Minoan Seafarers

Greece has over 3,000 islands, some inhabitable, most are not. Crete, the largest island of them all, had an advantage over the others with its vast cypress forest, most of which is gone today. Ship building began very early. There is evidence to suggest trade in the Aegean began as early as 6,800 BCE. Tools made from Melian obsidian (from the island of Melos) has been found on Crete and Cyprus. In prehistoric times, the islands were accessible by means of primitive boats due to the narrow sea passages and shallow gulfs (see article by Andrea Salimbeti). However, for the purpose of this article, I will be referring to ships most of us are familiar with, and those featured in the Akrotiri wall frieze.


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Island Nations

The Minoans came from one place—Crete—as far as evidence shows, yet their influence stretches across the Aegean to mainland Greece. The reconstruction of the palaces at Pylos, Tiryns and Mycenae show similar structural features as did the artwork. The confluence of such occurrences was a result of trade which the Minoans were renowned. The fame of the three city-states mentioned was due to Homer and his tale of the Iliad. The era he spoke of 1300 BCE was 500 years before his time and the three cities were no longer in power.

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So long, and thanks for all the fish

I couldn’t resist borrowing Douglas Adams’ title of the fourth book of his series Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy for this blog post. Brilliant books if you haven’t read them. Apt too, as the dolphins leave planet Earth knowing it was fated to be destroyed long before the humans cottoned on. This makes me wonder whether the Atlanteans got warnings as to what would happen if they continued to behave contrary to the gods’ structured tenets? If they had, in what form did the warnings come? The final act of the gods was finite and the effects impacted many cultures. This is why I believe Plato took his main premise of the story from the eruption of Thera and subsequent dissolution of the Minoan culture.

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Masters of Engineering

According to legend, Atlantis was renowned for its buildings and unusual formation of the island. In his dialogue Critias, Plato goes to extreme lengths to describe features of the island and important buildings. Many of these mirror the island of Santorini and the palaces found on Crete. The skill of engineering and architecture of Atlantis and that on the two islands was superior. The palace at Knossos is an impressive site. Much bigger than I expected when I visited 11 years ago and walking along the old Royal roads that connected the many palaces on the island was an experience I’ll never forget.

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Ka-bang! Gone from existence!

3,500 years ago there was a small unique island in the Greek Cyclades, with a thriving metropolis, strong trade and a thalassocracy, naval supremacy. Then in a single day and night, there was a mighty eruption, the largest and most destructive in the world’s history. Even to this day, no other eruption has come close to the cataclysm that wiped out this ancient civilisation. I know many of you will say it didn’t completely destroy the people and you are right. However, this culture never regained its former glory, over run by invading forces and soon melted away into non-existence until Sir Arthur Evans brought it back to life.

Nea Kameni see from Thera, Santorini Photo by Bernard Gagnon, Wikipedia

Nea Kameni see from Thera, Santorini
Photo by Bernard Gagnon, Wikipedia

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The Ties that Bind

In the 4th century BCE, Plato wrote his dialogues Timaeus and Critias, and compared the virtues of two cities—Athens and Atlantis. The story of Atlantis originated with Solon, Athenian law maker and his ancestor. Solon, while travelling the Mediterranean world and learning about the laws of the various cities was told the legend by Egyptians at Sais. The descriptions of Atlantis are detailed and give clues as to which civilisation it may refer to and the location. Yet these descriptors are not unique which makes it difficult to pin down precise whereabouts of Atlantis. In this post and those to follow I will draw on Plato’s Critias to extrapolate details which may point to this fabled island.

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The Elusive Location of Atlantis Part 2

In the previous post, The Elusive Location of Atlantis Part 1, I wrote about the possible locations of Atlantis, and the strongest theory to emerge was it was in the Atlantic Ocean. The Piri Reis Map of 1513 is perhaps where we should start. Piri Reis was an Admiral with the Turkish Navy and collected maps of the day as well as much older charts. His world map was a compilation based on one Columbus used for his journeys as well as “antique” versions he had in his collection. According to sources, his collections were those that survived the burning of the Great Library of Alexandria. It was alleged these maps were based on ancient charts and may have dated back to the time of Atlantis. The only portion that has survived is of North and South America, Greenland and Antarctica, which hadn’t been discovered by the then explorers at the time or when Piri Reis drew the map.

Athanasius Kircher's map of Atlantis, in the middle of the Atlantic Ocean. From Mundus Subterraneus 1669, published in Amsterdam. The map is oriented with south at the top. Wikipedia

Athanasius Kircher’s map of Atlantis, in the middle of the Atlantic Ocean. From Mundus Subterraneus 1669, published in Amsterdam. The map is oriented with south at the top.

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