The Sea Peoples is the name given by modern scholarship to a group of allies who caused havoc among the nations of the Eastern Mediterranean including Egypt which they invaded at least twice in the 2nd millennium BC. The phrase ‘Sea Peoples’ was never used in any ancient accounts. The coining of the term in 1855 is now generally attributed to French Egyptologist, Emmanuel de Rougé who used the term peuples de la mer (literally “peoples of the sea”) in a description of reliefs at Medinet Habu. The phrase was later popularised by another French Egyptologist, Gaston Maspero (1846-1916). Eckart Kahlhofer has recently suggested that even earlier, J. F. Champollion (1790 –1832) employed an equivalent term gens navales to describe the occupants of the invading swan-necked boats. Just a few years after Maspero the German classical scholar, Wilhelm Christ, was probably the first to identify the invading Sea Peoples with the Atlanteans(p), predating Jürgen Spanuth’s theory by the better part of a century. Christ’s idea was also supported to varying degrees by Theodor Gomperz, Spyridon Marinatos, John V. Luce, and Herwig Görgemanns.
*Cyprian Broodbank in The Making of the Middle Sea  argues that the Sea People “never actually existed as a single people. Instead small roving bands were a symptom of the collapse, not the cause, and they were blown out of proportion by Egyptian propagandists working for Ramasses III.” (ai)*
The Sea Peoples’ exact origin continues to be a matter of intense speculation(ad). The debate regarding their true identity has been ongoing for a long time and will probably continue as long as the chronologies of the Middle East are not fully harmonised to the satisfaction of all. There is some agreement that the Sea Peoples mounted two separate invasion attempts on Egypt around 1208 & 1176 BC (Facchetti & Negri).
There is a claim that the Sea Peoples also attacked Mycenaean Greece on two occasions and that Athens survived both(ae). Contrast that with the contention that there was a Mycenaean group within the Sea Peoples. The confusion surrounding the Sea Peoples is exemplified by the response to a question on the quora.com website(af).
The earliest book devoted to the Sea Peoples, that I am aware of, was Immanuel Velikovsky’s Peoples of the Sea. However, Velikovsky was more concerned with revising the chronologies of the Middle East and so focused on dating the invasion of the Sea Peoples rather than identifying their origins.
The Oxford Companion to the Bible is certain that the Sea Peoples were originally Mycenaean, who moved south, following the collapse of their civilisation at the end of the Late Bronze Age. They were repelled by the Egyptians and then moved on to the Levant where they later became known as the Philistines. A paper(ab) that also links the Philistines with the Sea Peoples from a biblical perspective is available.
A more recent (2017) paper(aa) on a conservative website suggests that the Sea Peoples were ‘early Western Europeans’.
One website(h) describes the Sea People as groups of dispossessed raiders driven by hunger following crop failures resulting from climate change. The same idea is expanded on by Lu Paradise in an extensive article(v).
A different view was expressed by the Egyptologist Robert Anderson who commented “It would seem that, rather than bands of plunderers, the Sea People were probably part of a great migration of displaced people. The migration was most likely the result of widespread crop failures and famine.”(d)
Evidence is mounting that climate change played a significant part in the Late Bronze Age collapse of civilisations in the Eastern Mediterranean region. In fact there is a school of thought that believes that the widespread societal disintegration was more the result of environmental factors rather than the depredations of the Sea Peoples(ag).
The Malagabay website published a lengthy article(t) in July 2016, offering evidence along with some conjecture, supporting the radical idea that the Sea Peoples had originated in India and having migrated westward, some of them reached the Aegean and became known as Dorians! The author of the article appears to have followed the ideas of Edward Pococke published in his India in Greece.
Bob Idjennaden along with co-author, Mebarek S. Taklit, have produced The Mysterious Sea Peoples attack Egypt, which provides an overview of the various incursions against Egypt during the 2nd millennium BC. The prominent part played by the Berbers in varying alliances that constituted the Sea Peoples is highlighted.
