Readers will be aware of the discovery deep beneath the Yucatan Channel, off the coast of Guanahacabibes in western Cuba, of what is purportedly a lost city. Hi-tech sonar equipment aboard the 'Ulises', a vessel owned by Canadian firm Advanced Digital Communications (ADC), detected a several-kilometre square area of what appear to be roads, pyramids and other building structures at a depth of 2,200 feet. Yet it was not until July 2001 that Paulina Zelitsky, the Russian-born leader of the expedition, got a chance to view the site first-hand.
A remote operated video (ROV), dispatched to the ocean floor, sent back frustratingly poor quality footage of linear stone features and large stone blocks, their sides and edges worn away by the actions of the sea. What had ADC found, and was it connected in some way with the legend of lost Atlantis, as described by the Athenian philosopher Plato more than 2,350 years ago?
Atlantis was said to have been an island empire the size of 'Libya and Asia put together', founded by the sea-god Poseidon. It possessed a cosmopolitan metropolis, with palaces, royal courts, harbor works and waterways that constantly received sea-going vessels from afar.
For many generations Atlantis ruled the Atlantic Ocean as well as parts of the `opposite continent'. Yet soon the empire set its sights on controlling the lands inside the Mediterranean basin. It was at this point that the fair race of Athens rose up against the Atlantean aggressor and in a decisive naval battle defeated its enemy. Some time afterwards the god Zeus unleashed 'earthquakes and floods' that drowned the Athenian navy and submerged the island of Atlantis in one `terrible day and night'. The date given for this catastrophe is post 8570 BC in Plato's dialogue the Timaeus and 9421 BC in its sequel the Critias.
Such is what Plato tells us about Atlantis, but we must never lose sight of the fact that he was writing around 350 BC at the height of the classical age. Much of what he had to say was influenced or based on political issues of his day, as well as matters of importance debated in the philosophical schools in which he moved. Unquestionably, they would have included whether or not there existed in the sea of Atlas, the modern Atlantic ocean, inhabitable islands reached by ocean-going mariners. Other contemporary writers spoke of islands to the west that had been discovered and occupied by Phoenician and Carthaginian mariners, who kept quiet about their existence in case of drawing undue interest from foreign nations.
Yet the evidence is there that these same voyagers crossed over the ocean and were aware not only of the Sargasso Sea, but also the islands of the Bahamas and Caribbean. Indeed, there is every indication that the Phoenicians and Carthaginians entered the Gulf of Mexico and made landfall on the Gulf coast, where they could have traded goods such as tobacco and coca leaves with cultures such as the Olmec and Maya of the Yucatan.
Rumours of Cataclysm
Following Columbus' celebrated landfall in the Bahamas in 1492, Spanish explorers heard stories from the indigenous peoples of the Caribbean and Bahamas that spoke of a flood which had devastated the archipelagos. It was said to have split apart a much larger landmass, killing the inhabitants and leaving the many thousands and islands and cays that remain today. Some of these stories include clues which hint at a much greater catastrophe. One from Tobago speaks of 'the ole moon breaking', while others from Venezuela and the Yucatan allude to a period of darkness, fire falling from the sky and the presence overhead of a fiery snake. Had some cosmic impact caused a massive cataclysm that devastated the Bahamas and Caribbean?
The Carolina Bays Comet
The presence of around 500,000 elliptical craters, ranging from a few hundred metres to 11 kilometres in size, across the entire eastern seaboard of the United States, from New Jersey down to Miami, is perhaps the greatest clue. Modern theories are that these so-called Carolina Bays (after the states in which they were first noted during aerial surveys in the 1920s) were caused by a comet which entered the earth's atmosphere from the north-west over Alaska and disintegrated into millions of pieces that detonated above the ground, very much in the manner of the small comet which caused the Tunguska event in Siberia in June 1908.
The effects of the catastrophe, some time around the end of the last Ice Age, were extreme. Not only would it have caused a wall of fire and wind, which would have laid flat large areas of Tundra forest and decimated flora and fauna, but the resulting dust clouds would have created a 'nuclear winter' which seems to have resulted in a temporary re-advance of the ice fields that had covered much of North America, Europe and Asia for the previous 40,000 years. Moreover, hundreds and thousands of fragments of the comet falling in the western Atlantic basin would have produced tsunami waves of immense proportions which would have temporarily drowned both the eastern seaboard of the United States and the islands of the Bahamas and Caribbean, wiping out entire populations (a few must have got away to tell the tale, as it told in the creation myths of the indigenous peoples of both Central and North America, and also those of the Caribbean).
