The Atlantis Hypothesis
Atlantis, for those of you visiting from another planet, is the legendary utopian society that sank below the surface of the ocean, never to be seen again. As described in Plato’s dialogues Timaeus and Critias, around 12,000 years ago, there were two great civilizations: Athens and Atlantis. Both of these societies were what anthropologists call socially-stratified—there were classes of people, including artisans, farmers, warriors, and royalty. Both societies farmed and raised cattle. They both built temples and meeting halls. They both mined silver and gold; they both made bronze and tin as well as silver and gold objects. They had horse-drawn chariots, they built bridges, aqueducts, canals and roads, and had ships to conduct international trade. Atlantis, so Plato said, was a trading and commercial center with an urban lifestyle and a ruling class. The city-state was located on an island the size of Libya and Asia combined, outside of the Pillars of Hercules (believed to refer to the Straits of Gibraltar). Athens ruled the eastern side of the Pillars of Hercules—the Mediterranean Sea. The people of Atlantis were directly descended from Poseidon, the Greek god of the sea. An extended war broke out between Atlantis and Athens. The civilization fell into decadence and Zeus punished them, sending a great earthquake, and Atlantis sank beneath the waves of the ocean in the space of a day.
In July 2005, a conference entitled The Atlantis Hypothesis presenting multidisciplinary papers on the potential for the geological truth of Plato’s tale of Atlantis took place on the Greek island of Milos. One of the papers presented was a report by Marc-Andre Gutscher, a geologist of the prestigious French research institution Centre National de la Recherche Scientifique (CNRS). The original hypothesis came from Jacques Collima-Girard, who took selected elements of Plato’s story, and identified a sunken island west of the Straits of Gibraltar as a potential candidate for the location of Atlantis. Dr. Gutscher followed through on the argument, completing a bathymetric investigation of the island, and producing quite an interesting paper, Destruction of Atlantis by a Great Earthquake and Tsunami to be published in the journal Geology in August 2005.
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