Could you imagine what pseudoarchaeology and pseudohistory would have been like had Plato never written of Atlantis? It’s an interesting thought experiment, since so much of modern “alternative” history derives directly or indirectly from efforts to investigate Plato’s allegorical ancient civilization. Without Atlantis, there would be many fewer crazy ideas about “white” rulers in ancient Mesoamerica, no “pole-shift” speculation, and no Fingerprints of the Gods. And since Atlantis ideas also fed into ancient astronaut claims, we’d probably have a lot less space alien nonsense, too. But, you live with what people actually did, not what you with they had done.
We’ve covered Keystone University (a non-accredited, for-profit adult education facility) and its zany ideas about Ireland as Atlantis before. Now, Anthony Woods of Keystone University has released the argument in book form, called Atlantis Ireland, with a rather ominous nationalist tagline about how the history of Ireland “has been written by her enemies.” That’s always a promising start for a supposedly sober evaluation of evidence for Atlantis.
To promote the book, Woods published a two-part discussion of its central claims on Ancient Origins. The evidence is the same as it was the last time we discussed Keystone University’s claims, but I was struck by Woods’s blatant illogic in his article and inability to see it. Consider these sequential paragraphs:
The most telling characteristic of Atlantis is that it was an island located in the Atlantic Ocean. Obviously, Ireland is an island in the Atlantic with an ancient people, language, and culture. There are an estimated 100,000 Stone Age constructions remaining in Ireland - including the most spectacular megaliths on Earth - as you would expect if they really were an advanced early civilization. Similar constructions (mounds, cairns, stone circles, dolmens, passage tombs, etc.) are found all over the world, proving that the entire world, not just Ireland, has a stunning and forgotten ancient history.
That is a stunning lack of logic. Woods confidently asserts that he can match Ireland to Atlantis based on Plato’s description and simultaneously declares that the very evidence he used is “unreliable”!
Woods tries to weasel out of this by accepting Plato a second time in holding him true in asserting that the Atlantis story came to him via his ancestor Solon who got it from Egypt. However, since Plato’s narrative is fiction, there is no reason to believe that the claims about Solon heard the story in Egypt are any truer than Plato’s description of Atlantis’s elephants and orichalcum. If Plato is unreliable in one part of his story, there is no logical reason to pick and choose which parts to believe.
That doesn’t stop Woods from claiming that he has proof that the Egyptians claimed descent from Atlantis. “Ancient Egyptian texts describe how Egypt’s ancestors came from a sacred island in the Atlantic Ocean that was devastated in a great flood,” he writes. The texts do not.
As we saw when first Andrew Collins and then Graham Hancock tried the same trick, to make the case requires combining Egyptian texts promiscuously. It requires reading the Middle Kingdom “Tale of the Shipwrecked Sailor,” about a sailor who arrives on a magical island and meets with a talking snake, in relation to the Ptolemaic Period Edfu Building Texts, which assert that the gods came to Egypt from a primeval overseas land and build the temple at Edfu in imitation of one from this land. None of this refers specifically to the Atlantic Ocean. The “Shipwrecked Sailor” story seems to take place in Nubia, not the Atlantic. The gods’ primeval island is not in the Atlantic either. All of our authors take their information from the main English-language source, The Mythical Origin of the Egyptian Temple by Eve A. E. Reymond. She specifically wrote that the Edfu texts give no indication of how the Egyptians imagined the primeval Earth, except that the island formed in the primeval waters. That doesn’t make them the Atlantic Ocean, which the Egyptians almost certainly didn’t know about until very late.
Woods tries a novel approach by bringing in some new evidence:
Several ancient Egyptian texts, including the Book of the Dead, The Pyramid Texts, and the Hymn of Rameses IV, tell of 10 kings who ruled during the reign of the gods. One of these was Thoth, the founder of the Egyptian civilization, who was born in a distant country to the west—a country which was across a body of water. […] According to Egyptian texts, this island in the Atlantic was overwhelmed by water. The 10 kings, including Thoth, travelled east to safety by boat. Stories tell of the founders of Egypt arriving from an island in the Atlantic around 11,900 years ago.
Manetho listed 16 gods who reigned after the creation, not 10, so the number is not consistent, and needless to say, there is no date of 9,900 BCE given. Thoth may have come from the West in the Pyramid texts, but not because he was from Atlantis. The pyramid texts assign a god to each cardinal direction: Seth and Nepthys to the north, Isis and Osiris to the south, Horus in the east, and Thoth in the west. To pick only one of the four god-direction pairings is cherry-picking evidence. When they spoke of Thoth, as the Moon, coming across water from the west, this wasn’t the Atlantic Ocean but the cosmic waters imagined to surround all land, just as the Greeks imagined the path to Hades crossed the River Ocean to the farthest west, just as his solar counterpart did from the east.
Woods also offers some shitty attempts to link Ireland to Greek mythology and history, mostly by identifying Ireland with Hyperborea, a fictitious land whose name referred to the imagined lands to the north, on the shore of the River Ocean, literally “beyond the north wind.” Sometimes it was identified with the British Isles, as when Diodorus described what seems to be Stonehenge as part of it.
However, Woods gives us this ridiculous claim: “Over time Hyperborea became Hybernia or Hibernia, the Roman name for Ireland.” That’s not at all true. The Latin name Hibernia was a Roman effort to transliterate Ἰουερνία, which was a rough Greek transliteration of the Celtic *Īweriū, which you know better as Eire, or Ireland. “Hibernia” was a Latin attempt to make it sound more Roman by assimilating it to the Latin word for winter. As we know from Ptolemy’s Geography 2.1, the Romans differentiated quite clearly between Hibernia and Hyperborea, located Hyperborea to the north of Hibernia.
In sum, Woods erects a cloud castle on a foundation of sand and expects that nationalist pride will overcome his lack of logic, reasoning, and evidence.
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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