Could memories of this cataclysmic event have been preserved across millennia until they were recounted eventually to Spanish explorers that reached in the Bahamas and Caribbean in the wake of 1492? If so, were the same tales told to Phoenician and Carthaginian voyagers who visited these same islands prior to Plato's age? Did Plato come to hear not only of the islands which existed in the outer ocean, but also of the cataclysm which once devastated this self same region? Did it cause the landmass to be inundated by flood waters, splitting it into individual islands - temporarily at first, but then more permanently when eventually the ice fields of North America, Europe and Asia finally began to melt, causing the sea-level to rise by as much as 100 metres? Thus was the sinking of Atlantis a memory of the submergence of both the former Bahaman landmass and the low-lying regions of the Caribbean? Certainly we can say that all this took place around the very same time that Plato tells us Atlantis was destroyed by 'one terrible day and night of earthquakes and floods'. Moreover, if the Caribbean islands did once form part of Atlantis, then it would mean that part of the landmass was still above water today.
The Size of Libya and Asia Put Together?
Remember, mountain ranges do not sink out of sight simply through cataclysms such as comet impacts. Certainly, it can be shown that the landmass was considerably smaller than Plato would have us believe. At one point he says that it was the size of 'Libya and Asia' put together. Yet later he reports that the island possessed a vast irrigated plain that 'stretched for three thousand stadia [552 kilometres] in one direction, and at its centre, for two thousand [stadia, i.e. 368 kilometres] inland from the coast'. Beyond it to the north, west and east were `mountain ranges' that came right down to the sea as precipitous cliffs, while the southern end of the plain, on which the city was situated, was at sea-level. It does not take a geographer to realise that Plato was describing an east-west orientated island perhaps as little as 600 by 400 kilometres in size.
By suggesting that Atlantis was the size of 'Libya and Asia' put together is likely to relate not so much to its geographical extent but to the regions of the ocean over which the kings of Atlantis were considered to hold dominion. This is verified in the knowledge that the Atlantean empire was said to consist of a whole series of islands that lay in front of an 'opposite continent', plausibly the American continent, reached by 'voyagers' using a series of 'other islands', plausibly the Bahamas or Lesser Antilles, which in early colonial times acted as stepping stones for ocean-going vessels attempting to reach the mainland.
So can we now go on to identify Plato's Atlantis?
Cuba's Great Plain
The description of an island plain surrounded to the east, north and west by 'mountain ranges', matches Cuba's western plain that stretches from Havana westwards to Pinar del Río, and is enclosed on its northern and western extremes by the Cord de Guaniguanico mountain range. We also know that until around 9,000 years ago the plain extended southwards, across what is today the Bay of Batabanó, to the Isle of Youth. Here then is evidence of a vast plain, originally 540 by 160 kilometres in extent, drowned, in part at least, during the time-frame suggested by Plato.
Cuba's Cord de Guaniguanico might also be compared with the 'mountain ranges' that Plato tells us shielded Atlantis' great plain from `cold northerly winds'. Between November and February each year, Cuba is subject to bitterly cold winds, known as los nortes, or 'northers', that blow in blizzards from the eastern United States. Although these cold fronts reach exposed regions of the Cuban landmass, the Cord de Guaniguanico completely shields the western plain from the harsh winds, which would otherwise damage winter crops.
Moreover, Cuba has been identified by leading geographers as a mysterious island paradise known as Antillia, or the island of the Seven Cities, said to have laid in the outer ocean according to Moorish, and later Portuguese medieval tradition (and unquestionably borrowed from much earlier Phoenician and Carthaginian sources). More than this, the name Antillia can be shown to derive from the Semitic word root ATL, 'to elevate', which was also the root behind the name Atlas, from which we derive the name Atlantis, 'daughter of Atlas', the term used for an Atlantic island (Atlantides, 'daughters of Atlas', was the plural used in ancient times to denote Atlantic islands in general). In other words, if Antillia was merely a medieval form of Atlantis, then it further confirms Cuba's association with Plato's Atlantic paradise.
