The Atlantis Hoax of 1912
One of the big assertions ancient astronaut and alternative history writers use to justify their belief that ancient myths provide a reliable guide to history is Heinrich Schliemann’s discovery of Troy, allegedly by following directions from Homer’s Iliad and Odyssey. As I’ve written about before, this is in fact a myth, concocted by Schliemann as a publicity stunt. But the myth took hold, and in 1912, an audacious newspaper hoax sought to capitalize on it.
William Randolph Hearst’s New York American, in its October 12 edition, carried a two-page spread allegedly written by Paul Schliemann, the grandson of Heinrich, asserting that his grandfather had bequeathed to him research that led him to absolute proof of the existence of Atlantis. According to Paul, Heinrich had asserted that when he excavated Troy, he found a vase inscribed in “Phoenician hieroglyphics” which stated that “King Chronos of Atlantis” had sent it. The Phoenicians, of course, write with an alphabet, not hieroglyphics.
“Heinrich” supposedly claimed that at the Louvre, he found “Central American” vases from Tiwanaku (which is actually in Bolivia, in South America) which also had the same decorations and patterns as the Trojan vase. Like an Edwardian Scott Wolter, Heinrich Schliemann said he examined the Trojan and Louvre vases under a microscope to determine whether they were made of the same clay. They were, and that clay could only have come from Atlantis!
“Heinrich” also claimed that he read a papyrus written by the Ptolemaic scribe Manetho (who, in reality, is known only from later Greek summaries of his work) that confirmed Egyptian knowledge of Atlantis 16,000 years ago.
From there, Paul takes up the story, and it descends into a Da Vinci Code or Indiana Jones type of thriller, involving hidden messages spread around the world, including among the Maya and the Buddhists, Atlantean artifacts hidden in ancient sculptures, and so on. It’s fun in its way, and perhaps as a novel might have amounted to something. The whole story can be read here.
Of special note is that “Paul Schliemann” or whoever the real author was makes use of Augustus Le Plongeon’s theories about the Maya as the font of civilization, especially his claims about “the Land of Mu,” which identified with Atlantis. Many of the connections the fake Schliemann made between artifacts around the world are obviously derived from Ignatius Donnelly and Le Plongeon, but in places they also anticipate James Churchward.
In point of fact, the real Heinrich Schliemann did not believe there was a reality behind Atlantis. It’s interesting to see, though, that a century ago the media were just as willing to profit from the same fictions and lies that the History Channel and H2 make money on today. It is even more interesting to see that in 1912, even lies were expected to have a better understanding of history and a greater command of the relevant literature than anyone who appears on television today.
2/19/2013 07:38:28 am
Jason do you think this story could have also involved the 'reported' cave with 'Egyptian' artifacts mentioned in a 1909 article? The timing is rather fortuitous?
2/19/2013 09:27:38 am
I doubt it. The Grand Canyon hoax was three years earlier, in a regional paper, and on the other side of the country. So far as I know, no one outside Arizona saw it.
2/21/2013 11:28:20 am
Actually I've found reprints in Nebraska and I'm sure it hit the 'stringer' as it was a sensational story to say the least.
terry the censor
2/22/2013 07:43:27 am
> the nephew of Heinrich, asserting that his grandfather
2/22/2013 08:08:58 am
terry the censor
2/22/2013 12:04:48 pm
I should have been more specific. The first line in the article you linked to says: "Some days before my grandfather..." not "uncle."
2/22/2013 12:07:27 pm
My fault... It's been a busy work day, and I changed the wrong one by mistake. I think I have it right this time.
7/31/2013 03:31:23 am
What on earth are you talking about? This was a newspaper hoax. As for haplogroup X, please see my 2006 article on the peopling of the Americas in Skeptic, indexed in the "Articles" tab above.
8/11/2014 11:18:54 am
How do you know that this is a hoax? So far I cannot see any evidence for that. We do not see any evidence (yet) to support the story either but just because we don't does not mean that the story has no reality.
12/21/2015 04:25:24 am
Hi Jason. the story I read, but can't recall where reading it, says that Paul Schliemann returned to Germany in 1914 - after years of living a life of luxury on his Grandfather's money. He was immediately drafted into the German Army and sent to the Western Front, despite his protests of being an American citizen. He was not seen again.
Your comment will be posted after it is approved.
Leave a Reply.
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.
Enter your email below to subscribe to my newsletter for updates on my latest projects, blog posts, and activities, and subscribe to Culture & Curiosities, my Substack newsletter.
Terms & Conditions
Please read all applicable terms and conditions before posting a comment on this blog. Posting a comment constitutes your agreement to abide by the terms and conditions linked herein.