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/*
Doug Fisher is the author of a forthcoming book The Atlantis Maps: The Rise of Atlantis and the Fall of a Paradigm in which he places Atlantis on the Plain of the other Mesopotamia, in Argentina. The book is still a work-in-progress, but four chapters are sometimes available online(a).
Fisher has published an illustrated paper on Graham Hancock’s website with the self-explanatory title of The Walls of Atlantis(b). His suggestion of a huge outer wall encircling the city of Atlantis has been disputed by Jim Allen, provoking further comments(c) from Fisher.
He has also criticised the methodology, which Allen used to place Atlantis on the Altiplano(d), while I question the credibility of both their theories.
*Fisher’s book is now finished and due for publication in November 2018 with the new title of Maps, Myths & Paradigms. His old website is now closing and a new site(e) is in preparation to coincide with the publication of his book.
(a) http://www.atlantismaps.com/chapter_7.html (Link broken Oct.2018) See: Archive 2865 (no images)*
(c) http://www.abovetopsecret.com/forum/thread646457/pg2 (half way down page)
Oronteus Finaeus (1494-1555) was a celebrated cartographer who produced a map in 1531 which is claimed by some that, like the Piri Reis Map, it depicts the coast of an ice-free Antarctica. Charles Hapgood rediscovered it in 1959(a) in the Library of Congress. This idea is then used to support the concept of the existence of a very early civilisation that was capable of sophisticated map making. It is then just a short step to name this civilisation ‘Atlantis’. Some, such as the Flem-Aths went further and actually nominated Antarctica as the home of Atlantis.
Robert Argod has used the Oronteus Finaeus Map to support his contention that the Polynesians had originated in Antarctica.
A more recent website(b), although not endorsing an Antarctic Atlantis, discusses some of these old maps in very great detail. The site is based on a number of chapters from a work-in-progress, The Atlantis Maps: The Rise of Atlantis and the Fall of a Paradigm by Doug Fisher. He identifies the Plain of Mesopotamia in Northern Argentina as the location of Atlantis.
Argentina is one of the latest locations to be proposed for Atlantis. Doug Fisher has a work-in-progress entitled The Atlantis Maps: The Rise of Atlantis and the Fall of a Paradigm. On his website(a) Fisher offers four chapters from his forthcoming book. The first three chapters on offer discuss in great detail the 16th century maps that are claimed to show an ice-free Antarctica. In the final chapter he argues that Plato’s text could only have been referring to the Americas as the location of Atlantis. He goes further and specifies the Plain of Mesopotamia in northern Argentina as the plain described by Plato with a landform in the Paraná Delta conforming to the dimensions he gave for the circular city of Atlantis.
Completely unrelated to Atlantis but perhaps even more intriguing is a circular feature in the Paraná Delta know as ‘El Ojo’ (The Eye) which has only recently been discovered. It is a perfectly circular ‘lake’ 120 metres across with a floating ‘island’ in it which is also perfectly circular. There is an English language video(b) clip outlining the extent of the mystery and the plans to mount a multidisciplinary expedition to study it further.
Abraham Ortelius (1527-1598) was a Flemish cartographer who produced the first modern atlas, Theatrum Orbis Terrarum, which at the time was reputed to have been the most expensive book ever printed.
It is interesting that he included the mythical island of Hi-Brasil (Brasil) off the coast of Ireland as well as the equally mysterious Frisland (Frieslant). Both can be clearly seen on his map using the link below(a).
In 1596 Ortelius was struck by the possibility that America, Europe and Africa had at one time been joined together but had over time become separated, an idea expressed in his Thesaurus Geographicus. Ortelius also included a speculative southern landmass, Terra Australis, which he designated as a “land of parrots”.
*In 1597, Ortelius was the first to map(d) the travels of Homer’s Odysseus, notably locating all his adventures in the Central and Eastern Mediterranean, which was probably just a reflection of the limits of Greek maritime knowledge at the time that the narrative originated!
Ortelius suggested that Atlantis had been located in North America but that they had separated in the very distant past! Before modern theories of Continental Drift and its successor, Plate Tectonics, the idea of landbridges between continents was popular as an explanation for the spread of animals and people around the world. Some suggested as an alternative, the existence of lost continents such as Atlantis in the Atlantic, which acted as a stepping stone between the continents(c).
A purpose-built polar exploration ship, m.v. Ortelius, was named after the geographer.
(b) http://atlantismaps.com/chapter_7.html (link broken Oct. 2018) New website in development. (http://www.copheetheory.com/)
Island, Peninsula or Continent? Advocates of a continental rather than island identification for Atlantis have to contend with the fact that Plato never referred to Atlantis as a continent instead he used the Greek words for island, namely ‘nesos’ and ‘neson’. Their line of argument is that these words in addition to ‘island’ or ‘islands’ can also mean “islands of an archipelago” or “peninsula”. Furthermore it is claimed that the ancient Greeks had no precise word for ‘peninsula’.
