Crete was until recently thought to have been first settled around 7000 BC. However, excavations at nine sites in 2008 and 2009 have revealed double-edged hand axes dated to “at least” 130,000 years ago. This discovery has suggested(a) that Stone Age man had developed seafaring abilities.
There is a general consensus Crete was known as Keftiu by the ancient Egyptians.
Sir Arthur Evans, knighted for his archaeological finds on Crete, excavated at Knossos from 1900-1905 leading to the discovery of the famous ‘palace’ there. Evans saw Knossos as an administrative centre although it had no defensive features, which might be expected. In the 1970’s Hans Georg Wunderlich (1928-1974) following the views of Oswald Spengler, proposed in The Secret of Crete , that the ‘palace’ was in fact a mortuary temple. This idea has more recently been considered by the late Philip Coppens(c).
As early as 1910 the Rev. James Baikie suggested Crete as the location of Atlantis. A year earlier K.T. Frost outlined parallels between Atlantis and the Minoan empire. In the 1920’s Joseph McCabe a former Catholic priest was also convinced that Crete was the location of Atlantis. More decades were to pass before Dr Angelos Galanopoulos developed the idea further. There has been doubt that the decline of the Minoan civilisation in the 2nd millennium BC was linked with Theran explosion. Nevertheless, Bacon and Galanopoulos admit that a Minoan explanation for the Atlantis story ‘is correct in all points’ except date, dimensions and location of ‘Pillars’! Many commentators have added reasons to support the Minoan Hypothesis.
*Atlantis was the way to other islands. This is an accurate description of Crete as the gateway to the Cyclades and Greece.
*The palace of the Atlanteans is on a low hill 50 stadia inland and near to a fertile plain is a good description of Knossos.
*The description of the land fits perfectly with the southern coast of Crete.
*There were bulls hunted without weapons, which is characteristic of Minoan Crete.
*The construction of the buildings matches Knossos.
Marjorie Braymer highlights the fact that the Cretan Mesara Plain is oblong in shape and one tenth of the dimensions of the plain mentioned by Plato. A fact that gains in importance if a tenfold exaggeration of the dimensions by Plato is accepted.
J. G. Bennett has gone further and argued strongly for a linkage of the destruction of Minoan civilisation, with the Flood of Deucalion, the Biblical Exodus and the obliteration of Plato’s Atlantis. Bennett quotes Plato’s Laws (705.15), which speaks of a significant migration from Crete, as evidence for a major catastrophe on the island.
In April 2004, a BBC Timewatch programme looked at a possible link between Crete and Atlantis focussing on evidence of ancient tsunami damage on the island that they linked to the eruption of Thera. This idea has been refuted by W. Shepard Baird who offers a pyroclastic surge as a more credible explanation(b). In 2010, the BBC broadcast another documentary supporting the Minoan Hypothesis, although not very convincingly in the opinion of this compiler.
On the other hand, Peter James points out that there is no connection in Greek mythology between Crete and Atlas. Further objections include the fact that no ancient canals have been found on Crete, the island did not sink and the failure of Plato to simply name Crete as the location of his Atlantis,*even though it was well-known to the mainland Greeks.*
Recently Gavin Menzies has, unsuccessfully, in my view, attempted to breathe new life into the Minoan Hypothesis in The Lost Empire of Atlantis.
An even less impressive effort to support a Minoan Atlantis is a slender work by Lee R. Kerr entitled Griffin Quest – Investigating Atlantis , who also published an equally useless sequel, Atlantis of the Minoans and Celts.
(c) https://www.philipcoppens.com/crete_dead.html (offline Mar. 2018 see Archive 2133)
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 is 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, whereas 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.
Murex is the name of a family of sea snails that led to the Phoenicians controlling the very lucrative trade in purple-dyed silk(b). Some have attributed the origin of the name ‘Phoenicia’ to a Greek word meaning ‘purple’.
The dye had been extracted from the Murex snails and the resulting cloth was considered highly desirable to such an extent that in later years the colour was reserved for members of the Roman imperial family. It took 10,000 snails to produce one gram of dye, making it extremely expensive. Unfortunately, the process involved putrefaction and the use of urine, contributing to an extremely melodious operation.