Eberhard Zangger argues that the Sea Peoples were survivors of the Trojan War that fled to various parts of both central and eastern Mediterranean(g). He has written further on this identification and more on the Luwian Studies website(s). Zangger claims that the Sea Peoples were an alliance of Libyans and Western Anatolian (Luwian) states(s)(y), which seems odd since Plato describes the Atlanteans as mightier than Libya and Asia combined. If Zangger is correct in identifying Troy as Atlantis, he is also implying that a part (Troy) is greater than the whole (Libya and Asia combined), Troy being part of Asia! Something is clearly wrong with his theory.
Jürgen Spanuth,not surprisingly, referred to them as the North Sea Peoplesand offered a range of evidence from Egyptian inscriptions at Medinet Habu to support this idea. This evidence includes a variety of features that Egyptians used to portray the Sea Peoples such as types of swords, shape of ships, shields and helmets as well as hair, clothing and shaving fashions. He then identified these Scandinavians as Atlanteans who later attacked Egypt. His opinion in this regard was strongly supported by Felix R. Paturi[1339.218]. Quite recently Spanuth’s ideas have also been echoed by Walter Baucum in his Bronze Age Atlantis.
Prior to the development of these Bronze Age seafarers there was a history of Northern Boat-peoples who gradually expanded globally after the last Ice Age. A paper by Andres Pääbo charts their story(k). Zach Zorich is a freelance journalist and contributing editor at Archaeology magazine. In January 2016 he wrote an article(r) that would seem to contradict the idea of Northern European ‘Sea People’ invading Egypt, for the simple reason that sailing boats were not developed in Scandinavia until around the time of the Vikings! – “The plankboats and logboats being built in northern Europe were not the most advanced watercraft of their time. The Greeks, Egyptians, and other cultures around the Mediterranean Sea used sailing ships to conduct trade, and sails wouldn’t be used in Northern Europe until the Iron Age, during the seventh or eighth century CE.”
Quite a number of writers have identified the Atlanteans as the Sea Peoples whose invasion of the Eastern Mediterranean has been recorded in some detail by the Egyptians. One such high profile identification in the 20th century was by Spyridon Marinatos.
One of the latest to join this school is Dr. Rainer W. Kühne,who not only makes the same identification, but using satellite images, he believes that he has pinpointed the capital of Atlantis in Southern Spain. His website has a list of comparisons of Atlanteans and Sea Peoples(a) which is worth consideration.
Erick Wright, a regular contributor to Atlantis Rising forums, has now concluded(b) that Atlantis was located in modern southern Turkey and that Atlanteans were among the Sea Peoples who attacked Egypt in 1200 BC.
Another Atlantis Rising forum(e)on the subject is also worth a look as is another illustrated site(f) which includes a map of the homelands of the Sea People.
According to Raffaele D’Amato & Andrea Salimbeti [1152.20], the Denyen were one of the major groups of the Sea Peoples and have been known in ancient sources by different names; Danai, Danaoi, Danaus, Danaids, Dene, Danaids, Danuna. Other have linked them with the Danaan of Irish mythology. Velikovsky has an interesting footnote in his Peoples of the Sea [758.4], which reads; “When Ramses III speaks of ‘Peoples of the Sea’ he specifies the Tkeker, the Shekelesh, the Teresh, the Weshesh and the Sherden (or Sardan) ; he specifies the Denyen as ‘Peoples of the Isles.'”
The Tuatha de Danaan invaded Ireland in prehistoric times. Having noted that Dan/Don/Danu were ancient words for water, it is not such a wild supposition that the Tuatha de Danaan were at least a constituent part of the Sea Peoples, an idea promoted by Leonardo Melis. On the other hand Egerton Sykes was of the opinion that the Tuatha de Danaan were refugees from Atlantis, an idea he expressed in his 1949 edition of Ignatius Donnelly’s Atlantis. He was convinced that Murias one of the legendary cities of the de Danann had been located in Bimini. This is highly speculative idea has failed to bear fruit as have all efforts to identify the location of the other three cities, Falias, Finias and Gorias.
