Friday, June 17, 2011

Atlantis and Crete: An Unhappy Marriage

The number one hate of archaeology has to be Atlantis. The attempts to explain it away or park it somewhere safe remain a favourite kneejerk reaction from the armchair scientists. For them, the veracity of the Atlantis account as written by Plato simply cannot be, for scientists “know” a civilization cannot have existed 9600 BC in the Atlantic Ocean.

Though Plato wrote about Atlantis in a book on history, some “clever” historians have argued that it is nevertheless not a real civilization, but an “idealized state”. And they assume they can get away with it, by adding the word “philosopher” in front of Plato’s name. Others, like historian Alan Cameron, state: “It is only in modern times that people have taken the Atlantis story seriously; no one did so in antiquity.” No, Mr. Cameron; this is simply not true. Though many Greeks were
indeed sceptical of the Atlantis story when they heard it for the first time, the story in its telling and context was Egyptian in origin, introduced to the Greeks by Plato, who recorded what he had learned from Solon, the man who had heard the story in Egypt. We could classify it as second-hand evidence or hearsay, but unlike today, the few enterprising sceptical Greeks actually went to Egypt to disprove Plato’s account. When they returned home, they confirmed that Plato had indeed written the truth: the Egyptians had an account that spoke of a lost civilization, known as Atlantis. They had seen the story written on the walls of the Egyptian temples themselves.

Whereas several scientists argue that Atlantis is an idealized state, a more common trend, in vogue in recent decades within the archaeological community, is to park Atlantis on the island of Thera/Santorini, an island just north of Crete. In the middle of the first millennium BC, the volcano that is Santorini had a violent eruption that destroyed some of the urban settlements on the island, like Akrotiri, though it had a far more nefarious effect on the Minoan civilization that reigned over the Mediterranean waters from Crete to the south.
In his Atlantis account, Plato wrote how “there occurred violent earthquakes and floods; and in a single day and night of misfortune all your warlike men in a body sank into the earth, and the island of Atlantis in like manner disappeared in the depths of the sea. For which reason the sea in those parts is impassable and impenetrable, because there is a shoal of mud in the way; and this was caused by the subsidence of the island.” It is the favourite passage from Plato that archaeologists and historians like to quote when it comes to the Thera=Atlantis solution, for of course Santorini was a sudden, violent event, which heralded the demise of the Minoan civilization. On the North coast of Crete, you can still see the various geological layers that testify of this event.

But what about all the other evidence, related by Plato, which does not fit with Thera and the Minoan civilization as being Atlantis? First of all, its location. Plato describes it as outside of the Pillars of Hercules, which today is better known as Gibraltar, the rocky outcrop that defines the southern tip of Spain. Thera is located inside the Mediterranean Sea, not outside the Mediterranean Sea. What about age? The volcano erupted in ca. 1500 BC, while Atlantis was destroyed nine thousand years before Plato. But most importantly: what about size? Plato gives an extremely detailed description of the dimensions of the walls of Atlantis, making it clear that the island was several hundred miles wide and long, with the “walls” of Atlantis itself roughly two hundred miles from the sea itself. This size is simply impossible to fit either on Santorini as well as on the far larger island of Crete.

When we take the three ingredients together, it shows that Thera or Crete simply could not have been Atlantis. For Thera to work as Atlantis, a tremendous redux has to occur of all the information Plato offered about this civilization. This pick and mix approach is highly unscientific, but when it comes to explaining inconvenient legends like Atlantis away, the scientific approach is the first to be thrown out. The question is: how often are we going to see science – and television stations, the BBC chiefly amongst them – regurgitate this fallacy? Atlantis is not Crete.

Friday, June 3, 2011

Roswell: The USSR Hoax?

My opinion on UFOs is that there is a genuine phenomenon, but that most of what we believe – from Roswell, via MJ-12 and “the conspiracy” – is deliberate government misinformation. My series of articles on this topic, collectively called UFOgate, are amongst the least requested articles by magazines for inclusion in their pages, suggesting not many alternative researchers want to hear this opinion.

