Stele (pl. Stelai) is defined in Wikipedia as a stone or wooden slab, generally taller than it is wide, erected for funerals or commemorative purposes, most usually decorated with the names and titles of the deceased or living — inscribed, carved in relief or painted onto the slab. It can also be used as a territorial marker to delineate land ownership. Ireland is littered with solitary standing stones or menhirs that many consider to be boundary markers. They are to be found across Europe and North Africa as well as Asia.
The words come into the Atlantis narrative when Plato refers to what is usually translated as ‘the Pillars of Heracles’. In fact Plato does not use the Greek word ‘stulos’ which means pillar or supporting column. Commenting on this word, Riaan Booysen wrote(a) “The Greek word for pillar is stulos, which is similar but not identical to either stêlas or even stele. The latter two words are not to be found in any of Strong’s Concordance, the Pocket Oxford Classical Greek Dictionary, the Oxford Greek Minidictionary or the Oxford Greek-English Learner’s Dictionary. That is however not to say that it does not exist, and I have indeed been able to find an interpretation of the word stele as:
“Greek: an inscribed stone slab; a block of stone, gravestone; a column, a pillar…”
It therefore seems that stêlas should be interpreted as an inscribed block of stone, possibly even a gravestone, rather than a pillar or pillars as it is understood today.
Anton Mifsud insists ‘stelai’ can only refers commemorative slabs rather than supportive pillars and that the distinction between a pillar and commemorative slab is important as Mifsud has identified two previously recorded blocks found on Malta as the ‘Pillars of Hercules.’
For my part, I favour the secondary meaning of ‘boundary marker’ as it would seem to better suit the context.
Frisland is the name given to one of the legendary islands of the North Atlantic, ‘located’ just south of Iceland. The story goes that it was discovered around 1380 by the Venetian, Nicolo Zeno (1326-1402) and that a record of his adventures there, together with a now famous map (see below), were published in 1558 by a descendant. A decade later the celebrated Flemish cartographer, Geradus Mercator (1512-1594), published a comparable map, which also showed Frisland at much the same location and with a similar outline. Cornelius Wytfliet produced a map of the North Atlantic in 1597 depicting Frisland at the same location(c). It did not take long for doubts to be expressed about both the map and its accompanying narrative. Donald S. Johnson in his excellent Phantom Islands of the Atlantic concluded that Frisland was probably a case of ‘mistaken identity’, incorporating “the geography of the Faroe Islands and the contour of Iceland.”
A January 2018 National Geographic article(e) also discusses the story of non-existent islands, including Frisland, which are the subject of a new book, The Un-Discovered Islands, by Malachy Tallack.
Riaan Booysen who controversially locates Atlantis on a large landmass of which Australia is a ‘remnant’(a) has also written about Frisland(b). He concluded that Frisland along with many other ‘mythical’ North Atlantic can be matched with present-day underwater features in ‘relatively’ shallow waters suggesting that they were dry land during the last Ice Age when sea levels were considerably lower. He believes that their inclusion on extant maps is the result of copying much earlier charts that recorded those exposed landmasses.
D.S. Allan & J.B. Delair in their acclaimed book Cataclysm discuss the Zeno map at some length and concluded that its depiction of Greenland is based on earlier maps, “which apparently antedate Greenland’s present glacial regime” and “there are, apparently no genuine arguments for regarding the Zeno map – curious though it may seem to modern eyes – as portraying anything but that which actually once existed on Greenland in the not so very remote past.” (p.249)
Jason Colavito has highlighted the controversy surrounding the Zeno Map (see below)(d).
At the end of September 2018, the UK’s Daily Star, a well-known comic for adults, tried to revive the idea of Atlantis in Frisland(f). They based their brief article on the speculations of Matt Sibson, presented as an ‘expert’, who admits that “there are still some questions that need clearing up.” I would like to know why Frislanders in the middle of the last Ice Age would want to attack a non-existent Athens 4,000 km away? If Sibson is considered to be an expert historian, my cat is a brain surgeon. Colavito had a few words to add regarding Sibson’s pathetic claims(g).
