Kerkennah is the name of a group of Tunisian islands situated off its east coast.*The archipelago is one of the locations claimed to include Homer’s ‘Island of Goats’ and the home of the Cyclops in the Odyssey.*
In a recent book by Antonio Usai he claims that the original Pillars of Hercules were situated between the islands and the mainland. In support of his contention he quotes fron The Voyageof Hanno and other classical writers.
Elephants are specifically mentioned by Plato as being indigenous to Atlantis. This must have significance for anyone trying to arrive at a credible location for Atlantis. For example, supporters of the Theran Atlantis School cannot show where such large animals could have lived on the small volcanic island. There are no physical remains, no frescos and no historical references. Rodney Castleden who supports the Minoan Hypothesis admits that “no raw elephant ivory has been found (on Thera) and very little in the way of worked ivory”[225.70]. He later speaks of the importation of ivory into Crete[p.172] having bravely denounced Plato’s description (Critias 115a) of herds of elephants on Atlantis as “false”[p.136].
Similarly, Spanuth’s Heligoland location would have been climatically unsuited to elephants. Spanuth himself admits that the elephant reference “is hard to explain“. Nevertheless, Felice Vinci who champions a Northern European origin for Greek mythology is of the opinion that Plato’s elephant reference may be a lingering memory of the woolly mammoths that inhabited Arctic regions as recently as 2500-2000 BC(t)(u). In the late 17th century Olof Rudbeck, recognising the problem that Plato’s reference to elephants presented for his Swedish Atlantis, argued that Plato had been speaking figuratively when describing the large voracious animals and had in fact been referring to wolves, the Swedish word for wolf being ‘ulf’, which sounds like the beginning of ‘elephant’!!
Elephants in Western Europe were undoubtedly represented by mammoths, remains of which have been recovered from the North Sea – Doggerland and dated to around 40,000 years ago. Coincidentally, a tool made of mammoth bone, used for making rope, has also been dated to 40,000 years ago(i)(n). This discovery(s) by Nicholas Conard from the University of Tubingen was made shortly before Ashley Cowie published his interesting book on the history of rope-making. Further information on string, ropes and knots was published in March 2017(o). This ingenuity of our very distant ancestors, so often underestimated, is slowly being revealed by modern archaeology. In 2000, in the Czech Republic, it was discovered that woven cloth was being produced on looms 27,000 years ago(v). A few years later a team from Harvard’s Peabody Museum reported the discovery of fibers that ‘were spun, twisted or knotted’ and dated to at least 34,000 years ago(x). 2020 saw evidence emerge which suggested that even as far back as 41,000 – 52,000 years ago the Neanderthals had mastered the making of cords(w).>Later the same year, further evidence was offered that string making may have begun even earlier(y).<
Allied to the demise of the Siberian mammoths is the often repeated fib that when the remains were first discovered, their flesh was still fresh enough to eat, has recently been debunked by Jason Colavito(j). He has also unearthed the truth behind that other canard relating to a Siberian mammoth, namely that fresh buttercups were found in its mouth(j). He has now(q) traced back the earliest reference to the frozen mammoths to George Cuvier in 1822 [1586.11].
Eckart Kahlhofer, in a forthcoming book advocates a North-West European location for Atlantis, suggests that where Plato referred to elephants he really meant deer! Kahlhofer offers, as a simple explanation for this seemingly daft contention, the fact that the Greek for elephant, elephas, is very similar to the Greek elaphos which means deer. A simple transcription error by a scribe could have caused the mix-up. The elk was the largest species of deer to be found in the northern hemisphere and are still to be found in Scandinavia. The Great Irish Deer which died out around 5500 BC had an antler span of 11ft and a maximum height of 10ft.
