Thomas Crawford Johnston
Ophir is referred to in the Bible as a source of gold, silver, precious stones and exotic animals. King Solomon was reputed to have received a cargo of such goodies every three years, a detail which points to Ophir being a considerable distance from Israel.
The exact location of Ophir is the subject of continuing controversy. In broad terms the most popular regions suggested are, or have been, India(g), Africa(f) and the Americas(a), but they were not the only proposed locations, even Australia and the Solomon Islands were considered. Emilio Spedicato has opted for Tibet, where an ancient goldmine fits the bill, which he outlines in his paper entitled Ophir, It’s Location Unveiled(h).
There is also a claim that the Batanes Islands off the Northern Philippines held the site of Ophir(b). Further west, Dhani Irwanto has claimed that Punt was also known as Ophir(d) and was situated on Sumatera (Sumatra) in Indonesia(c). However, he went further and also located Atlantis in Indonesia in his book, Atlantis: The lost city is in the Java Sea . His chosen site is just north of Bawean Island in the Java Sea.
However, Irwanto was not the first to link Atlantis with Ophir, Theodore L. Urban was the author of a paper delivered to the Lancaster County Historical Society of Pennsylvania in 1897. In it, he denied that Atlantis had been completely destroyed and argued that the biblical Ophir was in fact Atlantis, suggesting that it had been located in the Americas, which explained the three years that the round trip took(e).
>Jason Colavito has published articles written by Thomas Crawford Johnston in 1892(i) that he later developed into his 1913 book Did the Phoenicians Discover America [1902+] in which he places Ophir in America!<
The Phoenicians or Canaanites are linguistically regarded as Semitic people, who among their many achievements are credited with giving us our alphabet (without vowels). Both Strabo and Herodotus claim that they originally came from Bahrain(p), but this origin is denied by the phoenicia.org website(q). The correctness of these two ancient writers has been heavily criticised(r).
Dr. M. D. Magee in a 2001 paper(ak) wrote “The identity of the Israelites and the Canaanites is falsified in the scriptures, doubtless to justify the biblicists in painting the Israelites as worshippers of True God and the Canaanites as monstrous idolators to be suppressed. They are the same race as the Jews, Semites, but Genesis makes them sons of Ham.”
Nevertheless, Dhani Irwanto in a 2019 article(ab) on his website insists that the Phoenicians originated somewhere in the Indian Ocean. Irwanto suggests “that perhaps the most significant contribution of the Phoenicians was an alphabetic writing system that became the root of the Western alphabets.” However, Irwanto has gone further and proposed that the Phoenicians also influenced the development of at least three of the scripts of South Sumatera in Indonesia!
The widespread idea that Phoenician writing inspired the development of European alphabets, such as that of the Greeks, conflicts with the discovery of the Dispilo Tablet(ad) in Greece which has pushed back the use of writing in Greece to around 5200 BC, which is long before the people recognised as Phoenician emerged in the 2nd millennium BC(ac)!
A recent essay explicitly claims that there was never any such entity as ‘Phoenicia’! It also charts the manner in which ‘Phoenicians’ have been arbitrarily claimed as ancestors by distant nations, having been “enlisted in support of the nationalist histories of Lebanon, Britain, and Ireland, and in some cases seriously distorted by them. Despite claims by various partisans of Lebanese, British and Irish nationalism to enlist the Phoenicians as their ancient progenitor, the Phoenicians never existed as a self-conscious community, let alone a nascent nation.” (y)
The Phoenicians flourished during the 1st and 2nd millennia BC. The late Joseph Robert Jochmans has suggested(c) that similarities between Phoenician names and those of the sons of Poseidon are more than coincidental. The descendants of the Phoenicians are still to be found in great numbers in modern Lebanon as well as elements of the Phoenician language. Contrary to popular belief the Maltese language is more related to Phoenician than Arabic(g). Similarly, in a mountainous and isolated northeast corner of Asia Minor, its people still speak Greek in a dialect known as Romeyka(l). Dr Ioanna Sitaridou of Queen’s College, Cambridge explains that ‘Although Romeyka can hardly be described as anything but a Modern Greek dialect, it preserves an impressive number of grammatical traits that add an Ancient Greek flavor to the dialect’s structure – traits that have been completely lost from other Modern Greek varieties.’
