Atlantis, Which No Serious Historian Thinks Existed, Is Making People Insane on Twitter

This summer season a brand new documentary TV collection premiered on the Discovery Channel. Looking Atlantis follows a pair of consultants “on a quest to unravel the best archaeological thriller of all time—the rediscovery of Atlantis.” There’s only one drawback: there’s not an historic historian or archeologist working within the discipline as we speak who believes Atlantis was an actual historic metropolis.

Teachers and documentary filmmakers usually discover themselves at odds, however as criticism of the present spilled over onto social media issues turned ugly. A well-respected archaeologist was verbally abused by a flood of true believers who had been dedicated not simply to Atlantis, but in addition to white supremacy and eugenics.

Looking Atlantis is co-hosted by Stel Pavlou and volcanologist Jess Phoenix. Phoenix is an skilled in pure disasters (particularly volcanic eruptions), who has spent quite a lot of time within the discipline as a geologist. In 2018 she even ran for Congress. Pavlou is a profitable TV host, producer, screenwriter, and bestselling writer: considered one of his movies is a cult traditional and his youngsters’s books have received awards. The idea for his or her present is Pavlou’s argument that the date of Atlantis’s destruction must be positioned in the beginning of the fifth millennium BCE.

That the present has one thing of a sensational bent is to be anticipated; making archeology TV pleasant usually entails inflating or sensationalizing what can in any other case be fairly dry materials. There are additionally sure historic artifacts and areas—just like the Holy Grail or Noah’s Ark—that maintain the eye of viewers and can at all times be evergreens for documentary history-telling.

As bioarchaeologist Stephanie Halmhofer has discussed in an insightful weblog submit, everyone loves Atlantis, “due to issues like Disney’s Atlantis: The Misplaced Empire, DC’s Aquaman, and the favored tv present Stargate: Atlantis.” Persons are broadly conversant in it as a cherished a part of their childhood creativeness.

The distinction between the Ark and Atlantis is that whereas folks acknowledge that there was a cup that Jesus drunk out of or that the Ark of the Covenant existed, I don’t know any archeologists who suppose Atlantis was an actual place. Looking for it, for many archeologists, is barely barely extra affordable than attempting to find Narnia. “Best archeological thriller” it isn’t.

Our sources for Atlantis are the philosophical dialogues of Plato (particularly the Republic, Timaeus, and Critias) during which characters within the fictional dialog have a hypothetical dialog in regards to the supreme society. Atlantis, in Plato’s creativeness, was a technologically superior and harmonious society that progressively descended into corruption, dysfunction, and grasping warmongering. It was in the end destroyed by a collection of earthquakes that led to the town disappearing into the ocean.

It was the presentation of Atlantis as an precise place that drew concern from archaeologists when the present was first introduced in Might 2021. With a lot rigorous archaeological analysis going undiscussed and underfunded, there was a palpable sense of frustration {that a} widespread channel would air one other present on what consultants name pseudoarcheology.

To his credit score, when challenged on social media, Pavlou provided to share what he described because the “tutorial” paper on which the present was based mostly. Having been volunteered by a colleague, Dr. Flint Dibble, a Mediterranean archeologist and Marie Skłodowska-Curie Analysis Fellow at Cardiff College, rose to the problem.

Dibble was unimpressed: “I learn the paper rigorously, refreshed my very own analysis on Plato and the archaeology of Athens within the fifth millennium BCE and wrote a Twitter thread. This thread debunked the paper and uncovered its logical faults in some locations the place scholarly analysis was cited, explored examples the place conclusions had been drawn from uncited statements.”

The scholarly consensus, he advised me, may be very clear: Atlantis was not an actual place.

After watching the present, Dibble mentioned, he remained unpersuaded. He was involved by the way in which that the credible analysis of authentic archaeologists was getting used to prop unfounded claims about Atlantis. Should you watch rigorously, he defined, you’ll discover that “students by no means point out the title ‘Atlantis’ nor ‘Plato’ on air. At no instances on air do the 2 co-hosts …ask the students any questions on Atlantis or deliver it up in entrance of them.”

Once I corresponded with Pavlou he was pissed off with the response from lecturers on social media. “At no level have I ever claimed Atlantis is actual,” he mentioned, “I discover it exhausting to imagine [Plato] invented the entire story… None of [the research I have done] proves that Atlantis is actual however [it] does counsel there might have been an actual fable buried someplace behind Plato’s writing.” Pavlou advised me that he’s “agnostic” in regards to the existence of Atlantis: “Atlantis as Plato wrote it actually doesn’t exist” however there might have been a fable tied to the reminiscence of earlier geological occasions.

There are numerous causes that students would dispute this extra nuanced declare, however it is a completely different type of argument. Besides this isn’t the impression one will get from watching the present. The collection ends with Pavlou saying that, “It appears like Atlantis might be proper beneath our ft.” A sense just isn’t an announcement of truth, however this and many different elements within the present suggest a perception within the historic Atlantis.