Demand for this exclusive dye persisted for nearly 3,000 years. Purple was also the preserve of cardinals in the Roman Catholic Church, equating them with kings, until the 15th century when red was decreed for them, a situation that still pertains. Professor Maria Michaela Sassi of Pisa University has written an interesting paper(k) on the ancient Greek perception of colour, in the course of which she refers to the processing of the murex snail, noting that “Various nuances from yellow to green, to blue, to red could be obtained depending on how much water was added and when the boiling process was stopped”
>The ancient Greek identification of colour, particularly the absence of references to blue, is discussed by Ashley Cowie in a March 2021 article.(q) He notes that “The story of “blue being invisible in history” begins in 1858 when William Gladstone, who later became Chancellor of the Exchequer then Prime Minister of Great Britain, read Homer’s The Odyssey. Gladstone noticed that Homer described the sea color as “wine-dark” – leading him to ask the question; why not “deep blue?” Gladstone investigated this curiosity and counted the color references in The Odyssey finding that while black was mentioned almost 200 times, and white about 100, blue did not appear once. Broadening his research he then determined that “blue” didn’t exist anywhere in Greek writing. Nowhere.”<
There is some suggestion that the Phoenicians were not the first to develop this process following the discovery of mounds of Murex shells on Crete dated to the early 2nd millennium BC. It is also claimed that the Italians of the same period also knew of the procedure(g).
Over a century ago James Baikie noted that “the dyeing of robes with the renowned ‘Tyrian purple,’ must be denied to them and claimed for the Minoans. In 1903, Messrs. Bosanquet and Currelly found on the island of Kouphonisi (Leuke), off the south-east coast of Crete, a bank of the pounded shell of the murex from which the purple dye was obtained, associated with pottery of the Middle Minoan period; and in 1904 they discovered at Palaikastro two similar purple shell deposits, in either case, associated with pottery of the same date.”
It is difficult not to see a possible link between murex dye developed by the Phoenicians and the biblical injunction to Jews of the same region to wear blue (tekhelet) tassels (tzitziyots) from the corners of four-cornered garments. Recently, near the caves of the Dead Sea Scrolls a rare 2,000-year-old fragment of cloth was discovered(c) that had been treated with the Murex dye.
Michael Hübner pointed out that apart from Murex, Northwest Africa and the Canaries were home to the Indigo plant and the Orseille lichen, which both can be used to produce blue dyes(h).
Frank Joseph notes that Berber village elders even today wear special dark blue robes when meeting in council. This is seen as an echo of the custom of the kings of Atlantis as recorded by Plato Critias (120b-c).
A similar purple dyeing process was discovered in Central America(a) adding to the suggestion of pre-Columbian contacts between Europe and the Americas. In September 2016, it was announced(e) that “a George Washington University researcher has identified a 6,200-year-old indigo-blue fabric from Huaca, Peru, making it one of the oldest-known cotton textiles in the world and the oldest known textile decorated with indigo blue.” Unfortunately, the source of the dye was not identified. Even today, in Oaxaca, Mexico, shellfish dyeing is still carried on, but using the milky liquid from the purpura patula, a marine mollusc(f), unlike the murex mollusc which is killed in the process of obtaining the ink, the purpura have always been milked alive and left to replenish their dye fluid for harvesting at another time (See: video clip(m). A similar procedure is still employed by the Boruca people of Costa Rica (l). If there was a dyeing link between the Americas and the Mediterranean. in which direction did it initially travel?
In Appendix One of Andrew Collins‘ Gateway to Atlantis [072.357] the author offers further information on the extraction of purple dye from shellfish in parts of Central and South America. He thought that “Quite clearly, the presence of purple dye processes in Costa Rica, Mexico and Ecuador, as well as in Peru, could well constitute positive proof of transoceanic contact with ancient seafarers from the eastern Mediterranean.” Collins quotes two early 20th-century commentators, Wolfgang Born and Thomas Crawford Johnston, who also reached the same conclusion.
Pliny the Elder noted that Uba, a Numidian king, intended to establish Murex farming on the Hesperides located 12,000 km from Cadiz. This comment has been linked with a mention by Diodorus Siculus regarding a large island known to the Phoenicians outside the Pillars of Heracles. Advocates of an Atlantic location for Atlantis have seized upon these two references, although the linkage is somewhat tenuous.
There is an extensive online article(d) on the history and use of ‘Tyrian Purple’.
A few years ago the BBC published a short piece(i) on the chemistry behind the Tyrian Purple. In August 2018 they returned to the subject with a more extensive article(j) outlining the mythology and history associated with the dye.(i)
In 2020, it was reported(o) that a Tunisian man, Mohamed Ghassen Nouira, claimed to have rediscovered the secret of how to produce the famous purple dye and has developed a small business selling the dye.
A 2022 paper by Sarah Holz adds further background information.(p)
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.