Cities of the deep
Posted on Tuesday, 31 March, 2009 | 6 comments
Columnist: William B Stoecker
The legend of Atlantis has such a powerful hold on the human imagination that it has defied all attempts by the debunkers to eradicate it. We are told that continents cannot sink (true enough; see below) and that there were no advanced civilizations prior to our own, which began some 6,000 years BP (before the present). This is not true. Professional archeologists and physical anthropologists used to believe (on the basis, really, of nothing) that fully "evolved" homo sapiens only appeared on Earth perhaps 50,000 years ago, which would make us by far the youngest of all large animals. Using their own timetable, then, it took us that long to reach our present level of culture. The problem is that Michael Cremo and other writers and researchers have unearthed evidence that our species is far older...perhaps tens of millions of years old. And even the professionals, the mainstream researchers, have been forced to revise their estimates steadily back from 50,000 to 120,000 years and even earlier. Most archeologists now admit that fully modern human beings date back at least 275,000 years BP. Using their own earlier estimates, it is clear that there has been time for civilizations to rise and fall over five times.
But is there any generally accepted evidence of this? There is. We were once told that large stone walls and cities date back only to 5,000 BP, but now it is officially admitted that the walled city of Jericho is 10,000 years old. We were told that woven textiles and fired ceramics date back only to 5,000 to 6,000 BP, but now the professionals admit that both these technologies have been found in a site in central Europe that is an incredible 28,000 years old...about five times further back than the previously accepted date. We were told that humans did not develop agriculture until 6,000 BP; now they admit 12,000 BP. We were told that people arrived in the Americas fairly recently and that people were not seafarers until, again, 5,000 to 6,000 BP, but now a growing minority of the professionals think that people from Europe crossed the Atlantic and colonized North America well over 13,000 BP.
And in known historical but ancient times there is evidence of very advanced technologies presumably developed still earlier. There is the famous 2,000 year old Bhagdad electric cell, and the complex mechanical computer found in an ancient Greek shipwreck. Egyptian wall paintings depict what look precisely (no imagination required) like helicopters and submarines...and they have no resemblance whatever to anything else. In both Egypt and Columbia there are ancient models, "explained" as depictions of birds or manta rays, that more closely resemble airplanes. When these are duplicated in light wood or plastic, they function very effectively as gliders; they are fully aerodynamic. Ancient Egyptian statues sometimes have glass or crystal eyes containing precise, functioning lenses...thousands of years before lenses were supposedly invented.
And yet one part of Plato's story, if taken literally, cannot be true. Continents and large islands cannot sink under the ocean, not suddenly, and not even gradually. Continents and most large islands are made of granitic rocks; these igneous rocks have cooled gradually deep within the Earth. They have large crystals and relatively low density compared to the olivine that makes up the mantle (the layer beneath the Earth's crust) and the basalt which makes up the deep sea floors. The continents literally float on the denser minerals, and no force can sink them. And if even a very large volcanic island were to sink it would take many thousands, even millions of years. If some totally unknown process could sink such a large island suddenly, the heat released would cause massive vulcanism. And while there is evidence of some increased vulcanism in the time period Plato described, there is nothing on that scale.
But Atlantis could have been submerged in a single day. Notice that I did not say "sink." During the last ice age, so much water was locked up in the immense ice sheets that the oceans were lower than today, at one time roughly 400 feet lower. There was a period of rapid melting and sea level rise at 11,600 BP...the exact time Plato gave. In fact, there were several climatic and sea level changes. The peak of the last ice age was about 17,000 BP. Then the climate warmed for a period, with some rise in sea levels. At about 12,800 BP there was an event called the Younger Dryas, when the Earth suddenly reversed the cooling trend and became colder. Some geologists have found evidence that this was caused by the explosion of a comet or asteroid over North America; the dust from that blocked some of the sunlight and chilled the Earth. This may also be the solution to the long-standing mystery of the extinction of such large animals as mammoths, camels, and lions in North America, and it may, in addition, have wiped out many of the European settlers and allowed the Asian ancestors of today's Amerindians to take over. Around 14,000 to 15,000 BP the climate warmed rapidly (presumably the cometary dust had settled) and sea levels rose rapidly. There was another period of rapid warming and attendant glacial melting and sea level rise from 12,000 to 11,000 BP, and another 8,000 to 7,000 BP, a period when the Earth was much warmer than today, and, due to more evaporation of seawater and hence more clouds and rain, much wetter. In fact, the Sahara was, for a time, mostly grasslands, with riverine, montane, and coastal forests.
