Read Hidden History: Lost Civilizations, Secret Knowledge, and Ancient Mysteries Online

Authors: Brian Haughton

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Hidden History: Lost Civilizations, Secret Knowledge, and Ancient Mysteries (4 page)

For the most part, the legend of
Atlantis lay dormant for many centuries before its revival in the 19th century. The modern quest for the fabled

island began in ernest in 1882, with
the publication of Atlantis: the Antediluvian World by Ignatius Donnelly, an
American congressman and writer.
Donnelly took Plato's account of
Atlantis literally, and attempted to
establish that all known ancient civilizations were descended from the lost
continent. Around the same time,
Madame Helena Blavatsky (the cofounder of the Theosophical Society,
and a leader in the growing occult
movement) began to take an interest
in the idea of lost continents such as
Atlantis and Lemuria. Blavatsky mentions Atlantis numerous times in her
first work Isis Unveiled, written in
1877. Madame Blavatsky's massive
opus The Secret Doctine (1888), was
apparently based on a mystical work
called The Book of Dzyan, allegedly
written in Atlantis. In it she gives a
detailed description of Atlantis and its
inhabitants, which includes advanced
technology, ancient flying machines,
giants, and supernormal powers. Some
of these wilder aspects of Blavatsky's
descriptions were to have a significant
influence on a number of Atlantis theorists, though her lost continent seems
to exist on another, more spiritual,
level-altogether different from the
physical continent proposed by
Donelly.

In the early 20th century, worldrenowned psychic Edgar Cayce gave
many readings that involved Atlantis.
He believed that Atlantis was a highly
evolved civilization that possessed
ships and aircraft (which echoes
Blavatsky) and were powered by a
mysterious energy crystal. Cayce predicted that part of Atlantis would
be discovered in 1968 or 1969 in the
region of Bimini, near the Bahamas. In September of 1968, a half-mile
stretch of precisely aligned limestone
blocks, now known as the Bimini
Road, was discovered off the coast of
North Bimini, suggesting to many that
this was the remains of lost Atlantis.

However, in 1980, Eugene Shinn of
the U.S. Geological Survey published
the conclusions of his examination of
the underwater stones at Bimini. The
results of his tests indicated that the
blocks must have been laid there by
natural means. The radiocarbon dates
obtained from the shells embedded in
the stones gave dates in the range of
1200 B.C. to 300 B.C., for the laying down
of the so-called road. This is generally
a lot later than the proposed dates for
Atlantis.

Taking the ancient writers at their
word, many researchers have searched
for Atlantis in the mid-Atlantic, identifying the Mid-Atlantic Ridge-a long
chain of undersea volcanoes running
along the center of the ocean, as the
remains of the lost continent. With the
modern understanding of continental
drift (which is due to the action of
plate tectonics) geologists have ruled
out the possibility of a sizeable continent existing in the Atlantic. However,
plate tectonics is still only a theory,
so until it is proven as fact, believers
in a lost continent in the Atlantic will
continue their search. If the island is
in the mid-Atlantic, researchers reason (echoing Ignatius Donnelly back in
the 1880s) that the Azores, a cluster of
nine islands amid a chain of underwater mountains, may be its remnants.
Others add Madeira, the Canary Islands, and Cape Verde to its remains,
though as yet not a shred of proof exists in these areas for a vanished ancient civilization.

Almost every year, without fail, the
headline "Atlantis Found!" screams out
from the newspapers. In fact, the range
of hypothetical locations for Atlantis
is staggering. The Minoan civilization
of Late Bronze Age Crete, supposedly
destroyed by a colossal earthquake on
the neighboring island of Thera (modern day Santorini), was long thought
to have been an indirect influence on
Plato's Atlantis. However, research
into Late Bronze Age Crete has shown
that the Minoan civilization continued
to flourish long after the Theran
quake. Other suggested locations
within Europe and the Mediterranean
include Ireland, England, Finland, the
island of Heligoland off the northwest
German coast, Andalucia in southern
Spain, the island of Spartel in the
Strait of Gibraltar, Sardinia, Malta,
the city of Helike on mainland Greece,
an area in the Mediterranean between
Cyprus and Syria, Israel, Troy in
northwest Turkey, and Tantalis. Elsewhere in the world the Black Sea,
India, Sri Lanka, Indonesia, Bolivia,
French Polynesia, the Caribbean, and
Antarctica have all been suggested as
locations of the lost city.