Incredibly, a week later the same ‘newspaper’ cited Sibson again, this time claiming that Rockall was the remains of Atlantis(h), an equally silly idea that is not new.
Terra Australis meaning Southern Land was an early concept of the ancient Greeks, who imagined a large landmass in the southern hemisphere. Cartographers from the 15th century onwards included this hypothetical land on their maps of the world. When Australia and Antarctica were eventually discovered by European explorers it was seen as justification for the earlier.speculation.
Riaan Booysen, a South African researcher contends that these early maps reflected geographical realities, namely Australia and Antarctica,but goes further and locates Plato’s Atlantis close to Australia. He bases much of his theory on his interpretation of Johann Schöner’s 1515 globe, which he discusses on his extensively illustrated website(a).
Thera is an ancient name for today’s Aegean archipelago of Santorini, which are the remains of a volcanic island.
Only two of the islands are inhabited, the main island, Santorini and Therasia, which had been joined before the 16th century BC eruption. Recent excavations have revealed a pre-eruption settlement on Therasia(x).
Although it exhibited low-level activity in 1939-41 and 1950-51, it was in 1926 when it last erupted violently, destroying many hundreds of buildings in less than a minute. Eruptions of similarity intensity occurred in 1650, 1707 and 1866. It was also the site of probably the most powerful and destructive volcanic explosion in the Mediterranean during the Bronze Age. Although the exact date of this event is still the subject of some controversy, the most recent evidence(a) indicates a date around 1613 BC ±13years, while archaeologists are more supportive of a date circa 1500 BC.
*Professor Floyd McCoy of the University of Hawaii has written and broadcast extensively on the matter of the Late Bonze Age eruption of Thera, including a paper delivered to the 2005 Atlantis Conference. In it, he noted that “New finds of tephra – ash and pumice – both on land and on the seafloor indicate a far larger eruption than previously assumed, suggesting a volume of at least 100 km3 of tephra (bulk volume) ejected, perhaps more. Such a volume ranks the eruption on the Volcanic Explosivity Index (VEI) at 7.0, equivalent or larger than the 1815 eruption of Tambora (‘the year without a summer’), ten times larger than the eruption of Krakatau in 1883, and approximately 100 times that of Mt. St. Helens in 1980.”[629.311]*
There was clearly a series of eruptions that ended with a final enormous explosion that has been linked to the ending of Minoan civilisation on Crete, the Plagues of Egypt and agricultural failures throughout the Eastern Mediterranean. For a geologist’s view of the island’s dramatic history, Walter Friedrich’s bookis hard to beat. His book supports a 1640 BC date for the eruption although he has subsequently revised this to 1613 BC. Sturt W. Manning supports a 1628 BC date and Mike Baillie has offered dendrochronological evidence for a 1628 BC eruption date at the 2011 Quantavolution conference in Athens(j). This converges with McCoy’s date above. However, the dating of the eruption continues to be controversial as this December 2012 link(i)demonstrates. At the heart of the problem is that acceptance of an early 17th century BC date for the event conflicts with established Egyptian chronology. While the exact year of the eruption continues to be debated, there is now scientific evidence that it occurred in early summer(s).
A 2014 paper published in Antiquity by Paolo Cherubini would appear to confirm the 16th century BC as the date of the catastrophic eruption ruling out an earlier date as untenable(o). In the same year, the University of Birmingham published a report(u) that supported the 1625 BC date. The earlier Antiquity paper prompted a response by a group, led by Sturt Manning later in 2014(y).
In August 2018, an interdisciplinary group led by dendrochronolist Charlotte L. Pearson published a paper(ab), which concluded that the eruption of Thera took place in the 16th century BC. This conclusion was the result of using a combination of dendrochronology along with high-resolution radiocarbon dating methods.
October 2018 saw further evidence for an early 16th century BC date for the eruption emerge after the radiocarbon dating of some olive wood found on Therasia, one of the Santorini group(z). The same month saw the publication of a paper on the ResearchGate(aa) website date the event to 1727-1600 BC!