Eric Cline has noted that the only member of the Sea Peoples alliance whose identity has been ‘firmly established’ is that of the Peleset who are accepted as Philistines. He also comments that identifying the Shekelesh with Sicily and the Shardana with Sardinia is based in part on the ‘consonantal similarities’[p.4].
Joseph Morris in his thesis(m) presented to the Classics Department of Florida State University in 2006 defined the Sea Peoples as “a coalition consisting of the indigenous populations of Syria-Palestine led by the neo-Hittite states.”
Federico Bardanzellu offers a number of papers on his Museo dei Dolmen website(n) in which he suggests specific homelands for many of the members of the alliance(o).
Another unexpected twist is the claim, by the discoverer of the Phaistos Disk, Luigi Pernier, that the characters used on the Disk are similar to the representations of the Sea Peoples at Medinet Habu.
Also related to the carvings at Medinet Habu is an interesting study of the Sea Peoples’ ships depicted there, by the nautical archaeologist Professor Shelley Wachsmann(aj), who also offers evidence that at least some Mycenaeans were involved with the Sea Peoples(ak).*Andrea Salimbetti’s website has a lengthy paper on Aegean Bronze Age ships(al) as well as the Sea Peoples(am) .
Another site(an) also describes the various ships of the period used by the Egyptians, Greeks and the Sea Peoples. One unusual suggestion on the same site is that some of the Sea Peoples, although allied with groups from across the Mediterranean, came from Britain and Northern Europe(ao)!*
The most radical suggestion regarding the Sea Peoples has come from Jim Allen who has drawn attention to the similarity of their headgear with that of Amazonian ‘Indians’(c).
Speculation regarding the identity of individual tribes in the federation can be found on a number of websites(i)(j). One of the most comprehensive is provided by two Italians military historians, D’Amato & Salimbeti in a 2015 booklet and on the internet(l) and both are to be highly recommended. They highlight the complexities involved in definitively identifying the members of the varying alliances that were loosely described as the ‘Sea Peoples’ over a three hundred year period.
Trude & Moshe Dothan have added another valuable book to the Sea Peoples literature with their People of the Sea, which has the interesting sub-title of The Search for the Philistines. Related to their work, is the result of recent excavations at Ashkelon, an important Philistine city, which suggests that the city had received migrants from southern Europe during the Bronze Age, who may have constituted a component of the Sea Peoples(ah). Clearly further investigation wll be required to confirm these indications.
An extensive review of all the available material relating to the Sea Peoples was also published online in October 2015(q). The MalagaBay website has also a wide-ranging illustrated article(u) about the Sea Peoples, although without reaching any firm conclusions.
The most recent addition to our knowledge of the Sea Peoples appears to be imminent with the publication of a paper in the December 2017 issue of the journal Proceedings of the Dutch Archaeological and Historical Society. Written by Frederik Woudhuizen and Eberhard Zangger, the authors offer a translation of a 3200-year-old inscription That may refer to the Sea Peoples and linking them with western Turkey. You can read more, now, on the Livescience website(z) . In a 2006 paper(ac), The Ethnicity of the Sea Peoples, Woudhuizen included some groups from the Central Mediterranean as part of the Sea Peoples.
(k) See: Archive 2337 All Three Parts
(p) Abhandlungen der bayerischen Akademie der Wissenschaften, Vol. XVII, 2nd part, Munich 1886, pp. 451-512. (German)
(q) http://www.lessonfromthepast.com/?p=941 or See Archive 2759
(aa) See Archive 3429
(ai) https://www.reddit.com/r/history/comments/c3fm5j/who_were_the_mysterious_sea_people_during_the/ (halfway down page)
Also see: Shardana
The Neanderthals were claimed by the late Colin Wilson to have possessed highly sophisticated mathematical and astronomical knowledge and were precursors of the Atlantis civilisation. This extremely speculative assertion is made in Wilson’s Atlantis and the Kingdom of the Neanderthals, a book that wanders all over the place with references to an extensive range of ancient mysteries from the Maya to Mary Magdalene without offering anything tangible to substantiate his central thesis.
