Melbourne Archaeologist: Santorini Wall Paintings Contain "Elements" of Atlantis Story
We can add another name to the growing list of famous and semi-famous people who have publicly declared their allegiance to Ancient Aliens. Today’s contestant is George Groves, a British boxer and amateur standup comedian, told the Telegraph yesterday that he’s a huge fan of Ancient Aliens and a believer in ancient astronauts:
I am a big fan of Ancient Aliens on the History Channel. I have been known to watch that just before I go to bed sometimes. I’m a believer in alien intelligence and that programme has taught me so much over the years. It’s very thought-provoking. Paddy [Fitzpatrick, his trainer] also watches it, and we’ve had many discussions on the subject.
The scary part is that Groves feels that Ancient Aliens has “taught” him things, given the notoriously poor quality of information on the show. By contrast, there was a thoughtful post by science fiction author Peter Cawdron outlining what we should expect to see if extraterrestrials really did visit in ancient times and why those markers don’t show up in the archaeological (or biological) record. It’s probably also the reason that most ancient astronaut theorists (excepting perhaps Erich von Däniken and Giorgio Tsoukalos) have moved away from nuts-and-bolts space craft and flesh-and-blood ETs toward a more nebulous concept of incorporeal inter-dimensional beings like those proposed by Jacques Vallée in Passport to Magonia.
Meanwhile, Helen Velissaris writes in today’s Neos Kosmos that Dr. Dora Constantinidis of the University of Melbourne believes that the archaeological site of Akrotiri on the Greek island of Santorini (ancient Thera) might in fact be the lost continent of Atlantis. Constantinidis said that the site is a good match for Atlantis, but only if we allow that Plato was exaggerating all the details, particularly the date of the destruction, which Plato placed 9,000 years before the time of Solon, or around 9,600 BCE.
There has been recent debate as to whether that 9000 is accurate or it was misrepresented. It was more likely to have been 900 years which would have made it about the time of the destruction of Santorini.
Constantinidis said that she’d like Atlantis to be real to justify popular belief in it:
For it to have made such an impression, and it’s captured our imagination for thousands of years, you’d like to think that [it was real]. […] The more you look at the remains at Akrotiri, there are so many elements of the story that you can see in the wall paintings.
When asked what elements of Plato’s story were found in the wall paintings, Constantinidis replied that the most prominent were depictions of wealth, particularly “beautiful flounce skirts, beautiful colours, beautiful well designed clothes and jewellery.” Plato is silent on the sartorial choices of the women of Atlantis. What he does discuss are the architectural appointments of the island, as given in the Critias:
In the next place, they had fountains, one of cold and another of hot water, in gracious plenty flowing; and they were wonderfully adapted for use by reason of the pleasantness and excellence of their waters. They constructed buildings about them and planted suitable trees, also they made cisterns, some open to the heavens, others roofed over, to be used in winter as warm baths; there were the kings’ baths, and the baths of private persons, which were kept apart; and there were separate baths for women, and for horses and cattle, and to each of them they gave as much adornment as was suitable. Of the water which ran off they carried some to the grove of Poseidon, where were growing all manner of trees of wonderful height and beauty, owing to the excellence of the soil, while the remainder was conveyed by aqueducts along the bridges to the outer circles; and there were many temples built and dedicated to many gods; also gardens and places of exercise, some for men, and others for horses in both of the two islands formed by the zones; and in the centre of the larger of the two there was set apart a race-course of a stadium in width, and in length allowed to extend all round the island, for horses to race in. Also there were guardhouses at intervals for the guards, the more trusted of whom were appointed-to keep watch in the lesser zone, which was nearer the Acropolis while the most trusted of all had houses given them within the citadel, near the persons of the kings. The docks were full of triremes and naval stores, and all things were quite ready for use. Enough of the plan of the royal palace. (trans. Benjamin Jowett)
He gives many more details as well, but presumably Constantinidis would place these under the category of exaggeration. The problem for her claim of similarity is the same as the problem for other identifications of the “real” Atlantis: They work only be assuming that Plato was wrong about inconvenient details but right about convenient ones, though no one is willing to agree on which details to accept or reject.
But I am particularly struck by Constantinidis’s idea that she would like Atlantis to be real because it has “captured the imagination” of so many. So have unicorns and Star Wars, but this does not make either objectively real, no matter how many little girls dream of riding a unicorn or how many people claim “Jedi” as their religion. The alternative to Constantinidis’s hopes, of course, is the realization that people can and do believe in things that are untrue, or embrace myths and legends as though they were factual.
