This article is a scientific explanation of the mystery of the Lost Continent of Atlantis. 

                Science Examines Atlantis                     

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As you'll see when reading this article, there are two important facts I have managed to discover:

1) There is a hieroglyphic "myth" similar to the Atlantis "myth" among the stories of the ancient Nile river.

2) Egypt considered the "Atlantic Ocean" to be the all the ocean surrounding Africa, not just what we consider the Atlantic Ocean.

It is my current belief that Plato conceived the idealistic story of Atlantis by drawing on historical information from many different sources. One of these sources may have been ancient volcanic explosions or earthquakes in the area of the Sunda Plain or other areas of Southeast Asia.

The well-documented Austronesian expansion from China-Taiwan to Indonesia, Polynesia, and across the Indian Ocean to the Island of Madagascar may have carried oral legends of these geological catastrophes eastward. 

I present this article to show the many astonishing similarities between the Sunda Plain and Atlantis, in the hopes of stimulating further archeological and anthropological research. 

A view of the ocean floor showing the huge expanse of land called the Sunda Plain, that may have been largely exposed at the height of the last ice age--about 20,000 years ago. The volcano Krakatau is located in the gap between the two land forms near the bottom center. (Map courtesy National Geographic Society.)


Atlantis: Continent Lost

 by William Lauritzen

             The story of Atlantis is one of the strangest, most mysterious, and most bizarre stories in the history of civilization.

            A famous Greek philosopher, Plato, who was a student of Socrates, wrote, in only twenty-some pages, about a continent, which he called Atlantis. Plato was perhaps one of the most brilliant minds in history. He helped to lay the foundation of Euro-American philosophic thought, and his works are still studied today after 2300 years.

            Plato, who apparently derived his story from the Egyptians, described a marvelous civilization that in just one day was destroyed. This civilization had a main city with a royal palace made of ivory, gold, and silver. This city had bridges, canals, harbors, ships, fountains, many temples, baths, and a track for racing horses. According to Plato’s account, these people came into the Mediterranean and battled with the Egyptians. According to the Egyptians who were Plato’s sources, the Greeks helped to defeat them in battle and then drive them from the Mediterranean.

            However, Plato says that “afterwards there occurred violent earthquakes and floods; and in a single day and night of misfortune ... the island of Atlantis ... disappeared into the depths of the sea.”

            Whether Plato’s story was fact or fiction, or some combination of these, has been an intense topic of debate ever since Plato wrote the story. His writing is the only source of information about “Atlantis.” Therefore, strictly speaking, Atlantis is not folklore. (Some have called it fakelore.)

            In this article, I will briefly present some of the highlights of the controversy surrounding Atlantis, then I will present a new theory regarding the location Atlantis, finally, I will examine some of the difficulties with the theory.


The Occult and Atlantis

             Many people have had some exposure to Atlantis by way of TV documentaries. On these shows there is often mention of outlandish ideas such as Alien visitations, atomic power, levitating rocks, genetic engineering, and past lives. Unfortunately, TV producers emphasize these bizarre or occult ideas in order to get temporarily higher ratings.

            For wherever there is lack of any firm evidence or firm knowledge, this is ripe ground for growing unsubstantiated and bizarre beliefs. In other words, since no one seems to know where Atlantis really was, why not just “channel” the information from an extraterrestrial source? Who can disprove you? Or why not go into a “trance state” and contact your own past life in Atlantis. Again, who is to say you are wrong?     

            I waded through many volumes of occult books in order to try to find something of value. I found a lot of hope and a lot of hype, but no firm evidence.

            The occult can be seductive, intoxicating, and exhilarating. But reality often isn’t. And intoxication is toxic.

            Perhaps the occult sort of represents the brainstorming function of society. Any and all ideas are accepted as valid. Then it is up to the scientists to winnow out the real and the good from the pure flights of fantasy. This brainstorming may be a valuable and necessary function. Unfortunately, some people never look then at the evidence, which would allow them to leave the pure speculation behind.



            I realize that science is not perfect either. It can be stultifying or resistant to change. It functions, like all of us, within a political context. It encourages compartmentalization of knowledge, so that frequently, no one looks at the big picture or combines several disciplines together. Graduates students frequently turn out mediocre dissertations that are, at best, moping up a field that was created long before by an innovative thinker.

            In its favor, it probably needs to be resistant to change or every new, half-baked idea would gain acceptance. 



            The many suggestions for a location for Atlantis include (but are not limited to): an island-continent in the Atlantic, North Africa, America, Crete, Carthage, Spain, South Africa, Malta, Central France, Tunisia, the Arctic, the Netherlands, Palestine, Nigeria, North Sea, Mexico, Greenland, Brazil, West Indies, Sweden, Morocco, Great Briton, and recently, unbelievably, Antarctica and Peru. However, probably none of these are correct.

            Later we will discuss briefly why these theories are probably wrong.  


Atlantis Time Line   

            Here are a few highlights from the occult, the scholarly, and the scientific, along with my comments:

·        560 BC:  according to Plato, a famous Greek statesman, Solon, visits Egypt and hears from the priests at Sais, then the capital of Egypt, the story of an ancient civilization that was destroyed 9000 years earlier.

·        360 BC: Plato first writes Solon’s story and calls the civilization “Atlantis.”

·        300 BC-100 AD: various classical Mediterranean authors such as Crantor, Strabo, Diodorus Siculus, Pliny the Elder, and Plutarch mention Atlantis. Belief in the lost continent is divided.

·        1553: a Spaniard, Francesco Lopez de Gomara, makes the suggestion that Atlantis was in America. However, in many ways America does not match the description given by Plato.

·        1860: Abbe Brasseur de Bourbourg, a French scholar, travels through Middle America for many years. He feels that Mayan glyphs document the volcanic destruction of Atlantis. I think Brasseur was partly right about the Mayan glyphs documenting destruction, but I do not feel that this was the destruction of Atlantis. I feel it was the destruction of local villages and cities in Mayan America.

·        1879: famous Mayan archeologist, Edward Herbert Thompson, defends the idea that the Maya were descendants of an Atlantean race. (Of course, if Atlantis was the first civilization, or first place that Homo sapiens evolved, then all civilizations would be descendants of Atlantis.)

·        1880s-1890s: Augustus Le Plongeon publishes Sacred Mysteries Among the Mayans and Quiches (1886) and Queen Moo and the Egyptian Sphinx (1896) after ten years of study in the Yucatan with his wife. He claims that Egyptian civilization, as well as all other civilizations, came from the Mayan. He states that Queen Moo was originally from Atlantis (which Le Plongeon calls Mu and situates in the Atlantic Ocean), but when Queen Moo seeks refuge there, she finds it gone, and goes on to Egypt were she was known as Isis and founded the Egyptian civilization. Le Plongeon’s work is interesting, but he made some fundamental errors. We shall see that Atlantis was probably not in the Atlantic. Although there may have been limited contact between Egyptian and Mayan cultures, a point that has yet to be proved, it appears that the two cultures evolved largely separately.

·        1883: Ignatius Donnelly, a former member of the US Congress writes Atlantis: the Antediluvian World, a popular book which went through fifty editions and is still in print after 100 years. He claims Atlantis was the source of all cultures of the world. Many scientists call his approach slanted and find technical errors in his work. Donnelly was a lawyer and took a lawyer’s approach to his writing. Instead of presenting the pros and cons, he stated all the pros only. We shall see that his location for Atlantis was probably wrong. Whether different cultures developed independently or by diffusion is a hotly debated question. I tend to think there were minute amounts of communication.

·        1880s: Madam Blavatsky, sometimes called the Grandmother of the “New Age” movement, includes Atlantis in her occult and bizarre reconstruction of history. For example, because of humanities widespread preoccupation with dragons, she believes that humans existed at the time of the dinosaurs. In 1908, Rudolf Steiner, a cohort of Blavatsky, continues with his bizarre version of Atlantis. He eventually breaks away from Blavatsky, and forms his own schools. Today, they are known as Waldorf schools.

·        1909: In an anonymous letter to the London Times, classical scholar K. T. Frost points out similarities between the Mediterranean culture of Crete (also known as Minoan after King Minos who lived on Crete) and Plato’s “Atlantis.” Although there are similarities, Plato’s description of Atlantis does not match well that of ancient Crete.

·        1930s: Edgar Cayce becomes famous in the US for going into a trance and then prescribing remedies for ill people. During these trance states he sometimes mentions living in Atlantis in a past life. He predicts that a mysterious “Hall of Records” will be found near the Sphinx describing Atlantis. He also predicts Atlantis would rise again from the ocean. He makes mostly bizarre guesses that are often interpreted by followers as somehow correct. For example when certain symmetrical rocks, probably natural formations called “beach rocks,” were found near Bihimi Island in the Bahamas, followers claimed that these were evidence of Atlantis “rising again.”  

·        1931: author James Churchward writes, The Lost Continent of Mu. He claims to have seen “sacred” tablets in India, which described the creation of the world and the lost continent, which he calls Mu. He places Mu in the Pacific. His work seems to be largely derived from that of Le Plongeon.  No one ever saw these ancient tablets, and people wonder if they really ever existed. Although interesting to read, his work remains in the category of questionable speculation.