The idea of a Neanderthal connection is totally at variance with Plato’s description of a literate Bronze Age civilisation. While many atlantologists have chosen to reinterpret, modify or ignore aspects of Plato’s narrative, they have usually made some effort to justify their stance. Wilson, however, simply disregards the substantial Bronze Age references by Plato without any attempt at an explanation for his omission. Although, it is generally accepted that the Neanderthals had died out by 20,000 BC and Wilson seems to believe that the cataclysmic flooding of Atlantis took place around 9500 BC, it leaves an insurmountable gap of over 10,000 years unexplained by him.
Neanderthals are accepted to have been indigenous to Europe, although the are sites in Israel attributed to them. As far as I’m aware, the most southerly evidence in Europe of Neanderthal activity has been in Malta(l), which is outlined in Dr. Anton Mifsud’s beautifully illustrated book, Dossier Malta – Neanderthal ,*which can now be read online.*
A January 2010 report(a)dated the demise of the last Neanderthal at around 35,000 BC, which conflicts with the last paragraph. An even more eyebrow raising claim was made two years later in February 2012, when New Scientist magazine published an article(b) which suggested that the Neanderthals had a maritime history in the Aegean 130,000 years ago! However, to make such a claim does not seem to take adequate account of the fact that at the time sea levels were much lower and as a consequence some islands were considerably larger and in many cases, individual islands that we know today were joined to each other or generally required shorter sea journeys between them.
Now the suggestion has been made that the Neanderthals were possibility the first cave artists. This claim was put forward in the journal Nature (15/6/12). The El Castillo cave in northern Spain has some of this art dated to at least 40,800 years ago.
It was also proposed by Peter Fotis Kapnistos, who worked with Spyridon Marinatos, that Neanderthal Man may also have mastered sea travel and possibly played a part in the development of the Atlantis story(c).
Paola Villa a curator at the University of Colorado’s Museum of Natural History has recently (April, 2004) expressed the view that the intellectual abilities of the Neanderthals have been seriously underestimated(d). Similar views are expressed in an article(e) which traces the early characterisation of Neanderthals as ‘primitive’ and contrasting that with the current revised opinions that attribute much greater intellectual capabilities to them.
*In 2018, an article by Joanna Gillen on the Ancient Origins website offers more evidence that the Neanderthals had a more sophisticated lifestyle than previously thought(n). This based on the finds from the cave at Abric Romani in Spain’s Catalonia.*
An extensive two-part article describing the Neanderthals as ‘human’ is available online(g).*This view is currently championed by Portuguese archaeologist João Zilhão, who’s views are featured in an interesting article(m) in the May 2019 edition of the Smithsonian Magazine.*
In 2015 the results of the mapping of the entire geonome of a 50,000-year-old Neanderthal were published, which concluded that “There is now conclusive evidence that Neanderthals bred with Homo sapiens.”(f)
Also in 2015, genetic studies pushed back the origins of Neanderthals to a startling 765,000 years ago(i), twice as old as previously thought. A year later the results of a study(j) of their ‘Y’ chromosome suggested that Neanderthals had diverged “almost 590,000 years ago from humans.”
The relatively rapid extinction of the Neanderthals has, understandably, led to a great amount of speculation. One of the most recent(h) suggests that the lack of the control of fire by the Neanderthals, in contrast with their human neighbours, was probably a factor that led to their demise!
More relevant to life today is a report(k) that the average 3% which modern Europeans share with Neanderthals have left us with a greater risk of nicotine addiction and depression.
