AT least a score of writers have insisted that Atlantis, at the era of her fall, sent out numerous colonies to all parts of the world. The colonial expansion of Atlantis has especially been stressed in more recent times by Donelly, Brasseur de Bourbourg and Augustus Le Plongeon, all of whom seek to establish an Egyptian connection. The general attitude of the majority of those writers who believe in the Atlantean penetration of America or European countries may, perhaps, be summed up in a passage from an article "Some Notes on the Lost Atlantis," which appeared in Papyrus, the official organ of the Theosophical Society in Egypt, for March, 1921. "Atlantis sent her children over the entire world," says the writer of this article. "Many of them are to this day living as Red Indians in Canada and the United States of America. They colonised Egypt, and built up one of the mighty Egyptian Empires. They spread over the North of Asia as the Turanians and Mongols a tremendous and prolific race, still constituting a majority of the population of the earth."
Of course the obvious retort of the "official" anthropologist to such a statement as this, if he troubled to retort at all, would probably be: "What tangible evidence have you of the presence of Atlanteans in any American or European country? Can you point to any documents relating to their presence there, to any existing monuments raised by their hands? "
The answer is that tradition, if carefully employed, is a document of equal sanction with anything in black letter, a view which is being slowly but none the less certainly adopted by experienced students of Folklore, if not by all archaeologists; and that it is impossible to point to anything in the nature of existing Atlantean monuments, because we cannot compare them with originals. It is, however, possible to say almost definitely that the architectural remains of the Maya of Central America are of less remote Atlantean origin, coming as they did from Antillia, the western and more lately submerged portion of the Atlantean continent.
But the question of Atlantean colonisations cannot so easily be settled as its protagonists and antagonists seem to think. Sufficient evidence, traditional and ethnological, has been adduced to show that it is one which demands reasonable consideration. Surely such a mass of corroborative tradition could not exist without some basis of actual fact, nor can it be disproved that the races which entered Spain and France at the conclusion of the great Ice Age came from an Atlantic area. Plato's account seems to enshrine a very clear memory of the Azilian or proto-Iberian invasion of Europe from an Atlantic country. He writes about it, taking his facts from Egyptian sources, in much the same manner as a mediaeval historiographer might have written basing what he says entirely upon a still older authority. He tells us that the Atlanteans already had possessions in Europe before the invasion and the catastrophe, and the facts of archaeology seem to bear out his testimony.
Sufficient has been said regarding the Atlantean colonisation of France, Spain and Britain. The reference by Diodorus to settlement in Africa by the Atlanteans is plain enough, and the fact that the inhabitants of North West Africa in Roman times were known as Atlanteans is significant. "These Atlanteans," says Dr. Badichon, who resided in Algeria for many years, "among the ancients passed for the favourite children of Neptune. They made known the worship of this god to other nations to the Egyptians, for example. In other words, the Atlanteans were the first known navigators."
It must be clear that if Atlantis actually sunk about 9600 B.C., as Plato's account would give us to understand, all Atlantean colonial settlement on European soil must have ceased with that period, and if that be conceded, we must regard all Atlantean expansion in the Mediterranean and other European areas as identified with Azilian or Iberian expansion. No anthropologist of experience will for a moment seek to gainsay the Iberian penetration of the entire Mediterranean area from Spain to Egypt, even though he may not support the nation of its Atlantean provenance. But Sergi, the great originator of the theory that the Iberian race had made widespread settlements in all parts of Europe, laid stress on the circumstance that it emanated from Western Africa that is, from the very region which is still known as the Atlas region, and from that part of the dark continent whose people in Roman times were still known as "Atlanteans," and were so called by Diodorus. "The idea," he says, "has arisen that Western rather than Eastern Africa was the original home of these people, "the ancient and modern Egyptians, Nubians, Abyssinians, Gallas, Somalis, Berbers, and Fulahs." He "will not deny to the Sahara the possibility of being the cradle " of his Mediterranean race. His conclusions regarding the North African genesis of the Iberians nowadays find tacit agreement among anthropologists.
