Leo Frobenius (1873-1938), was a German ethnologist and a leading authority on prehistoric art. He travelled extensively in West Africa and published many books on the cultures of the region. He placed Atlantis in the Yoruba region of Nigeria. Frobenius believed that the Etruscans had an Atlantean culture and were responsible for the establishment of Benin around 1300 BC and that it was a city in this region that had been described by Plato.
*Jason Colavito has drawn attention to the racism displayed by Frobenius, an example of which is when he declared that the Atlantean civilisation of Yorubaland had been white(d). A report of his 1912 expedition was published and is now available online.*
He reported on his discoveries to the German Kaiser, who showed great interest in his work.
Five expeditions gave him enough information to publish a twelve-volume work entitled Atlantis. During his work there Frobenius wrote to friends complaining that local English officials had confiscated many of his finds(c).
In 1910 he published, in German, Atop the Rubble of Classical Atlantis that filled three large volumes. Much of his work is currently being translated into English and French.
Another site(a) reviewing Frobenius’ work also claims that he linked the ancient Yoruba kingdom with that of the Etruscans and suggests a common Atlantean ancestry. The same site backs a central Atlantic location for Atlantis, citing as ‘evidence’ the 18th century Bauche map(b).
The Flora and Fauna of Atlantis is mentioned by Plato in Critias;
“Besides all this, the earth bore freely all the aromatic substances it bears today, roots, herbs, bushes and gums exuded by flowers or fruit. There were cultivated crops, cereals which provide our staple diet. And pulse (to use its generic name) which we need in addition to feed us; there were the fruits of trees, hard to store but providing the drink and food and oil which gives us pleasure and relaxation and which we serve after supper as a welcome refreshment to the weary when appetite is satisfied – all these were produced by that sacred island, then still beneath the sun, in wonderful quality and profusion.” (115a-b)
The lack of sufficient detail in the extract from Critias has led to a variety of interpretations. Jürgen Spanuth in support of his North Sea location for Atlantis has claimed[015.68] that during the Bronze Age the snow line in that region was higher than at any other time since the last Ice Age at 1,900 metres. He claims that as a result, grapes and wheat were cultivated there during that period.
The existence of the same species plants and animals on both sides of the Atlantic has been noted for some time, so when the Mid Atlantic Ridge (MAR) was discovered in the 19th century and subsequently combined with the realisation that sea levels had dropped during the last Ice Age, it was thought that a stepping stone, if not an actual landbridge, between the continents had been identified. This idea was popular with many geologists and botanists at the beginning of the 20th century, such R.F. Scharff and H.E. Forrest, both of whom also saw the MAR as the location of Atlantis, an idea that still persists today. Emmet Sweeney is a modern writer who also sees the earlier exposed MAR as an explanation for the shared transatlantic biota and is happy to identify the Azores as the last remnants of Atlantis.
Andrew Collins has attempted to squeeze a reference to coconuts out of this text to support his Caribbean location for Atlantis. However, coconuts were not introduced into that region until colonial times(c). Ivar Zapp & George Erikson, driven by similar motivations had made the same claim earlier. My reading of the text is that Plato is describing food with which he is personally familiar.
Mary Settegast points out that around 7300 BC there is evidence of crop rotation including cereals at the Tell Aswad site in Syria.
The olive tree thrives best in the regions with a Mediterranean climate. Olive trees are mainly found between 25° and 45° N. latitude and, as for France, only in the Mediterranean area.
Ignatius Donnelly devoted Chapter VI(a) of his Atlantis tome to a review of the Atlantean flora and fauna. The print media at the start of the 20th century kept the general public aware of these theories(b).
Professor François Gidon, a French botanist, proposed over seventy years ago the existence of a Bronze Age Atlantis on the Celtic Shelf near Britain. He dated this inundation to between 3,000 and 1,200 BC. However, this date is too late as the area had already been submerged for some thousands of years during an event known as the Flanders Transgression, which began around 7,000 BC. A further problem with his theory is that since Atlantis, according to Plato, contained mountains, the submersion of the relatively shallow Celtic Shelf would at least have left their peaks still visible, a feature missing from the Celtic Shelf.
The Etruscans were an ancient people of Etruria (now Tuscany) in Italy. They occupied an area somewhere between Rome and Florence from the 8th century BC until incorporated in the Roman Empire in the 2nd century BC. They do not appear to have been particularly expansionist as the only Etruscan settlement on Sardinia, which was not discovered until our 21st century, on the Tavolara isle off the coast near Olbia(o).