The Seven Caves
For more evidence of the part Cuba played in the foundation of the Atlantis myth, we turn our attentions to the creation myths of the Mesoamerican peoples, such as the Aztec, Toltec and Maya. They spoke variously of their earliest ancestors coming from an island paradise located in the east, known variously as Aztlan or Tulan, following a period of darkness when the sun would not appear. On this island the first humans are said to have emerged from somewhere called Chichomoztoc, the Seven Caves. From these individuals came seven tribes, or clans, and by their hands rose Seven Cities. I believe that some semblance of knowledge regarding the creation of the seven cities in Mesoamerican myth led to Antillia, or Cuba, becoming known as the Island of the Seven Cities. Furthermore, just ten years after Christopher Columbus's famous landfall in the Bahamas in 1492, the main islands of the Caribbean - Puerto Rico, Hispaniola and Cuba - were named on maps as 'the Isles of Antillia of the King of Aragon', showing how the early Spanish explorers likewise came to identify them with ancient Antillia and its accompanying islands.
The only site in the whole of the Caribbean which bears any resemblance to Chicomoztoc, the Seven Caves, is the Punta del Este cave complex at the extreme eastern end of a peninsular on the Isla de Juventud (Isle of Youth), divided from the southern coast of the Cuban mainland by the Bay of Batabano. Ceuva # Uno (Cave No. 1) has been described as a veritable Sistine chapel of the prehistoric world, and is filled with beautiful petroglyphs of concentric circles, rectilinear shapes and other abstract forms many thousands of years old. I interpreted the symbolism of these designs as perhaps embodying the memory of some kind of comet impact suffered by the Caribbean in a distant epoch. Such thoughts came entirely from intuitive feelings experienced during a personal visit to the cave in September 1998 - feelings that led me to explore the possibility of a comet impact having devastated the region. More curiously, Paulina Zelitsky, the director of the ADC team working out of Cuba, visited the Punta del Este caves for the first time only shortly before the discovery of the Guanahacabibes site, off the west coast of Cuba in July 2002. She has since claimed that an unconfirmed carving of a cross detected on a large, roughly rectangular block videoed at the underwater site, bears some similarity to an abstract cross design found inside Punta del Este's Ceuva # Uno.
The 1951 ECOS Article
Yet it now appears that as early as 1951, a decade before the advent of Communist rule on the island, Cuban archaeologists were working on the theory that the petroglyphs in Punta del Este's Ceuva # Uno's reflected some kind of cosmic catastrophe which devastated Atlantis.
A two-page article appeared in the February 1952 edition of the magazine ECOS entitled 'Formó Cuba Parte de la Atlándida?'. Written by Francisco Garcia-Juarez, the press secretary of the Instituto Cubano de Arqueologia (Institute of Cuban Archaeology, or ICA) it posed the question: did Cuba once form part of Atlantis? He explained how members of the Institute were investigating the idea that traces of an Atlantean culture might be found in Cuba and Hispaniola, a view offered to them by Egerton Sykes, then a world renowned authority on Atlantis. In 1949 he had written an introduction for a revised edition of ATLANTIS: THE ANTEDILUVIAN WORLD, the all-time classic on the subject, written by former US congressman Ignatius Donnelly and published for the first time in 1882 (and still available as a re-print by Dover Publications). Sykes was also the editor of a journal propounding Hans Hoerbinger's Cosmic Ice theory entitled, simply, ATLANTIS, in which appeared a partial translation of the above-mentioned ECOS article.
According to Syke's translation, the ICA concluded that the most likely location where traces of the Atlantean culture might be found on Cuba was the Punta del Este cave complex. In one cave was found steps that led up to an alcove which might possibly have been used by priests to observe the movement of the stars. Moreover, petroglyphs inside the caves (presumably those in Cueva # Uno) displayed astronomical information which linked them with the origins of the Maya calendrical system, thus the possibility that Cuba had been a 'staging post' for the migrations of the Maya into Central America should not be overlooked. More than this, the translation stated:
On the South coast of Cuba, at Camaguey, there are many partially submerged mounds called "caneyes", which may have been places of refuge for primitive man. There are numerous artifacts here which have never been adequately investigated. Numerous skeleton remains found here give evidence of a sudden and violent death due to some catastrophe. The artifacts include stone balls, spherical stones, elongated stones, and rods with forked ends resembling snakes. The absence of large monuments may merely mean they have not yet been seriously looked for.
