Friday, February 26, 2016

Is the Lost City of Atlantis a Myth or a Reality? With the Use of New Science and Technology, We May Soon Find Out!

There is a video that is the latest, and most credible, documentary about the search for the Lost City of Atlantis. It is a 2011 National Geographic documentary, entitled "Finding Atlantis" that places the location of the lost city in the Doñana Wetlands National Preserve in southwestern Spain, just outside the Straits of Gibraltar, aka the "Pillars of Hercules." It was later re-aired by the BBC.

"But afterwards there occurred violent earthquakes and floods; and in a single day and night of misfortune all your warlike men in a body sank into the earth, and the island of Atlantis in like manner disappeared in the depths of the sea." - Plato

        First, right out of the gate, anyone who is skeptical about the story of Atlantis is rightfully so. The unbelievable stories that have been dreamed up over time have been extremely extravagant in their use of fantasy and imagination. From stories of a Utopian society, free from strife and all forms of discrimination to a city built hundreds of thousands of years ago to serve as a base for aliens that came to earth to harvest our resources and created humanity as slave labor, the stories stretch the boundaries of possibility to the breaking point. From a place that gave rise to our stories of gods and mythical heroes to a place that people say they have connected with psychically and claim ancient spiritual heritage there, people have built upon the myth, layer after layer, causing it to be taken less seriously and to become more and more unbelievable. The location of the lost city has also been cause for wild speculation. Its has been placed on what people have attempted to pass off as a sunken continent in the Indian Ocean, another story places it on a sunken continent in Polynesia, while another places it on a sunken continent in the middle of the Atlantic Ocean. There are further stories that have placed it at the center of the Earth, while others have made it a massive city floating on the sea, an airship floating in the sky, or even an underwater city inhabited by the ever elusive Merpeople. Undoubtedly, all of these stories are dramatic over representations, but that does not mean that the stories should be dismissed as outright blubbery.

        If we do dismiss these stories as outright blubbery, then we reject one of the oldest traditions in human history, story telling. This craft does not play the same role in modernity that it did in antiquity. In the present day, when we know that a story is being told, we expect it to be fiction or an embellished representation of reality. However, before the dawn of civilization and at times when civilization had collapsed, story telling was all that we had available to us to pass on the heritage of our peoples. In the present, we get our history from highly trained professionals that spend their lives doing the rigorous scientific exploration, the sometimes tedious historical research, and the endless writing down and reporting of the hard evidence that is needed to tell the true history of humanity. In the past, when such methods were not available, the story was the only way that anything would get passed on. Now, this does not mean that those stories were not embellished also. However, in those times, it was more likely to be done to impart an allegorical lesson of some sort, or to encourage young people to remember and honor their ancestors. In the History profession this is called Oral Tradition, or Oral History, and in the last thirty years or so, it has begun to take hold as in important part of telling the story of humanity's history. Institutional memory can be a powerful thing, we just have to keep ourselves grounded in the possible when we explore the stories and myths that are of critical importance to the understanding of our culture.

        Now, let us review some of the stories in antiquity that mention a powerful and advanced civilization that vanished into the seas. Tarshish occurs in the Hebrew Bible with several uncertain meanings, most frequently as a place, probably a large city or region, far across the sea from the Land of Israel. Tarshish was said to have supplied vast quantities of important metals to Israel and Phoenicia. The same place name occurs in the Akkadian inscriptions of Esarhaddon, an Assyrian King in the Seventh Century BCE, and also, on the Phoenician inscription on the Nora Stone, indicating that it was a real place; its precise location was never commonly known, and was eventually lost in antiquity. Legends grew up around it over time so that its identity has been the subject of scholarly research and commentary for more than two thousand years. Its importance stems in part from the fact that biblical passages tend to understand Tarshish as a source of King Solomon's great wealth in metals, especially silver, but also gold, tin and iron. This mention comes in the twenty seventh chapter of the book of Ezekiel. It is also mentioned in the Book of Chronicles and the book of Psalms.
        The Greeks were fascinated by the notion of a mythical and fabulously wealthy kingdom in the far west beyond the Pillars of Hercules. It was a rich emporium of valuable and precious metals and the luxurious lives led by its inhabitants linked it in their minds to the legends of Atlantis and Hesperides, the Isles of the Blessed, which were located in the same direction and were maybe even in the same place. They called it Tartessos. Strabo, 58 BC-25 CE, who described it in his  work, Geography, was drawing very largely on Herodotos, 484 BCE - 420 BCE, who described in detail the immense wealth and generosity of the Tartessans and particularly of their King Arganthonios, referred to as The Silver One. This included the story of a Greek sailor called Koliaos whose ship was blown off course and landed in Tartessos. After being royally entertained for some months, his ship was loaded up with silver and he was sent home. The story is also told of the Tartessans, in the 6th century BCE, giving the Phocaean Greeks 1 1/2 tons of silver to pay for a defensive wall around their city to keep out the Persians. And yet apart from a few fragments of trade goods in Andalusia in Southern Spain there is neither sign of a Tartessan civilization, nor any indication where the capital city might have been. Not only was Tartessos a legendary place, but also their ships were legendary, and apparently, capable of crossing the Indian Ocean. This civilization was also mentioned by the Egyptians.

