The Central Mediterranean is a very geologically unstable region containing as it does all of Europe’s land-based active volcanoes(a), regular seismic(b) activity with the attendant risk of tsunamis. It is now estimated that a devastating tsunami will hit the Mediterranean every 100 years(c). While the Aegean region experiences the greatest number of earthquakes, the Central Mediterranean, particularly around Sicily is also prone to regular tremors.
The idea that Atlantis was situated in this region is advocated by a number of researchers, including Alberto Arecchi, Férréol Butavand, Anton Mifsud, Axel Hausmann, as well as this compiler. Plato unambiguously referred to only two places as Atlantean territory (Crit.114c & Tim 25b) North Africa and Southern Italy as far as Tyrrhenia (Tuscany) plus a number of unspecified islands.
The area between Southern Italy and Tunisia has had a great number of sites proposed for the Pillars of Herakles, while possible locations for Gades are on offer with a number places still known today by cognates of that name.
Plato clearly includes continental territory as part of the Atlantean domain as well as a number of important islands. Within a relatively small geographical area, you have two continents, Africa and Europe represented by Tunisia and Italy respectively, as well as the islands of Sicily, Sardinia, Corsica and Malta together with a number of smaller archipelagos, matching Plato’s description exactly. The later Carthaginian Empire also occupied much of the same territory apart from eastern Sicily and southern Italy which by then was controlled by the Greeks and known as Magna Graecia.
For me, the clincher is that within that region we have the only place in the entire Mediterranean to have been home to elephants up to Roman times – Northwest Africa.
(b) The Europeam Mediterranean Seismic Centre – EMSC, records all activity in the region.
(c) Tsunami Alarm System – A3M Tsunami Alarm System (tsunami-alarm-system.com) (German & English)
Civilisation Collapse has occurred many times over past millennia in all parts of the world. The American anthropologist, Joseph A. Tainter defines collapse as “a rapid shift to a lower level of complexity(a) .” Societal disintegration immediately brings to mind the Maya, the Indus Valley and in what are relatively more modern times, the Western Roman Empire.
The causes are usually a combination of factors, such as, climate change, warfare, disease or excessive expansionism. Global catastrophes such as encounters with comets or asteroids are rare, while more local events such as earthquakes, volcanic eruptions or tsunamis can also be thrown into the mix. These have all been encountered from time to time, but have rarely been blamed for the collapse of a society; recovery from such limited regional events is usually possible.
The Mediterranean has seen its share of all these catastrophic events. A major tsunami on Sardinia, volcanic eruptions in Italy, earthquakes in North Africa and the Eastern Mediterranean. Close encounters with extraterrestrial bodies have also been proposed in that region.
Perhaps the best documented civilisation collapse is that which occurred around 1200 BC and affected many societies, particularly in the Middle East(b) . Israel Finkelstein, a leading Israeli archaeologist, has attributed this event to climate change and is of the view that this disruption was global in extent.
Inevitably, Atlantis has been cited as an example of civilisation collapse, particularly supporters of the Minoan Hypothesis, who link the 2nd millennium BC eruptions of Thera with the demise of the Minoans on Crete. Also popular is the idea that Atlantis had been a large island in the Atlantic Ocean destroyed by a cometary impact or the rising sea levels as the glaciers melted at the end of the last Ice Age.
A variety of other theories have associated Atlantis with the collapse of a civilisation. For example, Frank Joseph claims that 40,000 years ago “sudden sea-level rises triggers migration from Mu around. The Pacific motherlanders settle on a large, fertile island about 380 kilometers due west from the Straits of Gibraltar. There, the newcomers merge with the native Cro-Magnon inhabitants, resulting in a new, hybrid culture – Atlantis.”
Raffaele Bendandi (1893-1979) was an Italian clockmaker with an intense interest in earthquakes and planetary alignments. This led to a lifetime of earthquake prediction with a remarkable level of success.
In 1940 it was reported(a) that Bendandi claimed that Atlantis had been situated in the Atlantic and had been destroyed by an earthquake in the autumn of 9008 BC.
In 2013, Paola Pescerelli Lagorio published (in Italian) Raffaele Bendandi, in which he reviews the life and work of Bendandi.
Katherine Fordham Neer is an American writer, editor and researcher. She appears to accept the existence of Atlantis having published a brief paper(a) with the odd title of Shocker: 9 Reasons Atlantis May Have Been Real, which simply recounts the existence of natural catastrophic events such as tsunamis, earthquakes, volcanic eruptions and floods. Disappointingly, Neer offers nothing to support the existence of Plato’s Atlantis exemplified by number 8 of her ‘reasons’ entitled ‘The Ocean is Really, Really Big’!
