Two Crops a year is one of the characteristics of Atlantean agriculture according to Plato (Critias 118e).
The North African climate was slightly wetter at the time of Hannibal (2nd & 3rd cent. BC), later, Algeria, Egypt and particularly Tunisia, were the ‘breadbasket’ of Rome(b) and may also have been so for the Atlanteans who earlier had control from North Africa to Tyrrhenia! Even today well-irrigated plains in Tunisia can produce two crops a year, usually planted with the autumnal rains and harvested in the early spring and again planted in the spring and harvested in late summer. The Berbers of Morocco produce two crops a year—cereals in winter and vegetables in summer(a).
*It is worth noting that Mago, the Carthaginian author of a 28-book work on the agricultural practices of North Africa. had his books brought to Rome after the destruction of Carthage in 146 BC, where they were translated from Punic into Latin and Greek and were widely quoted. It is clear that Mago’s work was a reflection of a highly developed agricultural society in that region, a description that could also be applied to Plato’s Atlantis!*
Although two crops are possible annually in other parts of the world, I must emphasise that North Africa is the only part of the Atlantean territory referred to by Plato (Timaeus 25b) that was so productive and continued to be so until the Romans, who depended on it along with Egypt to feed Rome.
Tunisia has now offered evidence of human activity dated to nearly 100,000 years ago(d) at a site near Tozeur, in the south west of the country, where the chotts are today.
Tunisia was proposed in the 1920’s, by Albert Herrmann, as holding the location of Plato’s Atlantis, at a dried up saltwater lake known today as Chott el Djerid and was, according to Herrmann, previously called Lake Tritonis. Around this same period Dr Paul Borchardt, a German geologist, also favoured a site near the Gulf of Gabés, off Tunisia, as the location of Atlantis. He informed us that Shott el Jerid had also been known locally as Bahr Atala or Sea of Atlas.
More recently Alberto Arecchi has developed a theory that places Atlantis off the present Tunisian coast with a large inland sea, today’s chotts, which he identifies as the original ‘Atlantic Sea’, straddling what is now the Tunisian Algerian border. Arecchi claims that this was nearly entirely emptied into the Mediterranean as a result of seismic or tectonic activity in the distant past.
In 2018, Charles A. Rogers published a paper(f) on the academia.edu website in which he identified Tunisia as Atlantis with it capital located at the mouth of the Triton River on the Gulf of Gabes. He favours Plato’s 9.000 ‘years’ to have been lunar cycles, bringing the destruction of Atlantis into the middle of the second millennium BC and coinciding with the eruption of Thera which created a tsunami that ran across the Mediterranean destroying the city with the run-up and its subsequent backwash. This partly agrees with my conclusions in Joining the Dots!
There is clear evidence(b) that Tunisia had been home to the last wild elephants in the Mediterranean region until the demise of the Roman Empire. Furthermore, North Africa and Tunisia in particular has been considered the breadbasket of imperial Rome supplying much of its wheat and olive oil.>In particular the Majardah (Medjerda) River valley has remained to this day the richest grain-producing region of Tunisia(i).<Roman Carthage became the second city of the western empire. Although the climate has deteriorated somewhat since then, it is still possible to produced two crops a year in low lying irrigated plains of Tunisia.>Furthermore, around the mountains of northwest Africa there is an abundance of trees including Aleppo pine forests that cover over 10,000 km2 (h).<All these details echo Plato’s description of Atlantis and justify consideration of Tunisia as being at least part of the Atlantean confederation.
It is worth noting that Mago, was the Carthaginian author of a 28-volume work on the agricultural practices of North Africa. After the destruction of Carthage in 146 BC his books were brought to Rome, where they were translated from Punic into Latin and Greek and were widely quoted thereafter. Unfortunately, the original texts did not survive, so that today we only have a few fragments quoted by later writers. However, it is clear that Mago’s work was a reflection of a highly developed agricultural society in that region, a description that could also be applied to Plato’s Atlantis!
In 2017, the sunken city of Neapolis was located off the coast of Nabeul, southeast of Tunis. This city was reportedly submerged by a tsunami ”on July 21 in 365 AD that badly damaged Alexandria in Egypt and the Greek island of Crete, as recorded by historian Ammianus Marcellinus.(e)(g)” However, water from a tsunami eventually drains back into the sea, but the demise of Neapolis might be better explained by liquefaction, in the same way that Herakleion, near Alexandria, was destroyed, possibly by the same event. Neapolis and Herakleion are around 1,900 km apart, which suggests an astounding seismic event if both were destroyed at the same time!(e)
In addition to all that, in winter the northern coast of Tunisia is assailed with cold winds from the north bringing snow to the Kroumirie Mountains in the northwest(c).
Interestingly, in summer 2014, a completely new lake was discovered at Gafsa, just north of Shott el Jerid and quickly became a tourist attraction(a), but its existence was rather short-lived.
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).
Agriculture is generally accepted as the critical foundation for the development of any civilisation. Without it man would have remained a hunter-gatherer and have lacked the potential for generating surpluses, the division of labour and the establishment of urban communities. Therefore, it is not unreasonable to assume that if an ancient urban centre is found, it is evidence of the existence of agricultural skills in the locality at the time of its foundation. Evidence has now been gathered to demonstrate that alongside agriculture, carpentry also advanced, as shown by the improvement of woodworking tools at the same time(c). Studies published in 2013(b) indicate that farming first developed more or less simultaneously over a widespread area of the Middle East from Turkey to Iran.
A recent report has indicated that the small-seeded cereal, millet, had provided a link between hunter-gathering and agriculture(m).
