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Eastern Mediterranean

Satellite Images of Atlantis?

by Paul Rincon, 6 June 2004. Updated 13 May 2021

A scientist in 2004 was of the rather grandiose opinion that he may have found remains of the lost city of Atlantis.

Satellite photos of southern Spain had revealed features on the ground which appeared to match descriptions which had been provided the Greek scholar, Plato, regarding the fabled utopia.

Dr Rainer Kuehne thought that the term 'island' of Atlantis simply referred to a region of the southern Spanish coast which was destroyed by a flood between 800 BC and 500 BC.

His research had been reported as an ongoing project in the online edition of the journal Antiquity.

Satellite photos of a salt marsh region known as Marisma de Hinojos near the city of Cadiz revealed two rectangular structures in the mud and parts of concentric rings which may once have surrounded them.

'Plato wrote of an island of five stades in diameter (925m) which was surrounded by several circular structures - concentric rings - some consisting of earth and the others of water. We have in the photos concentric rings just as Plato described,' Dr Kuehne said at the time.

Dr Kuehne believed that the rectangular features could be the remains of a 'silver' temple which was devoted to the sea god Poseidon, and a 'golden' temple which was devoted to Cleito and Poseidon - all of which was described in Plato's dialogue, Critias.

A possible site for Atlantis
'Plato wrote of an island of five stades diameter (925m) which was surrounded by several circular structures - concentric rings - some consisting of earth and the others of water. We have in the photos concentric rings just as Plato described,' Dr Kuehne said

Temples of the sea god

The identification of the site with Atlantis was first proposed by Werner Wickboldt, a lecturer and Atlantis enthusiast who spotted the rectangles and concentric rings by studying photographs from across the Mediterranean for signs of the city which had been described by Plato.

The sizes of the 'island' and its rings in the satellite image are slightly larger than those described by Plato. There are two possible explanations for this, said Dr Kuehne.

Firstly, Plato may have underplayed the size of Atlantis. Secondly, the ancient unit of measurement used by Plato - the stade - may have been twenty percent larger than is traditionally assumed. If the latter is true then one of the rectangular features on the 'island' matches almost exactly the dimensions given by Plato for the temple of Poseidon.

Mr Wickboldt explained: 'This is the only place which seems to fit [Plato's] description.' He added that the Greeks may have confused an Egyptian word referring to a coastline with one meaning 'island' during the transmission of the Atlantis story.

Commenting on the satellite image showing the two 'temples', Tony Wilkinson, an expert in the use of remote sensing in archaeology at the University of Edinburgh in Scotland, commented: 'A lot of the problems come with interpretation. I can see something there and I could imagine that one could interpret it in various ways. But you've got several leaps of faith here'.

Metal trading

'We use the imagery to recognise certain types of imprint on the ground and then do [in the field] verification on them. Based on what we see on the ground we make an interpretation.

'What we need here is a date range. Otherwise you're just dealing with morphology. But the [features] are interesting.'

The fabled utopia of Atlantis has captured the imagination of scholars for centuries. The earliest known records of this mythical land appear in Plato's dialogues, Critias and Timaios. His depiction of a land of fabulous wealth, advanced civilisation, and natural beauty has spurred many adventurers to seek out its location.

A possible Atlantis
The researchers stated that the concentric rings appeared around the rectangular structures, just as Plato described

A representation of how Atlantis might have looked
  We have in the photos concentric rings just as Plato described

Dr Rainer Kuehne  

One recent theory equates Atlantis with Spartel Island, a mud shoal in the straits of Gibraltar which sank into the sea about 9000 BC.

Plato described Atlantis as having a 'plain'. Dr Kuehne said this could be the plain which extends today from Spain's southern coast up to the city of Seville. The high mountains described by the Greek scholar could be the Sierra Morena and Sierra Nevada.

'Plato also wrote that Atlantis is rich in copper and other metals. Copper is found in abundance in the mines of the Sierra Morena,' Dr Kuehne explained.

Dr Kuehne noticed that the war between Atlantis and the eastern Mediterranean which was described in Plato's writings closely resembled attacks on Egypt, Cyprus, and the Levant during the late thirteenth century BC by mysterious raiders known as the Sea Peoples.

As a result, he proposes that the Atlanteans and the Sea Peoples were in fact one and the same. This was a strange assumption unless the raiding and migrating Sea Peoples could be regarded as refugees from Atlantis following its fall. The dating and available records all count against this.

This dating would equate the city and society of Atlantis with either the Iron Age Tartessos culture of southern Spain or another, unknown, Bronze Age culture. A link between Atlantis and Tartessos was first proposed in the early twentieth century.

Dr Kuehne said he hoped to attract interest from archaeologists to excavate the site. But this may be tricky. The features in the satellite photo are located within Spain's Donana national park.



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