Survivors of the Atlantean destruction are a reasonable expectation given the extent of its influence as described by Plato. The fact that its rulers only met every few years suggests a geographical spread that must have left some, if not most, of the confederation intact, irrespective of the location of the earthquake’s epicentre. Some writers have proposed that survivors migrated to an extensive range of locations such as Egypt, the Middle East and the Americas, but offer little to substantiate their claims apart from the widely dispersed flood myths that are most likely to have arisen following the melting of glaciers at the end of the last Ice Age.
*All the suggestions put forward are either pure speculation, invention or allegedly derived from some psychic source. W. Scott-Eliot claimed  that refugees from an Atlantic Atlantis fled westward to Mexico and became the Toltecs and eastward and built Stonehenge ln Britain! While other European cultures have also had Atlantean roots attributed to them, the most frequently named are the great civilisations of Central and South America – Aztec, Mayan and Incan. Posnansky went as far as to suggest that Tiwanaku in the Andes was built by Nordic refugees from Atlantis! Proof, however, is lacking in all cases.*
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.>Although Thera is thought to have violently erupted around 54,000 & 18,500 BC, it was not until the middle of the sixteenth century BC that it provided what was 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]
The 1500 BC date was supported by David A. Warburton who edited the Acts of the Minoan Eruption Chronology Workshop in 2007(af). The workshop provided a good overview of the Theran eruption dating debates, Warburton’s own comments are to be found in the Epilogue.
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 dendrochronologist Charlotte L. Pearson published a paper(ab)(ad), which concluded that the eruption of Thera took place in the 16th century BC. This conclusion was the result of using a combination of ‘dendro’ along with high-resolution radiocarbon dating methods. In April 2020, a new report in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences explained how a new study of “the wood of an ancient grove of juniper trees, which suggested that the volcano blew its top around the year 1560 B.C.”(ae)
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).>Nevertheless, in late 2020, one commentator did speculate that Akrotiri may originally have been Atlantis!(aj)
It is noteworthy that “Unlike Pompeii, no human remains have been found at Akrotiri, and only one gold object was found on the site, suggesting that the Minoans performed an orderly evacuation before the eruption, and they had time to take their valuables before they fled.”(ak)<
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.
2020 brought further debate with the claim in an extensive paper that the date of the Disk should be brought forward to the 1st millennium BC(ag). This was followed by a shorter but vehement rebuttal(ah).
In December 2020, the Discovery Channel aired a new documentary, which attempted to revive the Minoan Hypothesis, placing Atlantis on today’s Santorini. This recycled claim adds little that is new and has been taken up by a number of media outlets(ai), repeating an old error which claims that Plato said that Atlantis was destroyed by a volcanic eruption, when in fact he clearly states that it was the result of an earthquake.
An extensive bibliography of books and articles on the subject of Thera can be found on the Internet(b).
(h) See: Archive 2199
(i) See: Archive 2200
(ac) Archive 3919
Iain Stewart (1964- ) is a Scottish geologist and former child actor. Stewart lectured on geology at the University of Plymouth and now is a senior lecturer in Geography and Earth Sciences at Brunel University. In 2007 a newly identified species of ant, Cerapachys iainstewarti, was named after him, when it was discovered during the filming of a TV programme presented by him.
However, he gave up his acting career to study geology and geography and eventually received a PhD. No doubt assisted by his acting experience Dr Stewart has gone on to present a number of science programmes on television. The first of which was Helike: The Real Atlantis (2002), in which he proposed that the submergence of Helike was the inspiration for elements of Plato’s Atlantis story(a).
In 2014, he updated the article providing interesting information regarding the effects of earthquakes in Greek history, concluding with a reiteration of his support for Helike as an important influence on the development of Plato’s story of Atlantis. He returned to the subject again in June 2015(b).
Stewart was a member of the steering committee of the 2008 Atlantis Conference held in Athens.
(b) See: Archive 2571
Mycenaean is the name given to the culture of ancient Greece (excluding Crete) during the Late Bronze Age (1500–1100 BC). They were also called Achaeans. The controversial writer Felice Vinci maintains that a Northern European tribe was referred to as Achaeans by Homer and that they migrated south and founded the Mycenaean civilisation. However, it was Martin Persson Nilsson (1874-1967), a Swedish historian, who was an earlier proponent of a Nordic origin for the Mycenaeans.
However, recent genetic studies suggest that the mainland Mycenaeans and the Cretan Minoans share a common ancestry with Neolithic populations of what are today Turkey and Greece(c).
Austen Atkinson in his Impact Earth suggested the possibility that the unexplained ending of the Mycenaean civilisation could be explained as a consequence of Earth’s encounter with Phaëton referred to by Plato (Tim.22c-d).
