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Atlantis and Paleogeography

Atlantis from a geographer's perspective


In my 2004 book, with the sub-title "Mapping the Fairy Land," I trace the origin of the topos of Atlantis. Starting with the recognition that the "Empire" of Atlantis closely coincides with the distribution of megalithic tombs in Europe, I deduct that the island ought to have been Ireland, since it is the only (extant) island in the area to be completely within the distribution area of megalithic tombs. I then test the hypothesis against Ireland, and conclude that the coincidence is statistically significant. In other words, certain elements of the topos apparently are derived from Ireland. I also note that the city of Atlantis obviously is not based on Ireland, nor the sinking of Atlantis, why I make a prediction that the city of Atlantis - if ever found - would be a meteorite impact crater at a certain site on the bottom of the North Sea. After visiting a conference in 2005 I learned that such a crater exists, just as I predicted.

Plato's "Atlantis" thus appears to represent the north-western European Stone Age during the period from the end of the Ice Age, with a relatively advanced culture centered in and around what is today the North Sea. To "Atlantis" one must also count the areas that was dominated by the carriers of this culture, and it seems that it may have included all megalithic areas.

Note that this does NOT necesarily imply that they were ethnically, genetically, or even linguistically homogenous; the hypothesis only requires that they all formed part of the same political system, a homogenous power structure that to some extent guaranteed stability. This could be kingdoms where the dominating class was of a different ethnicity than the majority, and where all kings respected each other and maintained contacts through inter-marriage. Much like the royal culture still is in NW Europe to this day(!). Also, please note that I have not changed opinion on this since publishing the book, contrary to what some have claimed. The hypothesis remains the same, even as the details are filled in by new discoveries.

Plato alleges that Atlantis existed for a very long time, why one must not fall into the trap to try to find a single place and time that matches the tale. Instead one must find a part of the world where the overall natural and cultural geography matches the tale, through a reasonable geological and archaeological period. Recognizing this, I predicted in the 2004 book that if there ever was a real place upon which Plato modelled the concentric lakes of Atlantis, it would be a meteorite impact crater in unconsolidated sediments on the bottom of the North Sea. I further refined the prediction to say that it should be on the plain south of Dogger Bank, north of Silver Pit. At the Atlantis 2005 conference, other conference participants reported that according to theoretical modelling such a crater was possible, although very unlikely to form since the requirements were very precise. However, it was also reported that just such a meteorite impact crater had been found buried under the North Sea. When I later got hold of the original reference it turned out that the crater was at the very location that I had predicted, that it had the correct features, and that the dimensions matched.

Two questions remain, however, before we can be certain that Plato had access to real memories from the bottom of the North Sea: (1) Was the morphology manifest on the ground surface during the late ice age?, and (2) Is there a straight channel connecting a circular palaeolake to the palaeocoastline? The answer to both these questions lies buried in the geological archive.

Update 2012: This study made by the University of St Andrews has now provided very much more evidence on the nature of the now drowned culture around Dogger Bank. It is being called Britain's Atlantis in the UK, and it is effectively the same hypothesis as the one I presented in 2004, and which had already been given additional support by earlier finds, as mentioned in the 2007 update of this page.

Original Introduction

Atlantis is a place Plato described in Timaios and Kritias as an example in a discourse on how society could be organized. This website accompanies the book on the right, but also contains much other material especially in Swedish (book-length treatises on European DNA and paleogeography).

This site deals with two issues relating to Plato's Atlantis:
1. The topos of Atlantis: what, if anything, did he base it on?
2. The lesson of Atlantis: what, if anything, can we learn from this?

While the second issue is surely the more interesting one, one can not approach it without first dealing with the first. The approach used by self-proclaimed "sceptics" is to instead pose the question if Atlantis is fact or fiction, and reply that it is fiction. However, that is a false dilemma: the reply is given beforehand by the nature of the question (their question is actually, "is everything true, or is there any detail that is false?," so it follows by necessity what the answer will be; scepticism is necessary, but so is fantasy in the thought process).

Others argue that Plato used Atlantis as an example to make a point, and therefore it must be fiction. Another case of in-your-face flawed logic, brazenly presented as if to say "I know my claim is logically outrageous, but I speak from an elevated academic position." Do not believe an educated person could be so ignorant as to actually believe that argument. Feigning stupidity seems to be the defense of our days.

