National Geographic or Nat Geo are registered trademarks of the National Geographic Society and are now, sadly, part of the Murdoch communications empire. Its magazine and TV channel enjoy global recognition. Undoubtedly, NG has enhanced our view of the world around us. One piece of NG trivia is that the word ‘tsunami’ first appeared in an English language publication in the September 1896 edition of National Geographic Magazine.
Generally, NG has avoided controversy, but not always(a) , so it will be interesting to see how its new chief James Murdoch, a climate change denier(b), will deal with the NG views on the subject up ’til now(c) . However, for me, it was something of a surprise when NG tackled the subject of Atlantis.
In 2004 NG News published a short article(d) highlighting the theories of Ulf Erlingsson and Rainer Kühne, who, respectively, were advocates for Ireland and Spain as Atlantis locations. Also in 2004, Zeilitsky and Weinzweig claimed to have found submerged man-made structures near Cuba and subsequently sought US government funding for further research there. It has been suggested that NG objected and further exploration did not take place! In 2006 NG gave the Atlantis in America theory of Zapp & Erikson an airing(e).
However, in 2012, Andrew Collins offered a different account of the Zelitsky funding difficulties(m).
In a short 2011 article(l)., NG trotted out the now generally abandoned idea that Atlantis had been a continent. The idea was obviously later dumped by NG as well, when James Cameron et al. went looking for Atlantis in Malta, Sardinia and Santorini in 2016.
December 2012 saw NG publish an article on Doggerland, without any reference to the suggestion that there might be an Atlantis connection. NG has also voiced the scepticism of well-known commentators, such as Robert Ballard and Charles E. Orser jnr(f).
However, I find that the NG treatment of Atlantis inconsistent. In October 2011 an anonymous article(k) on one of their sites, entitled The Truth Behind Atlantis: Facts, declared that Atlantis was continental in size (and so must have been located in an Ocean?) This is based on a misinterpretation of the Greek word meison. Nevertheless last year NG had Simcha Jacobovici, remotely guided by James Cameron, scouring the Mediterranean, from Spain to Sardinia, Malta, and Crete for evidence of Atlantis. This attention-seeking exercise found nothing a few stone anchors that proved nothing and inflicted on viewers an overdose of speculation!
NatGeo TV aired a documentary(g) in 2015 relating to earlier excavations in the Doñana Marshes of Southern Spain by a Spanish team and partly hijacked by Richard Freund. A new NG documentary, hyped with the involvement of James Cameron and Simcha Jacobovici, was filmed in 2016, and later broadcast at the end of January 2017. Initially, it was thought by Robert Ishoy to be in support of his Atlantis location of Sardinia, but at the same time Diaz-Montexano was convinced that his Afro-Iberian theory was to be the focus of the film. To coincide with the airing of the new documentary D-M has published a new book, NG National Geographic and the scientific search for Atlantis with both English and Spanish editions.
Jason Colavito was promised a screener but had the offer subsequently withdrawn. One wonders why?
Once again NG promotes the region of the Doñana Marshes as a possible location for Atlantis(i), based on rather flimsy evidence, such as six ancient anchors found just outside the Strait of Gibraltar. They estimate the age of the anchors at 3,000-4,000 years old but. unfortunately, they are not marked ‘made in Atlantis’. Rabbi Richard Freund, never afraid to blow his own shofar, makes another NG appearance. Jacobovici throws in the extraordinary claim that the Jewish menorah represents the concentric circles of the Atlantean capital cut in half, a daft idea, previously suggested by Prof. Yahya Ababni(k).
What I cannot understand is why this documentary spends time dismissing Santorini and Malta as possible locations for Plato’s Atlantis and at the same time ignoring the only unambiguous geographical clue that he left us, namely that the Atlantis alliance occupied part of North Africa and in Europe as far as Tyrrhenia (Tuscany) and presumably some of the islands between the two.
Overall, I think the NG documentaries have done little to advance the search for Atlantis as they seem to be driven by TV ratings ahead of truth. Perhaps, more revealing is that Cameron is not fully convinced by the speculative conclusions of his own documentary.
Jason Colavito, an arch-sceptic regarding Atlantis has now published a lengthy scathing review(j) of NG’s Atlantis Rising, which is well worth a read. While I do not agree with Colavito’s dismissal of the existence of Atlantis, I do endorse the litany of shortcomings he identified in this documentary.
