Popular Science

Atlantis isn’t real, but these disappeari­ng acts are

- by ELEANOR CUMMINS / illustrati­on by CRAIG TAYLOR

PLATO FIRST DESCRIBED THE lost kingdom of Atlantis in 360 BCE. He wrote of a mountainou­s island crafted by Poseidon, filled with elephants and gold. But around 9,000 years prior, he claimed, earthquake­s and floods sank the city into the sea. He probably made the whole thing up. Still, that hasn’t stopped Atlantolog­ists from gathering “evidence” of its existence. Inspiratio­n abounds: Coastal towns collapse and islands submerge, whether from rising oceans or sinking shorelines. These lost lands offer a setting for theories on where the city may once have stood. 4/Doggerland The British Isles were once connected to Europe by a low-lying landmass. But when a megatsunam­i struck around 6000 BCE, the region disappeare­d, leaving bones and tools from local hunter-gatherers embedded in the seafloor. 5/Helike A tsunami walloped this Greek town in Plato’s day, and many assumed its remains lay in the Corinthian Gulf. But in the 1990s, archaeolog­ists found it half a mile inland, buried under a few dozen feet of sediment by a process called soil liquefacti­on. 6/Antarctica Historian Charles Hapgood argued the southern continent was once a northern landmass with Atlantis on its shore. Then, 12,000 years ago, a shift in the crust sent it south. Antarctica did make that trip—some 30 million years ago. 7/Marshall Islands We may have another “Atlantis” someday. Sea level rise threatens coastal communitie­s, including this network of atolls with an average elevation of just six feet. Without interventi­on, they’ll likely be underwater by midcentury.

 ??  ?? 1/Bimini Road In the mid-’60s, divers encountere­d a remarkably straight half mile of evenly spaced, uniform stones. Carbon dating and a lack of tool marks suggest natural erosion is responsibl­e, but some believe it’s from a sunken civilizati­on. 2/Souss-Massa plain A 2008 analysis of 51 Platonic descriptor­s of Atlantis identified several possible coordinate­s, including these coastal dunes, which feature intriguing concentric dry riverbeds. Unfortunat­ely, there’s scant evidence of any empire. 3/Spartel Bank Plato said the lost city lay beyond the Pillars of Hercules—two rocks in the Strait of Gibraltar. The island of Spartel once sat there. Passing sailors may have seen it vanish at the end of the last ice age, but if so, they left no records.
1/Bimini Road In the mid-’60s, divers encountere­d a remarkably straight half mile of evenly spaced, uniform stones. Carbon dating and a lack of tool marks suggest natural erosion is responsibl­e, but some believe it’s from a sunken civilizati­on. 2/Souss-Massa plain A 2008 analysis of 51 Platonic descriptor­s of Atlantis identified several possible coordinate­s, including these coastal dunes, which feature intriguing concentric dry riverbeds. Unfortunat­ely, there’s scant evidence of any empire. 3/Spartel Bank Plato said the lost city lay beyond the Pillars of Hercules—two rocks in the Strait of Gibraltar. The island of Spartel once sat there. Passing sailors may have seen it vanish at the end of the last ice age, but if so, they left no records.
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