Gene Matlock in an attempt to bolster his Mexican location for Atlantis has suggested that Plato’s elephants were in fact the long-snouted tapirs of Meso-America!(c), an idea ‘borrowed’ from Hyde Clarke
While the elephant issue should not be dealt with in isolation it does serve to illustrate the difficulties involved in analysing Plato’s text. Consider the possibility that the early date of 9600 BC for Atlantis is accepted, then the islands that are too small today to accommodate elephants may have been considerably larger and sometimes connected to each other or a mainland during the Ice Age, when sea levels were lower, and consequently capable of supporting pachyderms. In this regard, Sundaland would have been a most suitable candidate. Not only would to-day’s South China Sea’s archipelagos been a single landmass, but there would have been access to the area from the Asian mainland, home today to large numbers of elephants.
Strangely enough, even the Andes, considered by some as the home of Atlantis, reveal the fact that during the last Ice Age a species of elephant called Cuvieronius lived there but became extinct around 8000 BC. These animals are to be found carved on the great Gateway of the Sun in Tiahuanaco suggesting that they were common in the region. Supporters of an Atlantis link with Tiahuanaco have highlighted this fact.
James Bailey who supports the idea of Atlantis in America believes that Plato’s mention of elephants could be a reference to the American mammoth, generally believed to have died out circa 10,000 BC, although Victor von Hagen, the American explorer, contentiously maintained that they survived as late 2000 BC. A similar idea was presented to the 2005 Atlantis Conference by American researcher, Monique Petersen.
The Schoppes, in support of their theory of Atlantis in the Black Sea region, contend(l) that Indian elephants existed there until 800 BC and support this with a reference to the Egyptian pharaoh Thutmosis III who killed 120 elephants ‘there’ around 1200 BC, which is a strange claim as Thutmosis did not venture beyond Syria and he died circa 1426 BC!
Elephas Antiquus (Palaeoloxodon), is a dwarf species whose remains have been found throughout the islands of the Mediterranean from Sardinia to Cyprus. All those found were dated 200,000 BC or earlier! In sharp contrast, Simon Davis, in an article in New Scientist (3 Jan.1985), dated Mediterranean dwarf elephants to as recent as 6000 BC(p). A number of writers, such as Roger Coghill, have tried to use the pygmy elephant as an explanation for Plato’s text (Crit. 114e & 115a) where we find that he describes the elephants as being ‘of its nature the largest and most voracious’. This is not a description of pygmy elephants.
However, Ghar Hasan or Hasan’s Cave in southeast Malta has paleolithic cave paintings that depict elephants, indicating more recent contact with the animals. Whether these represented full-sized or the pygmy variety is unclear. A small booklet by Dr. Anton Mifsud and Dr. Charles Savona-Ventura describes this cave system.
In Dossier Malta – Neanderthal  Mifsud has drawn attention to another cavern, not far away, formerly known as Ghar Dulam, now Ghar Dalam, where thousands of dwarf elephant bones were discovered. Dulam means ‘small elephant’ in Arabic. This is one of the mainstays of his ‘Atlantis in Malta’ theory. Whether these diminutive creatures justify Plato’s description that they were the “largest and most voracious” of animals (Crit.115a) is clearly debatable. For me this is not a description of pygmy elephants and so in all probability is an indication of a North African location or, as some claim, an Asian one!
The Atlanteans had control in Europe as far as Tyrrhenia and Egypt, which would have included what is now modern Tunisia, the home of the last recorded wild elephants in that region!
Readers should be aware that there is general acceptance that the North African Elephant inhabited the Atlas Mountains until they became extinct in Roman times(e)(h). In fact the New Scientist magazine of 7th February 1985(d) outlined the evidence that Tunisia had native elephants until at least the end of the Roman Empire.
In Elephant Destiny Martin Meredith records that one of the earliest references to the African elephant came from Hanno, the 5th century BC Carthaginian explorer, who related how he came across marshes at the foot of the Atlas Mountains, which “were haunted by elephants and multitudes of other grazing beasts.” Meredith also mentions that stables for as many as 300 elephants were to be found within the city of Carthage itself.
