Fred C. Woudhuizen is an independent Dutch scholar who has produced a number of obscure publications making a series of controversial claims to have deciphered hitherto unreadable texts to reveal surprising confirmation of Greek mythological traditions. He argued, for example, that the Phaistos Disc was in fact a letter written by the Luwians to Nestor, the king of Pylos in the Odyssey. In another, he argued that the otherwise indecipherable Etruscan language is in fact a patois of colonial Luwian. The Luwians, for what it’s worth, are his major interest, and his arguments, as one published review of his scholarship put it, are “alas, not very convincing.”
A regular reader called my attention to a bizarre passage in his otherwise quite dull effort at the decipherment of Cretan hieroglyphics, another unreadable ancient tongue which preceded the more famous Linear A by a century and coexisted with that script throughout the Minoan period. In 2016, Woudhuizen not only claimed to read Cretan hieroglyphics but also to have found Atlantis in them!
His argument is complex, and originates with his identification—different from other scholars’ views—of 85 Cretan hieroglyphs with Luwian counterparts, 22 with Egyptian ones, and 23 with Linear A characters. Having made these connections, he then proposes to read the Cretan hieroglyphs in light of their alleged linguistic cousins, producing a series of syllables that he interprets and translates as an Indo-European tongue, likely closely related to Luwian. To the best of my knowledge, his view of the subject is shared only by some others who hold the Luwians in an exalted position not generally found in mainstream scholarship. The argument, however, is not convincing since anyone who speaks more than one language can attest to the vast differences that even closely related words can take on in different cultures, contexts, and languages.
But, for what it is worth, here is his argument for Atlantis via Cretan hieroglyphics. It begins with his decipherment of a supposed hieroglyphic “formula” as the word ta-ru-nu, based on alleged Luwian parallels, which he proceeds to transform through some assumptions and guesswork that allow him to change the sounds to better suit his mood. Basically, he gives himself permission to invert the order of sounds and swap consonants until the right reading comes out the other end:
Being puzzled in the beginning, a solution seemed to present itself when I realized that according to Cretan writing devices the r-series is used to express the consonants [r] and [l] at the same time, whereas according to Luwian hieroglyphic scribal traditions syllables of CV type are equally applied to render VC sounds. In this manner, then, we may well arrive at the reading Atlunu, which resembles the mythical Atlantis from our literary sources too much to be dismissed as accidental! Considering the distribution of the findspots of the total amount of 116 seals with profane formulas—in so far as this is reported—, which particularly affects the northern zone of Crete between Knossos in the west and Kato Zakro in the east, but, since the discovery of the seal from Vrysinas near Rethymnon—so that the find from Kythera, # 267, can no longer be dismissed as an importation—may now reasonably be argued to have included the coastal zone of northern Crete in its entirety (see Fig. 12), our geographic name Atlunu is most likely to have a bearing on this particular region.
He then identifies this region as that of Santorini and connects the Atlunu reading to the eruption of the Santorini/Thera volcano around 1600 BCE.
We “may well” read the text as Atlunu, or we may not. Since it is an assumption at the very beginning that the symbols are even Luwian, adding another layer of assumption about their meaning across cultures, and then a third layer of assumption about the permissibility of swapping sounds according to parallels from another culture’s scribal conventions is simply too much to give anything approaching plausibility to this castle in the clouds.
Even if we did, what exactly does it prove? Atlantis is a genitive, a possessive form meaning “of Atlas.” The name of Plato’s island was Ἀτλαντὶς νῆσος, “the island of Atlas.” This Atlas, according to Plato, was the son of Poseidon, but the same word was used to describe the possessions of the progeny of the Titan Atlas, including the island of Ogygia. While scholars are divided whether the name Atlas is of Proto-Indo-European or Pre-Greek origin, either way, it was almost certainly in existence in the Bronze Age and therefore hardly a shock even if by some chance its genitive form appeared in a Cretan inscription.
The rest of his reconstruction is likely to be irrelevant. He argues that because signet rings with the same pattern were found in Akrotiri, the city buried in the Thera eruption, and at Hagia Triada and Sklavokambos on Crete, then we can conclude that Atlunu was a name current both on Crete and Santorini and therefore may have something to do with the geography of Minoan Crete, thus confirming the popular hypothesis on the origin of Atlantis. None of that follows logically from the proposition, and there is neither evidence that Atlunu is the correct reading or what if may have referred to.
I am an author and researcher focusing on pop culture, science, and history. Bylines: New Republic, Esquire, Slate, etc. There's more about me in the About Jason tab.
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