·        1939: a Greek archeologist, Spyridon Marinatos, suggests that the destruction of the island of Thera (near Crete and now part of Greece), in 1500 BC, and the resulting tsunami was what caused the collapse of the Minoan civilization. In 1950, he suggests the Atlantis myth derives from this event. His paper is not published in English until 1969. Many modern scientists accept Thera as a possible Atlantis; however, we shall see that Plato’s description is not a good match with Thera.

·        1954: L. Sprague de Camp first publishes Lost Continents, a Dover classic. However, De Camp is probably better known for his science fiction writing about “Conan: the Barbarian.” De Camp is a firm skeptic when it comes to Atlantis. He flatly states that Plato made up the story. Interestingly, he also says that Wagner’s Continental Drift Theory is “very doubtful.” (A 1970 edition, however, corrected this statement.)

·        1973: Geologist Dorothy Vitaliano writes Legends of the Earth and includes a chapter on Atlantis. She correctly points out that there is nowhere in the Atlantic Ocean that Atlantis could have existed. An excellent scientific book, even though somewhat dated geologically.

·        1974: James Bramwell writes Lost Atlantis, perhaps one of the most rational and balanced accounts of the controversy ever published. Though parts of it are dated, his book often amazes one with in its insight and depth.

·        1975: Indiana University hosts a panel discussion “Atlantis: Fact or Fiction,” including several notable scholars. While most of them dismiss the Atlantis story as pure fiction, John V. Luce (Professor of Classics, Dublin University) presents the view that Plato’s Atlantis story is part fiction, part fact, and based on ancient legends.

·        1960s-1970s: seismologist A. G. Galanopoulos, another Greek, also tries to link “Atlantis” to the volcano on the island of Thera. He claims that an error in translation made all numbers in Plato’s text multiplied by 10, and that this is why Thera is ten times smaller than Plato described. This “ten error” has been effectively refuted by scholars (Vitaliano, Luce). Also, there are many other mismatches between Thera and Atlantis (Vitaliano).


            In this article, I will present the evidence for (and against) my theory that the story of the destruction of “Atlantis” ultimately derived from the geological activity of South East Asia, and was carried westward during the Austronesian expansion from China and Taiwan.


            As we stood at the base of one of the world’s most deadly volcanoes, our guides tried to talk us out of going any further. The language was difficult to understand, but the message was clear. They had just brought us across a 5-hour stretch of ocean in an old fishing boat, but they knew that to go further was to risk their own lives as well as ours.

            Ahead, there were no plants or animals. Just boulders and rocks. Scattered here and there amidst the boulders were vents, emitting poisonous sulfur gas from the inside of the volcano.

            This dragon was sleeping now, but a few years ago it had taken the lives of several Americans. Just over 100 years ago, in a fit of rage, it had exploded violently and the resulting tidal wave had killed over 36,000.

            Our small expedition was composed of two Dutch, two Danish, two French, and myself, the American. I had chartered the boat from a small fishing village to the north and managed to gather together these others to help with the cost. We all hesitated for a moment, and then four of us went on without the guides or the others. The guides knew there was nothing they could do to stop us. They told us to be back in an hour, probably hoping to minimize our exposure to the volcano.

            In the heat of the equatorial sun, we hiked up the lunar-like terrain....


                       Several thousand books on the subject of Atlantis have been written[1] and none of them has given a really satisfactory answer to the question of "where was it?", “what was it?” or “did it exist”? In addition, oceanographic and geological research during the last several decades essentially have removed the possibility that a lost continent could have existed beneath what is the current Atlantic Ocean. In this article, I suggest that Plato got his legend for Atlantis not from a continent in the current Atlantic Ocean, but from an area in the ancient Atlantic Ocean. I will explain this shortly.

            I will limit myself to evidence that relates to major aspects of the lost continent that can be found in Plato’s Timaeus and Critias as this is the source of the story. I will not discuss in this article the recent suggestions that Atlantis was located in Antarctica or Peru.


The Ocean of the World

             I was led halfway to my hypothesis concerning Atlantis by the work of R. Buckminster Fuller.[2]

            R. Buckminster (“Bucky”) Fuller correctly shows that the world has only one ocean. This is known by modern oceanographers. The ocean currents travel to all parts of the globe. Any particle of water can therefore end up in any part of that globe. We have split the “one ocean” into various names just as we have split the landmasses into different nations. From a space shuttle, these national boundaries are not visible. Also, the artificial boundaries between oceans are not visible.

To use the Gaia model, proposed by James Lovelock and Lyn Margulis, we could say that the ocean acts as a kind of circulatory system (along with the air) for the planet as a whole. Our bodies, like the surface of the earth, are composed of about three-fourths water. The body must circulate its water to remain alive, and the earth, or Gaia, must also circulate its water to remain “alive.”

            The key point is, that when I looked for a possible Atlantis, I didn’t confine myself to the “Atlantic Ocean,” but was willing to consider the entire ocean.

Fuller projection map of air-ocean world.


Fuller projection of one-ocean world.

             In addition, there is evidence that the Atlantic Ocean did not originally refer to what it refers to now. In ancient times people may have considered what we now call the Indian Ocean and Arabian Sea to be part of the Atlantic Ocean. Alexander Bessmerty states, regarding the Asian scholar Karst,


Very remarkable is [Karst’s] observation that according to the earliest language forms the Atlantis sea was considered as double, with an eastern basin and a western basin. In its original sense the conception of Libya and Ethiopia was applied to countries in south-western Asia, in touch with the Indo-Arabian ocean; but this sense gradually fell into disuse and the words, losing their locality value, became applied to the African territory in the other Atlantic basin. For Strabo the South Asiatic sea is still an ‘atlantic’ sea which he supposes to be joined to the western Atlantic sea ...[3]


            If one takes a globe and turns it over so that the South Pole is at the top, and then orients the globe so that Egypt is at the bottom and center (ancient Egyptians considered the south to be “up” on their maps, so this is the way they would have viewed it), one will see Africa sticking “up” into a large body of water. The continent of South America will be barely visible on the right, and the islands of Indonesia will be barely visible on the left. This large body of water may have been the “Atlantic” at one time.

            It should be remarked that Atlantis was located “in front of” the Pillars of Hercules (the Strait of Gibraltar separating Europe and Africa). However, this could also mean “beyond” the Pillars of Hercules. And where we are going is well beyond them.  


The Spread of Civilization

            Fuller, going against current thought, states that humankind originated in the atolls of the South Pacific. He calls these original people Austronesians (Australians and Polynesians).

            Fuller supports his claim by the evidence of demographics. Demographics show us that 54% of the world's population lives in India, China, Southeast Asia, and Eastern Africa. In Europe and Western Africa live 32% of the population, and in North and South America live just 12%. Based on these figures, he suggests that humanity spread from Southeast Asia in a generally western and northern direction. This would explain why China, India, Indonesia, and Southeast Asia have most of the world’s population. (Of course, at one time Northern Africa had a much more pleasant climate, and at that time Africa may have had a higher population percentage.)


Fuller Population Map with black dots showing population centers.


            Fuller is an ex-navy man, boatbuilder, a well-known inventor (the geodesic dome is among his most famous), and traveled extensively in Southeast Asia. He claimed that along the river on which Bangkok lies, there are current examples, which demonstrate the evolutionary history of boatbuilding for the past 10,000 years:


The shipbuilders usually keep the logs soaking for up to 100 years before using them in their ships’ hulls. After a century of soaking the teak becomes highly stabilized structurally. They then haul out and dry the logs sufficiently for their shipbuilders to work them into long planks and frames with their metal tools ... They make their planks so carefully that they fit watertightly together without any caulking ... I am absolutely confident that Bangkok is the center of the beginnings of the best ship technology and design engineering of world-around civilization. Prototypes of every type of hull from gondolas to barges are there, including the prototypes of the powerfully ribbed, deep-bellied ships that the Phoenicians sailed across the Indian Ocean and to Mesopotamia.[4]


The location of the emergence of humankind is hotly contested and many books have been written about it. Space does not permit me to go fully into all the arguments, pro and con, in this chapter. For now, I just want to indicate that Fuller gave me a clue of somewhere to look for Atlantis where no one had looked before.


Prehistoric Circumnavigation of the World

            Fuller claims that ancient seafaring people circumnavigated the globe. This hypothesis also is controversial, but let's see where it leads. Fuller was led to this position through his experience with ships and ocean currents. He states that the Phoenicians could have sailed southward after leaving the Mediterranean, rounded the tip of Africa, and crossed the Indian Ocean


... northeastwardly on its main current to pass just north of Australia, then turning northward with the Japan Current and prevailing winds to transit China, Japan, and the Aleutian Islands to Alaska, and then on the same current southwardly to the west coasts of both North and South America ... the 'Roaring Forties' winds and current swept them around the Horn into the South Atlantic, whence the northerly current took them along South America's east coast ...Thereafter the Atlantic Gulf Stream swept them northward ... past Cape Hatteras, Nova Scotia, south of Greenland, Iceland, and Spitzbergen, where the ice forced them to go westward until they discovered their familiar Scandinavia, British Isles, etc., from which they returned home to the Mediterranean.[5]    


 Fuller projection map with possible world circumnavigation route.

