An A-Z Guide To The Search For Plato's Atlantis

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    Joining The Dots

    I have now published my new book, Joining The Dots, which offers a fresh look at the Atlantis mystery. I have addressed the critical questions of when, where and who, using Plato’s own words, tempered with some critical thinking and a modicum of common sense.Read More »
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Thera

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).

Pre-eruption Thera

Pre-eruption Thera

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 Bronze 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 comments are to be found in the Epilogue.

There was a series of eruptions that ended with a final enormous explosion that has been linked to the ending of the 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 book[428]is 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[957] 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!

After the eruption, we learn from Herodotus that Thera was resettled in the thirteenth century  BC by the Phoenicians and around a century later by the Dorians(am)*.

The doctoral thesis of Dr David Sewell explores the cultural effects of the Theran eruption and can be read online(h).

Many centuries later the volcanic ash deposited by the Theran eruption was 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 great age.

Luana Monte has written a rather ‘forced’ argument in which she claims that Thera can be identified as biblical Tarshish(ac).

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 this Minoan Hypothesis and its obvious inconsistencies with Plato’s text. They are discussed separately under

Date of Atlantis’ Collapse

Pillars of Heracles

Size of Atlantis

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 Theran eruptionsbetween 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 of that it was the violent entry of pyroclastic flows into the sea that triggered the tsunamis.>Dale Dominey-Howes has published a paper suggesting that some claims relating to tsunamis generated by the Theran eruption(s) are exaggerations.<

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 Nebra Sky Diskto 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 of 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 a lengthy 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)(al).

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 several 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.

Paul Dunbavin in Prehistory Papers [1758] discusses the Minoan Hypothesis and the extent to which it is inconsistent with the details provided by Plato. Despite the support from some academics for the idea that the story of Atlantis is linked to the Theran eruption, Dunbavin reiterates that “whenever you find a conflict between the opinion of a modern expert and that given in an ancient text then you should always prefer the source closest to the events.” [p160]

An extensive bibliography of books and articles on the subject of Thera can be found on the Internet(b).

(a) https://www.news.cornell.edu/stories/April06/Bronze.age.AK.html

(b) Archive 2196 | (atlantipedia.ie)

(f) https://www.bbc.co.uk/pressoffice/pressreleases/stories/2010/02_february/26/atlantis.shtml

(g) Sodom & Gomorrah & The Age of Thera and the Volcano Santorini (archive.org)

(h) See: Archive 2199

(i) See: Archive 2200

(j) https://www.qconference-athens-2011.grazian-archive.com/michaelbaillie/index.html

(k) https://www.riaanbooysen.com/thera

(l) https://www.megalithic.co.uk/article.php?sid=2146413876

(m) https://www.sis-group.org.uk/news/nebra-speculation.htm

(n) https://www.dw.de/bronze-age-sky-disc-deciphered/a-1915398-1

(o) https://greece.greekreporter.com/2014/03/08/greek-island-of-santorini-volcano-erupted-in-16th-century/

(p) https://neoskosmos.com/news/en/akrotiris-link-to-atlantis

(q) http://www.megaliths.net/nebraskydisk.pdf

(r) https://nautil.us/blog/the-amazing-sky-calendar-that-ancients-used-to-track-seasons

(s) https://news.nationalgeographic.com/news/2013/08/130822-santorini-atlantis-akrotiri-volcanic-eruption-insects/

(t) https://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/science/nature/6722953.stm

(u) https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2014/10/141009100924.htm

(v) https://web.archive.org/web/20200926061503/http://www.mondenouveau.fr/continents-disparus-les-fausses-atlantides-de-santorin-partie-2/ 

(w) https://www.livescience.com/56791-santorini-tsunamis-caused-by-volcanic-flow.html

(x) https://www.tornosnews.gr/en/greek-news/culture/27727-santorini-island-excavation-unearths-bronze-age-settlement.html

(y) https://dendro.cornell.edu/articles/Manningetal_Antiquity_2014.pd

(z) https://www.archaeology.org/news/7086-181022-greece-thirasia-wood

(aa) https://www.researchgate.net/publication/7136349_Santorini_Eruption_Radiocarbon_Dated_to_1627-1600_BC

(ab) Annual radiocarbon record indicates 16th century BCE date for the Thera eruption | Science Advances (archive.org)*

(ac) Archive 3919

(ad) https://uanews.arizona.edu/story/dating-ancient-minoan-eruption-thera-using-tree-rings

(ae) https://www.smithsonianmag.com/smart-news/ancient-volcanic-eruption-dated-through-rings-dead-trees-180974603/

(af) https://pure.au.dk/portal/files/22630261/Friedrich-Heinemeier-2009-SandbjerMinoanProc-final-LowRes.pdf

(ag) https://www.dguf.de/fileadmin/AI/ArchInf-EV_Gebhard_Krause_e.pdf?fbclid=IwAR1Ej3wkUGtIAdiPY59Yh6QKCrRyCueND7LK-5IvFSZTPdbHPShD4GlcZIg

(ah)  https://www.lda-lsa.de/aktuelles/meldung/datum/2020/09/03/himmelsscheibe_von_nebra_eisenzeitlich_eine_richtigstellung/

(ai) New Findings on Santorini Point to “Lost Island of Atlantis” Origins | GreekReporter.com

(aj) The Prehistoric Buried City of Akrotiri – Discovered in 1860 (thevintagenews.com)

(ak) https://www.atlasobscura.com/places/prehistoric-town-of-akrotiri

(al) Archaeologists Are Caught Up in an Intense Fight Over Just How Important the Mysterious Nebra Sky Disk Really Is | Artnet News

(am) https://www.santorini-view.com/history-of-santorini/ *

(an) https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/abs/pii/S0377027303002841 *

 

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Stade

The Stade was an ancient Greek measurement of distance. The origins of the stade are not clear. One opinion claims that at first, it was the distance covered by a plough before turning. Later it was the length of a foot race in a Greek Stadion (Roman Stadium) or 157 meters. Several of ‘standard’ stadia existed in various city-states of ancient Greece ranging from 157 to 211 meters.