This vast array of wildly different
theories has contributed to the scepticism of many researchers, who believe that Plato's Atlantis was merely
a political allegory designed to glorify
Athens as the perfect state fighting
against a decadent and greedy
Atlantean Empire. For them the story
begins and ends with Plato. Solon
never visited Egypt or heard the story
from the priest at Sais. They reason
that Plato located Atlantis in the
Atlantic, beyond the Pillars of Hercules, because in his time this vast
ocean represented the limit of the known world. Nevertheless, although
there are no references to Atlantis in
ancient literature prior to Plato, we
do have a reference in The Histories
by the Greek historian Herodotus (484
B.c.-425 B.C.), which states that Solon
borrowed certain laws from Amasis of
Sais in Egypt. This indicates that Solon was in Egypt during the time
stated by Plato in his dialogues. It is
obvious from Plato's writings that he
was aiming in part to glorify Athens,
and convey his political and philosophical ideas regarding the inability of
wealth and power to overcome a perfectly formed and well-governed society. In order to color his account, Plato
may well have added details from actual events involving a catastrophic
destruction. For this, the philosopher
would not have had to look far.

In the summer of 426 B.C. one of the
most disastrous earthquakes in ancient history hit Greece just north of
Athens. The tsunami from this colossal quake caused havoc along the coast
north of Athens, destroying part of an
island called Atalante. In 373 B.C. (only
around 15 years before Plato wrote his
Dialogues) a catastrophic earthquake
and tsunami destroyed and submerged
the wealthy ancient Greek city of
Helike, on the southern shore of the
Gulf of Corinth, on mainland Greece.
Helike was known as the City of
Poseidon, and contained a sacred
grove of the terrible god of earthquakes and the sea, which was second only to that at Delphi. There are
certainly parallels between these
earthquakes and the destruction of
Plato's Atlantis, which indicate the
philosopher was drawing on his own
country's recent history for much of
his narrative. However, if Plato was

simply using recent disasters in
Greece to make his point, why did he
attribute his story to Egyptian priests?
Surely his contemporaries would have
recognized a description of a catastrophic earthquake in the area of
Athens or Corinth, especially one that
had occurred only a decade or two before. There still seems to be an element
missing from Plato's sources for his
story.

The most recent theory for the
location of Atlantis was put forward
in 2004 by Dr. Rainer Kuehne of
Wuppertal University in Germany.
Using satellite photographs, Kuehne
identified an area of southwestern
Spain that reveal features apparently
matching Plato's description of
Atlantis. The photographs, of a salt
marsh region called Marisma de
Hinojos, near the city of Cadiz, show
two rectangular structures and parts
of concentric rings that may once have
surrounded them. Dr. Kuehne thinks
that the rectangular features may be
the remains of a silver temple devoted
to Poseidon and a golden temple
devoted to Cleito and Poseidon, as described by Plato in his Dialogues. He
also believes that the area was possibly destroyed by a flood between 800
B.C. and 500 B.c. He supports this mainland-rather than island-location for
Atlantis by suggesting that Greek
sources may have confused an Egyptian word for coastline with one meaning island during translation of the
story. Dr. Kuehne hopes to organize
excavations at the site in the near future to test his theories. Will these
excavations, in an area just beyond the
Pillars of Hercules, finally solve the
mystery of Atlantis?

 
Americas Stonehenge: The Puzzle of HlysIery Hill

© Stan Shebs (GNU Free Documentation License)

View of part of America's Stonehenge.

