« PreviousContinue »
fauna of the Azores, Madeira, the Canaries, and Cape Verde Islands originated in Africa; the Quaternary formations of the Canaries resemble those of Mauretania and inclose the same species of mollusca. Therefore these archipelagoes were connected with Africa up to an epoch near our own, at the very least until toward the end of the Tertiary. Among the present mollusca of the archipelagoes are some species which seem to be survivors of the European Tertiary. Therefore there was a bond between the islands and Spain which was severed during the Pliocene. The Pulmonata mollusca, called oleacinidæ, are found only in Central America, the West Indies, the Mediterranean Basin, and the Canaries, Madeira, and the Azores, and are larger in America than in these other regions. Therefore the continent which included these islands had extended to the West Indies at the beginning of the Miocene, but had been separated from them during the Miocene. Fifteen species of marine mollusca lived at the same time both in the West Indies and on the coast of Senegal, and nowhere else. Therefore until very near the present time a maritime shore extended from the West Indies to Senegal.
The arguments of geology and zoology may be combined. Termier is of those geologists who believe the ancient alignment of continents was east and west instead of north and south. There was a North Atlantic continent comprising Russia, Scandinavia, Great Britain, Greenland and Canada, and later a large part of central and western Europe and of the United States. There was also a South Atlantic or African-Brazilian continent extending northward to the Atlas, eastward to the Persian Gulf, westward to the Andes. Between the two continents was the Mediterranean depression, the ancient maritime furrow still marked in the present Mediterranean and Caribbean seas. These continents were broken up by foldings and collapses and a new design appeared, the general direction of which is from north to south.
M. Germain, confining himself mainly to the middle region between these two supposed continental areas, infers the existence of an Atlantic continent connected with Spain and Morocco and prolonging itself so far south as to take in regions of desert climate. During the Miocene this continent reaches the West Indies. It is then broken up and portioned off, at first in the direction of the West Indies; then in the south, by the establishment of a marine shore which reaches Senegal; then in the east, probably during the Pliocene, along the coast of Africa. “The last great fragment, finally engulfed and no longer having left any further vestiges than the four archipelagoes, would be the Atlantis of Plato,” says Termier, himself reviewing the conclusions of Germain.
Thus the geological and zoological arguments correspond very closely. To Termier there is no doubt at all that until an epoch near our own there was a continental domain in the Atlantic west of the Pillars of Hercules, and that it was sunk in a cataclysm. There is only one question left: “Did men then live who could withstand the reaction and transmit the memory of it?” Geology and zoology have perhaps told all they could tell by way of answer. “It is from anthropology, from ethnography, and lastly from oceanography,” says Termier, “that I am now awaiting the final answer.”
Anthropology and ethnography have provided some hints, such as they are. Men of scientific or of speculative cast have noted cranial and other correspondences in the subtropics on both sides of the Atlantic, and what seemed to be African influences in the civilizations of Central and South America. Quatrefages named five races of American Indians which seemed to him "true negroes.” Le Plongeon remarked the thick lips and woolly hair of certain sculptured figures at Chichen Itza. Retzius thought there were the same form of skull and the same reddish-brown complexion in the Carib Islands and in the Canaries. Elephant heads with trunk and tusks have been discovered in the friezes of ruined temples in Yucatan. Wiener contends, on the evidence of philology, that yams, manioc, peanuts and tobacco came to America from Africa before Columbus rather than went out from America afterward.
In ancient times the people of the Old World and the New were in contact. The belief has been that this was across the Pacific, but the traditions of Mexico and its neighbors point in a different direction.
Two dominant notes are struck in the legends of the races fronting on the Caribbean. One is the belief that civilization was brought to them by white, bearded strangers who came over the sea from the east. The other is the tradition of a deluge or related cataclysm. And sometimes the two stories are grouped; the beneficent strangers are refugees from the disastrous something that had happened upon the sea. Cataclysm has been called the pivot of Central American myth and the basis of the Mexican calendar.
The legendary founder of the oldest Mexican civilization, the Toltec, was Quetzalcoatl, who was worshiped as a god, but was reputed to have been a bearded white man who came from the east with a band of colonists and instructed the natives in the arts and sciences; his symbol was a boat. The story was that he was driven out by the witch doctors, but promised to return. Aztec belief that the Cortes expedition was the return visit made easier the Spanish conquest. Among the Mayas the divine stranger was known as Kukulcan, and his title was Lord of the Hollow Tree (the ark?). Coming from “Valum Chvim," he founded the ancient city of Palenque. His company was described as wearing black mantles with short sleeves; the Mayas called them “men with petticoats."
