Gateway to Atlantis P.4: Urheimat der Arier
In Collins’ Gateway to Atlantis an unusual landscape feature of the region, called the Carolina Bays in the Bahamas, is brought on as possible evidence of some antique commentary impact, rather like the Tunguska event of Siberia.
(See Cuba’s Atlantis on this web site)
The Carolina Bays are shallow oval depressions widely scattered over some south-eastern states of the USA, of unknown date and speculative origin. True to the rather scrupulous candour he has earlier shown in his book, Collins tells us that these Bays have never evidenced any traces that might have come from a comet or asteroid and he acknowledges that geologists have not proposed - among their several theories - any extraterrestrial explanation for them. Nevertheless, Collins wants to date them to about 8500 BC and relate them to the fall of a comet, that caused (or at least mightily contributed to) the end of the last ice age. He mentions the notion of an ex-Second World War rocket engineer (no prizes given for guessing which side he was on) that there are two "deep impact sites" in the ocean east of the Bahamas. He doesn't mention the absence of any sedimentological evidence from seabed cores in the Atlantic of any such disturbance as the deep impact of a comet or asteroid would surely make. Nor has any young lava been identified that would have erupted as a result of the impact, nor is there any extraterrestrial material in ice cores of the required date or any magnetic record of disturbance. As a special explanation for the end of the last ice age, the commentary impact theory leaves much to be desired. For a start, we would have to wonder how all the other ice ages ended - did a comet always come along to finish the job?
Needless to say, Collins belongs to the nightmare-scenario persuasion when it comes to the end of the last ice age, and even quotes Frank C. Hibben at some length from his Lost Americans of 1946. (You really would conclude, to go by the Atlantologists, that no up-to-date, let alone scholarly, work had been done on glacial geology for the last half-century.)
So a comet is quite in order in Collins' eyes as an added ingredient to the pictured mayhem of mass extinctions that Hapgood ascribed to earth crust displacement. For Collins, the comet supplies the sudden tsunami to break up Atlantis in the Antilles, and the postglacial rise in sea level renders that flooding permanent.
The comet idea wasn't a new one with the German rocket man: as far back as 1788, Glan Rinaldo Carli suggested that Atlantis may have been sunk by comet strike, Donnelly more than toyed with it, and the idea was renewed with Karl Georg Zschaetzsh in 1922 in his ominously titled Atlantis: die Urheimat der Arier, "the original home of the Aryans."
Collins realizes that all the amateur geologizing and glyphinterpreting rather go for nothing unless it can be shown that there were any people in the region of the Antilles and Bahamas in about 8500 BC to witness his comet, tsunami and flooding. (By this time, he is taking it for granted in Gateway to Atlantis that Cuba was the core of Plato's Atlantis and that Plato got it right, even if accidentally, that the catastrophe occurred in 8500 BC - not that that is altogether what Plato says. He is also taking it for granted from hereon that a comet did indeed strike the western Atlantic at that date.) Collins avers that "outside the constraints of archaeological opinion," a reference I take it to the sober, systematic search for a body of consistent evidence that professional archaeologists demand, outside those constraints "there is compelling evidence to show that the sunken regions of the Bahamas and Caribbean still hold important clues concerning the historical reality of lost Atlantis."
What we get is some footprints of unknown age in mud-rock, the Bimini Road again and those odd sightings from the air, and reports of underwater caves with bones. It is certainly true that archaeologists are not going to find any or all of that in the least bit compelling as evidence for the previous existence of the "shining jewel" of Atlantis on Cuba and its empire among the Antillean archipelagos. Collins thinks these areas "may well" provide us with proof of a settled neolithic culture that was terminated by this commentary impact of about 8500 BC.
"Neolithic" means the New Stone Age way of life of the world's earliest farmers, before the use of metals, usually with pottery but no written records. Even if such a neolithic presence in this region were satisfactorily demonstrated at an early date of 8500 BC (and there is not a scrap of serious evidence for that), we should still be obliged to note that such a way of life was a far cry indeed from Plato's highly sophisticated, indeed luxuriously oversophisticated, kingdom of Atlantis. Collins even seems to think that Plato's shipfilled, canal-ringed city of gold and silver palaces, awash with statuary, may yet be found somewhere near Cuba. Does he seriously think all that could have arisen in a neolithic context evidenced at best by some bones, footprints and dubious marks on the seabed, plus axe, idol, standing stone, earthworks and poor quality pictographs, all undated. A line of Latin poetry comes to mind as one nears the end of Collins' weighty and erudite tome, when a putative bunch of neolithic farmers in Cuba with very little to show for them turn out to be the chief product of all that heavy delving into mythology, geology, philology, cartography, archaeology and cosmology:
Parturiunt montes, nascetur ridiculus mus.