Some commentators have treated the stade as a synonym for the British ‘furlong’ (one eight a mile or 220yards – approximately 201 metres), which was an old Anglo-Saxon measure for a ‘long furrow’.

>Nick Kollerstrom has published a paper on Graham Hancock’s website arguing that Mother Earth was clearly the source of the Greek stade, though the ancient Greek philosophers do not seem to have been aware of this fact.”(e)<

Most commentators on Plato’s Atlantis seem to accept a value of 185 metres (607 feet) to the stade. Thorwald C.Franke argues for a value of 176 metres – It is confusing: The building called “stadion” had been 185 meters, but the measure “stadion” not. We can conclude that the Athenians once had a shorter building, but decided to build a bigger building in later times. It is the same story for the “stadion” of other cities.” (private correspondence)

Jim Allen who is the leading advocate for a Bolivian location for Atlantis has used a value for the stade that is half the conventionally accepted 185 metres. He bases this on the fact that the ancient South Americans used a base of 20 rather than 10 for counting. He offers an interesting article with impressive images on his website(a) in support of his contention.

Dr Rainer Kühne, who recently publicised that a site in Andalusia, identified by Werner Wickboldt from satellite photos, suggested that Plato used a stade that was probably 20% longer than what is normally accepted since the dimensions of the Spanish site are greater than those given in Plato’s text. This idea is not satisfactory as so many other dimensions of the city’s features already suggest over-engineering on a colossal scale. To add a further 20% would be even more ridiculous.

If the dimensions of Atlantis did originate on the pillars in the temple at Sais, the unit of measurement used was probably Egyptian (or Atlantean) and so their exact value must be open to question. The values given by Plato relating to Atlantis have long been ammunition for sceptics. They argue that Plato’s topographical data suggests either a degree of over-engineering that was improbable in the Bronze Age or impossible in the Stone Age and must, therefore, be a fantasy.

In the 1930s and 1940s, there was a degree of confusion among those reluctant to accept that the Greek ‘stade’ was a reliable unit of measurement for the architectural features described by Plato in Atlantis. Alexander Braghine in 1940, seems to have the matter entirely confused when he wrote [156.58] about Albert Hermann‘s proposal of 1934 that the unit of measurement used by the Egyptians to describe Atlantis was the ‘shoinos’, which Braghine noted is 604 times shorter than a stade, which is completely wrong or just a misprint that should read 60! Earlier in 1937 James Bramwell also commented on Hermann’s suggestion that it was the Egyptian ‘schoinos’, which is equivalent to 30 stadia [195.117].

William Smith’s Dictionary of Greek and Roman Antiquities, noted that “SCHOENUS (?, ?, ???????), literally, a rope of rushes, an Egyptian and Persian itinerary and land measure (Herod. i. 66). Its length is stated by Herodotus (ii. 6, 9) at 60 stadia, or 2 parasangs; by Eratosthenes at 40 stadia, and by others at 112 or 30. (Plin. H. N. v. 9. s. 10, xii. 14. s. 30.) Strabo and Pliny both state that the schoenus varied in different parts of Egypt and Persia. (Strabo, p. 803 ; Plin. H. N. vi. 26. s 30; comp Athen. iii. p. 122, a.) [–Phillip Smith]”

Today, Wikipedia proposes a conversion rate of 40 schoeni to the stade(c).

The late Ulf Richter proposed a simple solution to this problem(b), namely that the unit of measurement originally recorded was the Egyptian Khet. This was equivalent to 52.4 metres or approximately 3.5 times less than the value of the stade. The acceptance of this rational explanation removes one of the great objections to the veracity of the Atlantis narrative.

>Jean-Pierre Pätznick commented in a paper on the Academia.edu website that “the 10,000-stadia ditch that would have surrounded the great plain on three sides would in fact have measured 1850 km long, 30.80 m deep and 185 m wide. A colossal structure that would have been 23 times larger than the Panama Canal and nearly 10 times larger than that of the Suez Canal!”(d)<

It seems that all of Plato’s numbers, or at least all the larger ones, appear to be exaggerations and in my opinion should be reduced by a common factor to bring them in line with credibility.>I have elaborated more fully on this in Joining the Dots.<

(a)  https://web.archive.org/web/20200709181313/http://www.atlantisbolivia.org/atlantisstade.htm

(b)  https://web.archive.org/web/20180728113519/http://www.atlantisbolivia.org/ulfrichterstade.htm

(c)  https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Schoenus#:~:text=in%20Egyptian%20surveying.-,Length,several%20regional%20variants%20of%20each.

(d) (99+) (PDF) Atlantis: ‘Lost in Translations’ – In Search of the Egyptian Version | Jean-Pierre PÄTZNICK – Academia.edu  (French with English translation available) *

(e) Ancient Units and Earth-Measure – Graham Hancock Official Website *