>For me, NG’s credibility as a TV documentary maker has diminished in recent years. Just one reason is the “2010 National Geographic Channel programme, 2012: The Final Prophecy, enthused about an illustration in the Mayan document known as the Dresden Codex (because of where it is now kept), which was claimed to show evidence of a catastrophic flood bringing the world to an end in 2012. This illustration included a representation of a dragon-like figure in the sky spewing water from its mouth onto the Earth beneath, which has been taken by some, although by no means all, experts in Mesoamerican mythology to indicate the onset of a terminal world-flood. However, no date was given, so the link with 2012 is entirely spurious (Handwerk, 2009; Hoopes, 2011).”(n)<
(d) See: Archive 3582
>(n) Doomsday Cults and Recent Quantavolutions, by Trevor Palmer (q-mag.org) (about 2/3rds down page)<
James Cameron the renowned director of Titanic has now worked as executive producer on a documentary about Atlantis for National Geographic(a). Simcha Jacobovici, who previously teamed with Cameron on the 2006 TV movie The Exodus Decoded also joined the production team.
This was NG’s second film on the subject and it was hoped, better than the first. Although Spain and Santorini featured in the two-hour show, the focus seemed has moved from Spain to the Central Mediterranean, where filming is taking place on Malta, Sardinia and Sicily.>In my view, this region contained most, if not all, of the Atlantean territory, from southern Italy to northwest Africa along with a number of the islands. This accords completely with Plato’s description (Tim.25 a-b & Crit.114c).<
Cameron and Jacobovici joined forces again as co-producers for this new NG documentary, which was expected by Robert Ishoy to explore his belief that Atlantis was situated on Sardinia(b). I think it reasonable to question why NG did not approach Sergio Frau who has done more than Ishoy in terms of publicising the possible relevance of Sardinia to the Atlantis mystery. It has now emerged that Georgeos Diaz-Montexano has also been interviewed, which suggests that Sardinia may not be the sole focus of the documentary as Ishoy was apparently led to believe.
This new NG offering aired early in 2017. However, in subsequent interviews Cameron expressed continuing scepticism(c), which begs the question; if Cameron was not fully convinced by the documentary, why should the viewers be?
Readers might find Jason Colavito’s critique of the NG documentary enlightening(d).
(b) See: https://web.archive.org/web/20190331144818/https://www.myheraldreview.com/free_access/national-geographic-calls-on-sierra-vista-researcher-about-atlantis/article_c3685cf8-7229-11e6-9512-b390b32f6ba7.html
Krystek is not convinced by Donnelly’s Atlantic location and seems to think that the Minoan Hypothesis is the best theory current available, noting that “Not everyone accepts the Minoan Crete theory of the story of Atlantis, but until a convincing case can be made for some other place, it, perhaps, remains science’s best guess.”
Paolo Valente Poddighe is an Italian researcher who claims to have been the first to have identified Sardinia (along with Corsica) as the location of Atlantis as early as 1982. This was long before Robert Ishoy proposed the same on his website(a) and two decades before Sergio Frau published his 2002 book with an identical claim. This led to accusations of plagiarism by Poddighe, who only then published his own book, Atlantide Sardegna:Isola dei Faraoni  (Atlantis Sardinia: Island of the Pharaohs).
Where Frau locates the Pillars of Heracles at the Strait of Sicily, Poddighe opted for the Strait of Bonifacio between Sardinia and Corsica, which would imply that the islands of Atlantis ‘beyond the Pillars’ would have to be the Balearic Islands, which offer few features to match Plato’s description of Atlantis. Consequently, I am personally inclined towards siting them further east at the Strait of Messina.
Hot and Cold Springs are noted by Plato as a distinctive feature of the central island of Atlantis. Hot springs are usually, but not exclusively, associated with volcanic regions such as Iceland or Yellowstone Park in the USA. Atlantologists have pointed out the existence of hot springs at a variety of locations in support of their particular theories. Jim Allen has highlighted the springs to be found near his option in the Andes, while Robert Ishoy has similarly found comfort in the existence of hot springs on Sardinia.*[but does not mention the hot springs at Caldana on neighbouring Corsica.]*
Likewise the Azores, the Canaries, Santorini and even Troy have all had their putative Atlantis status supported with reference to their natural hot springs.*[The volcanoes of Italy and its islands have many hot springs associated with them(a). In North Africa, Morocco, Tunisia, Algeria and Egypt also have hot springs.]*
Unfortunately, instead of helping to solve the Atlantis mystery, the existence of these hot and cold springs at so many suggested Atlantis locations is further confused by the fact that also at a number of these same locations, such as the Canaries, Azores and Santorini, are found to have red, white and black stone.