Nevertheless, the species of elephant used by Hannibal has been a source of debate for years(f). The Numidians of North Africa (202 BC–46 BC) also used local elephants in warfare(g). It would seem to me that the North African Elephant, rather than the Asian or African species, would have been more suited to the trek across the Alps. Needless to say, the Atlas Mountains were part of the Atlantean sphere of control (Timaeus 25a-b) and so may be the reason that Plato mentioned them. It is also reported that during the reign of the Ptolemies in Egypt (323 BC-30 BC), they imported war elephants from Eritrea in East Africa(r).
The latter half of 2010 saw a new piece of nonsense hit the blogosophere when a claim that the Atlanteans had flying machines made of elephant skins suddenly appeared and before you could say “cut and paste” it was ‘adopted’ by a variety of websites(a)(b). So Dumbo was not the first flying elephant! In fact this daft idea was just a recycling of one of Edgar Cayce’s ‘revelations’ (Reading 364-6)(m).
(a) https://www.articledashboard.com/Article/Speaking-of-Atlantis/1872335 (Offline October 2017)
John Francis Arundell of Wardour (1831-1906) published The Secret of Plato’s Atlantis in 1885 as a rebuttal of Ignatius Donnelly’s groundbreaking book of three years earlier. The content of Arundell’s volume is now as dated as Donnelly’s and freely available on the Internet(a).
The ‘secret’ referred to in the title is revealed by Arundell to be that Plato’s Atlantis story is based on the account that we have of the Voyage of Hanno. He devote the second chapter to a discussion of a number of details in both accounts that suggest more than coincidence. I am not aware of any subsequent support for this novel idea.
*Thomas Arundell (1586-1643), 2nd Baron Arundell of Wardour*was apparently responsible for bringing the first two pieces of the Parian Marble to Britain from Paros in 1627 and presented one of them to the University of Oxford forty years later. The second piece was initially used to repair a fireplace in the Arundell home.
Antonio Usai (1957- ) was born in Assemini, 12 km northwest of Cagliari, the capital of Sardinia. Having a passion for ancient history, he has written a number of papers(a) locating the Pillars of Heracles within the Mediterranean. An English translation of The Pillars of Hercules in Aristotle’s Ecumene is now available on the excellent Academia.edu website as well as a 67-page booklet. Included in his work is a critique(b) of Sergio Frau’s book.
Usai followed a reading of Frau’s book with a study of the works of Herodotus, Aristotle, Polybius and Strabo among others. He was drawn to the story of Hanno’s voyage, where Hanno is described as leaving Carthage, turning east, then passing through the ‘Pillars’ and following the coast south towards Syrtis Minor, which is described as being on their right.
According to Usai, this would only make sense if the Pillars had been situated between the east coast of Tunisia and the islands of Kerkennah. Furthermore, Usai contends that part of Hanno’s report of his voyage was a hoax!
Finally, after devoting most of his essays to identifying the original Pillars at Kerkennah, he concludes his work by identifying Greenland as the location of Atlantis.
A number of translations of the Periplus (Sea Voyage Guide) of Hanno are available on the internet(d).
(d) https://books.google.com.mt/books?id=qbMBAAAAYAAJ&printsec=frontcover&dq=voyage+of+Hanno&source=bl &ots=jLnRCZPPxG&sig=bQJ3BSMQg8oYS0QY5FJ90bRJIhQ&hl=mt&ei=–tuS4fNEIaqnAOo_NjHBA&sa=X&oi=book_result&ct=result&resnum=3&ved=0CBgQ6AEwAg#v=onepage&q&f=true
Ignatius Loyola Donnelly (1831-1901), was an Irish-American born in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. He studied law and was admitted to the bar in 1852. He moved to Minnesota in 1857, where he was elected Lieutenant-Governor when it became a state in 1859, at the age of twenty-eight and was re-elected in 1861. He served as a Congressman from 1863 until 1869 and was a state senator from 1874 to 1878. The People’s Party, of which he was a founder, nominated him for Vice-President of the United States. He was a political liberal, being in favour of women’s suffrage and against slavery.
