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If the Fabled Atlantis Was Destroyed by a Tsunami, Has it Finally Yielded its Secrets

March 14th 2011

Archaeology Topics - Atlantis ancient walls
Ancient walls off the coast of Spain

A U.S.-led research team may have finally located the lost city of Atlantis, the legendary metropolis believed swamped by a tsunami thousands of years ago in mud flats in southern Spain.

A new National Geographic Channel documentary, Finding Atlantis, followed a team of US, Canadian, and Spanish scientists as they employed advanced remote-sensing and other technology paired with underwater archeology and historical sleuthing in an effort to find a lost civilization. Led by University of Hartford professor and archaeologist Richard Freund, the team has been surveying marshlands in Spain to look for proof of the ancient city. If the team can match geological formations to descriptions left by the Greek philosopher Plato and date artifacts back to the time of Atlantis, we may be closer to solving one of the world's greatest mysteries.

"This is the power of tsunamis," head researcher Richard Freund said."It is just so hard to understand that it can wipe out 60 miles inland, and that's pretty much what we're talking about," said Freund, a University of Hartford, Connecticut, professor who lead an international team searching for the true site of Atlantis. 

When a space satellite photograph identified what looked like a submerged city in the midst of one of the largest swamps in Europe, the Doña Ana Park on the shore of Andalucia in southern Spain, Freund was contacted to see if he could assemble his team to apply their cutting-edge technology (electrical resistivity tomography, which is a virtual MRI for the ground, ground penetrating radar, and digital mapping that quickly and efficiently maps the subsurface of a site and provides instantaneous results for excavators to follow) to this project. In 2009 and 2010, they worked with Spanish archaeologists and geologists to explore the remains of an ancient city that goes back some 4,000 years.

However, the ultimate solution to what happened to Atlantis was not resolved in the south of Spain but in Freund's discovery of a series of mysterious “memorial cities” built in the image of Atlantis in central Spain, 150 miles away. Following Freund was a team headed by geophysicist Paul Bauman from WorleyParsons in Calgary, Canada and geographer Philip Reeder from the University of South Florida. Freund's discovery memorial cities built in Atlantis' image by its refugees after the city's likely destruction by a tsunami, gave researchers added proof and confidence, he said. Atlantis residents who did not perish in the tsunami fled inland and built new cities there, he added.  While it is hard to know that the site is Atlantis, Freund said the "twist" of finding the memorial cities makes him confident Atlantis was buried in the mud flats on Spain's southern coast.

The lost city of Atlantis is one of the world's most famous mysteries. According to Plato who wrote about it almost 2,600 years ago, Atlantis was "an island situated in front of the straits which are by you called the Pillars of Hercules."  The Straits of Gibraltar were known as the Pillars of Hercules in antiquity.  Tsunamis in the region have been documented for centuries, Freund said. One of the largest was a reported 10-storey tidal wave that slammed into Portugal in November 1755. Debate about whether Atlantis truly existed has lasted for thousands of years. Plato's "dialogues" from around 360 B.C. are the only known historical sources of information about the iconic city. Plato said the island he called Atlantis "in a single day and night... disappeared into the depths of the sea."

The documentary film journeys to Turkey and the Greek islands of Crete and Santorini before heading to southern Spain, beyond the Pillars of Hercules. Plato says that Atlantis once faced a city called "Gadara," which is the ancient name for modern Cadiz. Here, a team of marine archaeologists and geologists employed sonar as they searched for sub-surface human-made structures dating back to the Bronze Age. And in the vast mudflats of the Guadalquivir river delta, scientists examine strange geometric shadows of what look to be the remains of a ringed city. Here, geophysicists and archaeologists employed the most advanced imaging technologies in the world to determine whether or not an ancient cataclysm suddenly buried a thriving civilization under meters and meters of ocean and mud.

The researchers found what is quite possibly the most intriguing piece of archaeology ever associated with Atlantis. Recently discovered 2,800-year-old ruins display an image carved in stone of what looks to be an Atlantean warrior -- guarding the entrance to the lost, multi-ringed city.  Also, the remains of buildings were discovered by underwater archaeologists. Archaeologists plan further excavations are planned at the site where they believe Atlantis is located and at the mysterious "cities" in central Spain 150 miles away to more closely study geological formations and to date artifacts.

Dr. Freund is the Director of the Greenberg Center for Judaic Studies at the University of Hartford.  He also has a new book coming out called "Digging Through History: From Atlantis to the Holocaust."

Cutting Edge Senior Correspondent Martin Barillas is also the editor of Speroforum.com

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