I recently received a letter from a lady who knows North-West Africa well, in which she states that many traditions of Atlantis are still to be found among the native population. An Arab Emir of her acquaintance is quite an authority on the subject, and has even written a book on Atlantis in Morocco. The names of the author and of the book she does not mention.
If we agree that these Iberians and their forerunners, the Azilians, were of Atlantean stock, this settles the matter at once for us at least. This race cherished the memory of its Atlantean origin during countless generations, and spreading along both shores of the Mediterranean, at length reached Greece and Asia Minor in the North, and Egypt to the South. It is much more reasonable to infer such a process of steady racial progression than to assume the arrival in, say, Egypt, of a great Atlantean fleet in pre-dynastic times as Le Plongeon does.
But did Atlantis finally sink in 9600 B.C. or thereabouts? Did not a considerable portion of her territory survive for many centuries subsequent to this date, and contrive to send out colonial and cultural influences to Europe, as Antillia seems to have done to barbarous America? I confess the notion has long haunted me. I refer to it as a "notion," simply because I cannot find sufficient proof to exalt it into a definite hypothesis. I have already dealt with the question of the existence of a great Atlantean prehistoric civilization of which the Aurignacian may have been the "broken-down" remains. Let us see what can be said for the existence of an Atlantean civilisation of considerably later date than that given by Plato for the final submergence of the island-continent, a culture which had either recaptured the ancient spirit of the pre-Aurignacian times, or which had developed from the Azilian type, and continued to exist into the "historical" period of European archaeology.
The period possible for the existence of such a civilisation must naturally fall many centuries later than Plato's date of 9,600 B.C., to permit of the development of a civilization more advanced than the Azilian, and, judging from the analogy of the growth of Egyptian culture, it will not be exceeding probability to place it somewhere about 5000 years B.C. And it is obvious in any case that Atlantis itself must have finally disappeared before the period in which vessels were regularly engaged in Mediterranean commerce, say about 2,000 B.C. Have we any record of cultural influences entering Europe during the period in question ? We seem to have one at least in the tradition of the origin of the Cabiri, the deities of a strange mystery cult of western origin.
From the great mass of antique writings concerning the Cabiri the following material may be extracted. The Cabiri were twin deified brothers, later identified with the Dioscuri, Castor and Pollux. They are described by Dionysius of Halicarnassus as "two youths armed with spears." Sanchoniathon, the Carthaginian writer, states that they were of Carthaginian or African origin. The cult of the Cabiri, indeed, seems to have been brought from North-west Africa to Egypt and Greece, and it is definitely stated that it was "delivered to the Egyptian Osiris." The Cabiri are said by Sanchoniathon to have been the inventors of boats, of the arts of hunting and fishing, of building and agriculture. They also invented the arts of writing and of medicine. In fact it seems that the ancient myth of the Cabiri enshrines a tradition of the invasion of the Mediterranean area by a civilised race at a period when that region was as yet in a condition of barbarism. It certainly originated in North-west Africa. At first I was under the impression that the myth referred to the entrance of the Azilian peoples to the Mediterranean, but chronological reasons seem to militate against such a presumption, and it appears much more probable that it is connected with a cultural invasion from the west at a much later period, say some 3000 years B.C.
This cult could scarcely have originated in North-West Africa. In that region we find no record of the former existence of a civilisation pre-eminent in the arts of architecture, agriculture and writing. That the cult of the Cabiri is in some manner connected with that of Osiris seems reasonably clear. A temple at Memphis was consecrated to them, and they seem to have shared the eastward march of the Osirian religion from North-West Africa to Egypt. May it not be that the secret cult connected with the Cabiri emanated from an Atlantis still existing about 3000 B.C., and that it spread eastward from North-West Africa through later Carthaginian influence to Greece and Asia Minor? There seems to be no other way of accounting for the appearance of a cult which could not have originated on African soil.
