Sardinia, land of mystery. Part 2: Atlantis’ lost civilization?

“Nuraghe Mannu” meaning “big nuraghe” in local language, in Dorgali territory

Last week I wrote the first of this two-part series about Sardinia‘s mysteries, and I focused on popular tales, legends and unexplained facts that from time to time still happen. This second and last chapter is devoted to some studies that academics, journalists and researchers are carrying out on the island’s most ancient history.

Traveling to different countries and continents, made me realize that not many people know Sardinia, some confuse it with Sicily, the other big Italian island, more famous, apparently due to Hollywood’s Godfather, others just ignore its existence. I don’t blame them, why should they know about such a small place with all the huge and more exciting countries, cities, regions of the world? They sure don’t have to know it, but one thing is out of doubt: once they come here, they are not very likely to forget about it any time soon.

These researchers, the most committed being journalist Sergio Frau, have been studying the connections between Sardinia and the lost civilization of Atlantis, nonetheless. By all means this Italian island has hidden aspects that travelers can hardly catch and even locals can’t explain. In the first post I wrote about some radiations on the stones of some Bronze-Age towers that can be found in central Sardinia, but this is not the only issue currently under debate.

The Giants’ Tomb in Dorgali territory

Speaking about magnetic fields, in fact, some of the most interesting sites are the so-called “Giants’ Tombs”, prehistoric stone constructions that can be found all over the island. It is believed that lying on one’s back at the main entrance of the tomb for about ten minutes, in total silence and chasing away all thoughts, one has many benefits thanks to the positive energies that the stone releases. Such benefits last quite long, but natives like to repeat the process often, preferably during sunset. Moreover, it’s tradition to take a little stone from the square before the entrance and keep it at home to enjoy its positive properties.

According to historical research, Giant’s Tombs had funerary purposes, but since they are too big to be a single grave, they probably had also other functions that historians are still trying to understand. Maybe more than one corpse was laid there after the burial ceremony, or maybe personal objects of the dead were buried with the owner. Whatever their original purpose was, natives still now enjoy their positive benefits, that may or may not actually exist.

Myself underneath the Giants’ Tomb, in the lookout for some anti-stress effect

The ancestral sense of mystery that covers the island is perhaps due to its tangled history and very much enigmatic origins. Journalist Sergio Frau has been researching our most ancient era and civilization. As he points out, while by reading Homer we can learn the ancient Greek oral tradition carefully reproduced in his writing, the geography he managed to reveal was confined to the Eastern Mediterranean, as it was the only part they knew at his time. In fact, beyond their usual routes, tales become hazy, and the only references concern the Pillars of Hercules, where the known world ended and the Ocean began.

Some of the first mentions of the world beyond the Pillars of Hercules come from Greek philosopher Plato around 360BC, who makes Timaeus say [my translation into English]: “beyond the strait that you call Pillars of Hercules there is an island“, and tells about a huge cataclysm that happened “when the sea flooded Europe“. Still in his dialogues, Plato makes Critias (who seems was either Plato’s great-uncle or his second cousin) talk about the sea of Atlantis, beyond the Pillars, where “there was an island, and from this other islands could be reached, and from these the land that surrounds everything, a real Continent.

The Giants’ Tomb from behind

Since an exact location for the Pillars of Hercules hasn’t been identified yet, many are the hypothesis. While many tend to associate them with the Strait of Gibraltar, Sergio Frau wants to place them on the Strait of Sicily. Why? Because since they were the edge of what was the known world at the time and the southernmost Sicilian coast was the westernmost end of the Hellenic colonization, it would be logic to consider them in Sicily and the Tyrrhenian Sea as the mentioned “ocean”.

The first Greek geographer to place the Pillars of Hercules on the Strait of Gibraltar was Eratosthenes, despite this fills with mistakes all the reports of successive writers. According to Sergio Frau, ancient Greek writers used to associate the Pillars of Hercules with the Strait of Sicily, between Sicily and Tunisia, but after Alexander the Great’s conquests Eratosthenes felt compelled to “move” the Pillars location to Gibraltar in order to keep Greece as “the center of the world”, despite all the errors this entails.

In fact, if the Pillars were in Gibraltar, it seems like the Western Mediterranean Sea didn’t even exist, since all descriptions mention lands beyond the pillars, which would result right in the Atlantic Ocean. Moreover, distances, rivers’ springs and mouths and durations of trips don’t correspond to reality. For example, how could the “Eridanus“, today’s Po River, flow into the North Sea, since oceans were beyond the pillars? Or how could Sardinia be next to the ocean and the Rhone flow into the Atlantic Ocean while we know for sure its mouth is near Marseille?