Sykes had told the ICA that if Cuba did form part of Atlantis then its archaeologists would find evidence on the island of artificial deformation of the cranium among its ancient inhabitants, as well as step monuments or ziggurats and methods of cutting and orientating large rocks. Why exactly he felt they would find these things is not made clear, although I suspect that his theories were based on Donnelly's concept of a diffusion of shared ideas among ancient cultures on both sides of the Atlantic Ocean, due to the suggested migration of peoples from Atlantis following its destruction. Whatever the reasons, the archaeologists confirmed that all of these things had been found on Cuba, but, as the article stated, there would have to be a revolution of the established ways of thinking before their presence would be seen as evidence for the existence of Atlantis.
What was infinitely more important, however, were the interpretations of the petroglyphs found in the Punta del Este caves (again, seemingly those in Cueva # Uno) by Cuban archaeologists back in 1951. Captions accompanying two examples shown as line illustrations, explained that the symbols showed a comet with a tail hitting an astral, or celestial, body, and breaking up, confirming my own theory that the petroglyphs of Cueva # Uno embodied a memory of a catastrophe caused by the fragmentation of a comet during some former age. Yet what evidence might we find that the former Bahaman landmass might once have been home to the same Atlantean culture?
Cayce's Psychic Quest
In 1926 Edgar Cayce, America's most famous psychic, agreed to use his psychic talents to find buried treasure on the twin-islands of Bimini, the self-styled 'gateway to the Bahamas'. The wealthy businessmen involved had asked Cayce to join them in Miami following some initial readings (all mostly missing now from the Cayce archives). However, Cayce had said that he could not easily take up temporary residence in Miami because of his practice at Virginia Beach. Moreover, in one letter he pointed out that his son was seriously ill and that he could not possibly make any long journeys until the boy had regained his full health.
Edgar Cayce and his business associates never did find any buried treasure on Bimini, even though the psychic made his only ever visit to the island in February 1927. However, both during the psychic investigations and afterwards Cayce now began to refer to Bimini as a surviving fragment of a great landmass called Poseidia, itself a surviving portion of a great continent called Atlantis. He predicted that parts of Poseidia would start to rise off Bimini in 'sixty-eight and sixty-nine, not so far away'. This led to a concentration of effort by the Association of Research and Enlightenment (ARE), the active arm of the Edgar Cayce Foundation, to find evidence of Atlantis in the shallow waters around Bimini, and in the summer of 1968 this culminated in the discovery of rectangular foundations (the so-called 'temple site') in the metre-deep waters off Andros, the largest island in the Bahamas, as well as the so-called Bimini Road site, located off Paradise Point, North Island.
Thus began a relationship between Atlantis and the Bahamas which has continued now for nearly 35 years, with as many as 60 sites of possible archaeological interest being noted in its shallow waters. By far the greatest concentration are found on the south-western corner of the horseshoe-shaped Great Bahama bank which, although almost entirely submerged today, was still being swallowed up by the ocean as late as 3000-2000 BC. Described by J. Manson Valentine, the great underwater explorer as the 'mother lode' of the Bahamas, they face out across the extremely deep Old Bahama Channel towards Cuba, and their presence seems to hint at a connection in prehistory between these two enormous landmasses. As early as the 1950s light aircraft pilots flying in and out of Cuba from Miami reported seeing what appeared to be walls and buildings in the waters north of the Cuban mainland.
There is no question that if the Bahaman landmass did once support a prehistoric culture, then it was also present on Cuba as well. Carved petroglyphs, with skylights in their ceilings to let in sunlight, stone cairns and age-old human bones have been found in submerged caves not only on the Great Bahama Bank, but also on its more northerly neighbour, the Little Bahama Bank. They bear striking similarities to the decorated caves of Cuba which are at least several thousand years old, and plausibly much older still. Whoever inhabited these sites were the descendants of those who survived the cataclysm, and those who went on to become the ruling class of the Mesoamerican peoples such as the Olmec, Maya, Quiche, Toltecs and Aztecs. Here somewhere is the origins of the Atlantis myth, and Cuba holds the key to its re-discovery, and one day we will have all the answers. Whether the stone structures discovered by ADC in the Yucatan Channel do turn out to be remnants of lost Atlantis remains to be seen. All we can hope is that the full extent of the finds is researched and documented, allowing people to make up their own minds on whether the greatest enigma of the ancient world has finally been solved.