A number of writers, like Charles Berlitz, pointed out long ago that if there were coastal, seafaring cultures out on the continental shelves (dry land during the ice age and submerged today) the rise in sea levels would submerge them and explain Plato's story and the flood legends that are found in almost every culture on Earth. But even this, although the rise was much faster than previously believed, would not explain how such an event could happen in a single day. In my book, "The Atlantis Conspiracy," published in 2000, I gave the explanation. We know that as the ice sheets warmed, immense lakes of glacial melt water formed behind ice dams. The scablands of eastern Washington show what happened, there and elsewhere, when these dams finally gave way. Immense floods, dwarfing anything seen in historical times, rushed seaward, destroying everything and everyone in their path. Striking the oceans, they unleashed mega tsunamis.
So imagine what would have happened in a coastal region. As the Earth warmed and sea levels went higher, the inhabitants of seaports, understandably reluctant to leave their homes, would stay as long as possible, hoping for an end to the steady rise. Then, perhaps at night, the tsunamis would strike, killing all who were not on very high ground or far out to sea. The buildings would be largely destroyed. When the ocean settled its level would be slightly higher, and the rise would continue. For a time the ruins would be in the surf zone, battered by the waves, and, finally, submerged to a greater depth, at least partly covered by sand and silt. It is no wonder that, until the modern development of SCUBA diving, side scan sonar, deep submersibles, and ROVs (remotely operated vehicles, or unmanned submarines), no major ruins were found. In his 2005 book "Underworld" Graham Hancock said exactly what I had said five years earlier, and pointed out that the seabeds would also rise, due to the weight of the water added to the oceans, a process that would take thousands of years. So an island or coastal region that was just above sea level 17,000 years ago, could be up to 600 feet deep today, due to a 200 foot lowering of seabeds added to the 400 foot rise in sea levels. In some areas, due to a tilting effect, the depth might be even greater. In addition, the study of flat topped submerged volcanic islands called guyots shows that they were once above sea level, but, as their volcanoes moved down off ocean ridges, they very slowly sank thousands of feet.
And undersea ruins have, in fact, been found, and their depth, along with what we know of the rates of sea level rise, shows that some of them predate all known civilizations.
Off the Mediterranean island of Malta, where there are mysterious stone buildings dating back at least 5,000 years (and possibly much earlier, given the scarcity of reliable carbon 14 dates) a researcher named Dr. Hubert Zeitlmair claimed that divers he employed found ruins on the sea floor over thirty feet down. Graham Hancock also found and photographed underwater ruins there, including what look like wagon wheel ruts that continue up on land, a stone arch as described by Zeitlmair, and, at a depth of sixty feet, what looks like a man made canal. When sea levels were lower, Malta may have been connected by a land bridge to Sicily, and Sicily to Italy. Unexplained underwater ruins have also been found elsewhere in the Mediterranean, off Egypt's port city Alexandria, and they cannot be traced to any known ancient culture.
During the ice age, the islands comprising the Bahamas were much larger than today, and many were joined. The coasts of Florida (especially the west coast) and Yucatan extended much further out than today. In 1968 divers off Bimini, part of the Bahamas, discovered in fairly shallow water what has been called the "Bimini Road," although, if it is artificial, it was more likely a seawall or mole. Other apparent ruins have been found in the area, including at Paradise Point, and some, investigated mainly with side scan sonar, are as deep as a hundred feet. Marble columns have been found, and what appear to be stone anchors with grooves. Skeptics have pointed out that some of the stones could have been ballast from relatively recent shipwrecks; some sea captains were not above pillaging ruins in Greece or Italy for ballast stones. Other apparent stone columns have proven to be hardened concrete that had been in barrels on ships. Skeptics also claim that the other ruins are just naturally occurring beachrock, a kind of limestone that fractures along fairly regular lines, and point out that the sedimentary layers in the stones all point in the same direction, which is consistent with beachrock. Investigators like Greg and Lora Little from Edgar Cayce's A.R.E. (Association for Research and Enlightenment) point out that beachrock, logically enough, is often used in harbor construction, and that there are rectangular stones piled on top of other rectangular stones, which appears not to be natural. The debate continues, and there have been wild claims of underwater pyramids (not by the Littles), but, somehow, proof of this has never been made public.
