Location and Dating of Atlantis


Rainer W. Kühne

Abstract -- I comment on the Atlantis theory of Jacques Collina-Girard and show that part of Plato's Atlantis report resembles historical events around 1200 BC. Plato's description of the Athenian acropolis resembles that of the end of the 13th century BC. The war between Atlantis and the Eastern Mediterranean countries resembles that of the Sea Peoples around 1200 BC. Satellite photos of Andalusia show two rectangular structures which could be remnants of the temples of Atlantis described by Plato.

Atlantis/ Gibraltar/ Andalusia/ Bronze Age

Atlantis in the Strait of Gibraltar?

I would like to comment on two articles on Atlantis by Jacques Collina-Girard (3, 4).

In his dialogues ``Timaios'' and ``Critias'' Plato described the island state of Atlantis which was defeated by the Athenians in a war (Crit. 108e) and which soon afterwards shall have sunken into the sea by earthquakes and floods (Tim. 25c - d, Crit. 108e).

Collina-Girard suggests that Atlantis was an island during the ice age which sank into the sea around 9000 BC. This previous island is now named ``Spartel Island''.

Its location and dating can be compared with Plato's report on Atlantis.

Atlantis lay in front of the pillars of Heracles (Tim. 24e). The geographical coordinates of the top of Spartel Island are 35°55' N and 5°58' W. It is 50 kilometers in the west of the present Strait of Gibraltar.

Approximately 9000 years before Plato's dialogue (Crit. 108e) Atlantis sank into the sea (Tim. 25d). Because of eustatic sea level rising, Spartel Island sank around 9000 BC into the sea. Today, the top of Spartel Island is 56 meters below the sea level.

At the former location of Atlantis the sea is now unnavigable and impenetrable (Tim. 25d), because of impenetrable mud (Crit. 108e - 109a). Today, shoal water exists some 40 kilometers in the northwest of Spartel Island.

From the island of Atlantis one could travel to other islands (Tim. 24e). During the ice age there existed three islands in the west of Spartel Island, one in the north and two in the east. The tops of these islands are now 50 to 100 meters below the sea level.

The size of the plain of Atlantis was 3000 stades (550 kilometers) times 2000 stades (370 kilometers) (Crit. 118a). The plain was surrounded by mountains (Crit. 118b). By contrast, the size of Spartel Island was only 14 kilometers times 5 kilometers during the Late Glacial Maximum, 21000 - 19000 years ago.

During the ice age, Spartel Island was an ideal place for trading between Europe and Africa. If people settled there, then some remnants may be detected by a future expedition.

Collina-Girard suggests that the description Plato made regarding the city and the society of Atlantis is only fiction (3).

Dating of the Athenian Acropolis

A different interpretation of Plato's Atlantis tale can be tried as follows.

As Plato described the Athenian acropolis at the time of the war (Crit. 111e - 112e), these events can be compared with  archaeological knowledge.

Plato mentioned the dwellings of the warriors which were in the north of  the acropolis (Crit. 112b) and built in the 15th century BC, and a spring which was destroyed during the earthquakes of that time (Crit. 112d). Oskar Broneer (1) discovered this spring, it has been destroyed by an earthquake at the end of the 13th century BC. Plato wrote that these natural catastrophes have been survived only by those who were unable to write, so that the knowledge of writing became lost (Tim. 23c). In fact, Ventris and Chadwick (14) proved that the Mycenaean Linear B was written in an early Greek language and that in Greece it remained in use until 1200 BC. Afterwards the Greeks had no script until the 8th century BC.

The Athens described by Plato resembles the bronze age Athens around 1200 BC.

Comparison of Atlantis and the Sea Peoples

Marinatos (9) suggested that the Atlantean warriors were identical with the Sea Peoples. Especially the inscriptions of the temple of Medinet Habu which were written around 1180 BC under pharaoh Ramses III report on these Sea Peoples. They were translated by Chabas (2) and by Edgerton and Wilson (5). In the following I will compare Plato's description of the Atlanteans with the description of the Sea Peoples by Ramses III. Quotations of the temple inscriptions are given in the combination of plate number and line number:

The Atlanteans fighted against Europe and Asia (Tim. 24e) and ``every country within the mouth'', i. e. against the Eastern Mediterranean countries (Tim. 25b). The Sea Peoples destroyed Hatti in Anatolia, Qode and Qarkemish in northern Syria, Arzawa in southwest Anatolia, and Alasia on Cyprus (Plate 46.16 - 17) and fighted against Egypt.

