The Antediluvian Project

(This is the second of two essays I wrote about Atlantis in 2002. The ideas are more focused and academically-grounded than those presented in the first piece, but readers will find both theses similar in tone and expression.) 

The view that most educated people hold regarding the origin of civilization has been put forward by the scientific community.

This theory suggests that civilization (based on criteria of scale, trade, social organization and architecture) originated in North Africa and Sumeria and was initiated by Egyptians, Assyrians and Babylonians. 

There is also evidence of Indo-Europeans in Britain at this time, and many advanced societies in China and all around the Pacific rim. The rough date given for this 'awakening' of civilization is c. 4,000 BCE.

As this is the accepted view, the anthropological perspective becomes necessarily linear, informed by a theory of evolution which favours change over time in a logical, predictable manner.

It is no surprise then, that any evidence of an exceptionally advanced civilization prior to 10,000 BCE would pose a profound epistemological problem for the scientific community.

In part, these problems remain basically theoretical.

The current paradigm of scientific thought considers the existence of an advanced civilization before the last global ice age to be a fiction, and will not allow for it, even given a growing body of physical evidence that supports the antediluvian perspective.

The other problem is essentially pragmatic: The 'misreading', if you will, of physical evidence, which has already been assessed within the framework of contemporary anthropology, has to be 'reread' within the matrix of the proposed antediluvian paradigm.

Whatever the case, there are lessons for a post-modern-millennial world in what is now considered prehistory. But before we can learn from them, a plausible reconstruction of the earth as it existed in those days must be undertaken.

 In The Wordsworth Dictionary of Phrase and Fable, the word 'antediluvian' is said to be “colloquially used for anything hopelessly outdated” (pg 38).

However, within the context of this writing, the word’s definition is decidedly Platonic in meaning:
“...for in those days the Atlantic was navigable; and there was an island situated in front of the straits which are by you called the pillars of Heracles; the island was larger than Libya and Asia put together, and was the way to other islands, and from these you might pass to the whole of the opposite continent.” (Jowett, 1995)
The era which Plato (c.428-348 BCE) describes in this passage is said to have existed at least 9,000 years before the writing of Kritias and Timaios. ( Jowett, 1995)

In these dialogues, Plato describes the antediluvian kingdom of Atlantis, the wealth and grandeur of the great civilization and its eventual demise. He claims to have been told the information by his grandfather, who had, in turn, learned of it from the renowned Greek statesman Solon (c.640-560 BCE).

Solon had been told the tale by an Egyptian priest, an ambassador of that nation's ancient oral history. If this narrative is studied as a scientific curiosity and not prematurely dismissed as fiction, Plato’s description of Atlantis becomes a primary historical source for the antediluvian perspective. 

Some archaeologists and anthropologists have suggested that Plato erred in his telling of this prehistoric society, and in fact, confused the Egyptian calender number system, so the 9,000 years should in fact be 900 years (Luce, 1969).

Yet this is inconsistent with what is known of Plato’s accuracy in historical matters and his knowledge of numerical systems:
“The training of the mind in mathematics was therefore deemed by Plato essential to the philosophical enterprise, and according to tradition, above the door to his Academy were placed the words "Let no one unacquainted with geometry enter here"” (Tarnas, 1991, p.10).
When Plato addresses the notion of the antediluvian world again in Laws, he speaks of “truth in ancient tales”:
 “That the world of men has often been destroyed by floods, plagues, and many other things, in such a way that only a small portion of the human race has survived”(Flem-Ath, 1995, p.10)
This suggestion of catastrophe, that mass extinction in the past has been caused by immeasurable natural forces which have acted over spans of generations rather than millennia, has found expression in the work of Charles Hapgood and his book, Earth’s Shifting Crust (1958).

Hapgood suggests a theory of Earth Crust Displacement, and this proposition can be applied to what is known about the terrible fate of the Atlanteans.

Similarly, the theories of Russian scholar Immanuel Velikovsky postulated that erratic motion in the orbits of Venus and Mars had caused significant damage to the life on our planet at many points in prehistory and history.

In his 1950 treatise, Worlds in Collision, Velikovsky actually dates “the last great perturbation to the day: March 23, -687" (Velikovsky, 1983, p. 42).