("Mountains are in labour, there'll be born a laughable mouse.")
Horace, Ars Poetica, line 139
To pile on top of such a truly laboured construction the idea that, much later, Phoenician merchants (for whom there is likewise not a scrap of serious evidence in the New World) could have taken an accurate memory of this Atlantis back to Plato might strike many as laughable indeed.
Gateway to Atlantis ends in a notable flight of fancy about Cronus, father of the Olympian gods, the Nephilim giants of the Bible, and a voyage from the Levant to Mexico via Britain and Cuba with a black-skinned crew somewhere between 2200 and 1250 BC. Collins opines that "whether they might have utilized the North-west Passage or the North Equatorial Current via the Canary Isles is open to debate." He's telling us. There's a strong hint, throughout the closing passages, of that hoary notion of a ruling elite coming in from outside to direct the affairs of the less advanced people they settled among. Something I find difficult to avoid is the feeling that this is the old colonialist attitude resurfacing at the end of the twentieth century, which saw it taken to horrible extremes by the Nazis (no strangers themselves to entertaining every sort of alternative archaeology).
Like the rest of the Atlantological riters, Collins makes much throughout of stray finds and random similarities, yet consistently they make very little of one of the most important aspects of real archaeology: its insistence on full cultural context and repeated association of finds, with corroborated dates.
His resort to folklore is positively Donnellian in its recklessness, seizing on anything like tales of fire or ones from the sky as evidence of commentary catastrophe, and quietly downplaying such grotesque and impossible twaddle as serpent-bodied goddesses without navels that inextricably goes with these tales - and reveals their highly imaginative nature.
Lastly, Collins' work evinces that need to subvert the findings, indeed the entire approach, of the academic archaeologists that we almost always find - more or less virulently - in all the writers of "alternative archaeology." I suppose that the proponents of theories wildly divergent from the conclusions of the paid, appointed professors are always under pressure to do down the work, the attitudes and even the motives of the professionals. After all, how can it be that the university professors disagree with, worse still ignore, the startling insights achieved by the independent researchers? They must be blind, or hidebound, or jealous, or fearful for their own jobs, surely. The "alternative archaeologists" seem to find the published work of the professionals unrewarding in its lack of colourful hypotheses, its emphasis on data to do with potsherds and pollen grains, its graphs and sections, its statistics, its satisfaction with modest gains in detailed knowledge and its rigorous testing of all interpretations of its material, old and new. I sympathize with their evident bafflement when faced with the publications of the professionals. But then I would be baffled if I browsed through some article in Nature about cell chemistry or stellar physics. (I wouldn't, however, tend to think that the authors of such articles were generally up to no good.) It has to be said that ploughing through books like Gateway to Atlantis can itself call for some stern dutyfulness on the reader's part, just to keep on with it, not so much to the bitter as the anticlimactic end. Whole tracts of these "alternative" archaeological writings manage to be both thin and heavy going at the same time, with nothing at all certain to show for it at the end, as I fear more - even among their most well disposed readers - have found out than would care to admit it.
Collins has not contributed any startling new details to our diagnostic list of features of the Atlantis myth. The literal reliance on Plato, the idea of a vanished primal civilization, the ready resort to folklore, the predisposition to catastrophe, the theme of secret elites, the fixation on transatlantic intercourse before Columbus, the penchant for amateur philologizing and geologizing, the defiance of the academic archaeological establishment - all these are well-worn signs of the Atlantis myth syndrome. What, perhaps, he has highlighted more than most - though he's by no means the only exemplar, far from it - is the potential for hard labour without significant issue that is contained in this whole genre.
It has to be said that ploughing through books like Gateway to Atlantis can itself call for some stern dutyfulness on the reader's part, just to keep on with it, not so much to the bitter as the anticlimactic end. Whole tracts of these "alternative" archaeological writings manage to be both thin and heavy going at the same time, with nothing at all certain to show for it at the end, as I fear more - even among their most well disposed readers - have found out than would care to admit it.
But our main
task now is to make a full characterization of the multi-symptomed
Atlantis myth syndrome and to ask why its "victims" (to keep up the
medical simile for a moment) are so prone to it - both the writers and the
readers of the genre. In what follows, it should not be thought the suggestion
is being made that all the proponents of Atlantology
have ever presented all the features of the syndrome, or that any particular
one of them has shown signs of any particular tendency.
Continued in part five