A more radical view of the Phoenicians has been expressed by Professor Josephine Quinn(o) who declared “the Phoenicians never existed as a self-conscious community, let alone a nascent nation.” In a lengthy article, she suggests that “‘‘Phoenician’ was just a generic label invented by ancient Greek authors for the Levantine sailors they encountered in their own maritime explorations. Although some of these Greek writers entertain a mild stereotype of these Phoenicians as rather cunning or tricksy, they never use the term as a description of a distinct ethnocultural community.”
The Phoenicians have been frequently identified as the Atlanteans of Plato’s narrative. Peter Dawkins’ Zoence Academy website has the following logic-stretching gem – “Atlas also is known by other names, such as Enoch or The Phoenix, (hence Atlantis is Phoenicia, the land of the Phoenix)(v).
Keith Hunt noted on his website that “Prof. George Rawlinson (1812-1902), in his “Story of Phoenicia,” tells us that Phoenicia derived its name from the forests of date or Phoenix palms which grew there in great luxuriance. So far so good; but whence did the Phoenix palm derive its name? Horapollo says: “A palm branch was the symbol of the Phoenix.” Yes, but what or who was the Phoenix? Sanchomathon, the Phoenician writer, states that “Phoenix was the first Phoenician.” Phoenix, then, was a man. Now, the word Phoenix is the Greek form of the Egyptian term “Pa-Hanok,” the house of Enoch. In Hebrew Enoch also is Hanok. Thus the mystery of that ancient race is solved: they were the sons and descendants of Enoch and of Noah and his three sons, who after the Flood started their westward march. Their descendants have kept it up since, settled, first north of the Persian Gulf in the bushlands of Mesopotamia, where they found a dusky race in occupation of the land, the ancient Sumerians, and from thence towards the Mediterranean.” (w)
James Nienhuis, a young-earth creationist, has identified the Canaanites as Atlanteans(m)! The supporters of a Bronze Age date for the invasion of the Atlanteans see in the Phoenicians the powerful far-flung maritime civilisation described by Plato. In 2022, Matthew P. Courville devoted his Ancient Navigators  to demonstrating that Atlantis was a Phoenician colony, located on the Atlantic coast of Morocco.
However, this identification is in conflict with Plato’s statement that Atlantis or its influence extended as far as Tyrrhenia and Libya, whereas the Phoenicians had their original base further east in the region of modern Lebanon and Israel. In the western Mediterranean, Carthage did not develop into a military power until the first millennium BC.
It also runs counter to Plato’s clear account of the Atlanteans attacking from their bases in the Central Mediterranean (Tim.25b & Crit.114c).
The Phoenicians were never unilaterally at war with Greece and/or Egypt, but their successors, the Carthaginians, whose main military campaigns were directed against the Roman Empire, did clash with the Greeks in Sicily.
It is accepted that the Phoenician commercial empire began with the three cities of Tyre, Sidon, and Byblos. They expanded with the establishment of trading settlements along the Mediterranean coast of North Africa usually separated by a day’s rowing – somewhere between 30 to 60 miles.
It is claimed that the Phoenicians together with the Egyptians had an influence on the development of the Minoan culture(e).
Jonas Bergman recently presented a paper to the 2005 Melos Atlantis Conference on the subject of a Phoenician association with the Atlantis story. He outlined how Plato’s description of Atlantis was similar to the western colonies of the Phoenicians.