I am therefore extremely happy that a book is tackling Roswell in an innovative way. The person responsible is Annie Jacobsen, a Los Angeles based journalist, who in her bestselling and high profile book on Area 51, has claimed that the truth about Roswell can be found with Joseph Stalin sending a Horten-disk equipped ship, manned by children, to the heartland of America’s atomic development, in an effort to frighten the US government.

The UFO researchers who maintain Roswell is all about ET have pointed out that “all” we have for this is an anonymous source – an engineer who worked at the site in 1978 – that spoke to Jacobsen, or that she herself might be part of a disinformation campaign to deny the “alien truth”. Some UFO researchers like Dick Farley have expressed their dissatisfaction with their colleagues who refuse to look at the evidence, or read the book, because that might make their fragile house of cards collapse.

Since the publication of the book, the anonymous source has been identified as 89 year old former EG&G Rotron scientist Alfred O'Donnell. When contacted by UFO researcher Anthony Braglia, O’Donnell confirmed he knew Annie Jacobsen, but he would not state outright that he was her source for the Roswell story, though he did not deny it either.

Jacobsen, relying on a single source, may not be totally correct, but is no doubt very close to the truth. The nuance is in some of the interpretation. I am not totally convinced it was meant to be an act of intimidation on behalf of Stalin. And engineers in Area 51 or the CIA would not have known the motivation as to why Stalin did what did. All we know, is that a Horten disk, apparently remotely controlled, with genetically manipulated children inside, crashed during a thunderstorm near Roswell, which at the time – before Area 51 existed – was at the heart of America’s nuclear program; Roswell was the only base where planes with nuclear bombs were stationed. In the days before satellites, Stalin must have done his utmost to get information from that facility, and the Roswell crash may have been an accident, as the craft did crash during a thunderstorm.

A Horten disk is one of those machines you read about in “free energy” books, for it was developed by the Nazis using “new” technology and then disappeared into oblivion, apparently into Russian hands. That Roswell was a Horten disk, is actually supported by better evidence than the words of one anonymous source. And whereas one might argue that the source was told a lie and that the craft was not Russian but alien, the following papers make it apparent that is not the case. In 1994, the US government responded to a Freedom of Information Act request by UFO researcher Timothy Cooper, releasing details about “Operation Harass”. This turned out to be papers showing that in 1947-8, the CIA were in a terrible hurry and tried their utmost to locate the Horten brothers, who somehow had not been rounded up by either the Soviets or Americans. The CIA eventually located them. Why did the CIA all of a sudden want to speak to them so urgently? The answer comes from a journalist who contacted Reimar Horten in Argentina. Horten agreed to be interviewed, but said he did not want to speak about the CIA. Why? Horten said that the CIA once came to him with questions as he had allegedly designed a flying saucer! This is very intriguing evidence that what crashed at Roswell, was indeed a Horten disk, and that subsequently the CIA went in search of the Horten brothers, to find out more details.

The question is whether the Horten disk was meant to spy on US nuclear facilities and whether its crash was intentional or accidental. Jacobsen believes the crash was on purpose and that Stalin hoped that the news would cause panic in the US, on par with what occurred following Orson Welles’ War of the Worlds broadcast in 1938. Until we find papers from Stalin’s era, I would argue a straightforward accident is the likeliest scenario.

So what about its occupants? They were believed to have been the result of scientific experiments performed on humans by Nazi doctor Josef Mengele. I think it is likely these occupants themselves were there as part of a test. Nazi Germany had a track record of experimenting with human beings. The basic idea was that the human body could be adjusted in certain ways as to better cope with high altitude and zero gravity. The Nazis had a inhumane approach to resolving the problem, but in the 1990s, it was discovered that the US government had used human test subjects too. It is logical to assume the Soviets would not have been left out.

So what Jacobsen’s book presents, is a new perspective on Roswell. It is no doubt very close to the truth, though may not be the final truth. For that, papers from 1947 will need to be released, especially the old archives of the USSR need to be located, for the truth about Roswell seems to reside there. But until that time, we can only hope that some people within the UFO field will take the opportunity to seriously look at Jacobsen’s and related material, and begin to redefine “Roswell”.