The doctoral thesis of Dr. David Sewell explores the cultural effects of the Theran eruption and can be read online(h).
The volcanic ash deposited by the Theran eruption was centuries later to be used in huge quantities to manufacture cement for the construction of the Suez Canal. It was during the mining of this material that workmen encountered large stone blocks under the layers of pumice, indicating buildings of a great age.
It is claimed by many that a garbled Egyptian description of this devastating event was the basis for the story of the destruction of Atlantis. Louis Figuier was the first, in 1872, to publicly link the demise of Atlantis with the explosion on Thera. Opponents of this theory counter it by pointing out that Plato describes the inundation of an island much larger than Santorini or Crete, located in the Atlantic following an earthquake, not a volcanic eruption many thousands of years earlier. Various attempts have been made to reconcile the Minoan Theory with these apparent inconsistencies with Plato’s text. They are discussed separately under
It was announced at the end of February 2010 that the BBC was about to air a dramatisation of the Theran disaster as well as a documentary on the eruption as its influence on the development of Plato’s story of Atlantis. June 2010 saw the historian, Bettany Hughes, front a disappointing BBC Timewatch Special, which also promoted the idea of the eruption on Thera as the inspiration for Plato’s story of Atlantis. The material introduced as evidence was highly selective and, for me, unconvincing. A few parallels between Thera and Plato’s description were trotted out, while the more numerous differences were ignored!
Alain Moreau has written a highly critical review(v) of the idea that the island of Thera/Santorini had been home to Atlantis.
Dr. Dora Constantinidis who studied under Prof. Christos Doumas delivered a lecture in Melbourne on May 29th 2014 with the inviting title of Unravelling the Atlantis Myth at Akrotiri. However, the primary purpose of the talk was not to advance our knowledge of Atlantis but to encourage the sale of Bronze Age inspired merchandise(p).
Another twist on the Thera explosion is offered by Andis Kaulins who suggests that there is a connection between that event and the Biblical story of Sodom and Gomorrah(g), while Riaan Booysen has linked two separate Theran eruptions with two Exodus events in the Bible(k), offering as evidence, the existence of two distinct Theran ash fallout areas, caused by different wind directions at the time of the events.
Initially, it was thought that the collapse of the Theran caldera generated very destructive tsunamis, but new studies have concluded(w) that instead that it was the violent entry of pyroclastic flows into the sea that triggered the tsunamis.
A further possible consequence of the Theran eruption(s) was proposed after the discovery of the Nebra Sky Disk(n), which was buried about 3,600 years ago. This is suggested to have resulted from the volcanic ash generated by the eruption blotting out the sun for up to 25 years. It is thought that the Disk had been used to synchronise the lunar and solar calendars(l) and when this was no longer possible the Disk was buried as some form as offering. A contrary view is offered elsewhere on the Internet(m), as well as further controversy(t) led by Peter Schauer from the University of Regensburg.
Andis Kaulins has also written an extensive paper on the Nebra Sky Disk. A 2014 update(r) on the Disk was posted by Claudia Bracholdt.
An extensive bibliography of books and articles on the subject of Thera can be found on the Internet(b).
(h) http://www.santorini-eruption.org.uk/ (offline June 2016)(see Archive 2199)
(i) http://www.heritagedaily.com/2013/10/debate-still-rages-over-date-of-thera-eruption/66777 (offline June 2015 see Archive 2200)
The Sahara Desert and in particular its northern regions have attracted its share of attention from Atlantis investigators. However unlikely it may appear as a possible location for Atlantis it must be kept in mind that the Sahara of prehistory was very different from what we see today. Not only was it wetter at various periods in the past, but also there is clear evidence for the existence of a large inland sea extending across the borders of modern Algeria and Tunisia. This evidence is in the form of the chottsor salt flats in both countries. This proposed sea is considered by some to have been the Lake Tritonis referred to by classical writers. It is suggested that some form of tectonic/seismic activity, common in the region, was responsible for isolating this body of seawater from the Mediterranean and eventually turning it into the salt flats we see today.
An even more extensive inland sea, further south, was proposed by Ali Bey el Abbassi and based on his theory a map was published in 1802 which can be viewed online(c).
