Tunisia has now offered evidence of human activity dated to nearly 100,000 years ago(d) at a site near Tozeur, in the south west of the country, where the chotts are today.
Tunisia was proposed in the 1920’s, by Albert Herrmann, as holding the location of Plato’s Atlantis, at a dried up saltwater lake known today as Chott el Djerid and was, according to Herrmann, previously called Lake Tritonis. Around this same period Dr Paul Borchardt, a German geologist, also favoured a site near the Gulf of Gabés, off Tunisia, as the location of Atlantis. He informed us that Shott el Jerid had also been known locally as Bahr Atala or Sea of Atlas.
More recently Alberto Arecchi has developed a theory that places Atlantis off the present Tunisian coast with a large inland sea, that he identifies as the original ‘Atlantic Sea’, straddling what is now the Tunisian Algerian border. Arecchi claims that this was nearly entirely emptied into the Mediterranean as a result of seismic or tectonic activity in the distant past.
*In 2018, Charles A. Rogers published a paper(f) on the academia.edu website in which he identified Tunisia as Atlantis with it capital located at the mouth of the Triton River on the Gulf of Gabes. He favours Plato’s 9.000 ‘years’ to have been lunar cycles, bringing the destruction of Atlantis into the middle of the second millennium BC and coinciding with the eruption of Thera which created a tsunami that ran across the Mediterranean destroying the city with the run-up and its subsequent backwash. This partly agrees with my conclusions in Joining the Dots!*
There is clear evidence(b) that Tunisia had been home to the last wild elephants in the Mediterranean region until the demise of the Roman Empire. Furthermore, North Africa and Tunisia in particular has been considered the breadbasket of imperial Rome supplying much of its wheat and olive oil. Roman Carthage became the second city of the western empire. Although the climate has deteriorated somewhat since then, it is still possible to produced two crops a year in low lying irrigated plains of Tunisia. These details echo Plato’s description of Atlantis and justify consideration of Tunisia as being at least part of the Atlantean confederation.
It is worth noting that Mago, was the Carthaginian author of a 28-volume work on the agricultural practices of North Africa. After the destruction of Carthage in 146 BC his books were brought to Rome, where they were translated from Punic into Latin and Greek and were widely quoted thereafter. Unfortunately, the original texts did not survive, so that today we only have a few fragments quoted by later writers. However, it is clear that Mago’s work was a reflection of a highly developed agricultural society in that region, a description that could also be applied to Plato’s Atlantis!
In 2017, the sunken city of Neapolis was located off the coast of Nabeul, southeast of Tunis. This city was reportedly submerged by a tsunami ”on July 21 in 365 AD that badly damaged Alexandria in Egypt and the Greek island of Crete, as recorded by historian Ammianus Marcellinus.” However, water from a tsunami eventually drains back into the sea, but the demise of Neapolis might be better explained by liquefaction, in the same way that Herakleion, near Alexandria, was destroyed, possibly by the same event. Neapolis and Herakleion are around 1,900 km apart, which suggests an astounding seismic event if both were destroyed at the same time!(e)
In addition to all that, in winter the northern coast of Tunisia is assailed with cold winds from the north bringing snow to the Kroumirie Mountains in the northwest(c).
Interestingly, in summer 2014, a completely new lake was discovered at Gafsa, just north of Shott el Jerid and quickly became a tourist attraction(a), but its existence was rather short-lived.
The Deglaciation that occurred at the end of the last Ice Age has attracted a lot of attention from Atlantis seekers because it coincides with Plato’s apparent date for the destruction of Atlantis and provides us with a possible source of the flood that subsequently not only wiped out the Atlanteans but possibly also the Athenians. However, meltwater from deglaciation causes global sea levels to rise very, very, slowly and so is extremely unlikely to have caused the destruction of the Atlanteans or Athenians as described by Plato.
The melting of the ice caps gradually caused the ocean levels to rise over a period of thousands of years and at times the retreat of the glaciers was halted and occasionally reversed. Although the melting of the ice was relatively steady, the water produced did not always reach the sea in a steady flow. Instead, it was frequently punctuated by enormous discharges of water particularly where ice dams had retained vast melt water lakes.
In the 1920’s a maverick geologist, J. Harlen Bretz (1882-1981), postulated that a huge ice-age flood had carved the landscape of Eastern Washington state, in just a few days. In spite of acrimonious opposition from the geology establishment of the day, Bretz persevered with his investigations, which eventually led to the identification of Lake Missoula as the probable culprit. Bretz was finally vindicated in 1979 when, in his nineties, he was awarded the prestigious Penrose Medal for his work(f). There is a beautifully illustrated National Geographic online article that reviews Bretz’s work(i).
These discharges of huge quantities of water are recognisable as relatively sudden spikes in the rate of sea level increases and are referred to as Melt Water Pulses WMP).