Caphtor is a place referred to in the Bible (Jeremiah 47.4, Amos 9.7) and located by traditional Hebrew sources to have been near Pelusium in the eastern Nile Delta. Some think that Jeremiah’s reference to “the coasts of Caphtor” implied that Caphtor was an island. The late Walter Baucum also identified Caphtor with the Egyptian Kaft-ur in the Delta, once occupied by the Philistines [183.309]. A. H. Sayce, a respected 19th century Assyriologist, among others, also placed Caphtor in the Delta.
Keftiu was an Egyptian placename and since the 18th century has been frequently associated with Crete. Half a century ago James E. Jennings of Akron University wrote a paper in which he concluded that “it appears that there is sufficient evidence to support the contention that Caphtor was Crete”(f).
While many commentators today equate Caphtor with Crete, the evidence is far from clear. As Manuel Robbins points out [856.316], the identification of Caphtor with Crete “is based on not one but a string of assumptions. If any of these assumptions are wrong, the conclusion fails, and these assumptions are shaky.”
Baucum offers evidence that the Egyptians also used Keftiu when referring to north of the Orontes River (Syria), Cyprus, Cilicia (S.W. Turkey) as well as Crete. He also attributes the exclusive association of Caphtor with Crete to Champollion’s guessed at identification of the Philistines as the Sea Peoples! A chapter in a book  by Nissim Raphael Ganor that bluntly states that “The Philistines and the ‘Sea Peoples’, not the same entity” is worth reading for anyone studying this particular controversy(i).
Manuel Robbins has concluded [p336] that the most likely location for Keftiu was either Cyprus, Syria or Eastern Anatolia, but that it is essentially a mystery.
Matters become confused when we find that there is also a popular theory that Caphtor and Keftiu referred to the same place. Robbins disputed such an identification. He offers pictorial evidence from tombs on the west bank of the Nile opposite Thebes that might equally suggest Syria as the home of Caphtor [p334], but this is also far from conclusive.
Frankly, I find all the competing opinions(h) extremely confusing and unsatisfactory and believe that a solution to these conflicting ideas is far from a resolution.
Some others have been in favour of identifying Keftiu with Cyprus, among whom, Immanuel Velikovsky argued(g) that if Cyprus was not Caphtor, then it is the only island of any importance in the Eastern Mediterranean not mentioned in the Bible [039.210]. Caphtor/Keftiu: A New Investigation  by John Strange also supports this identification with Cyprus. Walter Baucum claims that “Keftiu was the coastline from Tyre northwards to Anatolia, and included the islands of Crete and Cyprus” [p107].
Yair Davidy in his Introduction to Baucum’s book[183.x] and his own Lost Israelite Identity [1375.208] claims that there was another Keftiu in Northern Europe. Jürgen Spanuth claimed that Caphtor and the Norse ‘holmr Asgard’ mean the same [015.94], namely, “the island of the heaven-pillar”. More recent support for a Northern Europe Caphtor is offered by Eckart Kahlhofer who, like Spanuth, also claims it as the location of Atlantis and adds that it was also the home of the Philistines!
Making matters worse was the introduction of Atlantis into the discussion, bringing with it its own range of conflicting ideas. There is also a number of commentators, including Bruce Wayne(d) and Alex Hawk(e), who take Keftiu to be another name for Minoan Crete and equate it with Atlantis. Robert Ishoy considers Nuragic Sardinia as Keftiu/Atlantis(b).
Although Plato was the first to use the term ‘Atlantis’, there are antecedents to his account of a drowned civilisation. There is an Egyptian legend, which Solon probably heard while travelling in Egypt, and was passed down to Plato years later. It concerns the island nation of Keftiu, home to one of the four pillars that held up the sky. It was said to be a glorious advanced civilization, which was destroyed and sank beneath the ocean. It has been suggested that Plato embellished Solon’s story from “the land of the four pillars that held up the sky” into “the land of the Titan, Atlas, who held up the sky.” The Egyptian legend refers to an island west of Egypt, but not necessarily west of the Mediterranean. It may be relevant to point here that Crete is more northerly of Egypt whereas some of the suggested Atlantis locations such as the Maltese Islands or Sardinia are in fact located westward.
It seems that the debate(a) regarding the identification of Keftiu is set to continue for some time. Muddying the waters further is a serious claim of a Minoan connection with Japan(c) with a particular reference to the Linear A script!
Sergio Frau was born in 1949 and is a journalist with Italy’s leading daily newspaper La Repubblica. He is also the author of a hefty 672-page volume, Le Collone d’Ercole: Un’inchiesta that firmly places Atlantis in Sardinia and the Pillars of Hercules in the Strait of Sicily between Tunisia and Sicily. He supports this contention with references to ancient writers such as Herodotus and Dicaearchus.