The Atlanteans lived on an isle (Tim. 24e, 25a, 25d, Crit. 113c) and reigned over several other islands (Tim. 25a). Also the Sea Peoples came from islands (Pl. 37.8 - 9, 42.3, 46.16).

The Atlanteans reigned in Africa from the pillars of Heracles (Gibraltar) to the frontiers of Egypt (Tim. 25a - b). The war of the Sea Peoples against Egypt occured simultaneously with the war of the Libyan Meshwesh. According to Ramses' report they appeared to be allied.

Atlantis consisted of ten countries (Crit. 113e - 114a, 119b). According to the Karnak inscription (2, 11) written under pharaoh Merenptah around 1200 BC, the Sea Peoples consisted of the Ekwesh, Teresh, Lukka, Sherden, and Shekelesh. According to Ramses III their confederation consisted of the union of the countries of the Peleset, Theker, Shekelesh, Denen, and Weshesh (Pl. 46).

In the case of war the Atlanteans had more than one million soldiers (Crit. 119a - b). Ramses III claimed to have beaten hundreds of thousands of enemies (Pl. 18.16, 19.4 - 5, 27.63, 32.10, 79.7, 80.36, 80.44, 101.21, 121c.7). Occationally, he spoke of millions (Pl. 27.64, 46.4, 46.6, 79.7, 101.21) and myriads (Pl. 27.64) of enemies who were numerous like locusts (Pl. 18.16, 80.36) or grasshoppers (Pl. 27.63).

The Atlanteans had 1200 war ships (Crit. 119b). The ships of the Sea Peoples entered deep into the delta of the Nile (Pl. 42.5) and destroyed the Asian Arzawa, the Cypric Alasia, and the near-eastern Ugarit and Amurru.

The Atlanteans had chariots pulled by horses (Crit. 119a). The Meshwesh had horses (Pl. 75.37) and carts (Pl. 18.16, 75.27) which, however, were pulled by oxes (figures to Pl. 32 - 34).

The Atlantean kings reigned for several generations (Crit. 120d - e) and after this they lost their good attitudes (Crit. 121a -- b). Ramses III wrote about the Sea Peoples that they had spent a long time, a short moment was before them, then they entered the evil period (Pl. 80.16 - 17).

During a day and a night Atlantis sank by a earthquake into the sea (Tim. 25c - d). Ramses III wrote that he let the Sea Peoples see the majesty and force of (the God of water) Nun when he breaks out and lays their towns and villages under a surge of water (Pl. 102.21), moreover the mountains were in travail (Pl. 19.11).

Location of Atlantis

Plato described the place of the Atlantean capital. The capital (Crit. 115c) was on a to-all-sides flat hill which was 50 stades (9 kilometers) distant from the sea and lay at the edge of a plain (Crit. 113c). This plain was rectangular (Crit. 118c) , smooth and even. The plain lay on the southern part of the isle (Crit. 118a - b), in its middle (Crit. 113c). The plain was surrounded by mountains which reached until the sea (Crit. 118a). Apart from this, the country was very high and had a steep coast (Crit. 118a).

The isle of Atlantis was divided under the ten sons of Poseidon (Crit. 113e). The first born, Atlas, obtained the largest and best territory, namely the region around the capital (Crit. 114a). The second born, Gadeiros, obtained the part at the most distant edge which reached from the pillars of Heracles (Gibraltar) to the Gadeirean country (the region around Cadiz) (Crit. 114b).

The first born, Atlas, obtained the largest and best part. Therefore one can assume that the later born sons obtained smaller and smaller parts. According to this, the second born son, Gadeiros, obtained the second largest part of the ``isle of Atlantis''. This part included the coastal region of Spain from Cadiz to Gibraltar. Here, the term ``isle'' should be rather understood as ``coast'' or ``region''.

The part of the country belonging to Gadeiros was only a coastal region of length 100 kilometers. The parts of the later born sons were probably even smaller. Thus, the part of the country belonging to Atlas cannot have been much distant from Cadiz.

