Friday, 3 September 2021

Pavlou "Redating Atlantis"

        Palermo Stone Pre-dynastic series           
 Behind all the unseemly recent scuffle about the Discovery Channel's "Hunting Atlantis" series, there is apparently a new "theory" of "when Atlantis sank". A novelist and screenwriter Stel Pavlou (born 1970) had in fact published a novel two decades ago (Decipher 2001) focussed around a long-lost Atlantean civilisation (that perished 12000 years  ago) and averting a fresh disaster involving secret forces. It seems the fascination with Atlantis persisted, and he then began to run a (now-defunct) "Atlantipedia" website on the Web.

Although that website now seems to be defunct, he seems to have retained his fascination for Atlantis and "alternative explanations". Aware of the problems of postulating state societies engaged in long-distance trade at the beginning of the Holocene, and apparently still believing in the existence of this place, he now postulates that the dating that he was using earlier was incorrect. He now suspects that he's spotted what hundreds of scholars over two centuries could not. Without being, as far as one can see, an Egyptologist by training, he has come up with the idea that the chronology of Atlantis "must be based" on Egyptian king-lists, and those Egyptian king lists are all wrong - or rather that scholarship has reconstructed the fragmentary and contradictory king lists all wrong. It seems to me from what can be gathered from his website that this is a reworking of the ideas of David Rohl of a few years back (A Test of Time, 1995). 

We will see whether this is the case when Pavlou publishes the full exposition of what he's saying (apparently its going to be a forthcoming paper: "...“Dating Atlantis: How Manetho helps address the Critias problem” to be published in Archaeomythology later this year" . This journal is a Gimbutas fanzine produced by a group of people calling themselves an "Institute of Archaeomythology"). 

From what he's already said in advance of this publication, basically what Pavlou seems to be saying that when "the ancient historians" spoke of an event happening c.9600 BC (the implications of what 'Criteas' said Solon had said as reported in Plato's text), the Egyptians themselves had got the length of the gap between Solon (c.630 – c.560 BC - so contemporary with the Egyptian 26th dynasty) and the "destruction of Atlantis" all wrong and by his reasoning that means that "Atlantis was destroyed" 4,900 BCE +/- 250.

This should be easy to check. Archaeology does not need any Manetho and Palermo Stone, we have a whole series of radiocarbon dates. If the cumulation of calibrated dates tells us that the Egyptian state was founded (let us say) about 3100 BC, that leaves an awful kingless gap between "9000 years ago" where there are no king lists and fiddling about with Manetho is not going to get over that (and postulating as Pavlou does on Twitter that somehow accurate but now lost records in Neolithic tally sticks and oral sources fill the gap are weak arguments). ​ It will be interesting to see what the forthcoming paper says about that. I also wonder how he correlates his version of the chronology with the recorded observations of the heliacal rise of Sirius that need to be incorporated into his postulated scheme. The fact that the actual title of this text concentrates on "Manetho" does not hold out much hope that he will have given due weight to any of the arguments used by real Egyptologists to refine the established chronology that has been in place for at least a century now...

That is omitting totally the problem of the text written down by Plato mentioning Atlantis clearly states it was a rival to the power of "the Athenian state". Neither in 9600BC nor in 4900BC (+/- 250 or not) was there anything like an Athenian state (nor, in fact Athens) to be rival of. Does Pavlou's "paper" take that into account too, or just treat the "evidence" selectively? We shall see in due course (unless somebody chickens out and the "paper" does not get published).  

Surely, a better way to go about "rewriting history" would be first to research and then to write the article, publish it in a proper peer-reviewed publication, see how it is received, and then on that basis decide whether to go ahead and submit a proposal for a TV series using this idea as its basic framework.  Seems logical. Releasing the TV show challenging established knowledge (both on the dynastic chronology of Egypt and whether Plato was not simply making up a story to illustrate a point) without the academic justifications would seem to be just asking for what happened. Nobody, Pavlou and his wife included, should be at all surprised that academics weigh in on the topic of what it shows, and how implausible is what is being presented to a wide public as "archaeology"(and the programme actually features real archaeologists). Playing the victim and weakly saying "ah but you've not read my paper in archaeomythology" is all beside the point, and is an entirely foreseeable consequence of the current situation. 

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