So far, Frau’s book is only available in Italian and from 2008 in German(c).
Frau contends that a catastrophic inundation of some sort destroyed the mysterious ancient civilisation on Sardinia known as the Nuraghi, after whom the numerous ancient towers on the islands are named. A megatsunami around 1200 BC is accepted to have struck from the south. A more specific date on offer is 1175 BC. However, Carthaginian and Roman remains have been found underneath the sediment deposited by this tsunami conflicting with the date and greatly weakening the suggestion that Atlantis was destroyed by this event (i).
Frau believes that some of the survivors migrated to the Italian mainland and founded the Etruscan civilisation, while others formed part of the Sea Peoples who attacked Egypt.
His book sold over 30,000 copies in Italy, his theory received favourable attention from UNESCO and an exhibition based on his work has been shown in Paris and Rome. This is in sharp contrast to the 250 historians who reportedly denounced his theory. Then there are many others, such as Hannah Fielding, the novelist, who is very attracted to Frau’s ideas(b).
A collection of reviews of Frau’s book, in English, is available(k).
Robert Ishoy proposed a similar theory(a) on the Internet at least two years before Frau had his book published. However, the earliest claim that Atlantis had existed on Sardinia was made in 1982 by Paolo Valente Poddighe, who now accuses Frau of plagiarism.
The Atlantisforschung.de website has also offered a review of Frau’s book on the tenth anniversary of its publication including a number of criticisms and particularly its inability to generate any great support in either academic or Atlantis circles.(n)
Although the media have generally given a positive response to Frau’s book, Thorwald C. Franke has panned it, denouncing it as pseudo-science(d), but reluctantly conceded that Frau “could nevertheless be partially right! For the record, I agree with Franke’s limited support.
In addition, at the instigation of Alessandro Usai, 71 Sardinian archaeologists, geologists and historians have signed a 21-point refutation of Frau’s theory(e). Antonio Usai (relation?) has also endorsed the criticism in this document(j). An English/Italian version of the document is available as Archive 2704.
Nevertheless, the Atlantika has published over twenty short papers, generally supportive of Frau from what has been called a ‘Jury of Experts’(m). However, the general focus of that support was not related to Atlantis but to endorse the credibility of Frau’s location of the Pillars of Herakles before the term was applied to the Strait of Gibraltar. Frau maintains that it was used to describe a location at the Strait of Sicily. This brings us to another question, which Strait of Sicily? In ancient times, that term was also a reference to the Strait of Messina, which, for me, makes more sense as today’s Strait of Sicily does not conform to any definition of a ‘strait’, while the Strait of Messina is a perfect example.
In August 2016, Frau received another round of publicity following an interview with Sputnik news media(f). The interview added nothing of consequence, although the text was copied by other media outlets. Nevertheless, this did not hold back Jason Colavito from his standard atlantiphobic attack(g).
So far, Frau’s book is only available in Italian and German(c). In 2017, Frau published a sequel to his Le Collone d’Ercole, entitled Omphalos in which he expands on aspects of his Sardinian location for Atlantis in a hefty 1154-page volume, which once again is currently only available in Italian. He highlights the fact that lying on the 40th parallel, Sardinia is virtually halfway between the west coast of America ((11,359 km distant) and the Pacific coast of Japan (11,350) and so can be truly considered the navel (or omphalos) of the world! It should be obvious that Sardinia is also midway between any number of other paired locations, so what?
An extensive collection of snippets from Omphalos is also available(l).
2018 saw Frau win a defamation case against Fabrizio Frongia and damages of 22,500 Euro(h), as a result of comments in Frongia’s book Le torri di Atlantide (The Towers of Atlantis).
(e) https://www.colonnedercole.it/spip/spip.php?article67 (Italian)
(o) http://www.colonnedercole.it/spip/spip.php?article15 (Italian) *
Georgeos Diaz–Montexano (1966- ) is the nom de plume of Cuban born Jorge Diaz Sanchez. He has been exploring off the coast of southern Spain and Gibraltar for evidence of Atlantis. He is the founder of the Civilisations Origins Scientific Society and is a leading advocate for the Afro-Iberian location theory. He contends that Atlantis was only partially submerged and that parts of it, which remained above water, are now to be found in south west Spain and northern Morocco.