            Fuller doesn’t mention the fact that at times this circumnavigation goes against the prevailing currents. Of course, ancient people could have used wind power and even sailed into the wind by zig-zagging or “tacking.” What seems reasonable is that ancient seafarers would hug the shoreline, just like a beginning swimmer hugs the wall of a swimming pool. Then they would make what I call “shore-hugging leaps” of greater and greater length. As they became more confident, they would make trips across the middle of the ocean.

            So we would see an evolution from “shore-hugging” to “ocean-hopping.” The most famous European ocean-hopper of recent times is probably Columbus.

            The ancient Greek geographers, such as Hecataeus and Herodotus, envisioned the world as a circular plate surrounded by an ocean. This view is curiously similar to Fuller’s projection and one wonders if these ancients had something like this in mind.

Ancient map often attributed to Herodotus.


            World maps attributed to Hecataeus, Herodotus, and Eratosthenes were actually drawn much later, based on partial descriptions from the works of these men. The men who drew them probably knew nothing about North and South America. Fuller interprets these ancient maps as world maps showing Asia, North and South America, the Gulf of Mexico, etc.

            Of course, Fuller is not the only person to suggest that ancient mariners traveled from place to place. There is a large body of literature suggesting that this happened, and probably just as large a body of literature suggesting that it didn’t happen. Especially popular are books suggesting that ancient people came to America before Columbus. Some recent books that I have heard of (but have not read yet) are American Discovery and The Friar’s Map of Ancient America, both by Gunnar Thompson. The Friar’s Map of Ancient America contains an interesting map, which Thompson claims, like Fuller, shows the shoreline of both North and South America long before Columbus.


Friar’s Map as re-interpreted by me.


            It is difficult for us to see how these maps could be world maps. But this was before all the various modern map projections we have today. And remember the “shore-hugging” seafarer: imagine an ancient ship slowly following the shoreline, marking the rivers, bays, and inlets as it sails. Now and then, the seafarers would go ashore to collect food, or to hunt, or perhaps to trade with the indigenous people. Coming home after many years, they would try to fit all this information onto a single flat map. (Perhaps part of the information would get cut off the map. But these maps would be of great value and would be copied.)

            Also in support of idea of world circumnavigation we have this account from Plato’s Atlantis story: an ancient Egyptian priest says,


for this sea which is within the Straits of Hercules [the Mediterranean] is only a harbour, having a narrow entrance, but that other is a real sea, and the surrounding land may be most truly called a boundless continent.


A boundless continent may be a good description of what a sailor would encounter if he hugged the shoreline upon leaving the Mediterranean and then just kept going. Eventually he would arrive back at the Mediterranean and the surrounding land mass would seem to him “boundless.”

            Fuller states that the sea-people cross-bred with each other but were essentially a separate culture and that they went by various but related names: the V-Kings (V from the shape of the bow of the ship) or Vikings (pronounced veekings in Scandinavia), Veenetians, Phoenicians, Punitians, Pundits, Punic wars (Punt meaning boat and Pun in some languages meaning red as in the Red Sea).[6] 


            On March 12, 1998, researchers reported (in Nature) having found stone tools on Flores Island, between Java and Australia, dating to 800,000 years ago. It is believed that there was no land bridge between Java and Flores during the last ice age, so the researchers (Moorwood and associates) suggest that Homo erectus was capable of water crossings using sea craft. Although the findings are still very controversial (some say there was a land bridge, some say Homo erectus swam, some say they are not really tools), this finding, if proven, would radically alter our view of Homo erectus and his capabilities. And if Home erectus were capable of building watercraft 800,000 years ago, then certainly Homo sapiens could have 50,000 years ago. In fact, we think that Homo sapiens did cross to Australia around 40,000 years ago.


            The April 26, 1999 issue of Newsweek states that there is a paradigm shift occurring among archeologists regarding the peopling of America. The old paradigm, the Clovis model, states that humans crossed the land bridge from Siberia by following the animals as the glaciers melted around 11,500 years ago. However, a new site in Monte Verde, Chile, far south of Clovis, New Mexico, with a date of at least 12,500 years ago has cracked this paradigm. The date of this site has recently been verified.

            Some scientists now think that the Asian people came from Siberia in canoes. They would have followed the coastline south by water hunting seals as they went. This new paradigm, what I call shore-hugging, would tend to support Fuller’s circumnavigation theory.


The Sub-Oceanic Plain

            Having read Plato's account of Atlantis in the early 1980s, I was aware that Atlantis had an extensive canal system. Thus, in 1990, when I first began studying Fuller's work, I was struck by the fact that he describes flying over Cambodia and Thailand and seeing networks of canal patterns penetrating for hundreds of miles inland.


Canal near Jakarta, Indonesia.


            It was around this time that I first began to think that perhaps Atlantis existed on the vast sub-oceanic plain between Australia and Southeast Asia. That area was dry land up until the end of the ice ages, which caused the melting of the glaciers and a resulting rise in sea level.  However, I had no time or resources to do a thorough investigation. I imagined I would need extensive diving equipment and boats.

            About this time (1992) I attended a lecture at the California Institute of Technology, by Dr. Ronald Blom, called "Space Technology and the Discovery of the Lost City of Ubar."  Like Troy, many scholars doubted that this city, mentioned in both the Koran and A Thousand and One Nights, ever existed. It was the center of trade for a rare resin, frankincense. The discoverers, two amateur archeologists, teamed up with NASA scientists and used satellite photography to pinpoint ancient roads in the desert that eventually led them to the remains of the city. (Interestingly, Lawrence of Arabia called this city, "the Atlantis of the sands." Also of interest is that, like Troy, amateurs made the discovery.)

            I contacted NASA (the Jet Propulsion Laboratory) shortly after this lecture and told them I was interested in viewing satellite photos of Southeast Asia for archeological studies. (I was hesitant to mention Atlantis.) It was my idea, following the success of Ubar’s discovery, to look for some pattern that might lead me to the location of the ancient civilization. They were willing to cooperate, but I was unable to pursue the matter at that time.

             In 1995, I posted this idea to an anthropology newsgroup: due to the large number of canals in Southeast Asia, and the rising ocean waters at the end of the ice age covering this area, that Atlantis probably was in this area. However, as far as I know, nothing came of that. 

            A year later, I picked up Plato again, and also the ocean floor map, as I mentioned. Despite my prior knowledge, I was dumbstruck by the vast area of land in SE Asia that had been submerged when the glaciers melted. This area was bordered by Viet Nam, Thailand, and Cambodia to the north, the Malaysian archipelago to the west and south (including the islands of Sumatra and Java), and the Philippines and the South China Sea to the east. It was big enough to be called a continent, big enough to hold Atlantis.

            On the map were drawn, with artistic license, rivers flowing across this plain (later I found out it was called the Sunda Plain or Sunda Shelf) and emptying into the South China Sea. This triggered in my mind a vision of a wide interconnected pre-historic land. I imagined the Mae Nam Chuo Phraya, the river on which the port city of Bangkok lies, crossing the (now underwater) Sunda Plain, and then emptying into the South China Sea.

            I imagined that the city of Atlantis, as described by Plato, most probably would have been located at this point, as the river flowed into the South China Sea. This seemed like a good port location. Bangkok, I imagined, was probably moved farther and farther back as the water level rose over the centuries.


 The Volcanic Mountain

             Plato says that the city was located on a part of the island that faced south. This was a setback to my theory, but I dutifully began to look up information about Indonesia (the country in the south containing the islands of Sumatra and Java.)

            I was amazed to discover that there are more than one hundred active or recently active volcanoes in Indonesia. In fact, Java is the most volcanic location in the world.

            To get an idea of what Java is like, imagine a land mass about the size of New York state, long and narrow, but with 17 active volcanoes, five of which tower over 10,000 feet. All this volcanic activity is theoretically due to the crustal plate of Australia pushing northward into the Eurasian Plate. The creation of the Malaysian arc (including Malaysia, Sumatra, Java, Bali, etc.) probably was due to this plate collision activity.

Geological activity map of Southeast Asia.


            This geological activity seemed to fit well with the idea that Atlantis had been destroyed by a cataclysm. However, it didn't seem likely that a major city would exist along this rugged coast. There seemed to be no harbor except for perhaps one. That was somewhere in the narrow strait between Sumatra and Java called the Sunda Strait.


Sunda Strait near Sumatra.


            About this time, I ran across the name of a volcano that I had heard about, but that I did not know was located in Indonesia. In fact, every geologist in the world knows of Krakatau. Several books have been written (and one Hollywood motion picture was made, which I don’t recommend) about its 1883 eruption-explosion, whose resulting tidal wave killed 36,417 Indonesians. Sound waves from its explosion reverberated across the globe for the next 12 hours, often called "the greatest volume of sound recorded in human history."

            I quickly searched for the location of Krakatau on the map. It is between Sumatra and Java, directly in the middle of the Sunda Strait.          

Diagram of Krakatau at the “elbow” of Sumatra and Java. (adapted from Furneaux)



            It was a hazy day in Indonesia. A five month long drought had created dangerous conditions. Forest fires raged on the island of Sulawesi to the east, and the trade winds blew the smoke into the Sunda strait where we were. Further north, in Sumatra, the people were wearing scarves over their faces. In less than a week, I would be flying south to Java, while a jet going north would crash, killing all on board. I suspected that the haze was partly responsible.

