The deepest Jewish encampment?

A US professor says he’s found Atlantis, and his Israeli producer claims the lost city is one and the same as the biblical Tarshish.

By
March 20, 2011 04:08
village of Quillacas, located near Bolivia

Lost city of Atlantis 311. (photo credit: Ho New / Reuters)

 
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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.

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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 Archeological Project.

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 I know.”

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.”

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