So what is Plato's Atlantis topos?

In the dialogues Plato makes a point of explaining how a myth such as Phaëthon's ride can have a background in reality, reflecting meteorite impact events. He also gives an account of the paleogeography of Attika, and its geomorphologic evolution. The context of the tale of Atlantis is thus in talking about prehistory, and how memories are lost with time. A number of details in the tale regarding geography and prehistory have turned out to be true, although they were unknown at Plato's time. The probability is not high that Plato invented these by pure chance, why it is far fetched to suggest that it is pure fiction.

In the last century we have learned very much about the events of the past, thanks to the developments of geology. Plato gave a date of 9600 BC for Atlantis. At that time the last ice age ended, the global sea level rose in the order of 125 m altogether, and the temperature rose in the order of 10şC. The details of this development are still being investigated by earth scientists, and some very sudden events may still not have been identified. It would thus reveal ignorance to state that the tale can not have a background in reality. Check the 3D rendition to the right for instance; it shows a recently discovered geologic formation that fits nicely into Plato's description of the city. Note, though, that most people have an erroneous image of what Atlantis was (or wasn't, as the case may be). You can study up under the heading Tradition.

Under the heading Paleogeography you will find information about the past development of our planet, in the time span of interest (from the last ice age to present). Under Tradition you will find information about the tale, written sources, and myth. Under Pĺ svenska there are links to two book-sized pages about European DNA and paleogeography, respectively, although in Swedish (well, the DNA book is partly translated to English in "Ditto in transl."). Finally, under Multimedia you can see a 14 min video which gives a good introduction to the hypothesis as it now stands. There are also virtual reality scenes from some megalithic monuments. Oh, don't forget to visit the forum (under Website) for commenting and discussing!

Short summary

The information in the book is not duplicated at this website, but briefly, the development of the argument starts from the observation that the distribution of megalithic tombs matches the distribution of the Atlantean Empire according to Plato. The conclusion is then drawn that Ireland should be the island Atlantis if the hypothesis is correct, and that is what is tested. Finally a discussion is carried out about the megalithic monuments. In that connection a strong connection to reproduction, or sex symbolism if you prefer, is noted in those monuments. After the book was published a translator of Plato, Joseph Wells, shared his interpretation that Kleito is a diminuitive of clitoris, and that Poseidon means phallic idol. It happens to coincide exactly with the symbolism interpreted in the Irish monuments: A standing stone (phallic symbol) outside a mound with a passage (apparently representing a belly, see photo above, and the female reproductive organs).

Silver Pit Atlantis
An hypothetical "City of Atlantis"
The hypothetical Silverpit Atlantis as it may have appeared 9,600 BC / 11,600 BP. This is the very end of the ice age, when a sudden transgression appears to have drowned the plain under which the meteorite crater is located. Look at this video for more details.

Dogger Bank Atlantis
An hypothetical "Island of Atlantis"
The hypothetical Dogger Bank Atlantis as it may have appeared 6,100 BC / 8,100 BP. This is in the climatic optimum called Atlantic Time, when the sudden transgression from the Lake Agassiz lake burst may have drowned the island at about the same time as the Storegga Tsunami devastated it.

Atlantis Map
An hypothetical "Empire of Atlantis"
The map is based on the distribution of the megalithic culture, defined as the area where megalith tombs are found. In real life nothing suggests these were built by an empire. The hypothesis is only that Plato based the extent of the Atlantean empire on the distribution pattern of these.

Was Ireland Atlantis?
The book argues that Plato based the geographic description of Atlantis on Ireland, but also that Ireland was not Atlantis sensu Plato. Perhaps Ireland was as much or as little Atlantis, as the so-called "Third Rome" (i.e., in Moscow) is the Roman Empire. That is, they both inherit culture and mythology from their namesakes, but they have nothing in common geographically, and they exist at different periods of time. This is not to say that the name Atlantis ever existed before Plato. What the data suggests is simply that the memory of the sunken areas in the North Sea reached Egypt via Ireland, and that some descriptions of Plato's match Ireland rather than the North Sea.