Once I requested Pavlou why an Atlantis-agnostic would make a present known as Looking Atlantis he claimed that he had initially pitched the collection as a fable busting fashion present. He wasn’t even initially alleged to host it, he added. Over time, and with enter from producers and executives, the collection morphed into one thing else: a present grounded in his theories of a preexisting earlier fable. As somebody who has made documentaries myself, I’ve to surprise: what elements of the present stem from the host, that are the enter of the manufacturing workforce, and what’s simply slick advertising and marketing?

Dibble advised me that he requested the hosts and producers for a remark about misrepresenting the analysis of the teachers interviewed on the present. That is when issues began to get heated, Pavlou’s spouse made some advert hominem assaults on Dibble that questioned his credentials and dragged his household into the fray (Dibble’s father was a famous archeologist, however in a unique interval and discipline).

Dibble, in flip, contextualized his objections by exploring the problematic ways in which Atlantis has been utilized all through historical past. By the following day, Dibble mentioned, each he and Pavlou had been engaged in a full-on Twitterstorm. He woke as much as “a whole bunch of colleagues and supporters” defending him to Pavlou and comparable numbers of Atlantis-believers making an attempt to dispute his claims and insulting him.

“At one level,” he mentioned, “Robert Sepehr, a pseudoarchaeologist who has a YouTube channel known as ‘Atlantean Gardens’ and praises Nazi analysis, started focusing on colleagues and associates who had been tweeting in regards to the scenario.” From archeology to white supremacists in a single day, the weird scenario raises the query: how did we get right here?

For nearly two thousand years after Plato’s demise everybody learn the story about Atlantis for what it was: a fictional account about a really perfect metropolis that misplaced its approach and was being use by Plato as a foil for his hometown of Athens.

Curiosity in Atlantis as an actual place first emerged, writes Halmhofer, within the 1500s when early European explorers puzzled if the indigenous folks of Central America had been the descendants of the Atlanteans. Curiosity on this principle continued to construct over a number of centuries till, in 1882, Ignatius Donnelly printed his extremely influential e book Atlantis: The Antediluvian World and inaugurated a brand new period of research. In it, Donnelly claimed that Atlantis was the origin level for human civilization. Others took up this trigger and argued that the Atlanteans had been the ancestors of a specific group of individuals: the “Aryan race.” This, as I think about you could have already guessed, is the place issues take a darkish flip.

As Halmhofer writes on her weblog and Dibble articulates in considered one of his Twitter threads, the “historical past” of Atlantis has, for the reason that nineteenth century, been interwoven with the research of evolution and eugenics. Plato ends the Critias with a dialogue of how the divine nature of the Atlantides was corrupted when it was blended with the inferior nature of mere human beings.

The dialogue lends itself properly to 19th and 20th century eugenicist theories of the races. The Nazi Institute of Atlantis based by Himmler aimed to search out proof for the idea that the Aryan race was descended from the biologically divine Atlantides.

To be inescapably clear, racism and eugenics are usually not at work in Looking Atlantis. On this Pavlou and Dibble are in settlement. Pavlou advised me “There may be nothing in regards to the present, my paper, or the way in which I reside my life that has any connection in anyway.” Dibble agreed “[Pavlou’s] household fought Nazis in WWII…he looks as if he can be somebody enjoyable to have a beer with, if it wasn’t for this present and the Twitter eruption from it.” Some fear, although, that white supremacists would possibly use this present to help their harmful claims. Certainly, some already are.

Whereas many individuals love studying archeological fan fiction of their youth and a few turn out to be archaeologists due to it, pseudoarcheology just isn’t at all times innocent. We discover ourselves in a tough place. The place are the boundaries between pseudoarcheology, slick soundbites, and minority opinions? Do good manufacturing values at all times imply unhealthy or exaggerated archeology? And, is each author, TV host, or tutorial liable for the potential misreading or misuse of our arguments?

None of us begrudge youngsters who love comics about Atlantis or anticipate to obtain a letter from Hogwarts, however does the blurring of the road between minority opinion and scientific details hurt cultural and scientific literacy in wider society? Can we afford confusion in a society already affected by an absence of belief in experience and data accuracy?

Educational issues about how historic historical past can be utilized by white supremacists are removed from distinctive; the poster little one for this concern is the wildly profitable present Historic Aliens. Right here the issue is much more acute as a result of crediting aliens for human ingenuity entails erasing the contributions and work of traditionally excluded teams. On this collection, a workforce of commentators–most famously the meme-able Georgio Tsoukalos—analyze historic artifacts and counsel that they had been constructed by or consult with extraterrestrials.