It would seem, too, that Crete was penetrated by Atlantean civilization, that, indeed, the Atlantean culture was responsible for the beginnings of Minoan progress. The theory has been put forward that Plato's account of Atlantis was, indeed, a mere reminiscence of the fall of the Minoan civilization of Crete. A writer in The Times of February 14, 1909, stated that: "The disappearance of the island corresponds to what archaeology tells us of the utter collapse of the empire of Knossos, followed by the replacement even of Cretan sailors by Phoenicians at Egyptian ports."
It is, however, unlikely that a cultural collapse, which took place about 1,200 B.C., should have been magnified only 600 years later by Egyptian priests into a cataclysm which had occurred 9,000 years before! It is as if we were to place the fall of Constantinople away back in the Neolithic Age! The ancients, even without the aid of documentary evidence, knew their history better than that, and had a better conception of chronology than some modern historians seem to think. It is too frequently forgotten that written history, as we know it, is merely a thing of the last two or three centuries. Tradition aided by meagre written records, took its place formerly, and became as much an art as written history is to-day.
It is much more likely that the Minoan civilisation of Crete was modelled upon that of an Atlantis which had possibly survived to a much later date than has been thought possible until now. Civilization in Crete was undoubtedly of very ancient introduction. Early Minoan civilisation dates, roughly, from about 3,400 B.C., and certain of its phases bear a strong resemblance to Plato's picture of life in Atlantis. The bull was its sacred animal, as in Atlantis, and the great arena at Knossos was certainly used for bull-fights or sacrifices. The Cretans were largely of Iberian race, and had labyrinthine cave-temples like those of the Aurignacians of Spain and France. Our prime authority for the myth of the labyrinth is Plutarch, whose account, more or less sophisticated, ran through a maze of romantic legend quite as intricate as the extraordinary site which inspired it. It was for generations identified with the winding cavern of Gortyna, which penetrated a little hill at the foot of Mount Ida, the endless ramifications of which seemed to mark it as the veritable lair of Theseus' monster. But when Sir Arthur Evans in 1900 first undertook his memorable excavations on the site of Knossos, he felt inclined to identify the palace of Minos itself as the true Labyrinth, basing his theory on the intricate and truly labyrinthine character of its winding passages and staircases.
As we have seen, the caverns which, according to good authorities, served the Palaeolithic Aurignacians as temples or places of worship are rich in painted and sculptured representations of the bull, which seems to have been the chief deity of this race, or at least an object of veneration or placation by a hunting population. Doubtless the legend that a Great Bull actually haunted the recesses of those almost impenetrable caverns that at Niaux in the Ariege is more than a mile in depth would become an honoured tradition in the course of generations.
The Minoan civilisation of Crete had almost certainly a cultural descent from the Aurignacian, as illustrated in its wall-paintings, its Tanagran statuettes, which link up with those of Spain by way of the Balearic Islands, and its cult of the bull, the representation of which in its palaces strikingly resembles the art of the early Aurignacian painters. It was, then, probably, some venerable myth of a tauric deity dwelling in a labyrinthine cave, and anciently derived from Spain or from the common source of Atlantis, which gave rise to the Cretan tradition of the Labyrinth. This presupposes that the cave of Gortyna was the true Cretan labyrinth connected with the myth of Theseus and the Minotaur.
The idea that Egypt was a colony of Atlantis has not met with great acceptance from many writers on the subject. It is a little difficult at first sight to recognise the justice of the claim. A work which insists upon the theory is the late Dr. Augustus Le Plongeon's Queen Moo and the Egyptian Sphinx, which tells us how Moo, a princess of the Maya of Central America, fled to Egypt after the catastrophe which ended in the submergence of Atlantis, and founded the Egyptian civilisation. But we cannot surmise such a condition of things as would allow of the settlement of Egypt by a princess who was also responsible for Maya civilisation. Chronological and other considerations simply will not permit of a hypothesis of the kind.