*(c) http://ufodigest.com/news/0309/more-terrible4.php (link broken Dec. 2018)
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)*
Christos Doumas (1933- ) is Emeritus Professor of Archaeology at the University of Athens and has a passion for his country’s early history.*He was the editor of Thera and the Aegean World (Vol I) .*
Doumas succeeded Spyridon Marinatos as director of the Akrotiri excavations on Santorini. Unfortunately, an accident that killed a British tourist led to the closure of the site in 2005. In the same year Doumas presented a paper to the Atlantis Conference on Melos when he outlined his reasons for believing that the Atlantis story was, in his word, a ‘chimera’, quoting his colleague, René Treuil.*At the Conference he argued on the basis of the Location, Size and Shape of Atlantis combined with the claimed level of Civilisation and the Date of Submergence!*
Dr. Spyridon Marinatos (1901-1974) was born in Lixouri, Cephalonia, Greece. In the early 1930’s he was engaged in excavations on Crete but was soon to turn his attention northward to Santorini. He was an early supporter of a connection between Thera and Plato’s Atlantis story. In 1939 Marinatos first published his views regarding the connection between Thera’s eruption and the destruction of Minoan civilisation in the journal, Antiquity. However, the editors forbade Marinatos to make any reference to Atlantis. This is very different to the attitude of the same publication recently, when it permitted a speculative article by Dr Rainer W. Kuhne that proposed a site in Andalusia as the site of Atlantis based on satellite photos of the lower Guadalquivir River. Perhaps it should be noted here that Dr. Kuhne has pointed out that Marinatos, like himself, identified the Atlanteans with the Sea Peoples.
Marinatos was fascinated by Thera since the early 1930’s but was unable to take up continuous excavation until 1967. This continued until his death in 1974, following a fall on the site. Charles Pellegrino has written a fascinating book about Thera and Marinatos’ work there. Work at the site continued under the direction of Dr. Christos Doumas a confirmed Atlantis sceptic.
In 2003, Mario la Ferla published L’uomo di Atlantide in which he investigated the ‘suspicious’ death of Marinatos and its aftermath. In this book, Atlantis takes a back seat to terrorists, the Greek colonels and Nazis(a).
The Phaistos Disk is the most famous ancient artefact ever found on Crete and as Axel Hausmann says, can be considered the world’s oldest ‘printed’ document, dated to around 1700 BC. This is because the characters were created using incised punches, similar in effect to movable type.
Noting that this ‘document’ was produced using some sort of character ‘punches’, brings to my mind three questions – (1) were these the only set of punches created? And (2) have any other objects been discovered that show a similar use of punches? And (3) if not why not? These questions prompted some to claim that the Disk was a hoax! (See below)
Another artefact with characteristics remarkably similar to the Phaistos Disk, is the inscribed Magliano Disk, made of lead, which was discovered in Magliano, Tuscany in the 1889’s(ac) . However, the two discs were very far apart in time and location and so similarities are just superficial. Like the Phaistos Disc, the one from Magliano has also presented translation problems as the Etruscan script in which it is written is still only partly decipherable.
It was discovered around a hundred years ago by the Italian archaeologist Luigi Pernier (1874-1937) and despite an amazing number of efforts(a) it has defied a definitive decipherment ever since. The interpretations so far have ranged from it being a prayer to a description of the eruption of Thera, while one writer in a light-headed moment went as far as to suggest that it might hold a message from extraterrestrials!
One of the most fascinating suggestions is that the disk was in fact a board game based on an ancient Egyptian game called Senet(b)(o), which was proposed by Peter Aleff, an explanation later supported by Philip Coppens. However, it seems that this idea was first proposed by Fernand Crombette at least half a century ago(r).
Alan Butler, who has written a book on the subject, provides a more conventional offering in which he sees the disk as being primarily an astronomical aid. Rosario Vieni has promoted the idea that the disk had a calendrical use and has published his reasons, in French, on the Internet(c). Paul Dunbavin has also suggested that the disk may have been a spiral calendar[099.181].