For a number of years Dr. David Anderson at Radford College has criticized the present and known as for a retraction of a few of its claims. Anderson advised me that lots of the claims made within the present are based mostly on troubling older work. For instance, he talked about the sarcophagus lid of the Maya ruler of Pacal. In 1968 worldwide best-selling writer, theme-park founder, and convicted white collar prison Erich von Däniken—whose e book Chariots of the Gods pioneered the ‘Historic Aliens’ theories—claimed that the picture was an astronaut blasting off in a spaceship.

A latest tweet by Tsoukalos rehearses this interpretation. “The essential concern”, mentioned Anderson, “is [that] these claims do not even start to ask the place or when Pacal’s sarcophagus was discovered and what it might need meant to the Maya, they merely squint at a complicated picture from a international tradition and say it type of seems like a rocket ship.

After we evaluate this picture to different items of Maya artwork we discover that it is filled with symbols which can be extensively identified and repeated.” There’s no thriller right here: the lid “depicts a Maya ruler falling from this world to the underworld in the intervening time of his demise.” The artifacts are taken out of their unique context, persons are requested “what does this seem like to you?” and an alien family tree is obtainable with no regard for historic interpretations or contexts.

Then there’s the “helicopter” discovered within the temple of the Egyptian Pharoah Seti I at Abydos. Historic Aliens suggests {that a} unusual wanting hieroglyph is a helicopter or flying saucer however conventional archeology identifies it as a re-carved inscription during which one title had changed one other. It’d look unusual however this, mentioned Anderson, is simply because the paint has been chipped away. The roots of a lot of von Däniken’s theories about Historic Aliens are literally popular culture. The idea that aliens constructed the pyramids, for instance, first reveals up within the 1898 science fiction novel, Edison’s Conquest of Mars. In a forthcoming article, Anderson reveals that von Däniken was pipped to the submit by science fiction writers who had already hypothesized that historic folks would have confused aliens with gods.

To say that the theories that underpin Historic Aliens have been rejected is to understate the case. Within the foreword to a e book debunking von Däniken’s claims Carl Sagan wrote: “That writing as careless as von Däniken’s, whose principal thesis is that our ancestors had been dummies, must be so widespread is a sober commentary on the credulousness and despair of our instances. I additionally hope for the persevering with recognition of books like Chariots of the Gods? in highschool and school logic programs, as object classes in sloppy pondering.”

The troubling a part of this sort of pop leisure isn’t a lot that it’s unsuitable (although that’s extremely irritating to lecturers), however relatively that it erodes the accomplishments and ingenuity of historic peoples. As College of Iowa historian Sarah Bond has written, it isn’t a coincidence that these peoples are nearly universally non-white and non-European (the lone European outlier, in fact, is Stonehenge). The racist assumption that indigenous peoples weren’t clever or “developed” sufficient to construct the Native American earthen mounds within the japanese half of the USA or the Nice Zimbabwe in Africa fed early twentieth century archeology and public coverage. In truth, mentioned Anderson, “when President Andrew Jackson known as for the removing of Native People to Oklahoma, a name that led to the ‘Path of Tears,’ he did so [by] invoking the misplaced white race of Mound Builders.” Unhealthy archeology has violent real-world penalties.

This isn’t to say, as professor and Historic Aliens voice-of-reason Robert Cargill, has pointed out that everybody who believes in historic alien principle is racist. The issue is structural and systemic, however in some instances, the racism is shockingly easy. Museum curator Keith Fitzpatrick-Matthews has gathered selection quotes from numerous archeologists together with a von Däniken ‘query’ that went: “was the black race a failure and did the extraterrestrials change the genetic code by gene surgical procedure after which programme a white or yellow race? [sic]”

As fashionable archeologists have debunked the racist assumptions that all the pieces of worth was constructed by white folks, the conspiracy theories have simply shifted goal. The aliens-theorists are the heirs to this lineage. Anderson advised me, “Historic Alien authors began choosing up the identical examples of temples and monuments that European Colonialists imagined being constructed by misplaced white races however as a substitute imagined that that they had been constructed by extraterrestrials.”

The identical assumptions of indigenous incompetence are on the coronary heart of alien mythologies, but with 196 episodes and sixteen seasons below its belt the Historic Aliens juggernaut continues apace.

Looking Atlantis, maybe the lingering query right here is, what and who’s excluded by the Atlantis fable? Why will we seek for this fictional utopia? Is our collective fascination with and seek for Atlantis a type of escapism? Bond, who has tweeted one example of cultural erasure involving Atlantis, mentioned to me, “Individuals would relatively concentrate on it than the mess we reside in now. However ignoring science is what acquired us into this mess within the first place.”

Does the seek for an ideal metropolis stop us from fixing our personal social issues within the current? If it does then maybe a part of the blames lies with us, the viewing public? Solely time will inform however, within the meantime, the mythic standing of Atlantis has been settled by unlikely authority: categorizes the present as fantasy. way of=rss | Atlantis, Which No Critical Historian Thinks Existed, Is Making Individuals Insane on Twitter


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