Not the Comte de Saint-Germain
5/29/2014 09:19:14 am
To be fair, people have suggested for a long time that Plato's Atlantis was inspired by a folk memory of the Minoan civilization, which built Akrotiri and may have collapsed because of the destruction wrought by Thera's eruption. The myth of Theseus, in which Crete rules over Athens, was once thought to be a similar folk memory of Minoan rule—which is why modern people named the ancient civilization after King Minos from the myth. (I don't know whether scholars think that anymore, though.) And the Greeks did frequently ascribe exaggerated antiquity to other civilizations' ancient figures, like Zoroaster or the earliest rulers of Egypt. I think calling anything the "real" Atlantis is silly, because most of it was almost certainly Plato's invention. But if any real civilization influenced Plato's fiction, the Minoans strike me as the most plausible candidate.
5/29/2014 10:04:16 am
I agree that it is possible that Thera could be an inspiration for Atlantis, but so could any number of events. That region is prone to significant earthquakes and tsunamis have historically wiped out Greek cities (like Helike in 373 BC). I doubt Thera was anything but a contributing factor to a known process that served as a general inspiration for Atlantis' fall. Even in cases where Greeks exaggerate there is some semblance of reality, especially geography. They knew where Minos was from (Crete), where Egypt was, where Zoroaster lived (Iranian plateau). Atlantis being beyond the Pillars of Hercules is an indication of it's creation whole cloth. Plus, Thucydides knew of the Minoan civilization (1.4-5) and was a fellow student of Socrates alongside Plato, but did not mention any Atlantis-like stories. I think it was completely Plato's imagination.
5/29/2014 11:37:39 am
"I doubt Thera was anything but a contributing factor to a known process that served as a general inspiration for Atlantis' fall."
5/29/2014 09:46:19 pm
if assuming the Bull Cult's maze + Atlantis is joined at the
5/29/2014 12:03:29 pm
Plato would be horrified, I think, by what we've done to Atlantis over the years. "Way to miss the message!" he would say. "You're only doing PRECISELY what the story was warning against!"
5/29/2014 01:21:45 pm
Depends who the "we" is.
5/29/2014 09:39:42 pm
solar years or lunar months? the 9000...
5/29/2014 01:06:12 pm
Atlantis: The Antedeluvian World, by Ignatius Donnelly, is an excellent read. I'm inclined to believe that Atlantis was destroyed at the end of the last Ice Age by the Great Flood (due to the melting of the glaciers); so the 9600 BCE date could be correct. There are, of course, zillions of theories, and practically all of these must be wrong, but I do support more research on this topic by mainstream archaeologists.
Lover of stories
5/29/2014 01:23:00 pm
I love all anti-scholarly books. Dry facts are not comforting for the soul.
5/29/2014 08:01:16 pm
Thanks for the link to the Cawdron post. It was quite refreshing to read a rational and polite reason to overlook the AA theory. I get very tired of the same spastic dribble that primitive humans did not have the intellect to construct buildings out of the only building materials available. Ancient Aliens is insulting to the human spirit the way America Unearthed insults ancient Americans.
James Tiberius Kirk
5/30/2014 01:04:26 am
The idea of extra-terrestrial life - whether it comes from cranks or from NASA - is pure nonsense. Prove it first, then comment afterwards. That would spare us of all the superfluous rubbish.
Ghost of Philip K. Dick
5/30/2014 02:18:50 am
Is there life on earth?
Son of Kong
5/30/2014 03:46:59 am
Steven J. Dick, "Life on Other Worlds: The 20th-Century Extraterrestrial Life Debate" (Cambridge University Press, 1998)
5/30/2014 04:42:52 am
Much respect for the PKD nod
5/30/2014 09:55:27 am
the net is a turing test.
5/30/2014 09:59:43 am
JTK= GofPKD= SofK= Phil ~~~???
5/29/2014 08:44:56 pm
I went to Santorini on holiday a few years ago, and it was a beautiful place. I'm not sure why this is coming up again now, but the museums on the island made a big deal out of them being the possible inspiration for the Atlantis myth - but they never said "we were the real Atlantis".
5/31/2014 05:49:55 am
It's a big deal because tourism is a major source of financial revenue
6/2/2014 01:02:09 am
I don't think you understood my comment. I wasn't asking why they made a big deal out of it, but why it was coming up now.
10/18/2015 05:51:48 am
when the story becomes somewhat fantasy-like - Gretchen finds that her wish of becoming a fly on the wall a boys locker room, quite literally comes true.
12/11/2017 02:36:33 am
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