Donnelly was also a journalist and the author of a number of books. In 1882 he published his most famous work on the subject of Atlantis, which is still in print today, although many of the more recent editions have been heavily edited to exclude some of Donnelly’s more outlandish ideas. Bill Lauritzen has remarked that Donnelly’s legal background led him to limit his case for the existence of Atlantis to a discussion of the ‘pros’ while ignoring the cons’.
>Donnelly, sent a copy of Atlantis to the British Prime Minister, William Gladstone, who was also a classical scholar. The text of the short accompanying note was published in Sykes’ Atlantis magazine(i), but little of the ensuing correspondence between them apart from the text of a second letter from Donnelly(j).<
The public reaction to Donnelly’s book was reflected in the New Orleans ‘Mardi Gras’ of 1883 having had an Atlantis theme.
Donnelly concluded that Atlantis was real and located in the Atlantic. He suggested “the gods and goddesses of the ancient Greeks, the Phoenicians, the Hindus, and the Scandinavians were simply the kings, queens, and heroes of Atlantis; and the acts attributed to them in mythology are a confused recollection of real historical events.” Similar ideas have been developed by the late Joseph Robert Jochmans.
Nevertheless, Donnelly endeavoured to match Plato’s Atlantis with his chosen Atlantic location for the lost civilisation, which can be fairly compared with the equally comprehensive but also flawed effort two centuries earlier by Olof Rudbeck endeavouring to identify Sweden as Atlantis.
Donnelly’s book contains a list of thirteen theses (See: Atlantis: The Antediluvian World), which he then proceeds to ‘prove’, drawing on Plato’s text and the scientific knowledge of this period, not to mention a generous helping of pure conjecture. J.V. Luce remarked that “Donnelly bemuses his readers into a mood of infinite credulity” [0120.29].
In 2017, Stephen P.Kershaw includes a brief critique of Donnelly’s work in A Brief History of Atlantis and concludes that Donnelly is unquestionably the most influential writer on Atlantis since Plato. I would argue that even though his ideas are more bizarre than Donnelly’s, Edgar Cayce is probably more quoted today than Donnelly. This is just a reflection of the number of gullible people that are out there. Donnelly’s influence has been greatly diminished over the decades as many of his theses have been undermined by later researchers. Cayce’s influence will only diminish if critical thinking becomes more widespread. In the meanwhile there are a few highly qualified dedicated Atlantis investigators who are slowly closing in on a solution.
Many have followed his thinking since then and in 1886, Donnelly published a sequel, Ragnarok to his work on Atlantis that dealt with the idea of a cometary impact with the earth. In fact, in 1883 twelve years after the Great Chicago Fire, Donnelly proposed(g) that Mrs. O’Leary’s cow was not responsible for the conflagration but instead was the result of the impact of a meteor fragment, with Comet Biela as the prime suspect.
Following the remarkable reception that his books received, Donnelly was elected to membership of the American Association for the Advancement of Science. However, it did not take long before critics emerged. One was John Francis Arundell also known as Lord Arundell of Wardour (1831-1906) who published his criticism in book form in 1885 in which he claimed that Plato’s Atlantis story was based on the account that we have relating to the Voyage of Hanno. It can be read or downloaded online(c).
Donnelly also wrote a 1,000-page work that attempted to prove that Shakespeare had not written all that he has been credited with. Obviously a man with time on his hands, he also published a number of works of fiction under the name of Edmund Boisgilbert MD.