 And yet, in fairness to this dialectic, we must also consider the voice of dissent:
“Nevertheless, so profound is our ignorance, and so high our presumption, that we marvel when we hear of the extinction of an organic being; and as we do not see the cause, we invoke cataclysms to desolate the world...”- (Darwin,1957, p. 220).
There is an entire tradition and paradigm of scientific thought that maintains a sort of “prohibition” (Flem-Ath, 1995, p.42) on speculations about catastrophes in Earth’s prehistory.

This is articulated in the work of James Hutton, Charles Yell, and has its penultimate expression in Charles Darwin’s Origin of the Species.

What is generally accepted in most fields of earth science and anthropology is that there was much flooding and geological upheaval c. 10,000 BCE due to melting glaciers at the end of the last ice age. 

So, if a scientist believes Atlantis did exist, it's a good chance they subscribe to the notion that Plato was actually describing a culture whose remains can be found at an archaeological site called Akrotirion on the island of Thera, some 70 miles north of Crete in the Mediterranean Sea.

The people who once lived on this island were profoundly influenced by the culturally advanced Minoans. A huge volcano destroyed this site circa 1,500 BCE (Luce, 1969).

Ever since the site's excavation during the 1950's and 1960's, it has provided very credible evidence that it may be Atlantis. Again, in this context, Plato is thought to have erred and the man whose "thought would become the single most important foundation for the evolution of the Western mind" (Tarnas, 1991, p.4) is tacitly rejected as a simple teller of allegory, and a bad historian.

There are many compelling reasons for believing Plato mistook fictional Atlantis with historical Thera.

But Plato’s descriptions of the antediluvian kingdom, his specific references to Atlantis’ chronology, and the island's location stand in stark contrast to minute Thera and the more conservative estimate of its destruction in the 15th or 16th century BCE.

Thoughtful students of the past must take note of this disparity and suggest models in which these problems might be resolved: “Science is in far greater danger from the absence of challenges than from the coming of any number of absurd challenges” (Asimov, 1977, p.14).

While the antediluvian perspective does pose undeniable problems to the theoretical foundations of our understanding of prehistory, it also proposes a number of solutions to the troubling enigmas existing within those very same theories.

The origins of agriculture and domestication of animals, which is thought to have occurred around 9,500 BCE, can be understood within the antediluvian theory as humanity’s slow recovery after the terrible experience of the deluge.

Whatever caused the destruction of these most ancient people, there is not much physical evidence left. 

Presuming the catastrophe was as extensive as is believed by the proponents of its existence, most of the artifacts are at the bottom of the Atlantic Ocean or buried beneath miles of ice in Antarctica (Flem-Ath, p.xv).

Still, there is an archaeological record of the accomplishments of the Atlanteans. 

Although mainstream anthropology maintains the Great Sphinx at Giza was built by an Egyptian ruler Khafra circa 2,430 BCE (Turnbaugh et al., p. 446), recent studies by a geologist named Robert Schoch have suggested otherwise.

Based on the erosion and weathering the Sphinx has been subject to, Schoch announced to a geological conference in 1991 that the Sphinx could be as old as 7,000 BCE.

Understandably, this caused quite a stir in the scientific community and it has proven difficult for sceptics to disprove Scholch’s geological evidence (Flem Ath, p. xvii).

Likewise, sites around Lake Titicaca in the Peruvian Andes have remained a riddle to many archaeologists.

The Lake is located some 4,350 meters above sea level and it is here that a Polish researcher named Arthur Posnansky (1874-1946), studied at the site of Tiahuanaco and speculated about the people who had settled in the area many millennia before.

Posnansky became convinced that the sun temple in the ancient city had been constructed more than 10,000 years ago. He based his findings on complex mathematics which described the procession of the equinoxes through ancient astronomy.

Although his claims have been dismissed as fantasy by the scientific establishment, the methodology used to arrive at his conclusions have been used by other archaeologists to date other mysterious sites, like the aforementioned Sphinx, pyramids and ziggurats, the remnants of our ancestors’ legacy. 