Jacques Collina-Girard who, the following year also opted for the Strait of Gibraltar and more specifically Spartel Island mirrored Montexano’s theory on the location of Atlantis, first expressed publicly in April 2000. Intense rivalry exists between the two men as is evident from the content of Diaz-Montexano’s websites.
More recently Diaz-Montexano has also accused Dr. Rainer W. Kühne of plagiarism(a) and for good measure threw in a few unkind words about Robert Sarmast and his identification of Cyprus as the location of Atlantis. His online debates in various forums with other writers have been frequently marred by acrimony.
Diaz-Montexano has studied the earliest versions of the Atlantis story and published a considerable amount of controversial material on the Internet relating to the accuracy of the Platonic texts that we use today. Unfortunately, the English version of this work has been poorly translated from the Spanish leaving a monolingual such as myself unable to clearly understand what has been written. One of the most interesting comments(b) from Diaz-Montexano relate to his study of a 16th century translation of Critias that in his view indicate that 9,000 was NOT the number of years recorded by Solon. His firm conclusion is that Atlantis was destroyed between 1500BC and 1300BC.
Diaz-Montexano has also unearthed a number of ancient Spanish works including a Chronicle of Zaragoza that he maintains includes a number of obvious references to a Spanish connection with Atlantis(c) . Unfortunately, once again, the quality of his English makes any clear reading very difficult. The only ‘Chronicle of Zaragoza’ that I could locate was a two-page document covering the period 450–568 AD that is totally unrelated to the Atlantis question. Nevertheless, it does appear that he has discovered information that may have an important bearing on the resolution of the Atlantis mystery.
Without wishing to detract from any work that Diaz-Montexano has done, it may be no harm to point out that while he has been free with his accusations of plagiarism, he himself has been accused of fraudulently misleading the public regarding his academic qualifications(d).
In August 2012 he published the first volume of a large six-volume work, ATLANTIS <> TARTESSOS. AEGYPTIUS CODEX. Epítome de la Atlántida Histórico-Científica, devoted to arguing the case for a Iberian Atlantis. Unfortunately, this huge undertaking is only available, at least initially, in Castilian Spanish. This promises to be an important addition to Atlantean literature and Diaz-Montexano is to be congratulated for his efforts.
The first volume begins with a critical overview of recent Atlantis theories such as those of Robert Sarmast (Cyprus) and Ulf Erlingsson (Ireland) and then proceeds to analyse the texts of ancient writers wherever they refer directly or indirectly to Atlantis. He cites the original Greek texts together with a modern (Spanish) translation. This first volume is also available as an inexpensive (€1.95) Kindle ebook. July 2015 saw the publication of another Kindle book by Diaz-Montexano entitled ATLÁNTIDA Historia y Ciencia (Atlantis: History and Science) together with a synopsis online(e).
Late in 2016 will see the broadcasting of a new documentary by National Geographic concerning Atlantis in the Mediterranean. Diaz-Montexano has already been interviewed in connection with this production as has Robert Ishoy. The exact focus of the show, if there is one, is still unclear, but the involvement of James Cameron and Simcha Jacobovici as co-producers has widely publicised.
In conjunction with the filming of the new NG documentary, Diaz-Montexano has decided to publish, in English, the details of his Atlantis studies over the past decades. Available is the introduction and outline of the new book(f), NG National Geographic and the scientific search for Atlantis published in January 2017, in both English and Spanish, to coincide with the airing of the documentary at the end of that month.
*(e) See: Archive 2579 (English & Spanish)
A Bull Cult is noted by Plato as one of the characteristics of the culture of Atlantis. Unfortunately it does little to identify the location of Atlantis since the bull featured prominently in the culture of so many ancient peoples and continues today, principally in the bullfights of Spain, Portugal, and Mexico.
In northern Italy there was a Gaulish tribe called the Taurini during the first and second centuries BC. The bull was also a symbol of the southern Italic tribes, in a region which Plato informs us was occupied by Atlanteans(e). In Sicily, modern Taormina was formerly known as Tauromenium in Roman times, which may suggest an even earlier association with a bull cult!
Mithraism, which originated in Iranian mythology and developed rapidly in Italy in the first century AD, included in its beliefs, the killing of a bull by the deity Mithras(g).
Writing in Egerton Sykes’ Atlantis in 1955 (Vol.8 No.3), Vera Howe outlined the extent of the bull cults which ranged from Assyria, across the Mediterranean and up to the British Isles. >In Volume 10, No. 4, Käte Müller Lisowski (1883-1960) also wrote of bull links between Crete and Ireland.<In the February 1963 (Vol.16 No.1) edition of the same journal, it is recounted that Ireland had bull feasts and bull-fighting in ancient times. There is also evidence of a bull cult among the Picts of Scotland(h). Let us not forget that the Israelites began to worship a golden bull-calf when they thought that they had been abandoned by Moses(b).