In fact, near Cadiz their exists a rectangular (Crit. 118c), smooth and even plain which lies at a south coast (Crit. 118a - b). It is the plain southwest of Sevilla through which the Guadalquivir flows. Was here the capital of Atlantis as Hennig (6, 7), Jessen (8), and Schulten (12, 13)  supposed?

Satellite photos of Andalusia show a rectangular structure with a length of 230 meters and a width of 140 meters. It could be a remnant of the temple of Poseidon whose length was one stade (185 meters) and whose width was three plethra (92 meters) (Crit. 116c - d). A further ``quadratic'' structure of size 280 meters times 240 meters could be a remnant of the temple of Cleito and Poseidon (Crit. 116c). The geographical coordinates of the rectangular structure are 36°57'25'' +/- 6'' N and 6°22'58'' +/- 8'' W. The centre of the ``quadratic''structure is 500 meters in the southwest of the centre of the rectangular structure. These structures lie in a mud region named ``Marisma de Hinojos''. It is within the Parque Nacional de Donana. The distance of the structures from Spartel Island is 120 kilometers.


Plato's reported ancient Athens resembles that of the end of the bronze age at the end of the 13th century BC. His claimed war between Atlantis and the Eastern Mediterranean countries resembles that of the Sea Peoples around 1200 BC. The Sea Peoples probably came from the Aegaean region (10). The city and society of Atlantis may refer to either the iron age Tartessos or a bronze age culture in southern Spain.

If the capital of Atlantis indeed existed near the mouth of the Guadalquivir, then we suggest that Plato's Atlantis tale is based upon  an Egyptian report on the Sea Peoples and some Greek tradition on the Athens of that time. The report on the Atlantean city and state may
refer to a Spanish city which was possibly identical with Tartessos which was probably destroyed by Carthaginians during the 6th century BC.


I thank Werner Wickboldt for pointing out to me the structures on the satellite photos which he interpreted as possible remnants of the temples of Atlantis. I thank Georgeos Diaz-Montexano for showing me independent satellite photos which confirm the existence of the two rectangular structures.


1. Broneer, O., A Mycenaean Fountain on the Athenian Acropolis, Hesperia 8 (1939) 317 - 429.

2. Chabas, F., Etudes sur l'Antiquité historique d'après les sources égyptiennes et les monuments réputés prehistoriques, Maisonneuve, Paris, 1872.

3. Collina-Girard, J., L'Atlantide devant le détroit de Gibraltar? Mythe et géologie, C. R. de l'Academie des Sciences (2a) 333 (2001) 233 - 240.

4. Collina-Girard, J., La Crise Finiglaciaire à Gibraltar et l'Atlantide: Tradition orale et Géologie, Préhistoire Anthropologie Méditerranéennes T. 10 - 11 (2001 - 2002) 53 - 60.

5. Edgerton, W. F., Wilson, J. A., Historical Records of Ramses III. The Texts in Medinet Habu, University of Chicago Press, Chicago, 1936.

6. Hennig, R., Das Rätsel der Atlantis, Meereskunde 14 (1925) 1 - 29.

7. Hennig, R., Zum Verständnis des Begriffs ``Säulen'' in der antiken Geographie, Petermanns geographische Mitteilungen  73 (1927) 80 - 87.

8. Jessen, O., Tartessos-Atlantis, Zeitschrift der Gesellschaft für Erdkunde (1925) 184.

9. Marinatos, S., Peri ton Thrulon tes Atlantidos, Kretica Chronica 4 (1950) 195 - 213.

10. Maspero, G., Review of F. Chabas's Etudes, Revue Critique d'Histoire et de Littérature (1873) 81 - 86.

11. Rougé, E. de, Extraits d'un mémoire sur les attaques dirigées contre l'Egypte par les peuples de la Méditerranee vers le XXVe siècle avant notre ère, Didier, Paris, 1867.

12. Schulten, A., Tartessos und Atlantis, Petermanns geographische Mitteilungen 73 (1927) 284 - 288.

13. Schulten, A., Atlantis, Rheinisches Museum für Philologie   88 (1939) 326 - 346.

14. Ventris, M., Chadwick, J., Evidence for Greek Dialect in the Mycenaean Archives, Journal of Hellenic Studies 73 (1953) 86 - 103.

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