It is thought that they originally came from Asia Minor before 800 BC, a suggestion that originated with Herodotus. This view has been given recent (2007) support by the results of DNA studies carried out at Pavia University. Another study of Etruscan mtDNA estimated “that the genetic links between Tuscany and Anatolia date back to at least 5,000 years ago, strongly suggesting that the Etruscan culture developed locally, and not as an immediate consequence of immigration from the Eastern Mediterranean shores.” (e).
Stefan Anitei supports an Anatolian, or more specifically a Lydian, origin for the Etruscans, citing a “ A recent DNA analysis showed that (the Bos Taurus) cattle in central Italy seem indeed to have originated in modern Turkey and Middle East. As there is no link between these cattle and others from other European regions, they must have entered the peninsula by sea.” (n).
Some decades ago Professor Licinio Glori also supported an eastern Mediterranean origin for the Etruscans(i). However, he has also claimed a common origin for the peoples of the Americas and Europe, including Etruscans, without identifying this shared ancestry(j).
It has also been suggested that the Etruscan culture has shown distinctive Indian influences.(l)
Until their written language can be translated there will remain an air of mystery about them. Even then because of the paucity of material available in their language, it is probable that little will be gleaned from it. Mark Cartwright’s excellent site has further information on the Etruscan script(k) and many articles on different aspects of Etruscan culture. A 2016 report(h) revealed the discovery of a stele which has at least 70 legible Etruscan letters and punctuation marks on it. Hopefully, this find will help to advance the translation of this language.
The site of the ancient city of Chiusi has been assumed by some to be the location of Clusium, the capital of the Etruscan king, Lars Porsena. This suggestion is based on the fact that the two names mean the same, namely ‘closed’. However, Giuseppe Centauro believes that he has found the real Clusium near Florence where he identified two concentric walls about 10 miles in circumference. The extensive walls have resonances with Plato’s description of Atlantis. If he is correct Clusium may at one time been the biggest city in Italy(f). Centauro is currently seeking permission to excavate there.
At Orvieto nearly 100km north of Rome, Professor Simonetta Stopponi is investigating the possible location of the Fanum Voltumnae, where the leaders of the Etruscan city-states met every year to discuss policy. This meeting has also got echoes of the regular meeting of the kings of the Atlantean federation.
It is worth highlighting that Tyrrhenia, the Greek name for Etruria, is one of the few places whose location is not disputed and is mentioned by Plato as bordering (Critias 114c & Timaeus 25b) Atlantean territory. It is therefore reasonable to expect that south of Etruria on mainland Italy that some remnants of Atlantis may yet be identified.
In his recent book Richard W. Welch is quite happy to designate the Etruscans as “the last Atlanteans of which we have much knowledge”. Frank Joseph echoed the same idea, writing that “the Etruscans were themselves nothing more than the late Atlanteans who colonised western Italy, so their surviving material culture offers us a glimpse of Atlantis at is cultural height.”[636.21]
In 1962, the French linguist, Maurice Guignard, claimed to have deciphered the Etruscan language and also suggested that the Etruscans might have come from Atlantis. Such comments conflict with Plato’s account, which clearly locates the territory of the Atlanteans separate from and further south than that of the Etruscans.
The internet offers a valuable site(a) giving a good overview of the Etruscans including a valuable bibliography and collection of related weblinks.
The controversial Italian researcher, Dr. Mario Gattoni Celli, writing in the 1960’s proposed that the Etruscans had voyaged to South America, basing his opinion on linguistic and other cultural similarities. This view is apparently supported by Diodorus Siculus (History, Book V, 19+) who refers to the ‘Tyrrhenians’ setting up a colony on an island, with navigable rivers, at a great distance from the inhabited world(c). Adding some confusion to this is the claim that Old World languages had migrated FROM the Americas!!(d)
The most exotic suggestion regarding the Etruscans comes from Xavier Séguin who has claimed that they share a common ancestry with the Yoruba of West Africa, having both originated in Atlantis(m) ! Séguin quotes the work of Leo Frobenius in support of this contention, highlighting the significance of the number sixteen in both cultures.
(c) Atlantis, Vol 19.1, Feb/Mar 1966
(i) St. Petersburg Times. Nov. 25 1957