It is generally accepted that the bull was also associated with lunar religions(a) as the horns resembled the crescent Moon. Even today the crecent is one of the principal icons of the Islamic faith.
At the 2005 Atlantis Conference, Professor Stavros Papamarinopoulos delivered a paper(i) outlining the Bronze Age bull rituals in Egypt and the Aegean and their parallels in Iberia. In the Temple of Seti at Abydos there is a well-known wall carving depicting Seti I and his son Ramses II roping a bull and further along the wall sacrificing it.
Robert Ishoy had pointed out bull carvings in Sardinia. The Minoan bull jumpers on Crete are widely known. The Egyptians had a cult of Apis the Bull, a fact mentioned by R. McQuillen in support of his Egyptian Atlantis theory. When the Israelites rebelled they worshipped a golden calf or more correctly a young bull (Exodus 32). Exodus 29.36 also instructs the priests that “Each day you shall offer a bull as a sin offering for atonement.“
In the seventeenth century Olof Rudbeck associated the ancient Swedish custom of sacrificing a bull to Odin with the bull immolation described in Plato’s Atlantis.
Carvings of bulls’ heads decorated the home of ancient Anatolia in modern Turkey. There are bull carvings to be seen at Tarxien in Malta and not far away in Northern Tunisia ancient carvings of bulls are also to be found(c). The ancient Celts also included bulls in their ceremonies. The Assyrians had a bull-god as their guardian. The oldest church in Toulouse is dedicated to St. Taur, a possible reference to an earlier bull cult. Further afield, in India, there is a bull taming sport, jallikattu, which is practiced annually in the villages of the southern state of Tamil Nadu and recently the subject of a failed attempt to ban it(f).
Dhani Irwanto, who claims a Sundaland location for Atlantis has proposed that Plato’s mention of bulls was the result a distorted account of the original Atlantis narrative brought by refugees from Indonesia and was a reference to the local water buffalo!
Peter James in a short appendix to his book, The Sunken Kingdom supports a Lydian origin for the Atlantis tale argued that Plato’s text makes no reference to the bull-leaping game depicted in Minoan art. However, quoted the studies of the British anthropologist Jane Harrison(1850-1928) who discovered that a coin from Troy’s Roman period depicted a bull being sacrificed in exactly the same manner as Plato’s description, namely, suspended from a pillar. The Roman bull sacrifice ritual was known as ‘taurobolium’.
James also provides other instances of possible Atlantean style bull worship in the same region which also contains his proposed location for Atlantis, ancient Sipylus.
In conclusion therefore, it must be obvious from the above that Plato’s reference to bull rituals is no definitive guide to finding an exclusive location and so probably has limited value in any quest for Atlantis.
(c) https://encyclopedieberbere.revues.org/1697 (French)
(e) Timaeus 25b & Critias 114c
Orichalcum is one of the many mysteries in Plato’s Atlantis narrative. It is mentioned five times in the Critias [114e, 116c-d, 119c] as a metal extensively used in Atlantis. I am not aware of any reference to it anywhere else in his writings, a fact that can be advanced as evidence of the veracity of his Atlantis story. Plato took the time to explain to his audience why the kings of Atlantis have Hellenised names. However, he introduces Orichalcum into the story without explanation, which suggests that the metal was something well-known to the listeners. It is therefore natural to expect that metals might play an important part in determining the credibility of any proposed Atlantis location.
Bronze was an alloy of copper and tin, while brass was a mixture of copper and zinc, their similarity is such that museums today refer to artefacts made of either refer to them as copper alloys.
According to James Bramwell[195.91], Albert Rivaud demonstrated that the term ‘orichalcum’ was known before Plato and not just invented by him. Similarly, Zhirov notes that both Homer and Hesiod refer to the metal[0458.46], , as does Ibycus, the 6th century BC poet, who compares its appearance to gold suggesting a brasslike alloy. Thomas Taylor (1825) noted that in a fragment from a lost book of Proclus, he seems to refer to orichalcum under the name of migma(c). Wikipedia also adds that “Orichalcum is also mentioned in the Antiquities of the Jews – Book VIII, sect. 88 by Josephus, who stated that the vessels in the Temple of Solomon were made of orichalcum (or a bronze that was like gold in beauty). Pliny the Elder points out that the metal had lost currency due to the mines being exhausted. Pseudo-Aristotle in ‘De mirabilibus auscultationibus’ describes orichalcum as a shining metal obtained during the smelting of copper with the addition of ‘calmia’, a kind of earth formerly found on the shores of the Black Sea, which is attributed to be zinc oxide.”