However, there are current studies(a) being made into the possibility that earthquakes were responsible for the demise of the Mycenaeans and the start of the Greek ‘Dark Ages’.
However, the earthquake theory is also under attack(b), with the proposal that either an uprising or invasion was responsible for the demise of the Mycenaean Greece.
The Red, White and Black stone which Plato said had adorned the buildings of its port city, have led Atlantis seekers to eagerly follow up this apparently obvious clue. However, as with so many aspects of the Atlantis story, this particular detail does not provide us with anything like a clear pointer to any specific location.
Jürgen Spanuth relates[015.125] how the ancient Canarians decorated their temple with red, white and black rock, the colours of tufa, pumice and lava. The cliffs of Santorini are also known to display red, white and black rock. These three materials are frequently found in the vicinity of volcanoes(b) and may be considered a valuable clue to the location of Atlantis. However, this combination of rock colours is not exclusive to volcanic localities as Jim Allen has demonstrated at Pampa Augallas in the Andes and Peter Daughtrey at his Silves site in Portugal[0893.120].
Although Atlantis was destroyed by an earthquake, volcanoes are often located in the same general region such as in the Central Mediterranean which is both seismically and volcanically very active and, in my opinion, the prime candidate as the home of Atlantis. This view is endorsed by Plato himself who twice (Tim.25b & Crit.114c) told us that the territory of the Atlantean alliance stretched from North Africa as far as Tyrrhenia in Italy. I further propose that this was on a north/south axis.
Jim Allen has found the same three rock colours at his Bolivian site and further afield, Ian Wilson points out that red, white and black bricks were used extensively in Çatal Hüyük. Not to be excluded, Diaz-Montexano has produced photos on his website of pre-Roman structures near Gibraltar that incorporate red, white and black blocks in their construction. Jonas Bergman has indicated that similarly coloured stone is to be found in Morocco. Other locations include the Azores, Algeria and Sardinia.
>Andrew Jones, a professor of archaeology, has noted that the builders of Carn Ban, one of the ‘Clyde Cairns’ on Scotland’s Isle of Arran employed red white and black stones in its design – pure coincidence I’m sure! Robert Hensey in his book on Newgrange [1766.39] refers to Jones and the growing interest in the use of colour in ancient tombs.<
Some(a) have sought to link the red, white and black of the Nazi swastika with Plato’s reference.
Geology is one of the many ‘ologies’ brought into play by modern Atlantis studies. Plato records that the stone quarries of Atlantis produced red, white and black rock that was extensively used to adorn the capital port city.
Stone with all these colours are usually associated with volcanic eruptions in the form of tufa, pumice and lava. The Central Mediterranean is home to the most seismically and volcanically unstable region in that entire 2,300 mile long sea.
Plato also notes that “at a later time” following exceptional earthquakes (Tim. 25d), Atlantis was devastated by inundation and the Athenians wiped out by being “swallowed up by the earth”. The proponents of the Iberian Atlantis, such as Diaz-Montexano, will have to explain the geology that would simultaneously cause such destruction at two points separated by over 1,500 miles assuming that if they were that far apart and that the two events were concurrent.
However, the answer may lie in the fact that before Plato the terms ‘Atlantic’ and ‘Pillars of Heracles’ had meanings other than what we understand by them today. The western Mediterranean was known to some as the Atlantic Sea and the straits of Sicily and Messina, between Africa and Italy, were, among other locations, referred to as the Pillars of Heracles. In order to share the consequences of even severe earthquakes would place Atlantis at it nearest to Athens somewhere in the vicinity of Malta, only 500 miles away. There is clear evidence of such seismic convulsions in that region.
Another view of Atlantean geology is offered by Carl Martin(a). He opts for the Azores as the remnants of Atlantis which was destroyed by post-glacial crustal adjustments. He speculates that Atlantis “might have suffered from the effect of rebound compensation?”, and wonders if it “could have been “sucked” down to make up for the crustal rise in North America and Northern Europe?”
R. Cedric Leonard also advocates the Azores as Atlantis based mainly on the oceanographic surveys of over half a century ago(b).>Also in the mid-twentieth century there were still efforts to justify a view of geology and Atlantis based on what are now outdated theories such as the different views held by Hörbiger and Malaise(d).<
The announcement in May 2013 that part of a previously unknown mini-continent had been found in the Atlantic, 900 miles off the coast of Brazil, immediately got some of the print media linking it to Atlantis(c). It should be kept in mind that Plato never described Atlantis as a continent, but consistently referred to it as an island, which along with other islands led to a continent. Even today travellers going from Sicily to Southern Italy, refer to going to the ‘continente’.
>(d) Atlantis Vol.7. No.4 May 1954<