“It’s like a memorial to Atlantis or Lyonesse: these are the stone buoys that mark a drowned world” – Christopher Hitchens
After the last ice age, the ‘great melt’ flooded the landscape of Britain for over ten thousand years. This deluge started a chain reaction and as a consequence the sea level slowly increased and vast areas of land were lost including the peninsula/island known as ‘Doggerland’.
Throughout the 19th century, oyster dredgers working the shallow waters off the north east coast of England, recorded frequent finds of animal bones caught up in their nets. These discoveries became a regular occurrence as the fishing technology increased and the trawlers at a later date and in deeper waters of the North Sea also found traces of civilisation and a lost continent. Sadly, the locations of these finds were rarely recorded with any degree of accuracy. This material appeared to come from a number of areas within the North Sea.
It would be impossible to talk about Doggerland and its environment without comparing the known archaeology with what I suspect is the same land that also flooded thousands of years ago. The same land was spoken about in the works of the ancient Greek Philosopher Plato. Over the years, Atlantis has grown to be both a legend and the source of science fiction, but from an anthropological point of view this is neither correct nor helpful in tracing the history of mankind, as it moves the debate from scientific observation in to fantasy and the undermining of the most important time of our ancient history.
Plato is a source of creditable information as he is not a ‘story teller’ like some other historical writers. He is fundamentally a philosopher, whose writings are still studied even now at the most famous and prestigious universities throughout the world some 2,000 years after his death. He was not prone to fantasy or exaggeration, therefore his writings should be considered to be true evidence that once in the distant past the ancient great civilisation of Atlantis did in fact exist, and that the occupants changed the course of mankind in ways which I believe we do not fully understand to date.
Consequently, we need to look at the probability that Plato’s Atlantis is a genuine reference to Doggerland, and as it’s the oldest written source available to date, we must examine it in detail to extract any clues of how this civilisation lived and traded as we would do with an ancient myth. Fortunately, Plato wrote in great detail about this civilisation, such as how these people lived and what they believed, which will allow us to compare what we know; from known landscape and archaeological finds against what is written in the texts.
Plato’s most famous line from Timaeus, a dialogue between Critias and Socrates, in which Critias tells a family story about the Greek Statesman Solon, who took a sabbatical to study and converse with the most scholarly of Egyptian priests during a visit to Sais in Egypt in about 590BC, which was one of the oldest cities in the old kingdom of Egypt. These priests claimed to have access to secret records about a lost civilisation called Atlantis, which only they were allowed to read, for it was written on the pillars within their most sacred temple. Sais worshipped the city’s patron goddess Neith, whose cult is attested and dates back as early as the 1st Dynasty, (3100- 3050 BCE).
The Greeks, such as Herodotus, Plato and Diodorus Siculus identified her with Athena and hence postulated a primordial link to Athens. Diodorus Siculus recounts that Athena built Sais before the deluge (flooding) that supposedly destroyed Athens and Atlantis. While all Greek cities were destroyed during that cataclysm, the Egyptian cities, including Sais survived. As we can see from this connection, the deluge has incredible importance to ancient civilisations, clearly indicating that any prehistoric civilisation that wanted to stay alive would possibly build boats, not for some, but for everyone. Sadly, the city of Sais has been recently destroyed by farmers who used the temple’s mud bricks as free fertiliser for the fields – to this date, the temple and its writings have never been located successfully.
The tempting line from Plato’s dialogue is “in front of the mouth which you Greeks say ‘the pillars of Hercules’ there lay an island which is much larger than Libya and Asia together” translated by W.R.M. Lamb 1925 or “in front of the straits which are by you called the pillars of Hercules; the island was bigger than Libya and Asia together” B. Jowett 1871.
This single sentence has caused no end of debate about the location of Atlantis. Some suggest that ‘the pillars’ can refer to water flows, thus allowing the speculation (which is current) that Atlantis is a Greek Island. Others suggest (including myself) that the ‘Pillars of Hercules’ is the mouth of the Mediterranean between Morocco and Spain. Now this is a case of translation and interpretation; the word ‘mouth’ is sometimes called ‘strait’, and in other quotations Plato refers to the Mediterranean Sea as “within the straits of Hercules”.
According to some Roman sources, whilst on his way to the island of Erytheia, Hercules had to cross the mountain that was once Atlas (the Atlas Mountains are in Northern Africa overlooking the Mediterranean), instead of climbing the great mountain, Hercules used his superhuman strength to smash through it. By doing so, he connected the Atlantic Ocean to the Mediterranean Sea and formed the Straits of Gibraltar. However, the best evidence is in the name Atlantis itself, for Herodotus (an ancient Greek historian, 484 BC – c. 425 BC) in a time before Plato’s writings, called the Sea outside the Pillars of Hercules the ‘Atlantis Sea’ (Cyrus, 557-530 BC: Book 1). Today this is known as the Atlantic Ocean, and we know from historical documents that C’s and S’s are commonly transposed.