Lake Missoula in what is today the state of Montana is one of the best studied of these glacial lakes. The regular discharges from Lake Missoula, following ice dam collapses, were responsible for the creation of the dramatic scablands of the North-Western United States. Studies have revealed that between forty and eighty such floods were released from Lake Missoula alone.
However, an alternative to Lake Missoula as the cause of the scablands has been recently proposed(g), namely, the younger-dryas comet impact event. This event was highlighted by Richard Firestone and his colleagues in The Cycle of Cosmic Catastrophes. My problem with the idea of the comet impact is that it was a single event, whereas the Missoula discharges were numerous.
The power of fast flowing water was recently highlighted by a report published(c) in the journal of America’s National Academy of Sciences, where a study of Iceland’s unpronounceable Jokulsargljufur canyon indicated that this huge feature was created in a matter of days. In Iceland, such glacial outburst floods are known as Jökulhlaups(d).
It has now been estimated by scientists that around 6200 BC the ancient glacial Lakes Agassiz and Ojibway discharged into the Atlantic Ocean. These lakes were more than twice the size of the Caspian Sea and on their own are estimated to have raised sea levels by up to 4 feet. The freshwater flow is calculated at between 25 and 50 times the flow of the Amazon River and recent studies suggest that this sudden inflow of fresh water brought the Gulf Stream to a halt for more than a hundred years. A 2016 report(e) from CAGE (Center for Arctic Gas Hydrate, Climate and Environment) suggests that the Gulf Stream was not interrupted during the Ice Age.
Nick Thom has suggested that an even more dramatic consequence of the discharge from Lake Agassiz was the tilting of the Earth’s axis leading to the biblical Deluge and recorded around the world in hundreds of flood myths!
Similar melt water lakes across Northern Europe retained by ice dams produced equally dramatic discharges as the dams periodically broke. One of these occupied what is now the Baltic Sea and was 30 metres above the then ocean level before bursting into the North Sea around 10,000 BC. Less well known is the flooding that took place further east resulting in the creation of a vast inland sea of which the Black and Caspian Seas were just a small part. Ronnie Gallagher has written a revealing paper on the subject(a).
It is worth noting that, although on a smaller scale, two thirds of the thousands of Himalayan glaciers contain glacial lakes, which because of global warming today are growing at risk of bursting with consequent catastrophic results. As these glaciers retreat, apart from the damage to people and property the discharges will gradually reduce the downstream flow of water to rivers such as the Ganges.
paleoclimatologist, Hartmut Heinrich, who as recently as 1988 published evidence that there had been at least six massive discharges of icebergs from the Laurentide Ice Sheet during the last Ice Age. These discharges could have contained millions of cubic kilometres of ice and must have caused substantial sea level rises. This Laurentide Ice Sheet was an enormous mass of ice that stretched from the Arctic through eastern Canada to the northern half of the United States that covered over 5 million square miles. The weight of this ice sheet was so great that it has been calculated that it depressed the earth’s crust by nearly half a mile. A recent paper contends that it was the collapse of this ice sheet, 8000 years ago causing a sea level rise that led to the breaching of a ridge damming the Bosporus and the inundation of the then freshwater Black Sea, which flooded over 73,000 square km of land.
In the southern hemisphere it was discovered a few years ago (Science, Dec.22, 2000) that the River Amazon had experienced a doubling of its outflow between 9800 BC and 9700 BC, probably as a consequence of the melting of Andean glaciers and perhaps increased rainfall during this period. The dates proposed are very close to the 9600 BC date provided by Plato for the submergence of Atlantis.
All these worldwide discharges must have resulted in the inundation of low-lying landmasses, such as the Celtic Shelf or Sundaland, in fits and starts forcing the inhabitants of these regions to regularly migrate to higher ground.
Since it is reasonable to assume that a large percentage of human settlements were then, as now, located along coasts, particularly at river mouths, the consequence for these embryonic cultures must have been catastrophic. It is very easy to see how legends of sunken civilisations probably have a very sound basis in fact. Two books by Graham Hancock and Stephen Oppenheimer have covered this idea in greater detail, lending credibility to the idea of a sunken island such as Atlantis.
However, it can be reasonably argued that the effects of deglaciation are not what Plato described. He spoke of earthquake and a flood that overwhelmed both the Athenians and the Atlanteans. This would more closely match the aftermath of a large seismic or tectonic event that generated enormous tsunamis rather than the gradual rising of sea levels, which even at its most dramatic could never have produced the effect of sinking Atlantis overnight.
However, the waters of tsunamis eventually flow back to the sea, but Plato’s account describes the event resulting in the creation of muddy shallows. To me it sounds more like liquefaction which occurs in soil with particular characteristics when subjected to an earthquake(b), similar to the destruction of the cities of Canopus and Herakleion near Alexandria.