It is much more probable that any Atlantean influence which reached Egypt did so by way of North-West Africa.
In the first place, the most unexceptionable kind of evidence exists that Egypt was populated at an early date by people of Iberian stock. Authorities agree that the Iberian race was a large factor among those ethnological constituents which helped to make up the composite stock known as the ancient Egyptians, and that they must have entered Egypt from the West. That the Iberians were Atlanteans I have already tried to prove, and, if that is accepted, it must also be granted that they introduced Atlantean culture into the valley of the Nile.
The evidence which appears most strongly in favour of the introduction of Atlantean influence into Egypt is connected with the cult of Osiris. That this worship was not indigenous to Egypt is obvious, but it is difficult to say at what era it was introduced into the Nile country. It is certainly found at Abydos during the First Dynasty, but certain Pyramid Texts prove that it had an even more archaic history in the land.
Budge believes the Osirian worship to be "Libyan" or North African. But it is the Book of the Dead which gives us perhaps most insight into the character and provenance of the Osirian religion. Four thousand years at least before the Christian era certain parts of it were in use in Egypt, and that these were even then associated with the cult and art of mummification is clear. As the ritual of mummification grew more intricate, the Book of the Dead grew in importance, and it was believed that without a knowledge of its texts no deceased person would be preserved to enter the abodes of bliss.
There is little doubt, however, that many of the texts in the Book of the Dead are of a more archaic character than the First Dynasty. They were edited and re-edited many, many times, and even at a date so early as 3,300 B.C. the scribes who copied them were so misled by many passages which they contained as scarcely to be able to follow their general meaning. Dr. Budge remarks: "We are in any case justified in estimating the earliest form of the work to be contemporaneous with the foundation of the civilisation which we call 'Egyptian' in the Valley of the Nile."
One of these texts was indeed "discovered" in the First Dynasty, and was then referred to a date which equates with 4,266 B.C. When, then, was it first reduced to writing, or to literary shape?
The Book of the Dead was almost certainly a survival of a Neolithic ritual for the preservation of the body in order that it might live again. We know that the Aurignacian people had such a conception of immortality residing in the bones of the body. As Professor Macalister remarks regarding their practices of painting the bones of the dead with red oxide: " The remarkable rite of painting the bones red should be especially noticed. . . . The purpose of the rite is perfectly clear. Red is the colour of living health. The dead man was to live again in his own body, of which the bones were the framework. To paint it with the colour of life was the nearest thing to mummification that the Palaeolithic people knew; it was an attempt to make the body again serviceable for its owner's use. In this connection it is instructive to recall a familiar incident in folk tales, in which the hero, having come to grief, the flesh of his body is restored from the bones, or even from a small splinter of bone, and then resuscitated."
Mummification, indeed, is merely an elaboration of this practice, and it is plain that the Egyptian rite of mummification with all its intricate ritual was developed from the Aurignacian practice, which was its germ and seed. The Egyptians, like the Aurignacians, believed red to be the colour of life. They painted the faces of their gods red, and daubed red paint on the cheeks of their mummies. In all probability the Aurignacian, that is the Atlantean, custom of painting the bones of the dead spread along the coast of North Africa until it reached Egypt, where in course of time it took on an appearance of greater refinement, so that no longer the bones but the body was painted in the hues of life. But there is also good reason to believe that along the entire track of Atlantean civilisation, from Egypt to Peru, a definite cult of embalmment, the first signs of which we witness in late Aurignacian times in the tying up of the corpse in leather bundles and bandages, slowly took shape until it emerged as a definite cult with well-marked characteristics and ritual. I believe that this cult, the Osirian, originated in Atlantis, and spread thence all over North Africa on the one hand and to America on the other, and that its affiliated customs took root in most places were it was carried.