Orichalcum, or its equivalent Latin Aurichalcum, is usually translated as ‘golden copper’ referring to either its colour or composition (80% copper and 20% zinc) or both. However, Webster’s Dictionary translates it as ‘mountain-copper’ from ‘oros’ meaning mountain and ‘chalchos’ meaning copper.
Sir Desmond Lee described the metal as ‘imaginary’ without explaining away the classical references or the fact that ”In numismatics, orichalcum is the name given to a brass-like alloy of copper and zinc used for the Roman sestertius and dupondius. Very similar in composition to modern brass, it had a golden-yellow color when freshly struck. In coinage, orichalcum’s value was nearly double reddish copper or bronze. Because production cost was similar to copper or bronze, orichalcum’s formulation and production were highly profitable government secrets.”(m)
Modern writers have offered a range of conflicting explanations for both the origin and nature of orichalcum. A sober overview of the subject is provided by the Coin and Bullion Pages website(d).
In 1926 Paul Borchardt recounted Berber traditions that recalled a lost City of Brass. Salah Salim Ali, the Iraqi scholar, points out that a number of medieval Arabic writers referred to an ancient ‘City of Brass’ echoing the Orichalcum covered walls of Plato’s Atlantis.
Ivan Tournier, a regular contributor to the French journal Atlantis proposed that orichalcum was composed of copper and beryllium. Tournier’s conclusion seems to have been influenced by the discovery in 1936 at Assuit in Egypt of a type of scalpel made from such an alloy(e). An English translation of Tournier’s paper was published in Atlantean Research (Vol 2. No.6, Feb/Mar.1950). In the same edition of A.R. Egerton Sykes adds a few comments of his own on the subject.
An unusual suggestion was made by Michael Hübner who noted that “small pieces of a reddish lime plaster with an addition of mica were discovered close to a rampart” in his chosen Atlantis location of South Morocco. He links this with Plato’s orichalcum, but does so without any great enthusiasm.
Jim Allen, promoter of the Atlantis in Bolivia theory, claims that a natural alloy of gold and copper is unique to the Andes. Tumbaga is the name given by the Spaniards to a non-specific alloy of gold and copper found in South America. However, an alloy of the two that has 15-40% copper, melts at 200 Co degrees less than gold. Dr. Karen Olsen Bruhns, an archaeologist at San Francisco State University wrote in her book, Ancient South America, “Copper and copper alloy objects were routinely gilded or silvered, the original colour apparently not being much valued. The gilded copper objects were often made of an alloy, which came to be very important in all of South and Central American metallurgy: tumbaga. This is a gold-copper alloy which is significantly harder than copper, but which retains its flexibility when hammered. It is thus ideally suited to the formation of elaborate objects made of hammered sheet metal. In addition, it casts well and melts at a lower temperature than copper, always a consideration when fuel sources for a draught were the wind and men’s lungs. The alloy could be made to look like pure gold by treatment of the finished face with an acid solution to dissolve the copper, and then by hammering or polishing to join the gold, giving a uniformly gold surface”.
Enrico Mattievich also believed that orichalcum had been mined in the Peruvian Andes(b).
Jürgen Spanuth tried to equate Orichalch with amber. Paul Dunbavin links Orichalcum with Wales. Robert Ishoy implies a connection between obsidian and Orichalcum, an idea also promoted by Christian & Siegfried Schoppe, while Felice Vinci equates it with platinum.
Albert Slosman thought that there was a connection between Moroccan oricalcita, a copper derivative, and Plato’s orichalcum. Peter Daughtrey has offered [893.82] a solution from a little further north in Portugal where the ancient Kunii people of the region used ori or oro as the word for gold and at that period used calcos for copper.
Thorwald C. Franke has suggested[750.174] that two sulphur compounds, realgar and orpiment whose fiery and sometimes translucent appearance might have been Plato’s orichalcum. His chosen location for Atlantis, Sicily, is a leading source of sulphur and some of its compounds. I doubt this explanation as realgar disintegrates with prolonged exposure to sunlight, while both it and orpiment, a toxin, could not be described as metals in any way comparable with gold and silver as stated by Plato.
Frank Joseph translates orichalcum as ‘gleaming or superior copper’ rather than the more correct ‘mountain copper’ and then links Plato’s metal with the ancient copper mines of the Upper Great Lakes. Joseph follows Egerton Sykes in associating ‘findrine’, a metal referred to in old Irish epics, with orichalcum. However, findrine was usually described as white bronze unlike the reddish hue of orichalcum.