At present the world’s oldest known town is Jericho, which grew out of settlements established around 9600 BC(r) and was destroyed between 1500 and 1400 BC(q)
Similarly, the remarkable discoveries at Göbekli Tepe, also dated to the same period, suggest a considerable settled community that would have been dependent on agriculture. There is now evidence that the first farmers grew rye and wheat in Syria around 11,000 BC.
A huge cache of wild oats and barley, dated to 9000 BC, were discovered near Jericho in 2006(j).>Also near Jericho, cultivated figs were discovered in an 11,400-year-old house(u).<
In Egypt, prehistoric granaries that date back to the Neolithic era, which began around 9000 BC, have been discovered in Fayoum, south-west of Cairo. A recent report demonstrates how millet, domesticated in China around 10,000 years ago and used today as birdseed, was brought westward from China to Europe where “Nomadic tribes were able to combine growing crops of millet with hunting and foraging as they travelled across the continent between 2500 and 1600 BC. Millet was eventually mixed with other crops in emerging populations to create ‘multi-crop’ diversity, which extended growing seasons and provided our ancient ancestors with food security.”(o)
It was reported in the journal Nature of April 2020 that there is now evidence that crops were cultivated in the Llanos de Moxos region of southwestern Amazonia 10,000 years ago. “The researchers were able to identify evidence of manioc (cassava, yuca) that were grown 10,350 years ago. Squash appears 10,250 years ago(v), and maize more recently – just 6,850 years ago.”(p)>This should be compared with an earlier report that corn (maize) had been cultivated in Mexico, even earlier at about 10,000 years ago(s). Philip Coppens has left us an interesting paper(t) on the history of maize in Mexico and its exploitation by the Maya.<
R. Cedric Leonard had outlined on his website(a) a range of evidence that would seem to prove that agriculture existed in Egypt before the 9600 BC date that is recorded by Plato for the war with Atlantis.
Peripheral to this, is a recent report that when hunter-gatherers encountered early farmers, they made love not war(k)!
If Plato’s Atlantis existed, it is clear that agriculture was an important part of its economy. We are informed (Crit.118E) that two crops were harvested annually, thanks to rain in winter and irrigation canals in summer. Plato also mentions horses and cattle (Crit.117b). These references are written in the context of a need to feed a large city, not to mention its enormous army (and navy). Plato offers no suggestion than that this advanced agricultural system was anything other than part of an advanced Bronze Age society.
North African Algeria, Egypt and particularly Tunisia, were the ‘breadbasket’ of Rome and may also have been so for the Atlanteans who had control from North Africa to Tyrrhenia! It is worth noting that Mago, the Carthaginian author of a 28-volume work on the agricultural practices of North Africa, had his books brought to Rome after the destruction of Carthage in 146 BC, where they were translated from Punic into Latin and Greek and were widely quoted. It is clear that Mago’s work was a reflection of a highly developed agricultural society in that region, a description that could also be applied to Plato’s Atlantis! Although, conditions have deteriorated over the past few millennia, Tunisia can still produce two crops a year in low-lying irrigated coastal regions.
The commencement of what we would recognise as agriculture began around the 10th millennium BC. So is theoretically possible that agriculture had developed somewhat by the early date of 9600 BC given by Plato for the war with Atlantis. However, the existence of anything over and above the level of subsistence farming, at this early date, is highly improbable. It would seem clear that Plato has described the agriculture of a Bronze Age civilisation because he would have had no clear idea regarding its state of development in preceding millennia.
A 2013 paper(h) from Tübingen University has demonstrated that studies “show that the origins of agriculture in the Near East can be attributed to multiple centers rather than a single core area and that the eastern Fertile Crescent played a key role in the process of domestication.”
In 2008, archaeologist Melinda Zeder offered evidence that the domestication of animals began around the same time as the management of crops in the 9th and 10th millennia BC in the Near East. These new skills gradually spread throughout the length of the Mediterranean. In the same year Dr. Robin Allaby of Warwick presented a paper in which he pushed back the date for the gathering of wild cereals to before the last glacial maximum (18,000-15,000 years ago).
Even more dramatic is a more recent claim(i) that the dawn of agriculture can be extended even further, to 23,000 years ago.
It is interesting that Plato also lists (Crit.115b) produce that possibly grew wild or may have been cultivated:
- Fruits having a hard rind providing drinks, meats and ointments
- Chestnuts (no evidence of cultivation before 2000 BC)
- Fruits that spoil with keeping
- The ‘pleasant’ kind of dessert
It would be worthwhile to investigate whether all the products mentioned by Plato are consistent with the same geographical latitude. Diodorus Siculus recorded that the Atlanteans did not know the fruits of Ceres – cereals. In fact, according to Wikipedia, cereals were unknown to American Indians. Rand and Rose Flem-Ath have an interesting chapter[062.12] on the subject of agriculture and its development in the context of their own theories. In 2013, Rand Flem-Ath republished(d) his paper on the origins of agriculture that first appeared in The Anthropological Journal of Canada in 1981.
Dale Drinnon’s website had a series of extensive articles(l) on the development of agriculture globally.
Similarly, the Golden Age Project website, now run by Edmund Marriage has a lengthy paper(n) by Steve Gagné on the spread of agriculture.
A more recent article considers the possibility that the introduction of agriculture may have inadvertently led to the endangerment of some early civilisations. The author, Annalee Newitz, editor-in-chief of io9.com cites the abandonment of Catal Höyuk as an example(g).
(c) See Archive 2250
(d) See Archive 2247)
(l) See: Archive 3344