Monday, September 12, 2005

Atlantis Found!!...Oh, Wait....

The fabled lost City of Atlantis has apparently been found, according to Discovery Channel News. "Lying 60 meters beneath the surface in the Gulf of Cadiz, the island is right "in front of the Pillars of Hercules," or the Straits of Gibraltar, as stated by Plato."
Here's the gist of the ancient story: "The philosopher claimed that two centuries earlier, Egyptian priests had told the Greek statesman Solon of a flourishing civilization outside 'the pillars of Hercules.' When the people of Atlantis became wicked and decadent, the gods punished them by sending 'violent earthquakes and floods. The power came forth out the Atlantic Ocean ... In a single day and night of misfortune ... the island of Atlantis disappeared in the depths of the sea,' wrote Plato."
Well, we know it's just a myth, the Atlanteans were supposed to have very advanced skills which weren't available to the ancients. No evidence at any supposed Atlantis site has turned up which supports the idea of a super society. Many stories about superior people exist in various cultures. Witness the Nazca Lines in Peru. It's believed that many of the gods and heroes from Greek culture were indeed real people, their exploits were just embellished through time and they evolved into the stories we know today.
Cultural memory can explain the loss of Atlantis by earthquake and cataclysmic destruction. See Hurricane Katrina. What will be said about it two hundred years from now? We as a culture remember things such as this. The Atlantic region near Gibraltar has a history of destructive earthquakes and floods. "...the type of destruction described by Plato is a very accurate description of a 'sudden, catastrophic destruction associated with a great earthquake,' like the famous Great Lisbon earthquake which ravaged the southern Iberian region in 1755, with associated tsunami heights reaching 10 meters (30 feet)." Such devastation doesn't leave the cultural memory.
There are some criteria needed to be able to attain the level of Atlantean culture. "'Atlantis is a myth,' Christos Doumas, Director of Akrotiri Excavations in Santorini, summarized at the conference on Atlantis on Milos Island, Greece, last month. The conference highlighted 24 criteria that a geographical area must satisfy in order to qualify as a site where Atlantis could have existed. Among several other oddities, the island must have sheltered a literate population with metallurgical and navigational skills, hot springs, northerly winds, elephants, enough people for an army of 10,000 chariots and 1,200 ships, and a ritual of bull sacrifice." Unfortunately, no place ever claimed for Atlantis has these attributes.
Do we stop searching? No. Will we ever find Atlantis? Not the mythical Atlantis, it never existed. There may have been a island with people who were destroyed by an earthquake and flood, but they would never have been so advanced as to be a race of superior beings. They would have been the same people as everyone else. We love comparing ourselves and the ancients. They seem just like us, but so different too. We look for Atlantis because it's fun and it fills a psychological need to be connected to our past, perhaps because we fear our present and future.