds that it was also the home of the Philistines!
Frankly, I find all the competing opinions(b) extremely confusing and unsatisfactory and believe that a solution to these conflicting ideas is far from a resolution.