A website that graphically illustrates the process of deglaciation after the last Ice Age is available(h).
(b) http://www.ce.washington.edu/~liquefaction/html/why/why1.html (offline June 2016) See: https://web.archive.org/web/20160316063736/http://www.ce.washington.edu/~liquefaction/html/why/why1.html
A Shoal of mud is stated by Plato (Tim.25d) to mark the location of where Atlantis ‘settled’. Plato describes these shallows in the present tense, clearly implying that they were still a maritime hindrance in Plato’s day.
Three of the most popular translations clearly indicate this:
….the sea in those parts is impassable and impenetrable, because there is a shoal of mud in the way; and this was caused by the subsidence of the island.
…..the ocean at that spot has now become impassable and unsearchable, being blocked up by the shoal of mud which the island created as it settled down.”
…..the sea in that area is to this day impassible to navigation, which is hindered by mud just below the surface, the remains of the sunken island.
Since it is probable that Atlantis was destroyed around a thousand years or more before Solon’s Egyptian sojourn, to have continued as a hazard for such a period suggests a location that was little affected by currents or tides. The latter would seem to offer support for a Mediterranean Atlantis as that sea enjoys negligible tidal changes, as can be seen from the chart below. The darkest shade of blue indicates the areas of minimal tidal effect.
If Plato was correct in stating that Atlantis was submerged in a single day and that it was still close to the water’s surface in his own day, its destruction must have taken place a relatively short time before since the slowly rising sea levels would eventually have deepened the waters covering the remains of Atlantis to the point where they would not pose any danger to shipping. The triremes of Plato’s time had an estimated draught of about a metre so that the shallows must have had a depth that was less than that.
The reference to mud shoal resulting from an earthquake brings to mind the possibility of liquefaction. This perhaps what happened to the two submerged ancient cities close to modern Alexandria. Their remains lie nine metres under the surface of the Mediterranean.
Our knowledge of sea level changes over the past two and a half millennia should enable us to roughly estimate all possible locations in the Mediterranean where the depth of water of any submerged remains would have been a metre or less in the time of Plato.
The tidal map above offers two areas west of Athens and Egypt that do appear to be credible location regions, namely, (1) from the Balearic Islands, south to North Africa and (2) , a more credible straddling the Strait of Sicily. This region offers additional features, making it much more compatible with Plato’s account.
By contrast, just over a hundred miles south from that Strait, lies the Gulf of Gabés, which boasts the greatest tidal range (max 8 ft) within the Mediterranean.
The Gulf of Gabes formerly known as Syrtis Minor and the larger Gulf of Sidra to the east previously known as Syrtis Major, were greatly feared by ancient mariners and continue to be very dangerous today because of the shifting sandbanks created by tides in the area.
There are two principal ancient texts that possibly support the gulfs of Syrtis as the location of Plato’s ‘shoal’. The first is from Apollonius of Rhodes who was a 3rd century BC librarian at Alexandria. In his Argonautica (Bk IV ii 1228-1250)(a) he unequivocally speaks of the dangerous shoals in the Gulf of Syrtis. The second source is the Acts of the Apostles (Acts 27 13-18) written three centuries later, which describes how St. Paul on his way to Rome was blown off course and feared that they would run aground on “Syrtis sands.” However, good fortune was with them and after fourteen days they landed on Malta. The Maltese claim regarding St. Paul is rivalled by that of the Croatian island of Mljet as well Argostoli on the Greek island of Cephalonia. Even more radical is the convincing evidence offered by Kenneth Humphreys to demonstrate that the Pauline story is an invention(b).
Both the Strait of Sicily and the Gulf of Gabes have been included in a number of Atlantis theories. The Strait and the Gulf were seen as part of a larger landmass that included Sicily according to Butavand, Arecchi and Sarantitis who named the Gulf of Gabes as the location of the Pillars of Heracles. Many commentators such as Frau, Rapisarda and Lilliu have designated the Strait of Sicily as the ‘Pillars’, while in the centre of the Strait we have Malta with its own Atlantis claims.
Zhirov[458.25] tried to explain away the ‘shoals’ as just pumice-stone, frequently found in large quantities after volcanic eruptions. However, Plato records an earthquake not an eruption and Zhirov did not explain how the pumice-stone was still a hazard many hundreds of years after the event. Although pumice can float for years, it will eventually sink(c). It was reported that pumice rafts associated with the 1883 eruption of Krakatoa were found floating up to 20 years after that event. Zhirov’s theory does not hold water (no pun intended) apart from which, Atlantis was destroyed as a result of an earthquake. not a volcanic eruption and I think that the shoals described by Plato were more likely to have been created by liquefaction and could have endured for centuries.