            Meanwhile, as we climbed up the side of the volcano, I could see through the haze to an island in the distance. That island was what was left of 1882 Krakatau, before the explosion in 1983. The island, two-thirds of it now missing, had stretched across the waters to where we were now standing. The child of Krakatau, anak Krakatau, where we were standing, would rise above the ocean in another 45 years. The two-thirds of the original Krakatau had been blown into the sky, part of it raining down on the surrounding countryside, part of it remaining suspended in the upper atmosphere where it would affect sunsets and weather around the world for the next several years.

            We walked on a slippery, gray, sandy-like mixture of dust and ash that had been expelled from the volcano. Now and then we stopped to look at the lava bombs. These were rocks of various sizes that had been thrown out of the crater of the volcano. As they landed they made their own little craters. Most were small enough to lift. However, we stopped to examine one the size of small Volkswagen. The volcano had recently coughed it up.

            I was beginning to feel a little uneasy. We took some photos and I again noticed the large expanse of sea separating us from the remains of Krakatau. I wondered how much my companions knew about this volcano. I explained to them how it had exploded in 1883 and pointed out to them where the island had once extended.

            We stopped to examine the white sulfur compounds around one of the many vents that led down into the interior of the cone. I took some pictures. The eerie silence combined with the smoking vents and large lava bombs eventually began to get to me.

I recommended we turn back before we reached the summit. The rest agreed without much discussion. Perhaps they too were feeling uneasy.



      Confirming the Sub-Oceanic Plain

             I drew on the map the approximate dimensions that Plato gave for the continent of Atlantis. He said that it extended roughly 3000 stadia by 2000 stadia. This is about 345 miles by 230 miles (using one estimate of a stadia at 607 feet). Perhaps, if and when Atlantis was destroyed, (as Plato describes it) about 11,500 years ago, the Ice Age was almost over, and the ocean level had risen to cover most of the Sunda Plain. Just this small portion remained.

            I imagined that at this time, as the Sunda Plain filled with water, people might have migrated to various locations around the world, thus giving rise to the many flood legends. Although some of this type of migration may have occurred, the rising water level would have been too gradual to be called a “flood.”

            The gradual shrinking of the Sunda Plain would explain apparent contradictions in Plato’s description, which have puzzled Atlantean scholars for millennia. At one point, he says that Atlantis is larger than Libya and Asia combined (Asia is usually interpreted here to mean Asia Minor or modern Turkey), at another point he gives the above dimensions, and at another place he calls it an island. In other words, when the ice age began to melt 15,000 bp (before present) perhaps it was a large continent (or subcontinent), later, as the Sunda Plain became covered with sea water, perhaps Atlantis became smaller and smaller and eventually an island.

            I checked Plato's dimension for the exact location of the city. He says that it was 50 stadia inland or about 5.7 miles. This seems to fit with the distance of Krakatau from the Indian Ocean at the time of the great disaster.

            Plato also says that from the islands beyond Atlantis that “you might pass to the whole of the opposite continent which surrounded the true ocean.” Traditionally, the “true ocean” has been thought to be the Atlantic, and the “opposite continent” the Americas. Compare the Pacific and Atlantic on a globe. The huge difference in size is easily seen. To a people who routinely navigated the Pacific, the Atlantic would hardly seem like an ocean. The distance between Africa and South America is at one point less than the distance from New York to Albuquerque or San Francisco to Hawaii. The “opposite continent” in my scenario would still be North and South America, but “true ocean” would be what we now call the Pacific. In other words, the Pacific makes a much better “true ocean” than the present day Atlantic.

            Plato also gives this account,


The whole country was said by him [the Greek, Solon, who went to Egypt where he heard the story of Atlantis] to be very lofty and precipitous on the side of the sea, but the country immediately about and surrounding the city was a level plain, itself surrounded by mountains which descended towards the sea; it was smooth and even, and of an oblong shape, extending in one direction three thousand stadia, but across the centre inland it was two thousand stadia. This part of the island looked towards the south, and was sheltered from the north. The surrounding mountains were celebrated for their number and size and beauty...


Plato’s description (crosshatching) superimposed on Sunda Ocean Floor Map


This certainly could be a description of Krakatau and the Sunda Plain before the melting of the ice-age glaciers about 12,000 to 7,000 years ago. Krakatau sits nestled between two mountain chains, looks toward the south, and is sheltered from the northwest by mountains on Sumatra.

            In other words, the Sunda Plain and Krakatau approximately fit the size and orientation characteristics of the plain described by Plato for Atlantis


Confirming the Volcanic Mountain

            The eruption-explosion of Krakatau in 1883 was, as I said, immense. The tidal wave generated was 100 feet high. One book about the volcanic explosion says,


Several of the survivors attempted to describe the great wave. The magnitude of the experience was too great for them. The sight of the gray wall of water appearing from nowhere was an experience which no one could have adequately described. The air was filled with swirling dust and falling pumice. It was blacker than the blackest night.  Huge tracts of land were submerged. Towns and houses were in ruin. Corpses lay everywhere.[7]


            Debris from the coast was found seven to ten miles inland. Entire towns and villages disappeared without a trace. Particulate matter from the explosion affected sunsets around the world for the next three years. The 36,000 people who died were mostly killed by the tidal wave.


Large buoy carried inland from Lampung harbor.


            Plato sets the date of Atlantis disappearing at 9000 years before him, which was in 360 BC. This makes his time for the disappearance of Atlantis at 11,400 bp. There appear to be many possibilities for earlier eruptions that could have been the one mentioned by Plato.

            For example, one geologist, de Neve, in a paper entitled, “Earlier Eruptive Activities of Krakatau in Historic Time and During the Quaternary,” (the last million years), suggests that Krakatau may have had as many as 10 or 12 gigantic eruptions during this time. Also, he documents evidence, mostly from ancient texts, of many major eruptions during the last 2000 years.[8]  

            Another author, Judd, cites the Javanese Book of Kings, which states that there was a major eruption in 416 AD, which caused the separation of Java and Sumatra.[9] Judd notes that this account could have been based on an earlier event.

            So the Indonesians seem to be aware of some violent catastrophe in the ancient past connected with Krakatau. Of course, this ancient eruption-explosion could have been worse that the 1883 one. With this in mind, let’s read Plato’s descriptions of the destruction of Atlantis:


Various stages of Krakatau by geologists, showing size before and after each ancient eruption-explosion. (adapted from Verbeek.)


But afterwards there occurred violent earthquakes and floods; and in a single day and night of misfortune all your warlike men in a body sank into the earth, and the island of Atlantis in like manner disappeared in the depths of the sea. For which reason the sea in those parts is impassable and impenetrable, because there is a shoal of mud in the way; and this was caused by the subsidence of the island.


Also later:


...became an impassable barrier of mud to voyagers sailing from hence to any part of the ocean.

             Some geologists say that Krakatau may have been as high as 6,000 feet at that time.[10] After the massive eruption-explosion, perhaps the Sunda Plain (which is now mostly underwater) was swept by a tidal wave. The human destruction must have been unimaginable. Perhaps, as Plato says, it became an impassable barrier of mud. 

            If we examine a graph of global temperatures we find that from 15,000 to 8,000 bp there was an extreme rise in the global temperatures. For whatever reason, the ice age did not end gradually, but came to an abrupt end at the time period that Plato sets the demise of Atlantis.


Graph of global temperature rise. (Adapted from Lovelace.)


            One possibility, more speculative at this point, is that as the Sunda Plain slowly became covered with water the people pressed closer and closer toward Krakatau, (which may have been dormant for hundreds of years--it was quiet for hundreds of years before its huge 1883 explosion), and the other volcanic mountains of Java. The alleged capital city may have been at some other place before, but perhaps now the people began to use natural canals around Krakatau, and to build another canal out to the southern sea (the Indian Ocean). They could have made this their capital city for trade with the world.

            The global weather patterns that result from volcanism are intensively studied by geologists. The cooling that results is referred to as a “volcanic winter.” (Ben Franklin wrote a paper in 1784 concerning the cooler weather due to an eruption in Iceland.) In the steep rise in the warming of global temperatures between 15,000 to 8,000 years bp there is one very noticeable dip in temperatures about halfway between these two years or about 11,500 years ago. This cooling is remarkably close to the date Plato gave for the demise of his alleged Atlantis.

            This is highly speculative, but perhaps, as the glaciers melted, the rise of water over the Sunda Plain put pressure onto underground magma reservoirs, eventually forcing a release of the pressure build-up via Krakatau. Perhaps this global dip in temperatures (which appears to last a couple of hundred years) was due to many “volcanic winters” resulting from the ancient explosion-eruption of Krakatau and other volcanoes worldwide.

            The main point is that, upon examining what is currently known about the eruptive pattern of Krakatau, there is no reason to believe that Krakatau could not have had a major eruption in prehistoric times. This could have been sometime between 2,000 and 10,000 bp, or even near Plato’s 11,400 bp date. However, my anthropological research (which will be discussed later) suggests a date of sometime between 2,000 and 5,000 years ago.

            Furthermore, I think that it is quite possible, if not probable, that the story of Atlantis was based upon a story, which was based upon a story ... Who knows how far back it started? Java man, or Homo erectus, certainly witnessed the 10 or 12 gigantic eruption-explosions of the last million years. Was Homo erectus able to pass on a description of these events to his children, even if only through hand and arm gestures? Or did the description have to await Homo sapian and language?