A view of the island of Sant’Antioco

So Sergio Frau tried to place the pillars where originally were known to be, in the Strait of Sicily, and walked through the world known by the ancient Greek vicariously through the descriptions given by the writers prior to Eratosthenes, documenting that the myth of Hercules Pillars, like many other legends, has a real place in our planet’s history. Assuming a drop of the sea level of 100 or even 200 mt, Sicily and Malta would be connected to Tunisia by a double strait, other than Gibraltar, placed just at the end of the world known by the ancient Greek at the time, just beyond Agrigento, the westernmost tip where the Greek managed to establish their settlements, since they could have never reached the Tyrrhenian Sea due to the presence of other great sailors such as the Phoenicians.

According to Sergio Frau, by placing the pillars “correctly” on the Sicily Strait, all descriptions of ancient Greek writers start to make sense. Actually this thesis was also brought up by geographer Ptolemaeus, who re-describes in his Map the travels of Rufo Fiesto Avieno, and suddenly all the descriptions of Greek writers that at first sight seemed wrong become right. Why? Simply because of the correct location of the pillars.

With this description the result is, for example, that Tartesso, previously situated in Andalusia, seems to be more logic to be placed it in Sardinia, and is precisely the settlement of Nora; the Estrimnidi Islands actually seem to be the island of Sant’Antioco, and the sea around it, so low that it’s impossible to navigate is simply the shoals around Sant’Antioco, the “ocean” is actually the Tyrrhenian Sea, so it makes sense that Sardinia was “next to the ocean” and that the Rhone flows into “the ocean”. All together it makes sense also to believe that beyond Hercules Pillars there is an island, from which it’s possible to reach other islands, and from these the land that surrounds everything.

So, what if Sardinia actually were the lost Continent of Atlantis?

A view of the lagoon of Sant’Antioco island

In Plato’s dialogues Critias tells a story belonging to the oral tradition that lawmaker Solon had heard from a priest of Sais of ancient Egypt. The priest described Atlantis as a beautiful land full of fertile plains and high mountains that protected it from the cold northern winds, populated with wild and domestic animals, rich in precious metals and plentiful of hot and cold water springs. The island of Atlantis is pictured as a land that enjoys the benefits of a mild climate and that gives more than one harvest per year, and dotted with stone towers, very likely referring to the nuraghi, that now are about 5000 but at that time must have been around 10,000, and must have been undoubtedly noticed by travelers.

In his book, Sergio Frau collects countless analogies between Sardinia (now and in the past) and the Atlantis described by Plato, from the weather to the architecture, from the kings to the army, from the trades to the natives’ loyalty to Poseidon God of the sea. It’s mentioned the great ability of local sailors, the games, the dances, the thermal baths, the elderly, green everywhere, dates concur, as well as the mud that covered the island and the malaria that tormented it.

Architect Paolo Marcoratti has presented a study following the analysis of Plato’s writings and of the land to confirm that the city of Atlantis can be placed between the Gulf of Cagliari and the Plain of the Campidano. The only conflict with Plato’s writings concerns the dates: if Plato by ‘9,000’ meant 9,000 years earlier, it would have been impossible that at the time there could be men who already knew metals and writing, but Critias talks about all this and arms, bronze, carts, so how could this be possible? If instead of years we read ‘9,000 weeks’, that becomes about 750 years prior to Critias, and the discrepancy disappears, since the period of Atlantis’ greatest glory corresponds to the moment of Shardana‘s civilization heyday. Moreover, the similarities between the equipment of warriors Shardana and Sardinia’s nuragic civilization make many researchers claim that Shardana was Sardinia’s local population of sailors, and they can also be the people Plato always refers to as coming from the sea.

A “domus de janas”, literally “fairies’ house”, another prehistoric construction, probably a tomb, but still shrouded in mystery

Another thing that Plato reports is the devastating flood that would have determined Atlantis’ destruction. This too makes sense. In fact this deadly flood can be identified with the huge seism that happened around 1200BC, causing the tsunami that very likely involved all southern Sardinia, completely flooding the Campidano and destroying most of the nuraghi of the area, which, if we visit them today, we still see they are half destroyed (unlike in other areas where they are perfectly preserved) from their southern part and less damaged on their northern side.