Native legends of tropic America, some of which Spence has marshaled, present a panorama of flood, fire, hilltops of refuge, arks, survivors. According to the Arawaks of Guiana the world was smitten by fire, from which men hid themselves in caverns; and then by flood, from which a leader and his followers saved themselves in canoes. In the Carib deluge myth men escaped to the mountain tops. In the Tupi-Guarani myth the Creator scourged the world with fire but a great magician put it out with a rainstorm and men took to trees (boats?). In the Karaya myth an evil spirit invoked the deluge and sent fish to pull the survivors down from the hill Tupimare. Various hills in Mexico and the American southwest are pointed out as the Ararats of flood refugees. There is even an account in the Nahuatl language of the building of an ark. According to early Spanish writers there were similar stories of oceanic upheaval among the natives of the Antilles.
All the New World flood myths, the Chaldean, Aramæan, and Iranian, the Hebrew story of Noah, and the Greek story of Deucalion, as well as the indicated ending of Plato's tale of Atlantis, agree in their main lines—that a malevolent spirit sought to drown all men, or that an angered divinity sought by a deluge to punish their lusts and pride, and that a few righteous or lucky men escaped. One of these stories, recited in the sacred book of the Quiche Indians of Guatemala, was believed by the Abbé Brasseur de Bourbourg to be an account of the disaster to Atlantis. As the briefest of the flood myths, and not the worst, it may be repeated:
“They did not think or speak of the Creator who had created them, and who had caused their birth. They were drowned, and thick resin fell from heaven.
“The bird Xecotcovach tore out their eyes; the bird Camulatz cut off their heads; the bird Cotzbalam devoured their flesh; the bird Tecumbalam broke their bones and sinews and ground them into powder.
“Because they had not thought of their mother and father, the Heart of Heaven whose name is Hurakan, therefore the face of the earth grew dark and a pouring rain commenced, raining by day, raining by night.
“Then all sorts of beings, little and great, gathered together to abuse the men to their faces; and all spoke, their millstones, their plates, their cups, their dogs, their hens,” denouncing them and railing at them.
These traditions of disaster, survival, and immigration are the collateral support of native American myth to Plato's narrative of Atlantis. The monumental ruins of Central America yield some evidence which in no wise confirms the traditions, but into which they fit. The Maya civilization has been described as immigrant from a region unknown. Its palaces and temples and columns, and the figures and inscriptions upon them, represent an art that seemingly had reached its maturity when the earliest of them was made. There are no local evi. dencies of the slow evolution of skill and taste, such as would be expected in an indigenous culture. The resemblances to the monuments of Burmah and Siam are superficial. The evidences of a European influence are practically nil. The indications of a civilization remarkable along certain lines are convincing; the Mexican calendar, the Maya astronomy, betray a knowledge of the movements of the heavenly bodies which was equal to that of Europe in the Columbian period, and yet independent of it.
The Maya monuments have one singularity which has challenged speculation. “It has been found,” says Spence, “that the starting point of all the dates found on the monuments, save two, is the same. Thus all Maya reckoning dates from one definite day in the past, a day 3,000 years prior to the first date in Maya history which can be described as contemporary with the monument upon which it is found. Upon this practically all Maya scholars of repute are agreed.” It has been conjectured that this normal date of the Mayas is the date of a cataclysm, somewhat as the people of San Francisco, with the memory of their earthquake and conflagration strong in them, date many events in their conversation as since the Fire. It has also been conjectured that this date, and a developed civilization, were brought to the Mayas by the survivors of the cataclysm.
Such is the case for Atlantis as it has been made up by men with some rank as students or specialists. The bold guesses of Donnelly, from whose work several of these citations have been taken, must be added. His most interesting contention, perhaps, is that the Bronze Age in Europe must have been preceded by a Copper Age, since bronze is an alloy of copper and tin; but that there is no evidence of a Copper Age in Europe. There was, however, a Copper Age in America, from Bolivia to Lake Superior, and therefore Atlantis was the bridge between the Copper Age of America and the Bronze Age of Europe.
With a characteristic sweep of statement Donnelly announces his conclusions. The people of Atlantis “were the founders of nearly all our arts and sciences; they were the parents of our fundamental beliefs; they were the first civilizers, the first navigators, the first merchants, the first colonizers of the earth; their civilization was old when Egypt was young, and they had passed away thousands of years before Babylon, Rome, or London was dreamed of. This lost people were our ancestors, their blood flows in our veins; the words we use every day were heard, in the primitive form, in their cities, courts, temples. Every line of race and thought, of blood and belief, leads back to them.”
For every fact, tradition, or coincidence which seems to point toward the disappearance of a continent in the Atlantic sea,