The Minoan Hypothesis proposes an eastern Mediterranean origin for Plato’s Atlantis centred on the island of Thera and/or Crete. The term ‘Minoan’ was coined by the renowned archaeologist Sir Arthur Evans after the mythic king Minos. (Sir Arthur was the son of another well-known British archaeologist, Sir John Evans). Evans thought that the Minoans had originated in Northern Egypt and came to Crete as refugees. However, recent genetic studies seem to indicate a European ancestry!
It is claimed(a) that Minoan influence extendedas far as the Iberian Peninsula as early as 3000 BC and is reflected there by what is now known as the Los Millares Culture. Minoan artifacts have also been found in the North Sea, but it is not certain if they were brought there by Minoans themselves or by middlemen. The German ethnologist, Hans Peter Duerr, has a paper on these discoveries on the Academia.edu website(e). He claims that the Minoans reached the British Isles as well as the Frisian Islands where he found artifacts with some Linear A inscriptions near the site of the old trading town of Rungholt, destroyed by a flood in 1362(f).
The advanced shipbuilding techniques of the Minoans are claimed are claimed to have been unmatched for around 3,500 years until the 1950’s(l).
The Hypothesis had it origin in 1872 when Louis Guillaume Figuier was the first to suggest a link between the Theran explosion and Plato’s Atlantis. The 1883 devastating eruption of Krakatoa inspired Auguste Nicaise, in an 1885 lecture(c) in Paris, to cite the destruction of Thera as an example of a civilisation being destroyed by a natural catastrophe, but without reference to Atlantis.
The Minoan Hypothesis proposes that the 2nd millennium BC eruption(s) of Thera brought about the destruction of Atlantis. K.T. Frost and James Baikie, in 1909 and 1910 respectively, outlined a case for identifying the Minoans with the Atlanteans, decades before the extent of the Theran eruption was fully appreciated by modern science.*In 1917, Edwin Balch added further support to the Hypothesis.*
As early as April 1909 media speculation was already linking the discoveries on Crete with Atlantis(h), in spite of Jowett’s highly sceptical opinion.
Supporters of a Minoan Atlantis suggest that when Plato wrote of Atlantis being greater than Libya and Asia he had mistranscribed meson(between)as meizon (greater), which arguably would make sense from an Egyptian perspective as Crete is between Libya and Asia, although it is more difficult to apply this interpretation to Thera which is further north and would be more correctly described as being between Athens and Asia. Thorwald C. Franke has now offered a more rational explanation for this disputed phrase when he pointed out[750.173] that “for Egyptians the world of their ‘traditional’ enemies was divided in two: To the west there were the Libyans, to the east there were the Asians. If an Egyptian scribe wanted to say, that an enemy was more dangerous than the ‘usual’ enemies, which was the case with the Sea Peoples’ invasion, then he would have most probably said, that this enemy was “more powerful than Libya and Asia put together”.
It has been ‘received wisdom’ that the Minoans were a peace-loving people, in fact Dr. Barry Molloy of Sheffield University has now shown that the exact opposite was true(d) and that “building on recent developments in the study of warfare in prehistoric societies, Molloy’s research reveals that war was in fact a defining characteristic of the Minoan society, and that warrior identity was one of the dominant expressions of male identity.”
In 1939 Spyridon Marinatos published, in Antiquity, his opinion that the eruption on Thera had led to the demise of the Minoan civilisation. However the editors forbade him to make any reference to Atlantis. In 1951, Wilhelm Brandenstein published a Minoan Atlantis theory, echoing many of Frost’s and Marinatos’ ideas, but giving little credit to either.
The greatest proponents of the Minoan Hypothesis were arguably A.G. Galanopoulos and Edward Bacon. Others, such as J.V. Luce and James Mavor were impressed by their arguments and even Jacques Cousteau explored the seas around Santorini, while Richard Mooney, the ‘ancient aliens’ writer, thought that the Minoan theory offered a credible solution to the Atlantis mystery. More recently Elias Stergakos has proposed in an overpriced 68-page book, that Atlantis was an alliance of Aegean islands that included the Minoans.
Alain Moreau has expressed strong opposition to the Minoan Hypothesis in a rather caustic article(i), probably because it conflicts with his own support for an Atlantic location for Atlantis.
The hypothesis remains one of the most popular ideas with the general public although it conflicts with many elements in Plato’s story. A few examples of which are: where were the Pillars of Heracles? How could Crete/Thera support an army of one million men? Where were the Elephants? There is no evidence that Crete had walled cities such as Plato described. The Minoan ships were relatively light and did not require the huge harbours described in the Atlantis story.
Gavin Menzies has now become the standard bearer for the Minoan Hypothesis. In The Lost Empire of Atlantis he argues for a vast Minoan Empire that spread throughout the Mediterranean and even discovered America (p.245). He goes further and claims that they were the exploiters of the vast Michigan copper reserves, which they floated down the Mississippi for processing before exporting it to feed the needs of the Mediterranean Bronze industry.
Tassos Kafantaris has also linked the Minoans with the exploitation of the Michigan copper, in his paper, Minoan Colonies in America?(k) He claims to expand on the work of Menzies, Mariolakos and Kontaratos. Another Greek Professor, Minas Tsikritsis, also supports the idea of ancient Greek contact with America. However, I think it more likely that the Minoans obtained their copper from Cyprus, whose name, after all, comes from the Greek word for copper.