More recently, Riaan Booysen has published an illustrated paper on the ancient inland Saharan seas as indicated on the 16th century maps of Mercator and Ortelius(i). King’s College London runs The Sahara Megalakes Project which studies the Megalakes and the Saharan Palaeoclimate record(m).
A 2013 report in New Scientist magazine(d) revealed that 100,000 years ago the Sahara had been home to three large rivers that flowed northward, which probably provided migration routes for our ancestors.
Other studies(h) have shown the previous existence of a huge river system in the Western Sahara, which flowed into the Atlantic on the Mauritanian coast.
An article in the Sept. 2008 edition of National Geographic pointed out that the Saharan climate has been similar for the past 70,000 years except for a period beginning 12,000 years ago when a number of factors combined to alter this fact. A northerly shift by seasonal monsoons brought additional rain to an area the size of contiguous USA. This period of a greener Sahara lasted until around 4,500 years ago. Henri Lhote contributed an article to the Reader’s Digest’s, The World’s Last Mysteries, regarding the ‘green’ Sahara that existed prior to 2500 BC.
An interesting question might be; what happened circa 2500 BC to cause this reversal? Some have suggested a connection between the aridification of the Sahara and the destruction of Atlantis!
More recently, human activity has been blamed as a major contributory factor for the desertification of the Sahara region less than 10,000 years ago.(n)
Related to the above is a recent study of sediments off the west coast of Africa, which resulted in the discovery of what was “primarily a new “beat,” in which the Sahara vacillated between wet and dry climates every 20,000 years, in sync with the region’s monsoon activity and the periodic tilting of the Earth.” (o)
In 1868, it was proposed by D.A. Godron, the French botanist, that the Sahara was the location of Atlantis. In 2003, the non-existent archaeologist Dr.Carla Sage announced that she was hoping to lead an international expedition to the Sahara in search of Atlantis. Her contention was that “Atlantis was the capital of a vast North African empire with ports on the Gulf of Sidra”. This report is now confirmed to have been a hoax! I am indebted to Stel Pavlou for uncovering the origin of this story(e).
Gary Gilligan, the well-known catastrophist, wrote a thought-provoking article(k) on the origin of the Saharan sands, which he claims are extraterrestrial in origin and expands on the idea in his 2016 book Extraterrestrial Sands.
David Mattingly, an archaeologist at Leicester University has found that an ancient people known as the Garamantes had an extensive civilisation in the Sahara(l). He has evidence of at least three cities and twenty other settlements. The Garamantes reached their peak around 100 BC and then gradually diminished in influence as fossil water supplies reduced until in the 7th century AD they were subjected to Islamic domination. Some researchers such as Frank Joseph have identified the Garamantes as being linked with the Sea Peoples. Bob Idjennaden has published short but informative Kindle books about both the Garamantes and the Sea Peoples,*without a suggestion of any connection between the two.*
The discovery of the megalithic structures discovered at Nabta Playa (Nabta Lake) in the Egyptian Sahara has provided evidence for the existence of a sophisticated society in that area around 5000 BC. In the same region, near the Dakhleh Oasis, archaeologists have produced data that supports the idea that pre-Pharaonic Egypt had Desert Origins rather than being an importation from Mesopotamia or elsewhere(a).
Nabta Playa is not unique, in fact the largest megalithic ellipse in the world is to be found at Mzorah, 27 km from Lixus in Morocco(b). It appears that the construction methods employed at both Mezorah and Nabta Playa are both similar to that used in the British Isles. An even more impressive site is Adam’s Calendar in South Africa which has been claimed as 75,000-250,000 years old.
West of Cairo near the border with Libya is the Siwa Oasis, where it has now been demonstrated that “it is in fact home to one of Ancient Egypt’s astounding solar-calendar technologies– the solar equinox alignment between the Timasirayn Temple and the Temple of Amun Oracle in Aghurmi.”(j).