Thirty years ago Marjorie Braymer wrote of Donnelly’s work in the following manner[198.65], “Modern editions of Atlantis: The Antediluvian World are streamlined and heavily revised; whole sections have been scissored out and dropped. The reason is clear: Donnelly offered many theories as known and established facts that science did not support even then and wholly discredits today.” >Egerton Sykes edited one of those revisions in the 1970’s.<
Some consider aspects of Donnelly’s ideas to be somewhat racist! However, his influence is still pervasive, exemplified by the fact that the first translation of his Atlantis in Sinhala, the principal language of Sri Lanka, was only published in 2014(d).
Donnelly also questioned the authorship of the works attributed to William Shakespeare in The Great Cryptogram. The Shakespeare debate has raged for two centuries and now the editors of The New Oxford Shakespeare are convinced, on the basis of computer analysis, that Christopher Marlowe was a co-author of several plays credited, until now, solely to Shakespeare(h). Coincidentally, another Atlantologist Comyns Beaumont held similar views, which he published nearly half a century later in The Private Life of the Virgin Queen, considered to be the least controversial of his literary output!
At the end of the 19th century, a Mrs Donnelly, a fortune-teller from San Francisco, adopted the professional name of ‘Madame Atlantis’!
There is a wealth of Internet material relating to Donnelly e.g. (a)(b).
Donnelly’s Atlantis is now also available as a free audio book(e).
>(i) Atlantis, Vol.25, No.1, Jan-Feb 1972.
(j) Atlantis, Vol.25, No.3, May-June 1972<
Carthage is today a suburb of the North African city of Tunis. Tradition has it that the Phoenicians of Tyre founded it around 815 BC.*Gerard Gertoux argues(h) that recent discoveries push this date back to at least 870 BC if not further.*Prior to that, the Roman poet, Silius Italicus (100-200 AD), tells us that according to legend the land there had been occupied by Pelasgians(e).
South of Carthage, in modern Tunisia, there are fertile plains that were the breadbasket of Rome and even today can produce two crops a year, despite a much disimproved climate.
In 500 BC Hanno the Navigator was dispatched from Carthage with the intention of establishing new African colonies. Around a century later another Carthaginian voyager, Himilco, is also thought to have travelled northward(f) in the Atlantic and possibly reached Ireland, referred to as ‘isola sacra’. Christopher Jones has claimed on his website(d) that Himilco reached Britain and Ireland in the 5th century BC.
The circular layout of the city with a central Acropolis on Byrsa hill, surrounded by a plain with an extensive irrigation system, has prompted a number of authors, including Massimo Pallotino and C. Corbato to suggest that it had been the model for Plato’s description of Atlantis. This idea has now been adopted by Luana Monte(c).
However, it was probably Victor Bérard, who in 1929 was one of the first to point out the similarity of Carthage with Plato’s description of Atlantis. In like manner, when the Romans destroyed Carthage after the Punic Wars, they built a new Carthage on the ruins, which became the second largest city in the Western Empire.
Andis Kaulins has suggested that “ancient Tartessus (which was written in Phoenician as Kart-hadasht) could have been the predecessor city to Carthage on the other side of the Strait of Sicily. Plato reported that Tartessus was at the Pillars of Herakles.”(a) Kaulins places the Pillars of Heracles somewhere between the ‘toe of Italy’ and Tunisia(g).
Richard Miles has written a well-received history of Carthage, a task hampered by the by the fact that the Carthaginian libraries were destroyed or dispersed after the fall of the city, perhaps with the exception of Mago’s agricultural treatise, which was translated into Latin and Greek and widely quoted.
Delisle de Sales placed the Pillars of Heracles at the Gulf of Tunis.
A book-length PhD thesis by Sean Rainey on Carthaginian imperialism and trade is available online(b).
Peter Albinus (Petrus Weiss)(1534-1598) was a German historian who linked the Americas with Plato’s Atlantis(a). Although this idea was based on nothing but pure speculation, it was a common viewpoint at that time which had been gathering support ever since that continent was rediscovered by Columbus.