The Cultural Artifacts

             According to Plato, the ten Kings of Atlantis participated in an important ritual concerning bulls and a sacrificial “pillar.” Plato gives us this description:


There were bulls who had the range of the temple of Poseidon; and the ten kings, being left alone in the temple, after they had offered prayers to the god that they might capture the victim which was acceptable to him, hunted the bulls, without weapons but with staves and nooses; and the bull which they caught they led up to the pillar and cut its throat over the top of it so that the blood fell upon the sacred inscription.


            On an expedition in September of 1997, I found ancient stone megalithic monuments in the Pasamah Highlands.[11]

These stone monuments lie about 150-200 miles northwest of Krakatau. One of the monuments is of a warrior subduing a bull. They are thought to date from around 0 AD to around 500 AD.

This is another parallel. I know of no other ancient civilization (with the possible exception of the Minoan) that shows men wrestling bulls.

            As we read Plato we perhaps wonder: what kind of men could sacrifice a bull over a pillar? Were they very tall men? But in one book[12], I saw a picture of ancient stone chairs in a circle, and in the center of the chairs, a cylindrical sacrificial altar, which could easily be described as a “pillar.” In other words, we are used to thinking of pillars as being tall and supporting the roofs of buildings, but an ancient sailor from Egypt or the Mediterranean, in describing this altar to his countrymen, could easily have referred to it as a pillar.


My guide in Sumatra with megalith of unknown function. (O AD-500 AD)


Warrior riding elephant. (O AD-500 AD)

I think it is possible that sometime after the destruction of Atlantis, the survivors, who would have been in the highlands, could have built this monument in memory of the important ritual.

            Newer dating techniques may yield important information about this area of the world. I don’t expect to find artifacts with dates as old as 12,000 years ago, but I would expect artifacts to be older than the current model predicts.

                Also, there are some interesting artifacts in the lowlands of Southern Sumatra. One is of an ancient step pyramid and the other is called a “symmetrical stone site.”  


       Warrior riding a bull. (O AD-500 AD)


Step pyramid in southern Sumatra.

Symmetrical stone site.


The Irrigated Fertile Plain

 Plato makes five separated references to the fertile plain of Atlantis:


·        [Poseidon] making every variety of food to spring up abundantly from the soil.

·        Looking toward the sea, but in the center of the whole island, there was a plain which is said to have been the fairest of all plains and very fertile.

·        [The island brought forth fruits] wondrous and in infinite abundance.

·         .... the excellence of the soil.

·        Twice in the year they gathered the fruits of the earth--in winter having the benefit of the rains of heaven, and in summer the water which the land supplied by introducing streams from the canals.


            The Sunda Plain was not completely submerged when the ice-glaciers melted. The remains of it exist as the northeastern part of the island of Java. So let’s compare the above passages to the following passage about this area:


Java’s level of fertility and agricultural productivity is without parallel in any other equatorial land ... because of Java’s miraculously rich volcanic soil--with loam so dark it looks like melted chocolate--farmers often harvest two or even three crops a year...wet rice cultivation is extensive, irrigated by water systems up to 3,000 years old.[13] 


Or this quote from Java (Hutton), “rice yields under traditional conditions ... that are by far the highest in the world.”[14]


Rice field in Sumatra with rows of megaliths in background.


            In Islands of Fire, Islands of Spice, we read, “While volcanic ejecta in many parts of the world is acidic, in Java it is chemically basic, rich in soluble plant nutrients such as calcium, magnesium, nitrogen, and phosphorus. For millennia this rich ash deposit has blanketed the island and turned it into a rioting garden.”[15]

            In fact, pick up any reference book and look up Java (or, for example, “Indonesia,” or the “Malaysian Archipelago”). They all say that the soil fertility is near miraculous or the best in the world. (Also, Java experiences most of its rain during the “winter” months as Plato says of Atlantis.)

            So here we have more parallels between Java and Plato’s Atlantis: 1) soil fertility, 2) harvesting multiple crops a year, 3) a 3,000 year old irrigation system. If one wanted to find a place somewhere in the world where the soil fertility matched the irrigated soil fertility of our alleged Atlantis, one would probably pick Java.


The Flora and Fauna

             Here are two of Plato’s descriptions of the biological conditions of Atlantis:


·        There was an abundance of wood for carpenter's work, and sufficient maintenance for tame and wild animals. Moreover, there were a great number of elephants in the island; for as there was provision for all other sorts of animals, both for those which live in lakes and marshes and rivers, and also for those which live in mountains and on plains, so there was for the animal which is the largest and most voracious of all. Also whatever fragrant things there now are in the earth, whether roots, or herbage, or woods, or essences which distil from fruit and flower, grew and thrived in that land; also the fruit which admits of cultivation, both the dry sort, which is given us for nourishment and any other which we use for food-we call them all by the common name pulse, and the fruits having a hard rind, affording drinks and meats and ointments, and good store of chestnuts and the like, which furnish pleasure and amusement, and are fruits which spoil with keeping, and the pleasant kinds of dessert, with which we console ourselves after dinner, when we are tired of eating-all these that sacred island which then beheld the light of the sun, brought forth fair and wondrous and in infinite abundance.

·        [The mountains] having in them also many wealthy villages of country folk, and rivers, and lakes, and meadows supplying food enough for every animal, wild or tame, and much wood of various sorts, abundant for each and every kind of work.


            As you read the above description of Plato, did you notice the reference to a fruit “having a hard rind, affording drinks and meats and ointments.”? Is this not the coconut? With its firm rind (covering), its delicious inside drink, its white meat, and the white coconut oil, which feels so good on the skin. According to the Encyclopedia Britannica, “the native home of the coconut palm is unknown, but it probably originated somewhere in Indo-Malaya, where the palm exists in many natural forms.” In other words, the coconut probably originated very close to the Sunda Plain.

            The “animal which is the largest and most voracious of all” is undoubtedly the elephant.

            Pick up any reference book on Java or Indonesia or the Malay Archipelago (of which Indonesia is a part) and you will find descriptions matching Plato’s. For example:


The flora of the Malay archipelago is probably the most varied in the world. More than 30,000 species of trees, shrubs and grasses belonging to more than 2,500 families have been recorded ... island groups have been joined together, then separated, then rejoined, increasing the almost unimaginable diversity of plant and animal life ...While the fauna of the archipelago is very rich, there are a few large animals. Elephants, tigers, rhinoceros, wild cattle, tapir and orangutan are all part of the Asian fauna.[16]   


Also, the Indonesian Handbook says that Java has “35 species of fruit--20 found nowhere else.”



                            Fruit plant on Java.     Elephant in Sumatra.


            When archeologists first found bone remains of “Java Man” (later to be called Homo erectus) in the 1800s, this was thought to be the earliest ancestor of man (before the discovery of Australopithecus), and they therefore thought that Java might have been the Garden of Eden mentioned in the Book of Genesis.

            Thus, regarding the flora and fauna, the Sunda Plain fits neatly with Plato’s Atlantis.


The Mining

             In several places throughout the text Plato mentions a strange metal. No one has ever been able to decipher what this metal was. Here are the three relevant passages:  


·        In the first place, they dug out of the earth whatever was to be found there, solid as well as fusile, and that which is now only a name and was then something more than a name, orichalcum, was dug out of the earth in many parts of the island, being more precious in those days than anything except gold.

·        The entire circuit of the wall, which went round the outermost zone, they covered with a coating of brass, and the circuit of the next wall they coated with tin, and the third, which encompassed the citadel, flashed with the red light of orichalcum.

·        In the interior of the temple the roof was of ivory, curiously wrought everywhere with gold and silver and orichalcum; and all the other parts, the walls and pillars and floor, they coated with orichalcum.


The literal translation of orichcalcum is “copper-mountain” (Random House Dictionary).

            All metals have an igneous or magma origin and so we would expect the Indonesian area to have many metals. In fact, I discovered that there is, and has been, plenty of mining of precious metals in the large Malaysian arc. Just in the last few decades a large copper mine was built in Irian Jaya, which is at the far eastern end of Indonesia on what is now called New Guinea. This copper mine is the second largest in the world and produces the largest amount of gold of any mine in the world. It was called “the largest and richest copper deposit ever found above ground ... a mountain of ore.”[17] (Wilson) The ore, which comes out, is a mixture of copper and gold. The mine sits at 12,000 feet. When discovered it was a large unusual outcropping of copper which had been made visible by the glacial removal of the overlying sedimentary rock. The Dutch called this phenomenon “erzberg” or “ore mountain.”

            What could be “more precious in those days than anything except gold” if not gold that has been mixed with another metal? Since orichalcum is reddish, like copper, I would guess that this copper-gold mixture is the ancient and mysterious orichalcum.

            I found four references that tend to confirm this:


·        gold with copper mixed in is called “pink gold.”[18]

·        the Encyclopedia Britannica, in their articles on “metallurgy” and “metalworking, decorative” notes that the first metals known to man were those occurring frequently in their native state, and that these were probably gold and copper. Thus, we can reasonably expect that Plato’s Atlantis would develop the use of these.

·         the Britannica mentions that on the island of Crete, a particular gold metalwork was found from ancient times: “The gold was in two colours, a deeper red being obtained by the admixture of copper...” This tells us that some ancient people did, in fact, combine gold and copper.

