Nearly all of the ‘lost
civilisation’ theories have become associated with the legend of Plato’s
‘Atlantis’, thus the concept and its study have been largely ignored by
the serious academic community.
Yet ironically it is probably the legend of Atlantis itself, however
fanciful, that has provided the foundation for the belief in the existence
in a pre-historic civilisation to account for the out-of-place knowledge
and artefacts detailed in previous chapters.
Yet if there was a ‘lost civilisation’ (regardless of its
connection with or not to the Atlantis legend) it would have had to have had a
home, and any identified location would have to provide supporting evidence that
a civilisation actually did live there, for, as Egyptologist Mark Lehner rightly
points out, without evidence of remains, it would be safer to conclude that that
there was no former civilisation, and the purported clues to its existence would
have to be explained in some other way.
Many locations for the lost civilisation have been suggested with
many of them centring on the Mediterranean area. A Dr. James Mavor set out one
theory in his 1969 book, believing that the lost peoples were a Minoan
civilisation. This followed earlier claims first set out in the 1930s by Greek
scientists Dr Angelos Galanopoulos and Professor Spyridon Marinatos (right).
There is certainly some evidence to support Thera, an island
near Crete in the Mediterranean, being the location of an early civilisation.
Professor Marinatos, under the auspices of the Archaeological Society at Athens,
began a systematic excavation of a town on the island, Akrotiri in 1967, after
evidence of early habitation had been discovered there in the second half of the
These excavations confirmed that Akrotiri had been one of the most
important prehistoric settlements of the Aegean, and the various imported items
discovered indicated a wide network of external relations.
Not only as Akrotiri
in contact with nearby Crete but it also communicated with mainland Greece, the
Dodecanese, Cyprus, Syria and Egypt.
However, it appeared that the town’s life came to an abrupt end
in the last quarter of the 17th century BCE when the inhabitants were
forced to abandon their homes as a result of severe earthquakes.
An eruption of
the island-volcano Thera followed, with volcanic materials covering the
entire island and the town itself, preserving the buildings (above) and their
contents forming an intriguing time capsule just like as at Pompeii.
Despite evidence of early civilisation, the evidence was
not early enough, with the first signs of habitation being from the late
Neolithic times (c. 4th millennium BCE.) Attention therefore turned
to Crete itself, Thera’s much larger neighbour, and a popular choice for the
home of the ‘missing’ civilisation.
A ceramic disc (above right) had been found at Phaistos on Crete
which was around 3700 years old, however made from a clay not indigenous to the
island, indicating that Crete had certainly been visited by that time. Indeed,
other evidence suggests that the island was in fact occupied at least by
6000BCE; indicating the existence of a sea faring people who had boats that
could be rowed out into open sea.
Whenever the civilisation started, history records that by
1500BCE Crete had become the centre of a seafaring empire. However, within a
very short time, this empire collapsed along with its infrastructure.
probability this collapse was caused by the eruption of a volcano (left) that
destroyed the nearby island of Thera and also deposited layers of ash that would
have destroyed harvests for decades. The eruption is also known to have
triggered off a substantial tidal wave.