Canadians on international dig team
An international team of researchers — including three Canadian scientists who specialize in imaging buried ruins — says it may have discovered the site of the fabled lost city of Atlantis in the remote marshlands of southwest Spain.
Alberta geophysicist Paul Bauman, along with two colleagues from Calgary-based WorleyParsons Canada, conducted various underground probes as part of a U.S.-led investigation aimed at solving one of the world’s most enduring archeological mysteries.
At a time when the world is witnessing first-hand the devastating impact of a colossal tsunami in Japan, the purported identification of Atlantis in mainland Europe — detailed Sunday in a National Geographic television special — comes 2,400 years after Greek philosopher Plato first described a great civilization destroyed by floodwaters following a massive undersea earthquake.
Despite centuries of speculation about whether Atlantis really existed or was merely Plato’s invention of a mythic kingdom “swallowed up by the sea,” numerous theories about the possible location of the deluged city have been advanced in modern times by respected researchers and fringe pseudo-scholars alike.
The latest bid to find the lost city began in 2004, when German physicist Rainer Kuhne spotted anomalous features in satellite photos of the mudflats near the mouth of Spain’s Guadalquivir River, northwest of the present-day city of Cadiz.
Ground-proofing at the Spanish site, led by University of Hartford archeologist Richard Freund, took place in recent years as a National Geographic documentary crew filmed the search. The spot is “the best possible candidate that’s ever been discovered with the most amount of evidence,” Freund told the Hartford Courant last week.
He has also pointed to intriguing artifacts discovered farther north in Spain, where refugees from a flooded coastal settlement might have relocated and artworks of a “memorial” nature — perhaps commemorating a lost city — have been unearthed.
Bauman told Postmedia News that he’s worked with Freund at about 20 historic sites in the Middle East and elsewhere, though nothing with the “high-profile nature of something like looking for the lost city of Atlantis.”
Bauman said his team’s work with ground-penetrating radar — as well as magnetometers and electrical scanners used to detect thermal or chemical “signatures” of humanbuilt objects lying buried in sediments — was carried out in the mos- quito-infested river delta under extremely hot and humid conditions.
Among the Canadian team’s findings was a sensor reading of what appeared to be a communal oven now buried in swampy sediments far from any known ancient settlement. There were also extensive structures that could represent canals, Bauman said.
“The most exciting moment was when they discovered a statuette that was clearly very different from other cultures in the area, but similar to other styles of carving and representational art of the Bronze Age — the period they were looking at,” Bauman said. “Then they found a second statuette. You can have all the indirect evidence and geophysical signatures, but there’s nothing like finding an artifact you can roughly date, and there’s no question it was made by human hands.”
A University of Hartford summary of Freund’s findings describes how the Guadalquivir mudflats in Spain’s Dona Ana National Park yielded “strange geometric shadows of what look to be the remains of a ringed city” and offered other hints that “an ancient cataclysm suddenly buried a thriving civilization under metres and metres of ocean and mud.”
Bauman, a 51-year-old, Bostonborn scientist who has lived and worked in Calgary for more than 20 years, was accompanied to Spain by colleagues Jennifer MacDonald, of Calgary, and Laurie Pankratow, of Edmonton.
“In some ways, it’s more exciting in retrospect because when you’re actually out there in a swamp in southern Spain; it’s very, very hot with a lot of mosquitoes,” said Bauman. “We were trying not to be complete downers, but when we were out there, I can’t say we were completely in the spirit of Indiana Jones.”
But he said evenings in the field found the researchers gathered to discuss each day’s findings and that “very exciting” conversations took shape as the evidence mounted.
But Bauman, who said he has helped unearth Hudson’s Bay trading posts in Western Canada and located clean water sources in Indonesia’s Aceh province following that country’s 2004 tsunami disaster, told Postmedia News that his excitement about the Atlantis documentary’s debut has been greatly dampened by the unfolding tragedy in Japan.