I think we can expect further exciting discoveries in the Sahara leading to a clearer picture of the prehistoric cultures of the region and what connections there are, if any, with Plato’s Atlantis. In the meanwhile in the Eastern Egyptian Desert, Douglas Brewer, a professor of archaeology at the University of Illinois, has discovered over 1,000 examples of rock art, including numerous depictions of boats although the sites, so far undisclosed, are remote from water.
Even more remarkable is the report(e) of March 2015 that a survey of the Messak Settafet escarpment in the central Sahara revealed that there were enough discarded stone tools in the region “to build more than one Great Pyramid for every square kilometre of land on the continent”! Coincidentally, around the same time it was reported that over a thousand stone tools had been found in the Northern Utah Desert(g). What the Utah discovery lacked in quantity was made up for in quality with the finding of the largest known Haskett point spear head, measuring around nine inches in length.
(a) Saudi Aramco World(2006, Vol. 57, No.5 p.2-11)
(d) NewScientist.com, 16 September 2013, http://tinyurl.com/mg9vcoz
(l) See: Archive 3268
The Biblical Exodus has been linked by some with the time of the destruction of Atlantis. J. G. Bennett has firmly identified the 2nd millennium BC eruption of Thera with the destruction of Atlantis(f) and in turn the effect of the volcanic fallout on the Egyptian nation generating the Plagues of Egypt recorded in Exodus.
Dr. Hans Goedicke, a leading Austrian Egyptologist, expressed a similar view regarding an Exodus link in a 1981 lecture, leading to quite a media stir(c). Ian Wilson, best known for The Turin Shroud, has calculated that the volcanic plume from the Theran eruption would have been clearly visible from the Nile Delta[979.112].
Riaan Booysen believes(b) that there were two Exodus events that can be linked with three possible Theran eruptions and has identified the Israelites as the Hyksos. Ralph Ellis has also linked the biblical Exodus with the expulsios of the Hyksos and devoted a short book to the idea.
Immanuel Velikovsky and others believed that the controversial Ipuwer Papyrus provides evidence in support of the biblical Exodus as well as the ‘Plagues of Egypt’(d).
Emilio Spedicato links the biblical Exodus with the explosion of Phaëton in 1447 BC, without any reference to the destruction of Atlantis, which, based on his interpretation of Plato’s text, he associates with a much earlier catastrophe(a).
Alfred de Grazia offers a radical interpretation of the Exodus in God’s Fire , in which he saw the Exodus as a highly organised, rather than an opportunistic event. He also attributed some level of electrical knowledge to Moses, whom he credits with the construction of the Ark of the Covenant, if not the ‘invention’ of Yahweh himself!
Perhaps the most extreme Exodus theory has been presented if by Finkelstein & Silberman, who have claimed that “the saga of Israel’s Exodus from Egypt is neither historical truth nor literary fiction” [280.70]. However, the same disbelieving Finkelstein is now going on a search for the Ark of the Covenant(e) !
Flavio Barbiero has now produced an extensive paper(g) in which he precisely dates the Exodus to the night between the 14th and 15th of July of 1208 B.C. (2/3 July of today).
Riaan Booysen is a South African researcher (and avid tennis fan) who has written articles on a number of ancient mysteries, which can be found on his website(e). Among his controversial ideas are that the Queen of Sheba, Nefertiti and Helen of Troy were a single person(d).
He offers a major paper on Atlantis(a), in which he bravely identifies its location as an extensive landmass which included present day Australia. Unlike other writers who have offered similar suggestions based on guesswork, Booysen offers a coherent thesis based on the geology of the South Pacific and early cartography.
His theory requires a radical redating of the Antarctic ice cap, which has led to continued debate on the internet(c).
Booysen has published another contentious offering in 2013, entitled Thera and the Exodus in which he argues that there were at least two Theran eruptions which led to two separate ‘Exodus’ events by the biblical Israelites, whom he identifies as the Hyksos!
He dates these events to ca. 1613 & 1450 BC.
Booysen has now commented on negative feedback from his book(b).
A year later he ventured into even more contentious territory with the publication of BARBELO – The Story of Jesus Christ, now available as a free ebook(f).