Naturally, Atlantis has not been excluded from this wide ranging Phaistos speculation, although the linking of the disk with Atlantis is tenuous at best. Jean Louis Pagé has produced a bilingual offering that combines the Phaistos, Mayan and Aztec disks in an effort to locate Atlantis. Axel Hausmann, writing in German, has also done little to provide a clear connection between Atlantis and the disk.
Christian O’Brien and his wife Barbara Joy,in an appendix to their book The Genius of the Few, have identified the writing on the disk as an early form of Sumerian cuneiform writing.
The disk is housed in the Iraklion Archaeological Museum which is also home to the Akralochori Axe also found on Crete in 1934 by Spyridon Marinatos, that was inscribed with 15 characters that have been identified with the Linear A script as well as some of the Phaistos characters(e).
Brent Davis is one of the world’s leading experts on Bronze Age Aegean scripts and languages. In 2018, he published an article “in which, based on a close statistical analysis, shows that the while both the Phaistos Disc and Linear A are undeciphered writing systems, he can demonstrate that the both are, with a high degree of certainty, encode the same language!”(ad)
Two American academic twins, Keith and Kevin Massey, have made available a 72-page pdf file(k) outlining their interpretation of the disk. They concluded that the disk was probably a receipt for goods deposited in a temple.
2008 was a busy year for Phaistos Disk studies. Panagiotes D. Gregoriades delivered three papers to the Atlantis Conference in Athens in which he identified the disk as a calendrical devise used on land and sea. He subsequently published his ideas in book form in 2010 entitled The Creation of Prototypes. In 2008 a major international Phaistos Disk Conference was held in London(h) to celebrate the 100th anniversary of its discovery.
Unfortunately, in 1999 a professional ‘wet blanket’ in the form of Dr. Jerome Eisenberg declared the disk to be a fake, when he wrote to The Economist declaring that the disk “a joke perpetrated by a clever archaeologist from the Italian mission to Crete upon his fellow excavators.” He expanded on this in a detailed, fully illustrated paper(z) in 2008. Brian E. Colless responded by pointing out(d) that such a hoax would first have required the “making 45 little stamps to imprint on clay, on both sides of the object, and printing 30 clusters of signs (words or phrases ?) on one side and 31 on the other.”
The Greek authorities have refused to allow the disk, which is just 16cm across, to be removed for testing, on the grounds of its extreme fragility. The idea of fraud has been suggested because of the lack of other documents ‘printed’ in the same manner and because none of the punches were ever found. Fortunately that argument has now been refuted(u). My own response would be to point out that uniqueness is not necessarily a sign of a hoax. Otherwise, we would have to reject the Antikythera Mechanism, which is also a singular item with no objects of any intermediate sophistication discovered so far.
Dr. Marco Guido Corsini, who has also written about Atlantis, has widely promoted his interpretation of the Phaistos Disk(o).
Mark Newbrook, who has studied linguistics, gave a good overview of the various attempts to decipher the disk to the 2008 Phaistos Conference. An even more extensive site (currently suspended) was offered by the Georgian mathematician Gia Kvashilavathat includes a very comprehensive bibliography. Kvashilava offers his own interpretation based on the Colchian (Proto-Kartvelian) language printed in the unique Colchian syllabo-logogramic Goldscript. His paper is quite technical and more suited to advanced students of the subject.
Reinoud de Jong has now entered this particular fray with a decipherment that he claims offers a description of the religion of Crete(i). Steven Roger Fischer, who claims to have deciphered the rongorongo script of Easter Island has also offered a translation of the Phaistos Disk in his book, Glyphbreaker.
By way of complete contrast, Gary Vey claims that the disk is merely some sort of inventory and also gives an overview of the difficulties attached to deciphering the disk as well as some interesting features overlooked by some researchers(j).