Mystery Hill, or America's Stonehenge, as it has become known, is situated in North Salem, New Hampshire,
about 40 miles north of Boston. This
enigmatic megalithic complex is scattered over roughly 30 acres and consists of a disordered mix of standing
stones, stone walls, and underground
chambers. Mystery Hill is not an
isolated site, but one of hundreds of
areas of unusual stone arrangements
and underground chambers in North
America, many of which are in New
England. Examples from Massachusetts include the Upton Chamber,

stone-lined tunnels in Goshen, and a
beehive-style stone chamber in
Petersham. There are also stone chambers and walls at Gungywamp in
Groton, Connecticut, and a large stone
chamber in South Woodstock, Vermont. The exact functions of some of
these unusual buildings are unknown,
but many people have speculated that
they were built by prehistoric European settlers for ceremonial meetings
and astronomical events.

The recent history of Mystery Hill
began with Jonathan Pattee, a farmer
who lived on the site from 1826 to 1848. There are various accounts of Pattee,
including suggestions that he ran an
illicit alcoholic still on the site. A more
supportable story is that he and his
son Seth were abolitionists, who operated a way station on the underground railroad that helped slaves
escape from the South. In fact, there
is some evidence for this in the
form of shackles discovered on the
site, which are now displayed in
the America's Stonehenge Visitor's
Center. During the next 50 years,
quarrymen bought and removed a
large portion of the stone structures
at Mystery Hill. It is thought that most
of the stones were taken to the town
of Lawrence, Massachusetts, to be
used in the construction of the
Lawrence Dam and for street curbing.
In 1937, William Goodwin, an insurance agent, bought the Mystery Hill
site, and during his excavations made
many structural changes to reinforce
his theory that Irish monks had once
lived there. Consequently, the site's
history is now extremely confused.
In 1950, Mystery Hill was leased by
Robert Stone, who purchased the
property in 1956. He began restoration, study, and preservation of the
area around Mystery Hill, and in 1958
built a visitors center and opened the
site to the public. Christened
America's Stonehenge, it is now a major tourist attraction.

One of the most enigmatic features
of Mystery Hill is a large, 4.5 ton flat
stone slab, approximately 9 feet long
and 6 feet wide, resting on four stone
legs, similar to an enormous table.
There is a deep groove running around
the edge of this structure, leading to a
spout, which has persuaded some to

label it the Sacrificial Stone. According to one popular theory, the groove
around the edge of the stone allowed
the draining of blood from the sacrificed victims into libation bowls.
Unfortunately, this Sacrificial Stone
shows marked similarities to another
large stone in the Farmer's Museum
in western Massachusetts. But rather
than being connected with any lurid
sacrificial rites, this object was used
in the process of soap making, and is
in fact known as a lye-leaching stone.
It is a relatively common find around
New England colonial farm sites.

Another feature of the Mystery
Hill complex is the many inscribed
stones that have been found on the site
over the years. The late Dr. Barry Fell,
a professor of biology at Harvard University, did extensive work on the inscriptions at Mystery Hill, and many
other sites in North America, many of
which he claimed (in his 1976 book
America B.C.), were Ogham (ancient
Irish), Phoenician, and Iberian Punic
scripts. The inscriptions, the astronomical alignments, and the megalithic style of architecture have led
many to believe that Mystery Hill functioned as a prehistoric ceremonial center built by European immigrants.
They conjecture that Phoenicians (a
seafaring culture from modern day
Syria and Lebanon, at their height c.
1200-800 B.c.) were in America at least
2,500 years ago, trading with the Celtic
(western European tribes prevalent
from the eighth to the first centures
B.C.) community already living at Mystery Hill. These are indeed extraordinary claims; the question is whether
there is any extraordinary evidence to
back them up. In the first place, Fell's
book has been widely discredited by archaeologists and linguists. The photos in America B.C. of the Ogham and
Punic inscriptions are particularly unconvincing. The majority of the lines
and scratches, identified by Fell as ancient scripts, appear to be completely
random, and more believable explanations would be haphazard scrapes left
by a plough; relatively modern graffiti;
the results of farmers' quarrying methods; or merely the natural lines, fissures, and cracks found on most rocks.
A reexamination of these stones by archaeologists and epigraphers would be
needed to test the claims of Fell more
fully. Unfortunately, as some of the
inscribed stones from Mystery Hill
have been taken from the site and "put
away for safe keeping" their original
context is now lost, making the task of
accurate identification and dating even
more difficult.

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