“Roderic O’Flaherty (Ruaidrhí Ó Flaithbheartaigh) was the first Irish scholar to suggest in his influential work Ogygia (1685) that the Phoenicians formed part of Irish ancestry. In the 18th century, O’Flaherty’s theory of the Phoenicians as progenitors of the Irish became very popular among the Protestant Ascendancy as well as Gaelic intellectuals.”(y)
>Also in the 18th century, Charles Vallencey was convinced that “the Phoenicians had colonised Ireland in archaic prehistory: When their explorers had searched for Thule, Vallancey affirmed, they had come to Ireland; the word Thule was identical to the Irish word thua, which meant simply ‘north’.”(al)<
Joaquín Lorenz Villanueva (1757-1837) was a Spanish historian, who moved to Dublin in later life, where he wrote Ibernia Phœnicea , which was an attempt to prove that Ireland had been colonised by the Phoenicians. This was translated into English and published by Henry O’Brien in 1833 as Phoenician Ireland .
Phoenicians in America
Some German writers in the 19th century such as Robert Prutz and later Jakob Kruger have advocated the idea that Phoenicians had discovered America, where he also placed Atlantis. However, in spite of the fact that there is widespread support for this concept and the even more extreme claim of Phoenicians in Australia, a Lebanese website (now offline), in the original home of Phoenicia, discounted all such claims for lack of evidence. Nevertheless, attention-seeking Rex Gilroy persists in promoting the idea of Phoenicians in Australia(h).
Noteworthy is the fact that the world’s only traditionally-built replica of a Phoenician ship made the trans-Atlantic crossing successfully, landing in the Dominican Republic on 31st December 2019, after 39 days at sea(ai). It moved on to Fort Lauderdale in February 2020(u).
The expedition was titled ‘Phoenicians before Columbus’. The project’s leader was Philip Beale, a Fellow of the Royal Geographical Society and a member of the Scientific Exploration Society and sits on their Honorary Advisory Board(aj). The ship was subsequently bought by the Mormons.
In 1886, the American novelist Ann Eliza Smith (1819-1905) published a fantasy novel(j), Atla, that tells the tale of the discovery of the Atlantis civilization by the Phoenicians.
In 1889, Enrique Onffroy de Thoron proposed that Atlantis had been Phoenician and situated in America. Indeed, claims still persist that the Phoenicians did reach South America(f). However, Onffroy was not the first to suggest this, as he was preceded by Robertus Comtaeus Nortmannus as early as 1644 and Georg Horn in 1652.
Paul Gallez (1920-2007) was a Belgian-born cartographer, historian and linguist. Atlantisforschung noted that “On the occasion of the celebrations of the 500th anniversary of the alleged discovery of America by Christopher Columbus (the ‘Columbus Day’ of the year 1992), Gallez wrote and published in 1996 a whole series of articles about much earlier voyages of discovery, e.g. by Phoenicians, Egyptians, Chinese and Vikings in the journal La Nueva Provincia , in which he also considered proto-Semitic influences in pre-Columbian America“(ah).
Arguably, the best-known exponent of the ‘Phoenicians in America’ school of thought was Bernardo Silva Ramos(i). In the 1930s he studied inscriptions at Pedra de Gavea and concluded that they were Phoenician and offered a translation that reads “Tyre, Phoenicia, Badezir, Firstborn of Jethbaal”. This supposedly refers to a ruler of Phoenicia named Baal-Eser I, who ruled Tyre in the mid-9th century, c. 850 BC. Jacques de Mahieu decided that the inscriptions were not Phoenician but, in keeping with his Nazi background, they were Nordic runes!(ae)
Otto Muck also bought into the idea of Phoenicians in Brazil having accepted the translation of Bernardo Silva Ramos(af).
Paul Gaffarel wrote a number of papers between 1875 and 1890 on pre-Columbian trans-Atlantic voyagers from Europe. He presented a 38-page paper on the Phoenicians’ voyages to America to the Congrès International des Américanistes in Nancy (France) in 1875. Other essays concerned the Vikings and ancient Irish(ag).