Gilles le Noan, quoted by Papamarinopoulos[629.558], has offered evidence that there was no differentiation in Greek between ‘island’ and ‘peninsula’ until the time of Herodotus in the 5th century BC. In conversation with Mark Adams[1070.198] he explains that in the sixth century BC, when Solon lived, nesos had five geographic meanings. “One, an island as we know it. Two, a promontory. Three, a peninsula. Four, a coast. Five, a land within a continent, surrounded by lakes, rivers or springs.”
Robert Bittlestone, in his Odysseus Unbound [1402.143] also notes that “nesos usually means an island whereas cheronesos means a peninsula, but Homer could not have used cheronesos when referring to the peninsula of Argostoli for two very good reasons. First, it cannot be fitted into the metre of the epic verse and second, the word hadn’t yet been invented: it doesn’t occur in Greek literature until the 5th century BC.”
Another researcher, Roger Coghill, echoed the views of many when he wrote on an old webpage that “To the Greeks peninsulae were the same as islands, so the Peloponnesian peninsula was “the island of Pelops” and the Chersonnese was to them “the island of Cherson”. Similarly in describing a place found after escaping the Pillars of Hercules, Plato quite normally describes the Lusitanian coast (modern Portugal) as an “island”, reached, he clearly says, after passing Cadiz”.
Johann Saltzman claimed that ‘nesos’ did not mean ‘island’ or ‘peninsula’ but ‘land close to water’. However I would be happier sticking to the respected Liddell & Scott’s interpretation of island or peninsula. If Saltzman is correct, what word did the Greeks use for island?
The Modern Greek word for peninsula is ‘chersonesos’ which is derived from ‘khersos’ (dry) and ‘nesos’ (island) and can be seen as a reasonable description of a peninsula. It is worth noting that the etymology of the English word ‘peninsula’ is from the Latin ’paene’ (almost) and ’insula’ (an island).
Jonas Bergman maintains that the Greek concept of ‘island’ is one of detachment or isolation. He also points out that the original Egyptian word for island can also mean lowland or coastland, because the Egyptians had a different conception of ’island’ to either the ancient Greeks or us. Some commentators have claimed that the Egyptians of Solon’s time described any foreign land as an island.
Eberhard Zangger offers another correction of the Atlantis mystery: If one compares the land- / sea-distribution in Egypt and in the Aegean Sea, it becomes obvious why the Egyptians used at that time the expression “from the islands”. While today the word “island” has a clear meaning, this was not the case at the late Bronze Age. For the Egyptians more or less all strangers came from the islands. As there had been practically no islands in Egypt, the ancient Egyptian language did not have any special character for it. The hieroglyphic used for “island” was also meaning “sandy beach” or “coast” and was generally used for “foreign countries” or “regions on the other side of the Nile”.
A contributor to the Skeptic’s Dictionary(b) has added “I remind you that the Greek definition of “island” paralleled that of “continent.” To the Greeks, Europe was a continent. West Africa was an island, especially since it was cut off from the rest of what we now call “Africa” by a river that ran south from the Atlas mountains and then west to what is now the Western Sahara. This now dry river was explored by Byron Khun de Prorok in the 1920’s.”
Reginald Fessenden wrote: “One Greek term must be mentioned because it has given rise to much confusion. The word ‘Nesos’ is still translated as meaning ‘island’ but it does not mean this at all, except perhaps in late Greek. The Peloponnesus is a peninsula. Arabia was called a “nesos” and so was Mesopotamia”. This ambiguity in the written Greek and Egyptian of that period was highlighted at the 2005 Atlantis Conference by Stavros Papamarinopoulos.
Werner Wickboldt pointed out at the same conference that Adolph Schulten in the 1920’s referred to a number of classical writers who used the term ‘nesos’ in connection with the Nile, Tiber, Indus and Tartessos, all of which possessed deltas with extensive networks of islands.
To confuse matters even further, there have been a number of theories based on the idea that the ‘island’ of Atlantis was in fact land surrounded by rivers rather than the sea. These include Mesopotamia in Argentina proposed by Doug Fisher, the Island of Meroë in Sudan suggested by Thérêse Ghembaza and a large piece of land bound by the Mississippi, Ohio, Potomac rivers offered by Henriette Mertz. However, none of these locations match Plato’s description of Atlantis as a maritime trading nation with a naval fleet of 1200 ships, nor do any of them explain how they controlled the Mediterranean as far as Egypt and Tyrrhenia.
The waters around Plato’s island are indeed muddy!