·        One author reports that a rare, red alloy of copper and gold is found around Lake Poopo in Bolivia.[19]


            Here we have another match: the red flashing metal of Plato’s Atlantis, so-called “pink gold,” the ancient red gold found on Crete, the red alloy of copper and gold in Bolivia, and the very large, naturally protruding copper mine, containing gold and copper ore, on a mountain top in eastern Indonesia.


The Mythology

             Plato describes the making of Atlantis like this:


Near the plain again, and also in the centre of the island at a distance of about fifty stadia, there was a mountain not very high on any side. [This perhaps was the ancient Krakatau.] In this mountain there dwelt one of the earth born primeval men of that country, whose name was Evenor, and he had a wife named Leucippe, and they had an only daughter who was called Cleito. The maiden had already reached womanhood, when her father and mother died; Poseidon fell in love with her and had intercourse with her, and breaking the ground, enclosed the hill in which she dwelt all round, making alternate zones of sea and land larger and smaller, encircling one another; there were two of land and three of water, which he turned as with a lathe, each having its circumference equidistant every way from the centre, so that no man could get to the island, for ships and voyages were not as yet. He himself, being a god, found no difficulty in making special arrangements for the centre island, bringing up two springs of water from beneath the earth, one of warm water and the other of cold ...  


            Perhaps this is a description of an ancient time in which the sea (Poseidon) rose to engulf Krakatau. The sea, in combination with the volcanic nature of the island, perhaps formed crater-like "zones" of sea and land, perhaps over a period of millions of years. Hot and cold springs are, of course, common in volcanic areas like Java.

            Although Plato never mentions a volcanic destruction, the hot springs that he mentions suggests that his Atlantis had geological activity.

Hot springs on Southern Sumatra. The man pictured told me his great-grandfather had been killed in the explosion of Krakatau in 1883.


            In southern Sumatra I met an old man, who had visited the child of Krakatau over 200 times. He told me that his great-grandfather had been killed by the 1883 explosion-eruption. He pointed out some hot springs as we walked down to the shore, to the boat, which would carry us over to the volcanic island. Later, a few kilometers up the hill, I bathed in some hot springs at a small resort that had been built by the Dutch when they colonized this area.


Plato goes on to say that Poseidon,


also begat and brought up five pairs of twin male children; and dividing the island of Atlantis into ten portions, he gave to the first-born of the eldest pair his mother's dwelling and the surrounding allotment, which was the largest and best, and made him king over the rest; the others he made princes, and gave them rule over many men, and a large territory. And he named them all; the eldest, who was the first king, he named Atlas, and after him the whole island and the ocean were called Atlantic.


            It is a common misconception that Atlas held the world on his shoulders. He held the heavens. Pomponius Mela in his description of the world describes Atlas: "its summit is higher that the eye can reach: it loses itself in the clouds; also it is fabled not only to touch with its top the sky and the stars but also to support them."  It appeared to me at this point in my investigation that Java and Sumatra, with their many tall peaks towering over 10,000 feet, would be good candidates for the real Atlas mountains. In other words, I imagined that seeing a mountaintop disappear into the clouds could remind one of holding up the heavens. Twin peaks (of which Java has several) disappearing into the clouds could certainly remind one of two shoulders holding up the heavens.

Twin peaks visible from airplane.


            Plato says that beyond the continent of Atlantis were many other islands. This certainly fits when all the islands of the South Pacific are considered. Some of these islands, just beyond the Sumatra-Java volcanic mountain chain, are the legendary Spice Islands. Europeans including the Dutch, British, and Portuguese fought over these islands for many years. In fact, they were considered so valuable that the Dutch gave the British control of one small spice island for the entire island of Manhattan in New York. I could just imagine ancient Phoenician traders, wary of competition, being asked the location of the Atlas mountains (beyond which perhaps lie the spice islands) pointing to the mountain chain in Morocco and saying, "Oh, that's them, right over there."    

            Mountains in Indonesia are often cloud covered. The moist, equatorial air of Indonesia produces this condition. Mahameru (10,082 ft), in eastern Java is known as the “abode of the Gods”.

            The largest mountain of Bali, the island just east of Java, also is known as the “abode of the Gods.” Certainly, mountain peaks that sometimes disappear into the clouds would seem to be a likely place for the Gods to gather. I wondered if these disappearing mountains, besides being the beginnings of the legend of Atlas, were also the beginnings of the legend of Mount Olympus. Perhaps as the legend traveled westward with civilization, the mountain was relocated time and again so that the local populace would have their Gods nearby. (If this seems unlikely to you, please recall that the largest volcano on Mars, which is also the largest volcano in the solar system, has been named Mount Olympus.)

            I speculate that these high volcanic peaks of Java are the some of the largest that could be seen by ancient mariners from the sea. Others might be those in the Pacific Rim’s “Ring of Fire,” such as Mount Fuji in Japan, or the peaks of the Andes in Peru, but these are not good candidates for our proposed Atlantis.

            More will be said later about mythology and its correlation with the Sunda Plain. Again we see a parallel between the local geography of the Sunda area and Plato’s Atlantis. 



The Destruction of Mankind: The Origin of the Atlantis Story?

             In the Pyramid hieroglyphs there is an interesting story about the destruction of mankind. I present parts of it here as they are similar to the tale told to Solon when he went to Egypt (from which Plato later wrote his story of Atlantis). The Atlantis story ends like this:


Zeus, the god of gods, who rules with law, and is able to see into such things, perceiving that an honorable race was in a most wretched state, and wanting to inflict punishment on them, that they might be chastened and improved, collected all the gods into his most holy habitation, which being placed in the centre of the world, sees all things that partake of generation. And when he had gathered them together he spake as follows: [Here Plato’s story abruptly ends. However, in previous passages we already have found out about the destruction of Atlantis.] 


Compare this with hieroglyphs:


Ra ... when realized that mankind was plotting against him, said to his suite: Go summon me hither my Eye, together with Shu, Tefnut, Geb, Nut, and all the fathers and mothers who were with me in the Primeval Waters ... You shall bring them to the Great Palace that they may give their advice ... Behold mankind, who came from my Eye, have been scheming against me. Tell me what to do about it for I seek [a solution]. I would not kill them until I had heard what you have to say ...


Ra then slays them with the help of his Eye and Hathor, the cow goddess. A type of beer is used to flood the fields to a depth of three palms. We can see the similarities of the two stories. Note that Zeus is located in the center of the world, where the magma would be thought to be. Note the reference to a flood. The Eye here is probably the crater of the volcano again. It is interesting to note that Zeus (the God of Storms) is the destroyer of the alleged Atlantis, the same as Seth (the God of Storms) is the destroyer of Osiris.

            This story does not show that Atlantis actually existed. However, it does tend to show that Plato did not merely make up the story of Atlantis, as some scholars believe, but that it was possibly based on earlier stories.

            When Solon, Plato’s ancestor who learned about Atlantis, went to Sais, which around that time was the capital of Egypt, it is quite possible that he was told this story. Plato says that the ancient Egyptian priests told Solon that the story of Atlantis was recorded in the Egyptian temples in their “sacred registers.” “Atlantis” was probably a name coined by Plato. Scholars having found no apparent mention of Atlantis in the “Book of the Dead” or in other hieroglyphs, have said that it never existed.

            It's possible that the mutilation (explosion) of Osiris (probably a volcano, see my article, “Ancient Egyptian Religion: Mythology or Geology?”) was one story that went into making up the more elaborate story of Atlantis. When looked at through this perspective, the hieroglyphs are possibly one source that Plato drew on for his Atlantis story.

            I am currently investigating whether the hieroglyphs may have had many more references to the destructive event which we call "Atlantis."  It is even possible that the main event of ancient Egyptian legends, the destruction of Osiris, may have been the inspiration for the Atlantis story.  (See my article on ancient Egypt.) 

The Lost Continent

             Atlantis may have been “lost” because of a possible fallacy.  Fallacy: The Atlantic Ocean was the body of water between Europe-Africa and the Americas. Revision: the Atlantic Ocean once included the Indian Ocean, the Arabian Sea, and the Southern Atlantic.


The Difficulties with the Various Theories

             In this table are some of the major difficulties with some of the primary locations suggested for Atlantis. Perhaps the astute reader does not need to have these difficulties pointed out to him, but since many people apparently believe in these sites, I will mention them.

Suggested Location


an island-continent in the Atlantic

no evidence despite extensive sea-floor mapping.

Thera (volcanic Greek Island)

much too small, no tropical fruits, poor soil fertility, no elephants, no canal system, not beyond the Pillars of Hercules

Bahama Islands

too small, no elephants, no canal system

Great Briton

no elephants, not tropical, too small, no canal system

islands of the Caribbean

no elephants, too small, no canal system


no elephants, not tropical, no evidence for a recent crustal shift

a lake in the Andes highlands

no elephants, no seacoast

Sunda Plain of SE Asia

no current archeological evidence of any civilization in the area before 2,000 BC


Difficulty with the Sunda Plain Theory

             There is one major difficulty with the Sunda Plain theory of Atlantis. Current scientific thinking is that civilization spread to Sumatra and Java about 2,000 BC from Taiwan. Jared Diamond’s Pulitzer Prize winning book, Guns, Germs, and Steel, discusses this expansion which anthropologists and archeologists call the “Austronesian expansion.” It describes the expansion from the mainland China (via Taiwan) to Australia and Polynesia. It is one of the “biggest population movements of the last 6,000 years.” Around 3,000 BC these people were already to the Philippines, by 2000 BC to Java and Sumatra, by 1600 BC to the Solomon Archipelago, by 500 AD to Hawaii.            