In Rome, the prestigious Accademia dei Lincei devoted a conference to such topic, and Sergio Frau explained his theory in front of many researchers, historians and archeologists such as Louis Godart, Mounir Bouchenaki, General Director of the ICCROM, and Mario Tozzi, geologist of the CNR, Consiglio Nazionale delle Ricerche, public agency aimed at promoting research on many fields. All the researchers agreed with Sergio Frau‘s thesis of placing Hercules Pillars on the Strait of Sicily as ancient Greek writers had claimed before Eratosthenes, but the theory that identifies Atlantis with Sardinia met the skepticism of Louis Godart, while the geologists of the CNR are on Frau’s side, confirming the tsunami that four centuries before Christ devastated the southern part of the island, bringing to an end the nuragic civilization and maybe the city of Atlantis.

The research carried out so far is very convincing, both scientists and historians are more or less agreeing on moving the Pillars from Gibraltar and don’t rule out the possibility of associating Sardinia with Atlantis. The island fits this explanation also due to the presence in its past of a lost civilization, the nuragic, and geologists support Frau’s argument that one of the biggest nuraghi (Barumini) has been found under a thick layer of mud (after the tsunami).

Land of mystery and unspoken customs, Sardinia never fails to charm travelers, as behind every corner there is something to be discovered. Apart from this research, which I will keep following, I love to think this is true: how cool would it be to say I come from Atlantis?

  1. Articolo interessantissimo, complimenti per le fotografie! una tesi la tua che spiegherebbe molti monumenti, come hai detto!

  2. je connaissais vaguement cette théorie et ton article m’a éclairci plusieurs points! Compliments et écris encore sur notre mystèrieuse et grandiose ile !

  3. Very interesting write-up, Angela. I like the idea of Sardinia being Atlantis.

  4. You’ve certainly put Sardinia on my radar with your wonderful posts! The tombs are fascinating. Did you feel the anti-stress effect after sitting at the Giants’ Tomb? Thanks for such an enlightening and interesting article.

    • Actually no, I didn’t feel anything, BUT: I was in kind of a hurry, I didn’t empty my mind with work/busy thoughts, I didn’t go during sunset, and I didn’t lie down as required, so I think I have to go back and try properly. I do have a friend who goes every now and then because of their anti-stress properties and she says they actually make her feel better.

  5. I have never been to Sardinia, but this post makes it look pretty cool. Well researched!

  6. Gorgeous light in the view of the lagoon. You do visit the most beautiful places.

  7. Wow! Reading through this was amazing – the history and analysis. Even if Sardinia isn’t Atlantis, it is sounding more and more appealing for a visit. Seemingly a true island paradise surrounded by a large sea (isn’t that what Atlantis used to be) along with stress relieving stones – very intriguing, indeed.

    • Yeah, there really are so many things, mainly pretty odd, to visit, see and do in Sardinia that I wouldn’t be surprised at all if it turned out to be Atlantis or some other fantastic ancient place. The only thing that our ancient nuragic civilization has left us around 5000 towers that managed to stay almost untouched from 3500BC up to now while many new buildings have problems after only a couple of years despite all the modern technologies, is already pretty amazing, to the extent that somehow I happen to wonder if we natives still have some of our ancestors’ intelligence or we really forgot everything :P

  8. Well I though I was familiar with Sardinia but I didn’t know all of this! I love ancient sites that are supposed to have mysterious properties. You must do the stone ritual properly next time to see what you feel!

  9. Very interesting introduction to Sardina. Thanks, Plato, for giving us this apparently unsolvable mystery about Atlantis–add Sardinia to the other dozen or so supposed locations. (Personally, I vote for Santorini)

    • The Santorini option is more popular among historians I think, the Sardinia one seems to have the support of geologists. I personally think they are more the things we will never know about ancient history than the ones we are sure about, and it’s ok, some things can just stay shrouded in mystery. Very likely we will never know where Atlantis was, nor if it actually existed…

  10. I didn’t know anything about Sardinia before. Very intriguing!

  11. Although we knew it from the start, one week last year was not enough. Eager to return! Great post, Angela!

  12. Another incredible post on the mysteries of this fantastic island.

  13. I wrote my thesis on Atlantis and Sardinia in 1987, and published it on the web site in 2001, a year before Segerio Frau’s book was published. Hope you find my writings helpful in your search for answers.

  14. I’ve just returned home from a trip to Sardinia. Truly a beautiful island of magic and mysteries with lots and lots of traces of past different civilizations :)

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