Frank Joseph has criticised[802.144] the promotion of the Minoan Hypothesis by Greek archaeologists as motivated by nationalism rather than genuine scientific enquiry. This seems to ignore the fact that Nicaise and Figuier were French, Frost, Baikie and Bacon were British, Luce was Irish and Mavor was American.
Furthermore, Crete has quite clearly not sunk beneath the waves. Henry Eichner commented, most tellingly, that if Plato’s Atlantis was a reference to Crete, why did he not just say so? The late Philip Coppens was also strongly opposed to the Minoan Hypothesis.(g)
Excavations on Thera have revealed very few bodies resulting from the 2nd millennium BC eruptions there.The understandable conclusion was that pre-eruption rumblings gave most of the inhabitants time to escape. Later, Therans founded a colony in Cyrene in North Africa, where you would expect that tales of the devastation would have been included in their folklore. However, Eumelos of Cyrene, originally a Theran, opted for the region of Malta as the remnants of Atlantis. How could he have been unaware of the fame of his homeland?
A 2008 documentary, Sinking Atlantis, looked at the demise of the Minoan civilisation(b). There is also an interesting article from James Thomas, who has published an extensive study of the Bronze Age, with particular reference to the Sea Peoples and the Minoans(j).
More extreme is the theory of L. M. Dumizulu, who offers an afrocentric view of the Atlantis. He claims Thera was part of Atlantis and that the Minoans were black!(m)
(e) https://www.academia.edu/7256326/r_r_r_KOM_M_E_NTA_R_Eine_unendliche_Geschichte (offline 1/7/14)
*(g) https://web.archive.org/web/20180128190713/http://philipcoppens.com/lectures.php (June 3, 2011)*
The Bronze Age is the second of the generalised three part division of prehistory into Stone, Bronze and Iron Ages. I say generalised because different parts of the world developed bronze technology at different times(g), while some moved straight from Stone to Iron, others had a Copper Age before their Bronze Age. There is now clear evidence that tin-bronze was used at a Vinca site in Serbia as early as 4650 BC(d).
However, the Bronze Age was clearly the literary if not the historical backdrop to Plato’s Atlantis narrative. In Greece this is generally accepted as the 2nd millennium BC. Plato refers to Triremes (developed around 600 BC), Chariots (Mesopotamia around 3000 BC), Horse-racing (first domesticated in Asia around 4500 BC), writing, metallurgy etc., etc. Recently, the date of the end of the Greek Bronze Age has been pushed back by approximately a century to around 1125 BC(f).
The Bronze Age in the Mediterranean region saw two periods of great political turbulence, the first around 2200 BC and the second a millennium later(h).
However, when he twice states that Atlantis was destroyed 9,000 years before Solon’s visit to Egypt, he presents us with a serious problem, as the Bronze Age is incompatible with a 9600 BC date. Which is right or are they both wrong and consequently is the entire story a complete fiction? Alternatively, it is possible that Plato’s story is a combination of more than one story or is Plato’s narrative a combination of fact and fiction.?
Frank Joseph among others has suggested that the enormous quantities of copper mined in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan were destined for the bronze manufacturers of Europe(I). He considers this extraction and exportation to have been the work of the Atlanteans. Gavin Menzies attributes the exploitation of the Michigan mines to the Minoans.
In 2018, it was claimed in a new paper(m) that Plutarch may have referred to Greek visits to Canada in the first century AD. The authors who included Greek archaeologist Ioannis Liritzis, do admit that the claim is speculative.
The America Unearthed TV series, presented by Scott Wolter, also examined the idea of Minoans mining in Michigan (S1 E3). Jason Colavito wrote a highly critical review of the episode(j), while an even more extensive critique can be found on the archyfantasies.com website(k).
It is interesting that this mining appears to have ceased around 1200 BC or approximately at the same time that the Bronze Age came to an end in Europe. This idea of the Michigan copper mining being the work of Old World traders is hotly disputed by local archaeologists such as Susan R. Martin(b).
Recent years have seen the discovery of numerous Bronze Age mines in the British Isles and across Europe, including the vast Great Orme Mines in Wales accepted by the Guinness Book of Records as the largest Bronze Age copper mine in the world that were rediscovered again in 1987(a). These Welsh mines are estimated to have been abandoned around 600 BC. Such European mines together with those found in the Near East have naturally led to a questioning of Joseph’s thesis. If copper was so widely available to the Europeans at home, what was the incentive for Atlanteans to mine copper in Michigan and ship it to Europe with the relatively primitive vessels and navigation available at that time?
It is interesting to note that the geophysicist Marc-André Gutscher who had supported Collina-Girard’s contention that Spartel Island near the Strait of Gibraltar had been the possible location of Atlantis, withdrew his support(c) for the idea following the evidence presented at the 2005 Atlantis Conference, which convincingly demonstrated the Bronze Age setting of Plato’s story. Gutscher found this incompatible with the fact that Spartel Island had been submerged about 12,000 years ago.
In spite of Gutscher’s withdrawal of support Collina-Girard continues to promote his theory, having published a book, L’Atlantide retrouvée, in support of it, in 2009.
The other half of bronze production requirements is a supply of tin. In this connection, recent research has show that the eastern Mediterranean is virtually devoid of any sources of tin(e), contrasting sharply with the western basin which had Cassiterite in Sardinia, Spain and Morocco.
(b) See Archive 2547
(e) See: Archive 2100
*(i) See Archive 3645*
Also See: Factor Ten