Australia has not been totally ignored in the search for Atlantis. As early as 1852, an Australian newspaper claimed(b), obviously tongue-in-cheek, that Australia was Atlantis, as they were both spelt with a capital ‘A’ and had gold!
Rex Gilroy is a maverick researcher from ‘Down Under’ who has published a book that bravely claims an antipodean location for Atlantis.
Gilroy has been working on the ‘unexplained’ in his home country for over fifty years and has written a number of books on ‘mysterious’ Australia. He has claimed evidence for Egyptian and Phoenician connections with Australia(e). He has also named the ancient megalith-building civilisation of Australia, ‘Uru’(d).
His most recent exploit is to mount a search in the Urewera Ranges of New Zealand for the ‘extinct’ Moa.
A completely different link between Australia and Atlantis was suggested by a Russian writer, S. Bashinsky, in 1914, when he claimed that Australia had created as a result of an impact with an asteroid that split a pre-existing landmass, part of which moved eastward to become Atlantis/America. The idea was so totally at variance with geological realities that it got no support.
An anonymous writer on an Internet message board also supports an Australian Atlantis concept referring to a book, Ayer’s Rock: Its People, Their Beliefs and Their Art; allegedly banned by the Australian government, by Charles P. Mountford that provides evidence of very early white visitors to the vast southern island continent.
The Hyksos is the name applied to two dynasties of foreign kings who ruled Egypt around 1650-1530 BC(a). They are generally accepted to have been a Semitic people, from an unknown land, who invaded Egypt around 1710 BC. They ruled for over a hundred years until defeated by the Egyptian Pharaoh Amasis I.
Their name was originally taken to mean ‘Shepherd Kings, but more recently, it is accepted that the Egyptian term ‘heqa-khase’ which means ‘rulers of foreign lands’ gives us a simple but credible title of ‘Foreign Kings’. It has been suggested by David J. Gibson (1904-1966) that the modern interpretation indicated that the Hyksos ruled a vast empire and has devoted a book to justifying this view(g).
Walter Baucum summarises his view on the subject as follows, “The Early Hyksos Shepherd Rulers of Egypt were descendants of Shem and identical with Typhon and the Titans, the peoples of Set, and to some degree with the Hebrews. The early Hyksos were to a large degree Israelites but after they left, the Amalekites conquered Egypt and were also referred to as Hyksos”.
There have also been persistent suggestions that there were strong links between the Hyksos and Crete, as referred to below, but the exact nature of the links is unclear and may not be more than you get between nations trading over an extended period. The relevance of such links, if they were ever shown to be political rather than commercial, would take on new significance for supporters of the Minoan Hypothesis. Time will tell.
E. J. de Meester has suggested links between Crete and the Hyksos, an idea an included in an article by Philip Coppens(b). In a similar vein Diaz-Montexano claims that a study of the names of the Hyksos pharaohs suggests to him that they were proto-Greek or Mycenaeans.
An example of the diversity of opinions regards the origins of the Hyksos is a brief article written by Emilio Spedicato who identifies them with the Scythians. Perhaps even more radical is the suggestion by Riaan Booysen that the Hyksos were the fleeing Israelites in the biblical Exodus story(c). In fact he claims that there were two ‘exoduses’ which coincided with two separate eruptions on Thera. This idea is not as new as it might seems as something similar was proposed by the 1st century AD Jewish historian Josephus(d).
*Nick Austin also identifies the Hyksos as Jews [1661.184], but is more generous than Booysen claiming that there were four separate eruptions of Thera. Like many others he has also associated the biblical Exodus and the Plagues of Egypt with the Theran eruptions.*
Ralph Ellis, among others, has endorsed(e)(f) the idea that the biblical Exodus and the historical Expulsion of the Hyksos describe the same event.
There are theories, many and varied, regarding the origins and post-Egyptian settlement of the Hyksos. Arguably, the most exotic was put forward by a Chinese geochemist, Sun Weidong, who proposed that Hyksos migrants were responsible for the founding of the Chinese civilisation!(h)(i)
(b) See: Archive 2133
(g) See: Archive 3468