            Diamond correctly states that there is no archeological evidence that any civilization, except hunter-gatherers, existing in southern Sumatra or northwestern Java before 2,000 years ago. 

            Independent evidence from linguistics supports this idea. In depth studies of language families and sub-families and sub-sub- families all point to Taiwan as the source of this expansion.

            Thus, what the evidence shows is that a people came out of Taiwan with a cultural package including pigs, chickens, dogs, a type of pottery, certain stone tools, and language, and spread this cultural package to Indonesia, parts of Australia, throughout most of the islands of the Pacific. They also spread it to one other location, which is important for our purposes.

            These people, who were obviously a sea-faring people, somehow established themselves on the island of Madagascar, near Africa, on the far side of what is today called the “Indian” Ocean. Diamond states that the evidence supports the fact that they might have crossed the “Indian” Ocean directly, rather than following the coast (shore-hugging) along India and Africa. They apparently established themselves on Madagascar by 800 AD and possibly as early as 300 AD. How they got there is not known. This direct trip would have been just a bit further than Columbus had to go to from Europe to the West Indies. Diamond calls this migration, “the single most astonishing fact of human geography for the entire world.”


A Speculative Scenario

             Thus, whether by shore-hugging or ocean-hopping, the Austronesians crossed a large body of water, a body of water that may have been at one time part of the ancient Atlantic Ocean (as we discussed earlier).

            It is not difficult to speculate that this people may have sailed sometime before 300 AD across the Indian Ocean to Africa. To establish a permenant presence somewhere, it usually first is necessary to do exploratory expeditions. For example, the first expeditions to the American continent did not establish a permanent presence. Only later expeditions established successful colonies.

            It is also possible that these people continued on, past Madagascar, hugging the shore line all around Africa, and then sailed into the Mediterranean.  It is also possible the Austronesians may have established a settlement near the volcano Krakatau. Krakatau may have had one of its large periodic explosions and wiped out the settlement. Perhaps, in the manner of fish stories, the settlement grew bigger over the years and became the basis for the legend of Atlantis.

            Or perhaps the Atlantis story (of destruction) describes not Krakatau’s explosion, but earthquakes and volcanoes on the island of Taiwan itself. This island is part of a very active geological region, and, as such, is frequently jolted. It also appears to have several dormant volcanoes. Perhaps the ancient Taiwanese (later the Austronesian) people were decimated by a geological catastrophe, and necessity drove them to explore by sea, searching for new lands.    

            After arriving in the Mediterranean, perhaps these Austronesians battled the Egyptians and Ancient Greeks. This battle might have found its way into Plato’s story.

            This speculative scenario, although it may seem unlikely, would have been at least partly similar to a well-documented battle by the Egyptians against a so-called “Sea People” that occurred sometime around 1200 BC. This battle is well known, as a description of it occurs on the walls of Egyptian monuments.

            Scholars assume that these Sea People arrived in Egypt and Palestine somewhere from within the Mediterranean, possibly the island of Crete. However, this has never been firmly established.

            Is it possible these people came from outside the Mediterranean, specifically from the Austronesian expansion?              Perhaps genetic (DNA) testing could somehow determine this. Also, a major geological destruction in S.E. Asia around this time would tend to confirm this Sea People/Austronesia link.

            In short, these are the facts:

 ·        The ancient Atlantic Ocean may have included the modern day Indian Ocean.

·        Taiwan, Indonesia, Japan, and the Philippians are very active geologically.

·        Ancient people from Taiwan somehow established themselves throughout Indonesia, the Pacific Islands of Polynesia and, across the Indian Ocean, on the island of Madagascar (near Africa) by 300 AD. This is known as the Austronesian expansion.

·        Plato wrote about a sea people coming into the Mediterranean in 9000 BC and fighting with the Egyptians. He called these sea people Atlantians as they came from (according to his story) the Atlantic Ocean.

·        In 1200 BC Egyptian monuments describe battles with a “Sea People.” Scholars do not know where these people came from, but assume they came from within the Mediterranean.


These are the three main possibilities that range from Plato being completely right to Plato being mostly wrong:

 ·        9000 BC: Ancient humans, possibly from China-Taiwan originally, came into Mediterranean and fought with ancient Egyptians. (Plato’s story is completely correct.) 

·        1200 BC: Ancient China-Taiwanese people (the Austronesian expansion) traveled to Indonesia, perhaps established a settlement near Krakatau, then went on to Africa (Madagascar), and then around Africa to the Mediterranean (Egypt). They fought with the Egyptians. This became documented on Nile river monuments where the Austronesians are dubbed the “Sea People.” (Plato wrongly ascribed an ancient date of 9000 BC, rather than circa 1200 BC.)

·        1200 BC: The Sea People came from inside the Mediterranean (perhaps Crete?). Plato ascribed a wrong date to the event (9000 BC) and a wrong geographical source (outside the Mediterranean) to the people. Plato confuses or blends together various stories of destruction (Thera, Krakatau), various civilizations, various times, and creates a fascinating tale of an ideal society that gets destroyed.   


Further Testing the of the Theory

             Remote sensing from orbiting telescopes of Southern Sumatra and Northwestern Java may find evidence of ancient canals, which are not obvious from ground level. This would tend to support Plato’s story and the Sunda Plain theory.

            Additional archeological research in the areas of Southern Sumatra and Northwestern Java may eventually find artifacts tending to support the theory.  Artifacts dating from before 4,000 years ago would of course tend to support an earlier date, although at this point the 9,000 years Plato mentions seems extreme (though not completely impossible).



             There are many close matches between the Sunda Sub-Oceanic Plain (including the volcano Krakatau) and Plato’s Atlantis. I have not included all of them here. If the reader will closely peruse Plato’s description he will find more. However, the most striking ones I have gathered together and discussed under these headings: 1) the sub-oceanic plain, 2) the volcanic mountain, 3) the climate, 4) the irrigated-fertile plain, 5) the flora and fauna, 6) the mining, 7) the cultural artifacts, 8) the mythology.

            Although many suggestions have been made regarding the location of Atlantis, such as Great Briton, Thera, Peru, Antarctica, the Azores, the Bahamas, North Africa, etc., etc., I believe that none of them make as good a match as Southeast Asia. The Sunda Sub-Oceanic Plain is large enough to match Plato’s alleged Atlantis. It also has an equatorial climate, volcanic mountains to the north, and a sea to the south. When we add several other factors: the climate, the irrigated-fertile plain, the flora and fauna, the mining, the cultural artifacts, and the mythology, the evidence becomes stronger.

            However, other parts of Southeast Asia should be considered as locations also, even Taiwan.



            Plato’s Atlantis was probably part fact, part fiction. The “fiction” was his attempt to portray an ideal society.

             The “fact” may have been his use of oral legends carried westward by the Austronesian expansion. In this expansion, an ancient sea-faring people came out of China (via Taiwan) and settled parts of Australia, New Guinea, Borneo, most of Indonesia, Pacific Polynesia, and Madagascar (near Africa).     

            Austronesian oral legends may have included the explosion of the volcano Krakatau, which probably exploded several times in prehistory, as it did in 1883, killing 36,000 people.

            However, the story may have circulated among various sea-trading people besides the Austronesians.


            1) Austronesian expansion to at least Madagasgar.

            2) Similarities in Egyptian Hierglyphs to the Atlantis story.

            3) Egyptian Atlantic Ocean was everything around Africa.

            4) Periodic mega-destruction of Krakatau.

            5) Many similarities between Southeast Asia and Atlantis.

All these point to a Southeast Asian origin for the Atlantis legend. 


            We headed back to the mainland of Sumatra from the child of Krakatau. The noise from the boat’s engine was deafening, and I had somehow lost the earplugs, which I purchased in a travel store in Los Angeles. Strangely enough, those earplugs had been my most valuable possession on this trip.

            The sun began to set. A calm settled over the boat despite the loud “chug, chug, chug.” I moved to the front where one of the young guides was perched on the bow, staring ahead. Unlike us Europeans and Americans, the guides had wisely worn their oldest and most tattered clothing.

            Looking at the face of the guide, I saw a deep sense of satisfaction. It occurred to me then that the volcano held the same fascination for him as it did for me. Perhaps it has been the same for every human, ever since Homo erectus looked on it 1 to 2 million years ago.

            I had then an incredible urge to continue on in that boat through the Sunda Strait. To follow the coastline of Sumatra, and then Burma, and then India. And then beyond India, to the coast of Arabia, and the Red Sea. And from the Red Sea, it would be a small caravan trip northwest across the desert to the Nile River, where the most ancient religious writings in the world were carved on stone monuments. Or southward along the huge coastline of Africa. Follow the coast, I thought. Follow the coast...       


(c) 1996, 1999 by W. Lauritzen.


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Selected List of References


·        Ashe, Geoffrey, Atlantis: Lost Lands, Ancient Wisdom, Thames and Hudson, London, 1992.

·        Bangs, Richard and Kallen, Christian, Islands of Fire, Islands of Spice, Sierra Club Books, S.F., 1988.