        Plato, the famous Greek philosopher, mention such a city, as well. He called it Atlantis. His account is probably the most famous. He described in a discourse, Timaeus, a Socratic dialogue, written in about 360 B.C. Many great and wonderful deeds are recorded of your state in our histories. But one of them exceeds all the rest in greatness and valor. For these histories tell of a mighty power which unprovoked made an expedition against the whole of Europe and Asia, and to which your city put an end. This power came forth out of the Atlantic Ocean, for in those days the Atlantic was navigable; and there was an island situated in front of the straits which are by you called the Pillars of Heracles; the island was larger than Libya and Asia put together, and was the way to other islands, and from these you might pass to the whole of the opposite continent which surrounded the true ocean; for this sea which is within the Straits of Heracles is only a harbor, having a narrow entrance, but that other is a real sea, and the surrounding land may be most truly called a boundless continent. Now in this island of Atlantis there was a great and wonderful empire which had rule over the whole island and several others, and over parts of the continent, and, furthermore, the men of Atlantis had subjected the parts of Libya within the columns of Heracles as far as Egypt, and of Europe as far as Tyrrhenia. This vast power, gathered into one, endeavored to subdue at a blow our country and yours and the whole of the region within the straits; and then, Solon, your country shone forth, in the excellence of her virtue and strength, among all mankind. She was pre-eminent in courage and military skill, and was the leader of the Hellenes. And when the rest fell off from her, being compelled to stand alone, after having undergone the very extremity of danger, she defeated and triumphed over the invaders, and preserved from slavery those who were not yet subjugated, and generously liberated all the rest of us who dwell within the pillars. But afterwards there occurred violent earthquakes and floods; and in a single day and night of misfortune all your warlike men in a body sank into the earth, and the island of Atlantis in like manner disappeared in the depths of the sea. For which reason the sea in those parts is impassable and impenetrable, because there is a shoal of mud in the way; and this was caused by the subsidence of the island.
        There are further mentions of an advanced city like Atlantis, in the writings of the Romans, the Hindi, and even the Persian make a mention of such a city to the west, beyond their reaches. The Carthaginians even had a similar myth that followed them from Phoenicia. The common denominators in all of these stories are that the 'Atlanteans' were a highly advanced people, they had trade influence that covered distances and went to locations that were beyond the known world, which some argued was backed up by a vast empire, and one day, as if out of the blue, the whole city was lost to the depths of the sea in a single catastrophic event. They mention earthquakes, volcanoes, and massive walls of water, now referred to as Tsunamis. The possibility presented in the video at the beginning of this piece follows these stories as closely as it can, using them as a tour guide of sorts, and it has resulted in, potentially, the greatest archaeological and historical find in modern Western history. They use satellite technology, in ground sonar, naval sonar, aerial photography, and core sample drilling, among other techniques to locate a city that was potentially the progenitor of Western Civilization. Now, admittedly, there does seem to be a few flaws in the documentaries assumptions. The most glaring of which is the fact that Dr. Freund makes a lot of broad assumptions, as he seeks to connect the site with the myth of Atlantis. I will give him credit; though, he does qualify his assumptions with maybes, possibles, and potentials. 
          Has the site of the Lost City of Atlantis finally been found, finally laying to rest probably the most controversial myth in Western Civilization? Perhaps, it has, perhaps it has not. Only time will tell, but the potential of such a discovery is so far reaching in its effect that one might find themselves hoping that this is the place. What lies beneath the Doñana Wetlands National Preserve in the southwestern region of Spain, known as Andalusia? If it is Atlantis, and archaeological digs reveal a city that predates any other known Mediterranean civilization, the Western world will have to completely change its understanding of its history. How old will this civilization be? Will they have arisen before or after the Mesopotamian cultures? What was their writing like? How much did they influence the writing and culture of Europe, now that their language can be understood? Did the Atlanteans have a far reaching global trade empire, stretching into regions of the world that place Europeans in the Western Hemisphere anywhere from two to four thousand years before what has been previously assumed? If they did, how did they affect the cultures of the Americas, and are there traces of their presence in the Americas that we were previously unable to recognize, due to a lack of evidence and understanding? Did they trade, by sea, with the Far East, long before the Portuguese ever turned past the Cape of Good Hope at the southern most tip of the African continent?

      How will we have to change our understanding of discoveries that have long since been explained? How will we have to change our understanding of the evolution of our own present culture? If you are still skeptical, I do not blame you. The story has been blown so far out of proportion from the actual historical references to such a place that the mere mention of Atlantis makes most people scream conspiracy theory, and until I watched the documentary, "Finding Atlantis," I too screamed conspiracy most of the time. However, this is a legitimate attempt to use science to discover a lost part of our history. If you do not think it is possible to uncover long lost mythical places, consider the fact that the Ionic city of Troy was considered an allegorical myth, right up until Heinrich Schliemann dug it out of the ground in 1870. The same thing was said about the Assyrian city of Nineveh, right up until it was first rediscovered by Carsten Niebuhr in 1761. The rediscovery of the real Atlantis may never happen, but it seems that we might be on the very cusp of doing so. If it is rediscovered, I am sure that the sensationalized myths will continue to draw people's attention. However, at least, for those of us who like to keep ourselves grounded in the facts, a long and hotly debated issue will finally be put to rest, and we can begin to tie up a lot of the loose ends about our distant pass that have continued to stump even our greatest scholars. This may even give us the motivation that we need to finally change our future.....

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