The Czech WM magazine has an extensive 2011 article on the decipherment of the Phaistos Disk(p), giving prominence to the work of Petr Kovar, who claims that the language is Proto-Slavic!(y)
Stephen E. Franklin has claimed that the Disk is a king-list of Cretan rulers and also that it had a calendrical function(ab).
Barbara Gagliano raised a few eyebrows with her claim that the Disk contained DNA information(q)!
Late 2014 saw another translation attempt published(s) by Dr. Gareth Owens of the Technological Educational Institute of Crete, in which he claimed that the disk “contains a prayer to the mother goddess of the Minoan era.” Owens’ contribution provoked further controversy including further suggestions that the Disk might be a fake(t).
Linear B was the basis of Owens’ study, which was the result of a collaboration with John Coleman in Oxford University. They claim to have translated 80% of the text with certainty, along with another possible 15%, leaving just 5% undeciphered.(w)
Robert Bradford Lewis has offered a recent forensic study of the Disk, based on his view that the language used was Ugaritic, an long extinct Semitic tongue.(y) However, while the language may be Ugaritic, the script is not!
The number of theories relating to the Disk seems to rival the range of speculation relating to Atlantis. My selection here can be fruitfully augmented by the Wikipedia entry(x) on the subject.
A list of decipherment claims as well as a useful bibliography up to 2008 is available(y) and Charles River Editors has recently (2018) published two Kindle books offering more information about the many attempts to solve the mystery of the disk.
(c) http://www.world-mysteries.com/LeDisquedePhaestos.pdf (offline Nov. 2017) See: https://web.archive.org/web/20150423071528/http://www.world-mysteries.com/LeDisquedePhaestos.pdf
*(h) http://www.csad.ox.ac.uk/bes/phaistos.pdf (link broken April 2019) See: https://web.archive.org/web/20120419010351/http://www.csad.ox.ac.uk/bes/phaistos.pdf*
(k) http://www.keithmassey.com/files/ThePhaistosDisk-Massey.pdf (offline July 2017) See: https://web.archive.org/web/20160331171116/http://www.keithmassey.com/files/ThePhaistosDisk-Massey.pdf
(l) https://www.we-love-crete.com/phaistos.html (Link broken Nov. 2017) See: https://web.archive.org/web/20141201114928/https://www.we-love-crete.com/phaistos.html
(o) http://www.phaistosgame.com/ (3 papers)
Angelos Georgiou Galanopoulos (1910- 2001) was a Greek seismologist with the Athens Seismological Institute. To a great extent his views on Atlantis are based on the work of Spyridon Marinatos. Dr. Galanopoulos’ best known work on Atlantis  was co-authored with the British archaeologist Edward Bacon. This book offers probably the best argument in support of the Minoan Hypothesis. In 1960 he listed 19 of Plato’s statements that could be related to Minoan Crete or Thera. The geologist Dorothy Vitaliano considered this list in her book and thought that up to 14 of them ‘could be made to fit’ Plato’s description. Francis Hitching also refers to this list in the work he edited on world mysteries[307.137], while personally supporting a Minoan influence on Plato’s account[578.166].
Dr. Galanopoulos was a supporter of the idea that the Egyptian hieroglyphic for 100 was misread as 1000 and so decreased all numbers in Plato’s text by factor of ten. This explanation does not stand up to scrutiny, as the Egyptian hieroglyphics are distinctly different and in any case the Egyptian priests who presumably would have a clear understanding of their own inscriptions would have carried out the interpretation.
Immanuel Velikovsky also proposed a factor ten reduction of Plato’s 9,000 years in 1950[037.152], although he was not certain regarding the specific source of the error. My own study of Plato’s large numbers in the Atlantis narrative led me to also conclude that all of them made more sense is reduced by a factor of ten, but a definitive explanation of how this may have occurred has so far eluded me (see: Factor Ten).