Ulf Erlingsson suggested [319.61] that orichalcum was ochre, which is normally yellow, but red when burnt. He seems to have based this on his translation of the text Critias116b. In fact the passage describes the citadel flashing in a fiery manner, but it does not specify a colour!
Other writers have suggested that orichalcum was bronze, an idea that conflicts with a 9600 BC date for the destruction of Atlantis since the archaeological evidence indicates the earliest use of bronze was around 6000 years later.
Thérêse Ghembaza has kindly drawn my attention to two quotations from Pliny the Elder and Ovid that offer possible explanations for Plato’s orichalcum(n) . The former refers to a Cypriot copper mixed with gold which gave a fiery colour and called pyropus, while Ovid also refers to a cladding of pyropus. She also mentions auricupride(Cu3Au), an alloy that may be connected with orichalcum.
Zatoz Nondik, a German researcher, has written a book about Plato’s ‘orichalcum’, From 2012 to Oreichalkos, in which he describes, in detail, how the orichalcum may be related to Japanese lacquer and suitable for coating walls as described in the Atlantis(b) narrative!
The fact is that copper and gold mixtures, both natural and manmade, have been found in various parts of the world and have been eagerly seized upon as support for different Atlantis location theories. A third of all gold is produced as a by-product of copper, lead, and zinc production.
It is also recorded that on ancient Crete, in the Aegean, two types of gold were found, one of which was a deep red developed by the addition of copper. Don Ingram suggests that the reddish gold produced in ancient Ireland is what Plato was referring to.
Irrespective of what orichalcum actually was, I think it is obvious that it was more appropriate to the Bronze Age than 9,600 BC. Furthermore, it occurs to me that Plato, who was so careful to explain or Hellenise foreign words so as not to confuse his Athenian audience, appears to assume that orichalcum is not an alien term to his audience.
The result of all of this is that Orichalcum has been advanced to support the location of Atlantis in North and South America, Sundaland, Ireland, Britain and the Aegean. Once again an unintentional lack of clarity in Plato’s text hampers a clear-cut identification of the location of Atlantis.
A fascinating anecdote relating to the use of a term similar to ‘orichalcum’ to describe a mixture of copper and gold was used by a metalsmith in Dubai as recently as 2007 and is recounted on the Internet(a) .
The Wikipedia entry(f) for ‘orichalcum’ adds further classical references to this mysterious metal.
2015 began with a report that 47 ingots of ‘orichalcum’ had been found in a shipwreck off the coast of Sicily, near Gela, and dated to around 600 BC(g). What I cannot understand is that since we never knew the exact composition of Plato’s alloy, how can anyone today determine that these salvaged ingots are the same metal. Thorwald C. Franke has more scholarly comments on offer(h). Jason Colavito has also applied his debunking talents to the subject(i). In June of the same year, Christos Djonis, in an article(j) on the Ancient Origins website, wrote a sober review of the media coverage of the shipwreck. He also added some interesting background history on the origin of the word ‘orichalcum’.
An analysis revealed(k) that those ingots were composed of 75-80% copper, 15-20% zinc, and traces of nickel, lead and iron, but no proof that this particular alloy was orichalcum. The recovery of a further 39 ingots from the wreck were reported in February 2017 and the excavation of the sunken ship continues.
An extensive paper(o) on the Gela discovery reported “that Professor Sebastiano Tusa, an archaeologist at the office of the Superintendent of the Sea in Sicily, claimed the metal they had discovered in the remains of the ship was probably the mythical and highly prized red metal orichalcum.” However dissent was not long coming, as the paper also notes that “ Enrico Mattievich, a former physics professor at the Federal University of Rio de Janeiro, believes the metal has its origins in the Chavin civilisation that developed in the Peruvian Andes in around 1,200 BC. He claims the metal alloy is made from copper, gold and silver. He claims that the discovery off the coast of Gela is not true orichalcum.” I think that both are probably wrong as we do not know the exact chemical composition of Plato’s orichalcum and both are just engaging in speculation.
The most recent explanation for the term comes from Dhani Irwanto who has proposed that orichalcum refers to a form zircon(l) that is plentiful on the Indonesian island of Kilimantan, where he has hypothesised that the Plain of Atlantis was located [1093.110].
(e) Atlantis Research Vol 2. No.6, Feb/Mar 1950, p.86
(g) See: Archive 2460
(n) See: Archive 3456