Nevertheless, John Denison Baldwin, writing in the late 19th century, was highly critical of the Phoenicians being early colonisers in America and after reviewing the arguments in favour of the idea, he concluded that “if it were true that the civilization found in Mexico and Central America came from people of the Phoenician race, it would be true also that they built in America as they never built anywhere else, that they established a language here radically unlike their own, and that they used a style of writing totally different from that which they carried into every other region occupied by their colonies. All the forms of alphabetical writing used at present in Europe and Southwestern Asia came directly or indirectly from that anciently invented by the race to which the Phoenicians belonged, and they have traces of a common relationship that can easily be detected. Now the writing of the inscriptions at Palenque, Copan, and elsewhere in the ruins has no more relatedness to the Phoenician than to the Chinese writing. It has not a single characteristic that can be called Phoenician any more than the language of the inscriptions or the style of architecture with which it is associated; therefore we can not reasonably suppose this American civilization originated by people of the Phoenician race, whatever may be thought relative to the supposed ancient communication between the two continents and its probable influence on civilized communities already existing here.”(x)
Jason Colavito published articles written by Thomas Crawford Johnston in 1892(z). that he later developed into his 1913 book Did the Phoenicians Discover America [1902+] which is available online(aa).
In his 2009 book, Uncovering Archaeology, Dennis Cassinelli outlines in some detail his Atlantis theory, which he locates in Central America(s). He suggests that the Phoenicians landed in Central America and on seeing the Mayan cities concluded that they had landed in Atlantis. Not unexpectedly, Jason Colavito had a few words to say about this idea(t).
Jean Mazel favourably discussed the idea of the Phoenicians in South America in his 1968 book Avec le Phéniciens.
Hugh Fox (1932-2011) wrote of the early peoples of the Americas in his well-received Gods of the Cataclysm. The ‘cataclysm’ referred to is the biblical Deluge, in respect of which he follows the ideas of Velikovsky and the Christian catastrophist Donald W. Patten (1929-2014), who attributed Noah’s Flood to a close encounter with a massive extraterrestrial body around 2800 BC. Fox explicitly claims that before the Flood, transoceanic travel was commonplace, with the Chinese in America, Indian theology in the Mediterranean and that after the Flood we had the Phoenicians and Odysseus in America.
More recently, Andrew Collins has drawn attention to the extraction of purple dye from shellfish in a number of Central and South American countries [072.357], commenting 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 also quotes Thomas Crawford Johnston’s Did the Phoenicians Discover America [1902+] – “There is probably no stronger evidence of the presence of the Phoenician in the New World than can be drawn from the use of dyes.” Collins also notes that similar sentiments were expressed by Wolfgang Born in a 1937 paper.
Collins has also noted [p361] how cotton was widely produced in the Americas before the Spanish conquest and that genetic studies have shown “that the variety of cotton cultivated in the New World from very earliest times is a hybrid form derived from an Old World species crossed with species native only to the American continent. Crawford Johnston also claimed that the compass had been invented by the Phoenicians!
Peter de Roo, writing in 1900 [890.1.195] stated “that the Phoenicians at some time landed on American soil could not well be denied in the presence of ancient reports; but as Gravier justly observes. if any vague account of their discoveries was kept, it reached us disfigured by Hellenic fanciful imagination.”
The late Sabatino Moscati, a renowned linguist and archaeologist, wrote a highly regarded work on the subject of the Phoenicians. Additionally, there is an invaluable website(a) on offer from Salim George Khalaf, a modern Phoenician from Lebanon. This huge site with its 2,000 pages covers all aspects of Phoenician culture. This same site(b), drawing on the work of Ignatius Donnelly, identifies the kings of Atlantis with the Phoenician pantheon and claims that the gods of the Greeks were also the deified Atlantean kings.
Jacques Hébert, who places Atlantis in the Indian Ocean on the island of Socotra, suggests that the Atlanteans had a colony in the Eastern Mediterranean whose inhabitants developed into the Phoenicians!
(g) See: Archive 2852
(i) https://pt.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bernardo_de_Azevedo_da_Silva_Ramos (Portuguese)
(m) https://dancingfromgenesis.com/?p=49635 (link broken) See: Archive 2985
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)
>In November 2023, the BBC published another article on the subject of Tyrian Purple, recycling old material and adding a few additional titbits(r).<