In December 1969, the classical scholar, Moses I. Finley (1912-1986), wrote a critical review of ‘Atlantis’ for The New York Review of Books(a), to which Galanopoulos responded(b).
The Identity of the Atlanteans has produced a range of speculative suggestions nearly as extensive as that of the proposed locations for Plato’s lost island. However, it is highly probable that we already know who the Atlanteans were, but under a different name.
The list below includes some of the more popular suggestions and as such is not necessarily exhaustive. While researchers have proposed particular locations for Atlantis, not all have identified an archaeologically identified culture to go with their chosen location. The problem being that most of the places suggested have endured successive invasions over the millennia by different peoples.
It would seem therefore that the most fruitful approach to solving the problem of identifying the Atlanteans would be to first focus on trying to determine the date of the demise of Atlantis. This should reduce the number of possible candidates, making it easier to identify the Atlanteans.
A final point to consider, is that the historical Atlanteans were a military alliance, and as such may have included more than one or none of those listed here. The mythological Atlanteans, who included the five sets of male twins and their successors would be expected to share a common culture, wheras military coalitions are frequently more disparate.
Basques: William Lewy d’Abartiague, Edward Taylor Fletcher
Maltese: Anton Mifsud, Francis Xavier Aloisio, Kevin Falzon, Bibischok, Joseph Bosco, David Calvert-Orange, Giorgio Grongnet de Vasse, Albert Nikas, Joseph S. Ellul, Francis Galea, Tammam Kisrawi, Charles Savona-Ventura, Hubert Zeitlmair.
Maya: Robert B. Stacy-Judd, Charles Gates Dawes, Colin Wilson, Adrian Gilbert, L. M. Hosea, Augustus le Plongeon, Teobert Maler, Joachim Rittstieg, Lewis Spence, Edward Herbert Thompson, Jean-Frédérick de Waldeck,
Minoans: K.T. Frost, James Baikie, Walter Leaf, Edwin Balch, Donald A. Mackenzie, Ralph Magoffin, Spyridon Marinatos, Georges Poisson, Wilhelm Brandenstein, A. Galanopoulos, J. G. Bennett, Rhys Carpenter, P.B.S. Andrews, Edward Bacon, Willy Ley, J.V. Luce, James W. Mavor, Henry M. Eichner, Prince Michael of Greece, Nicholas Platon, N.W. Tschoegl, Richard Mooney, Rupert Furneaux, Martin Ebon, Francis Hitching, Charles Pellegrino, Rodney Castleden, Graham Phillips, Jacques Lebeau, Luana Monte, Fredrik Bruins, Gavin Menzies, Lee R. Kerr, Daniel P. Buckley.
Jacques-Yves Cousteau (1910-1997) the famous oceanographer, was also drawn to the Atlantis mystery. In 1967 he was due to join Spyridon Marinatos and James Mavor in an expedition to Santorini but the onset of the Arab-Israeli war prevented him from bringing his famous ship Calypso through the Suez Canal. He later did explore in the eastern Mediterranean and subsequently, in collaboration with Yves Paccalet, wrote his contribution to the Atlantis issue, in which he relates his investigation of the sea around Santorini. His search for Atlantis also revealed unexpected underwater stone formations off Crete.
A 1976 newspaper report(c) described Cousteau as having ‘debunked’ the reality of Atlantis, after his thirteen months of exploration in the Aegean.
A 1978 TV documentary, Calypso’s Search for Atlantis, is widely available, while most of it can be seen on YouTube(a)(b).
Vicente Vera was a professor at the Spanish Royal Geographical Society. In 1925 he published an essay on Atlantis, geology and the ancient Minoan civilisation of Crete. This would have been a follow-up to the work of the likes of Frost and Baikie who had been the earliest proponents of a link between Atlantis and Crete. This was later expanded by Spyridon Marinatos to incorporate the 2nd millennium eruption of Thera as the mechanism for the destruction of Atlantis.