So we are left to conclude that Atlantis was located in the Atlantic Ocean, but this then brings about another problem with this description “the island was bigger than Libya and Asia together” which is where most Atlantis claims fall flat. Libya was well-known in Plato’s time as a big country as it bordered the Mediterranean, but the reference to Asia cannot be the Asia we know and understand today, as it was unknown to the old world including the Greeks. Therefore, the Asia that Plato was referring to is Turkey, which even today we call Asia Minor.
“Asia Minor is a geographical location at the westernmost protrusion of Asia, also called Anatolia, and corresponds to the western two thirds of the Asian part of Turkey. It is a peninsula bounded by the Black Sea to the north, Georgia to the north-east, the Armenian Highland to the east, Mesopotamia to the south-east, the Mediterranean Sea to the south, and the Aegean Sea to the west.” Wikipedia.
The World according to Hecataeus of Miletus – 550 BC
The size of this ‘island’ of Atlantis is consequently, a major problem for historians and archaeologists. Two of the most popular suggestions are the Caribbean Islands in America or a continent island that was once in the middle of the Atlantic Ocean that has disappeared without trace. Well, in my opinion, the islands of the Caribbean are far too small and the trek across the middle of the Atlantic Ocean without landmass to guide the ships, eleven thousand years ago, would have been quite daunting, if not impossible within the confines of the Bronze Age technology.
Some researchers have speculated on the existence of an island in the middle of the Atlantic Ocean between America and Europe, arguing that this is the only remaining option, but their evidence of this enormous land mass focuses on the existing small Canary Islands, with the landmass of the islands being the tops of Atlantis’s mountains. This seems unfeasible however, when considering that nothing below the water’s surface is to scale of either Libya or Asia Minor (let alone both!). With Atlantis sinking just 10,000 years according to Plato’s text, there would be a massive sandbank just under the sea, but this does not exist.
This is why the search for Atlantis has failed over the years, and various ludicrous and unfounded hypotheses based on the Mediterranean make news headlines, and are turned into ‘educational’ documentaries on TV. Moreover, if we look again at this passage and the exact wording on Atlantis, we find something most researchers have overlooked in the translation, and it’s the word ‘island’. The original Greek word is ‘nesos’ which can mean either island or peninsula.
Consequently, if we are looking for a ‘Peninsula’ (which is a piece of land that is bordered by water on three sides but connected to mainland) that is outside the Mediterranean, then there are only two possibilities – Africa or Europe. These are both outside the Pillars of Hercules and can be easily navigated by sticking to the shorelines of either continent, which is a preferred method of Bronze Age navigation. The African continent has shown no signs of any peninsula on its Atlantic side that has disappeared in the past 10,000 years – but Europe has!
If we look at a map of Europe at the end of the Ice Age, we notice that the water levels were about 160m lower than today, so much lower that extra coastlines would have been added to both Spain and France. However, when we look at the British Isles, we notice Britain had completely vanished and had been replaced by a new landmass. This ‘peninsula of Europe’ protrudes into the Atlantic Ocean and the English Channel, Irish and North Sea as we know it today have been replaced by land. Moreover, the current waters to the west of Ireland and North West from Scotland have also have been reclaimed from the sea.
This peninsula which includes not only Britain, Norway, Sweden and Finland, but also Denmark and the Baltic Sea, creates a continent about the same size of Libya and Asia Minor, which at last, correlates to Plato’s writings.
We know from our history that the rising of sea waters over the last 10,000 years, caused flooding that created the island nation we know today. But, do the writings contain any other information, which will allow us to confirm this peninsula is the land mass Critias is talking about?
Plato adds “yonder (beyond the pillars of Hercules) is a real Ocean, and the land surrounding it may most rightly be called, in the fullest and truest sense, a continent.” In this sentence the ‘island’ is turned into a ‘continent,’ so this proves that the translation of ‘nesos’ is a peninsula, not and island, and in today’s terms we are looking at a land mass that incorporates the British Isles, Scandinavia and the northern European countries of France, Germany, Holland, Belgium, Poland, Netherlands, Denmark, Lithuania, Latvia, Estonia and the Baltic, the North and Irish seas, which all combined created one great land mass, which I call the North European Peninsula (NEP).
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