- The Washington Times - Friday, February 25, 2011


By Emmet Sweeney

Algora Publishing, $32.95

188 pages


Of making books about the legend of Atlantis there is no end, and much reading of them is truly a weariness of the flesh. Into this vast and ever-extending phantasm world of wild and weird speculations,Northern Irish historian Emmet Sweeney’s new study comes as a welcome and sobering mug of strong, high-quality coffee.

Mr. Sweeney is no Atlantis-skeptic - quite the contrary. But he abandons the nigh-universal commingling of lore about the fabled, supposed sunken continent in the Atlantic with speculations about extraterrestrial visitors, superpowered “gods” who were really ancient astronauts and the like.

Mr. Sweeney correctly and rigorously goes back to the original fountain source of the legend in Western culture - the philosopher Plato’s tantalizingly short references in his dialogues “The Critias” and “The Timaeus.” He rightly posits that if Plato’s comments had any reference in fact, they had to be rooted in events hundreds and not many thousands of years before his lifetime. Further, Plato’s references to Atlantis would have to be rooted in documented archaeological, mythological, cultural and even technological hard evidence of the ancient world. He has dug deep into serious mainstream scholarship and has found a treasure trove of remarkable,well-attested evidence.

It is extraordinary to discover that the mummies of pharaohs and other aristocratic ancient Egyptians, when autopsied, contained significant elements of cocaine grown in the Andes Mountains, as well as tobacco and other foods and substances that were grown only in the Americas. These findings alone should make a convincing case that trans-Atlantic traffic and trading took place on a regular scale in the Bronze Age or even earlier - and that the human taste for dangerous, currently illegal drugs and otherwise harmful substances was as strong then to those who could afford them as it is now. Roman Emperor Marcus Aurelius and German philosopher Immanuel Kant were correct: Human nature really does not change much - if at all, over the millennia.

Mr. Sweeney culls the geological record to make a serious case that a significantly sized island capable of housing a civilization concordant with Plato’s descriptions could have existed in the Atlantic in the region of the Azores islands as late as the second millennium B.C. He does excellent work culling the oral traditions of the American Indian nations of the northeastern part of the modern United States to show that they consistently claimed to have come from a sunken land in the Atlantic Ocean in relatively modern times.

He also should be commended for his work in uncovering the comprehensive and massive studies of the great ethnographer and scholar Lewis Spence. Spence’s work, largely published in the 1920s, remains the most comprehensive and convincing documentation of the traditions about and evidence for the existence of a lost island civilization in the Atlantic as the origin for Plato’s Atlantis myths.

I do not recommend Mr. Sweeney’s work uncritically. He adheres to an exceptionally late date for historical events and well-documented archaeological dislocations across the Middle East that can serve only as an excuse for skeptics to ignore or dismiss the truly impressive body of other evidence he has assembled.

Also, it is impossible to comprehensively cover all the bases in any study on a subject as exhaustively debated and popular as the Atlantis legend. But Mr. Sweeney would have done well to have cited Charles H. Hapgood’s astonishing “Maps of the Ancient Sea Kings,” a1950s work that won the public support and respect of Albert Einstein in establishing that medieval sailors’ maps, or portolanos, were drawn to accurate cartographic projections and accurately traced the coasts of Antarctica and Greenland beneath their miles-thick ice caps with an accuracy that world civilizations were not capable of applying even to regular maps before the 1760s.

In other words, a sophisticated global, seafaring civilization certainly existed in the geological conditions before the last ice age.

However, such caveats are minor compared with Mr. Sweeney’s achievement. You will learn something new, valuable, entertaining and remarkable on virtually every page, and most of it will be exhaustively proved and documented.

Even where Mr. Sweeney is wrong, he is always thought-provoking and stimulating in the best of ways, and more often than not he may well be right.

We live in a world where the conventional wisdom of academia on the human, historic, archaeological and geological past has usually curdled into close-minded sour vinegar. Mr. Sweeney provides a healthy, honest antidote to such intolerance. For this and much else, his book is to be commended.

Martin Sieff is former managing editor, international affairs, for United Press International. He is chief global analyst for the Globalist and a columnist for Fox News.

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