In the Pacific apparent ruins were found off Okinawa in 1995, and, in the summer of 1996, at depths of from 20-100 feet, an immense and dramatic structure off the island of Yonaguni, near Okinawa. In 2001 divers from Taiwan's Underwater Archeological Institute found what looks like an artificial stone wall about 100 feet down off that island; possible ruins had been found in that area by a Japanese team as early as 1982. But of all these, it is Yonaguni that has captured many people's imaginations. Geologist Robert Schock has dived on the structure and thinks it is probably a natural formation, and Schock, who has stated that the Sphinx in Egypt is probably over 8,000 years old, is a very open minded researcher, not a debunker. However, he admits that he is not sure, and, given the problems with currents and often poor visibility, he was unable to investigate the entire structure. With its long, parallel straight lines and right angles, it looks decidedly manmade, and its bizarre geometry resembles pyramids I have seen in Peru. Hancock has pointed out that the ancient and fairly advanced Jomon culture began suddenly in Japan after a sea level rise about 16,500 BP (which would have driven them out of the now submerged coastal areas). Some of their pottery resembles 5,000 year old pottery from the Moche culture...in Peru. There are ancient megalithic structures in Japan proper and on Okinawa, bearing considerable resemblance to Yonaguni.
Hancock has pointed out that, when sea levels were lower, much of the Persian Gulf was dry land, and he has even speculated that this now submerged region might be the location of the Garden of Eden. In India there are the usual legends of floods and drowned lands and cities, and, during the ice age, India's coasts extended further out; India and Sri Lanka were once joined, and Australia, New Guinea, and Tasmania were one continent. In 2001 in India's Gulf of Cambay, the ruins of two submerged cities were found, with ceramics and stone implements, and the remains of buildings. Other ruins have been found off the coast of southeast India, and, in the west, submerged ruins where legends stated that the city of Dwarka sank were found, forty to fifty feet down. The two cities in the Gulf of Cambay, given what is known of the rate of sea level rise, must be at least 8,000 years old. The Indus Valley cultures of Harappa and Mohenjo Darro appeared suddenly 5,000 years ago, and may well be a continuation of these earlier cultures, just as the Sumerians of present day Iraq may have migrated from what is now the Persian Gulf.
Ruins have been found in the Black Sea also, and some researchers have claimed that this was the origin of all the global flood myths, forgetting that the flooding of the Black Sea was just part of a larger, worldwide pattern.
But are there deeper ruins, many thousands of feet down? Rumors abound, and pictures of side scan sonar of of alleged deep Atlantic ruins have appeared on the web, and similar pictures of supposed deep ruins off the island of Cyprus, and a Russian account of ruins on the Ampere Seamount some 450 miles roughly west of Gibraltar, where Plato said Atlantis was. But these are all pretty ambiguous so far, and, except for the Ampere Seamount, whose depth might be explained by sea level rise and sea floor sinking, the alleged ruins are so deep that their sinking would be hard to explain.
Then there are the possible ruins off western Cuba. Studied with side scan sonar in 2001, these structures cover al least eight square miles and are at a depth of 2200 feet. Supposedly they have been photographed with an ROV, and samples have been taken, and the stones are allegedly granite. Cuba, and, to the west, Yucatan, are limestone, and the seabed is basalt. If the ruins are real, their sinking might be explained by tectonic movement, as the area is said to be surrounded by faults. The submergence to 400-600 feet could have been due to the glacial melting discussed earlier, and there might have also been a slow subsidence over the last few thousand years, but there is no proof that this is possible, and the evidence for the ruins themselves is still rather weak. So the existence of truly deep cities is still uncertain.
So does all of this prove the truth of the Atlantis legend, at least in a general sense? The evidence of advanced ancient cultures is very, very strong. There is no doubt that coastal cities were submerged. And there is at least a strong possibility that there was some kind of nation or empire on islands in the Atlantic and Caribbean.
William B StoeckerArticle Copyright© William B Stoecker - reproduced with permission.