Monday, 23 February 2009

The finders of Atlantis and pro-collecting lobbyists

A few days ago the UK tabloid "the Sun" published an article stating that Atlantis had been discovered. Bernie Bamford a 38 year old aeronautical engineer from Chester had discovered on Google Earth at 31 15'15.53N 24 15'30.53 W “a perfect rectangle the size of Wales lying on the bed of the Atlantic Ocean nearly 3 miles down, a host of criss-crossing lines, looking like a map of a vast metropolis, are enclosed by a boundary.” Bernie is quoted as saying: “It looks like an aerial map of Milton Keynes. It must be man-made.” While actually Milton Keynes looks nothing like this (wrong colour too) people have become very excited by this announcement. The Sun even got a US archaeologist to comment… One reader comments online : “... it's an abandoned undersea ufo base - it was only a few fathoms down before the last polar shift...” and another (tellingly calling themselves “Burningbooks”) suggests “Seems to me we are looking ever more for eyes in the sky and lost lands and aliens these days... maybe...”.

In fact the grid had been announced on a website before that by Larkin and Cynthia Jones.

Sadly for the desktop mysteries-of-the-past solvers, a little more honest approach to enquiry would have quickly revealed that there is a more prosaic explanation of these lines, it’s a piece of poor computer modeling of bathymetric data (there are apparently other examples – one off the coast of Ireland apparently and some similar traces NW of the Faroes). Presumably at some stage this problem will be cleaned up. The conspiracy theorists will then have a field day imagining a ‘cover up’ I suspect that for many years ahead we will be seeing this “Atlantis was proved” story resurfacing in the popular press, inviting reflection on “why people believe weird things”.

It seems to me that in the field of collecting there are some of these “weird things” being believed in. That ancient coins are “not artifacts”, that fresh portable antiquities on the market “do not come from the looting of archaeological sites” and so on. There seems no limit to the degree that one can show that these comfortable myths collapse on deeper examination and confrontation with other facts, despite this their proponents go on believing them and persuading like-minded desktop solvers of mysteries-of-the-past that its the "experts" who "got it wrong". Like Atlantis.

So lobbyists such as the Atlantean Commercial Coin Group carry on spreading the myths.
Photo: These are not looters' trenches, honest (from Google Earth).

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