In the seminal contemporary work on Atlantology, When The Sky Fell (1995), Rand and Rose Flem-Ath trace the history of marine cartography with ancient maps that show Antarctica as it must have appeared before it was covered with ice.

The Flem-Ath maps too, are compelling artifacts that testify to the existence of Atlantis.

Most recently, in May 2001, a story broke on the Reuters News service about a possible megalithic site located half a mile down off the western tip of Cuba.

The exploration team, led by Canadian engineer Paulina Zelitsky, described the site as:
“A huge land plateau with clear images of what appears to be man-made large-size architectural designs partly covered by sand. From above, the shapes resemble pyramids, roads and buildings.” (Howe, 2001).

As this site is studied further, it may one day provide physical evidence of both a macro-catastrophe and the prehistoric marine/island-based culture described by Plato and countless indigenous people throughout the world.

The inherent conflicts that come with the potential integration of the antediluvian project are complicated and difficult to surmount when confronted with the general tenets of paleo-anthropology.

Yet a reconciliation is possible.

Philosopher Thomas Kuhn’s theory of paradigms (Kuhn, 1962) advocates that conceptual frameworks facilitate both creative and utilitarian developments in science:
“The pursuit of knowledge always takes place within a given paradigm, within a conceptual matrix-a womb that provides an intellectually nourishing structure, that fosters growth and increasing complexity and sophistication-until gradually that structure is experienced as constricting, a limitation, a prison, producing a tension of unresolvable contradictions, and finally a crisis is reached”(Tarnas, 1991, p.438).
It is safe to say that any improvement in our understanding of history is likely to coincide with developments within other scientific, secular, or even spiritual paradigms. If the conceptual framework of our prehistoric understanding can be altered to accommodate the physical evidence that exists, more evidence will present itself.

But there must be an initial willingness to question what is accepted as fact.

The rewards of this questioning will be the enrichment of both the antediluvian and conventional scientific paradigms, as old problems are resolved and new challenges present themselves:
“The evolution of paradigm shifts is an archetypical process, rather than merely either a rational-empirical or a sociological one, this evolution takes place historically both from within and without, both subjectively and objectively” (Tarnas, 1991, p. 439).
In our time, there are monumental changes occurring within many paradigms. If the antediluvian project is sincerely undertaken by the vital and rational thinkers in scientific fields today, an innovative and relevant understanding of humanity's place in prehistory will emerge.

And this understanding will, in time, cast a new light on the accomplishments of our own advanced yet environmentally-troubled society.


Asimov, Issac 1977 “The Role of the Heretic.” In: Scientists Confront Velikovsky, D. Goldsmith (ed.), Toronto: Cornell University pp. 7-15. 

Brewer, Ebenezer Cobham 1993 The Wordsworth Dictionary of Phrase and Fable. London: Wordsworth Editions Ltd. 

Darwin, Charles 1957 “The Origin of the Species.” In: Philosophical Problems, M. Mandelbaum, F. Gramlich, and A. Anderson (eds.), New York: The Macmillan Company pp. 213-227. 

Flem-Ath, Rand and Rose 1995 When the Sky Fell. New York: St. Martin’s Press. 

Hapgood, Charles 1958 The Earth’s Shifting Crust. Philadelphia: Chilton. 

Howe, Linda Moulton 2001 “Update on Underwater Megalithic Structures Near Western Cuba.” In: Earthfiles, (24 Nov. 2001). 

Jowett, Benjamin 2001 “Kritias and Timaios” In: Santorini and the legend of Atlantis, (24 June 2001). 

Kuhn, Thomas S. 1962 The Structure of Scientific Revolutions. Chicago: The University of Chicago 

Press. Luce, J. V. 1969 The End of Atlantis: New Light on an Old Legend. London: Thames and Hudson. 

Tarnas, Richard 1991 The Passion of the Western Mind. New York: Ballantine Books. 

Turnbaugh, William. Jurmain, Robert. Nelson, Harry. Kilgore, Lynn 1999 Understanding Physical Anthropology and Archeology. Belmont: Wadsworth Publishing. 

Velikovsky, Immanuel 1983 Stargazers and Gravediggers. New York: William Morrow and Company, Inc.