·        Bauval, Robert, and Gilbert, Adrian, The Orion Mystery, Crown, NY, 1994.

·        Berlitz, Charles, The Mystery of Atlantis, Avon, NY, 1976.

·        Blavatsky, H. P., The Secret Doctrine: The Synthesis of Science, Religion, and Philosophy, Theosophical Publishing, London, 1888.

·        Brace, C. Loring, Nelson, Harry, and Korn, Noel, Atlas of Fossil Man, Holt, Rinehart and Winston, NY, 1971.

·        Bramwell, James, Lost Atlantis, Newcastle Publishing, Hollywood, CA, 1994.

·        Browder, Anthony T., Nile Valley Contributions to Civilization, The Institute of Karmic Guidance, Washington, 1992.

·        Brunhouse, Robert L. In Search of the Maya: The First Archeologists, University of New Mexico Press, 1973.

·        Budge, E.A.Wallis, Osiris and the Egyptian Resurrection, Two Volumes, Dover, NY, 1973 (1911 original). 

·        Budge, E.A.Wallis, The Book of the Dead, University Books, NY, 1960 (copy of 1913 Medici Society version). 

·        Carey, S. Warren, Theories of the Earth and Universe, Stanford University Press, 1988.

·        Casti, John, Paradigms Lost, Avon Books, NY, 1989.

·        Cernan, C. W., Gods, Graves and Scholars, Bantam, NY, 1972.

·        Churchward, James, The Lost Continent of Mu, Ives Washburn, New York, 1931.

·        Clark, R. T. Rundle, Myth and Symbol in Ancient Egypt, Thames and Hudson, NY, 1959.

·        Coe, Michael, Breaking the Mayan Code, Thames and Hudson, NY, 1992.

·        Cone, Joseph, Fire Under the Sea, William Morrow, NY, 1991.

·        Dalton, Bill, Indonesian Handbook, Moon Publications, Chico, California.

·        Davidovits, Dr. Joseph, and Morris, Margie, The Pyramids: An Enigma Solved, Dorset Press, NY, 1988.

·        de Camp, L. Sprague, Lost Continents, Dover, NY, 1954,1970.

·        Donnelly, Ignatius, Atlantis: The Antediluvian World, Harper and Brothers, NY, 1949.

·        Encyclopedia Britannica, William Benton, Chicago, 1969.

·        Faulkner, Raymond, translator, Egyptian Book of the Dead, Chronicle Books, San Francisco, 1994.

·        Feder, Kenneth, Frauds, Myths, and Mysteries, Mayfield Publishing, Mountain View, CA, 1996.

·        Gardener, Martin, Fads and Fallacies in the Name of Science, Dover, NY, 1954, 1957.

·        Godwin, Malcolm, Angels: An Endangered Species, Simon and Schuster, NY, 1990.

·        Greene, Mott T., Natural Knowledge in Preclassical Antiquity, Johns Hopkins, Baltimore, 1992.

·        Handcock, Graham, Fingerprints of the Gods, Crown, NY, 1995.

·        Handcock, Graham and Bauval, Robert, The Message of the Sphinx, Three Rivers Press, NY, 1996.

·        Hope, Murry, The Sirius Connection, Element Books, Rockport Mass., 1996.

·        Hapgood, Charles, Maps of the Ancient Sea Kings, Adventures Unlimited Press, Kempton, Illinois, 1996.

·        Harris, Stephan L., Agents of Chaos, Mountain Press, Missoula, Montana, 1990.

·        Hutton, Peter, Java, Apa Productions, Hong Kong, 1980.

·        Fagan, Brian, The Journey from Eden, Thames and Hudson Ltd., London, 1990. 

·        Fagan, Brian, Time Detectives, Simon and Schuster, NY, 1995.

·        Fuller, R. Buckminster, Tetrascroll, St. Martin’s, NY, 1982.

·        Fuller, R. Buckminster, Critical Path, St. Martin’s, NY, 1981.

·        Furneaux, Rupart, Krakatau, Prentice-Hall, Inc. NJ, 1964.

·        Kohler, Pierre, Volcanoes and Earthquakes, Barron’s, NY, 1986.

·        LaMoreaux, Philip, and Idris, Hussein, The Exodus: Myth, Legend, History, Word Way Press, Tuscaloosa, Alabama, 1996.

·        Larick, Roy, and Ciochon, Russell, “The African Emergence and Early Dispersals of the Genus Homo,” American Scientist, Vol. 84, No. 6, Nov-Dec 1996.

·        Le Plongeon, Augustus, Queen Moo and the Egyptian Sphinx, Health Research, Mokelumne Hill, CA, 1972.

·        Lauritzen, William, “Move Over Primes-Versatiles Are Here!”, Communicator (The Journal of the California Mathematics Council), Fall, 1996.

·        Lauritzen, William, “The Versatility of Numbers,” Dome, Spring, 1996.

·        Mackenzie, Donald A., Pre-Columbian America: Myths and Mysteries, Senate, NY, 1996.

·        Marshall, Andrew and Walker, Zeanne, “Climbing the Tree of Life,” Garuda, 1997.

·        McBride, L. R., The Kahuna: Versatile Mystics of Old Hawaii, Petroglyph Press, Hilo, Hawaii, 1983.

·        Mercer, Samuel A.B., The Pyramid Texts, Longmans, Green and Co., NY, 1952.

·        Michanowsky, George, The Once and Future Star, Barnes and Noble, NY, 1979.

·        Morgan, Elaine, The Aquatic Ape, Stein and Day, NY, 1982.

·        Morgan, Elaine, The Scars of Evolution, Oxford University Press, NY, 1990.

·        Oey, Eric M., editor, Sumatra: Island of Adventure, Passport Books, Lincolnwood, Chicago, 1996.

·        Pellegrino, Charles, Unearthing Atlantis, Vintage Books, NY, 1991.

·        Plato, Timaeus and Critias, 360 BC, translated by Benjamin Jowett, in Great Books of the Western World, Encyclopedia Britannica, William Benton, Chicago, 1952.

·        Pucci, Idanna, Bhima Swarga: The Balinese Journey of the Soul, Little, Brown and Company.

·        The Stanzas of Dyzan, Point Loma Publications, CA, 1981.

·        Ramage, Edwin, (ed.), Atlantis: Fact or Fiction? Indiana University Press, Bloomington, 1978.

·        Sanders, N.K., The Epic of Giglamesh, Penguin, NY, 1960.

·        Schwartz, Jean-Michel, The Mysteries of Easter Island, Avon, NY, 1973.

·        Sellers, Jane, The Death of Gods in Ancient Egypt, Penguin, London, 1992.

·        Simpkin, Tom and Fiske, Richard, Krakatau 1883: The Volcanic Eruption and its Effects, Smithsonian Institute Press, Washington DC, 1983.

·        Steiner, Rudolf, Egyptian Myths and Mysteries, Anthroposophic Press, NY, 1971.

·        Thompson, Richard L., Alien Identities, Govardhan Hill, Alachua, Florida, 1993.

·        Thornton, Ian, Krakatau: The Destruction and Reassembly of an Island Ecosystem, Harvard University Press, Cambridge, 1996.

·        De Leeuw, Crossroads of the Java Sea, Jonathon Cape and Harrison Smith, NY 1931,

·        Wilson, Forbes, The Conquest of Copper Mountain, Antheneum, NY, 1981.

·        West, John Anthony, Serpent in the Sky, Quest Books, Wheaton, Illinois, USA, 1993 (Harper and Row, 1979)

·        Wolpoff, Milford and Caspari, Rachel, Race and Human Evolution, Simon and Schuster, NY, 1997.


[1] Martin Gardner (1952) says a conservative estimate is “several thousand.” L. Sprague de Camp (1954) says “two thousand.”  Charles Berlitz (1969) says 5,000 “books and pamphlets.”  C. W. Cernan (1951) says “twenty thousand volumes.”

[2] I am fairly knowledgeable about his work and had published several articles about it. In fact, one article was presented in 1994, at the First International Interdisciplinary Conference on Buckminsterfullerenes. There it was my pleasure to meet and talk with Dr. Harry Kroto and Dr. Richard Smalley, two of the co-discoverers of the "bucky-ball" (along with Dr. Curl). Just two years later, for this discovery, they won the Nobel Prize for Chemistry.

[3] Bramwell, Lost Atlantis, p.133.

[4 Fuller, 1981, p. 21.

[5] Ibid., p. 34.

[6] Ibid., p. 17. Also see Tetrascroll by Fuller.

[7] Furneaux, Krakatau.

[8] de Neve, 1985.

[9] Judd, 1899, as quoted in Thornton, p. 44-45.

[10]  Verbeek’s classic 1881 study in: Simkin and Fisk, Krakatau 1883.

[11] Oey, Eric M., editor, Sumatra, Island of Adventure, p. 48.

[12] Oey, Sumatra: Island of Adventure.

[13] Dalton, The Indonesian Handbook.

[14] Hutton, Java, 1980.

[15] Bangs, P.33.

[16] Encyclopedia Britannica, “Malay Archipelago.”

[17] Wilson, The Conquest of Copper Mountain, 1981.

[18i] Natural History Museum of Los Angeles. A film documentary on gold.

[19] Allen, Jim, Geographical Magazine.


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