in Northern Europe
In 1876 Trubner and Co, a respected English publisher, released a curious
work entitled The Oera Linda Book. It purported to be the translation
of a thirteenth-century ancient Frisian text which spoke of the destruction
of a landmass known to ancient mariners as Atland, and to the Frisians
of the Netherlands and Denmark as the Aldland, the `Old Land'. This
lay in the North Sea between Denmark and the Shetland Isles, and was
devastated by floods and cataclysms at a date given specifically as
2193 BC. The book went on to detail how its displaced peoples, who worshipped
the goddess Freya, eventually settled in Frisia, where they developed
a major maritime culture which traded regularly with the Phoenicians
of the eastern Mediterranean. Indeed, the Oera Linda Book suggests that
a Frisian sea-king named Teunis founded the Phoenician port of Tyre
on the Lebanese coast, c. 2000 BC.
Even though the ancient text was advertised as genuine, its authenticity
was quickly challenged by scholars. For instance, one of the Frisian
sea-kings named Inka is said to have gone on a quest in search of lost
Atland. Having journeyed in the direction of the setting sun, he finally
came across an unknown land where he established a kingdom. This clearly
is a reference to America, inferring therefore that Inka was the founder
of the Inca civilisation of Peru (`inca' is Peruvian for king). Since
we now know that the Incas only rose to power in the thirteenth century
it makes nonsense of the claim made in the Oera Linda Book. It is also
stated that the Greek alphabet is derived from a much earlier Frisian
script. Yet scholars rightly point out that, according to Herodotus,
the Greek alphabet came from Phoenicia, and is thus Semitic in origin.
Other similar irregularities ensured that no academic ever took the
The book was forgotten until 1977 when ancient mysteries writer Robert
Scrutton took it upon himself to write a lengthy commentary and introduction
for an abridged edition of the Oera Linda Book. Entitled The Other Atlantis,
it was an instant bestseller and once again the authenticity of the
Frisian text was debated by scholars and historians alike. Furthermore,
the close similarity between the name Atland and Atlantis made the former
North Sea landmass a major candidate for the site of Plato's ancient
kingdom. Despite this new leash of life, the Oera Linda Book was quickly
forgotten and the only references to it which appear in books today
right it off as a nineteenth-century hoax.
Despite these drawbacks, it is now accepted by archaeologists that a
land-bridge did once exist between Norway and the Shetland Isles. Yet
this was drowned by rising sea-levels as early as 6000-5000 BC, not
`2193 BC' as the Oera Linda Book implies. It therefore seemed unlikely
that any major landmass ever existed in the North Sea, or in the Baltic
as has also been proposed.
Recently, Britain itself has been linked with the traditions surrounding
Plato's Atlantis. Russian scientist Viatscheslav Koudriavtsev of the
Institute of Metahistory in Moscow is convinced that evidence of the
island's former existence will be found on the shallow banks that lie
beyond Cornwall's Isles of Scilly, traditionally the site of lost Lyonesse.
Yet such ideas make nonsense of Plato's suggestion that the Atlantic
island he describes in his works the Timaeus and Critias, written c.
350 BC, lay in front of an `opposite continent', very probably the Americas,
which `voyagers' could reach via a series of `other' islands. This is
unless we assume that these islands are those which mark the Northwest
Passage from northern Britain to New England - the route taken by the
Vikings to reach Newfoundland in around AD 1000.
Although there is ample evidence of pre-Columbian contact with New England
by Iberic Phoenician, Carthaginian and Roman seafarers, it seems unlikely
that an island in the North Sea, the Baltic or anywhere off the coast
of Britain, would have been referred to as Atlantis, which means `daughter
of Atlas'. Plato's legendary island takes its name from Atlas, the legendary
Titan who was granted dominion over the lands of the Far West, including
West Africa and the uncharted seas which lay beyond the Pillars of Hercules,
the legendary rocks marked the entrance to the Atlantic or Western Ocean.
All this would imply that only those islands which lay in this direction
would have been known as Atlantides, `daughters of Atlas'. Furthermore,
we know that Britain and Northern Europe as a whole was strongly identified
with a legendary location sacred to the sun-god Apollo called Hyperborea,
and not with any of the legendary islands spoken of in classical tradition.
There seems to be no good reason to link any site in Northern Europe
with Plato's Atlantis tradition.