Suggesting that a Jewish or Israeli connection can be found not only in nearly
every corner of the Earth, but even far below its surface, a new documentary
film claims to have discovered the fabled lost city of Atlantis – and that it may
have a link to the Old Testament.
Hartford University Prof. Richard Freund’s work in uncovering Atlantis is the
subject of the documentary Finding Atlantis, which the National Geographic
Channel began airing this month. The film was largely an Israeli creation, produced
in part by Israeli producer Simcha Jacobovici.
According to Jacobovici, “it is generally acknowledged that the Biblical Tarshish
is what the historians call Tartessos, which was in southern Spain. In the Tanach,
Tarshish is a great city with a huge navy, with silver and gold. Jonah sails towards
Tarshish. Solomon has naval expeditions with Tarshish. Tarshish disappears from
the Biblical record. Tartessos disappears from the historical record.”
Says Jacobovici, “Tarshish is Atlantis itself.”
Freund’s film shows how a US-led team used satellite photos of an area in
southern Spain, near the coastal city of Cadiz, that showed three concentric
circles of land and sea and a single entrance to what the film claims is an
island, or port to the ocean.
According to the film, the find is in keeping with Plato’s mention that Atlantis was
located just beyond the “Pillars of Hercules,” in what is today called the Strait of
Gibraltar, right near the excavation site.
Freund said this week that the team’s evidence was based “upon a cumulative
series of data. Scientific work done by the groups included archeological surveys,
test excavations, ground-penetrating radar studies, geological coring and drilling,
sediment, pollen, and micro-faunal analysis, the use of side-scan underwater
sonar, aerial photography from differing altitudes, multiple radiocarbon dating,
magnetometry, electrical resistivity tomography and digital and GPS mapping.
Pottery shards from the surface archeological survey and test excavations which
yielded Neolithic and Bronze Age ware.”
Some of the principal evidence found in the film is, according to Freund,
“a series of mysterious ancient ‘memorial’ cities located north of the coast which
closely resemble ‘miniature- Atlantis-es’ (that make them look like artificial islands)
with steles (standing stones in front of the cities) that have the same image etched
into them that also resembles the description of Plato. Together it presents a very
compelling image of a group of refugees who left the south and set up their cities
just out of reach of the coast. Just as the Jews had their synagogues as a
mikdash-me’at – a miniature version of the Temple of Jerusalem – so, too,
the Atlantis refugees created these memorial cities to remember who they
were and where they came from.”
Atlantis is a legendary island civilization that was first mentioned in Plato’s
dialogues Timaeus and Critias. According to Plato, Atlantis was located in the
Pillars of Hercules and was a naval power that conquered a number of areas
of Western Europe and Africa before sinking into the sea following an earthquake
or tsunami one night around 400 or 500 BCE.
When asked if people were skeptical of his find, Freund said, “I find that people
are both fascinated and skeptical. It is perhaps because of the fact that up until
quite recently we did not have the technology to see the earth in the way that we
can see it today.”
Freund said he feels the find has a greater relevance in the world as Japan deals
with the aftermath of last week’s earthquake and subsequent tsunami.
“I found that my students did not understand the power of earthquakes and
tsunamis from lectures that I have given about the past,” he said. “Throughout history,
tsunamis have changed the course of world history in ways we are just beginning to
understand. At the same time as this week’s tsunami has had catastrophic effects in
Japan, we are discovering that a similar event may well have buried Atlantis.”
He continued: “If we can learn anything from all of this, it is that we need to pay
close attention to geology and historical accounts, and when we create buildings
that are architecturally sound and aesthetically pleasing, they may yet have to
contend with forces beyond human control.”
No stranger to controversy, Freund also doesn’t seem to shy away from headline-
grabbing promotions for his finds and fundraising endeavors. In his film appearances,
he comes across as an Indiana Jones-like figure, with an academic’s jacket and bow
tie thrown in for good measure.
Jacobovici, known for hosting the show The Naked Archaeologist, is also something
of a lightning rod in the archeology community. He has been the subject of
widespread controversy among archeologists for his films, which include The Lost
Tomb of Jesus and The Exodus Decoded.
According to Jacobovici, other evidence found by Freund includes the unearthed
emblem of Atlantis, and the biblical angle that has been largely overlooked.
“Atlantis was hiding in the Tanach,” said Jacobovici.
The Atlantis endeavor is not without its detractors, however, including Aren Maeir,
a professor of archeology at Bar-Ilan University and director of the Tell es-Safi/Gath
An expert on Bronze and Iron Age archeology, Maeir said Thursday that “a lot
of people have made many crazy claims about Atlantis – it’s one of those
classic places where you have a lunatic fringe looking for all types of things.
And Richard Freund is known as someone who makes ‘sensational’ finds.
I would say that I am exceptionally skeptical about the thing, but I wouldn’t
discount it 100% until I see the details, which haven’t been published as far as
Maeir added that the likelihood of a historical basis for Atlantis depended on the
scope of the legend.
“In other words, if it was supposedly a small seaside village that was buried by a
tsunami, there is some possibility that it may have happened.
On the other hand, if it was supposedly a major civilization, then the lack of
archeological evidence is very telling,” he said.
“Almost all written sources that relate to stories from way back, when they weren’t
written as history as we know it, were embellished over the ages, so you get a
different picture when you look and trace the historical link behind biblical stories,” he went on.
Maeir said that for Freund, “it’s all part of the same thing. He’s been involved
in various projects where he made very big PR declarations in the press that
were somewhat skeptically received by professionals. Also, he’s not really an
archeologist, more a historian who has been involved in many archeological projects.
But he is great at raising funds, largely because he makes these great pronouncements.”
According to Maeir, “every few years we hear something like this from him…
And the fact that it’s on National Geographic doesn’t mean much. Unfortunately,
over the past years they’ve had many questionable programs. That the film appears
there does not still mean it’s scientifically based. They do support some extraordinary
research, but some of their recent films dealing with early biblical archaeology
haven’t been so rigorously done.”
Still, he said, “You know what? They should prove me wrong.”