Most religions have the belief that there was once a more perfect world, from which man has been banished. This has often been interpreted as meaning a real previous civilization used to exist, populated by beings we now see as gods.
Outside religion, central to such ideas is Atlantis, a mythical island deep in our past with a perfect, but powerful society, finally destroyed by the gods when they were corrupted.
Could such a lost world have actually existed? Well, perhaps not a single island of Atlantis. But the idea of a lost civilization is something quite different – and something I think can be explained rationally.
Of course, many ideas for such a civilization have been put forward, mostly of a spurious or sensational nature. Hence, academe is loath to even consider such a possibility. But I think they are mistaken.
Does evidence exist for a lost civilization? No. Not of a definite kind – but there are plenty of indicators around the world that could fit into the concept, if, that is, they were properly researched.
These concern the myriad myths of sunken cities, and structures off-shore that could be man-made. From the Bimini Road in the Caribbean, to Yonaguni in the Far East, tantalizing glimpses of possible human endeavour exist under the sea, not far from the coast.
How do we make sense of the implications? By providing a theory that allows them to be, at least, man-manipulated, and tying that theory with known or reasoned elements from the past.
The predominant theory of man’s proliferation around the planet is the Out of Africa hypothesis. In this model, modern man moved out of Africa in prehistory and populated the globe. However, this would only have been achieveable by the crossing of large expanses of water.
Boats, it seems, would have been needed some 40,000 years ago. How else would we explain this proliferation? These boats would have been rudimentary, but is it feasible to suggest that the boat builders then abandoned their boats and continued Stone Age existence?
I think this is unlikely. Rather, I suggest a split in humanity between a maritime culture, and the inland hunter-gatherer. Boats, of course, would require harbours. These would be static, and as happened in the later Agricultural Revolution, I suggest these static societies produced all the advances in organization and engineering that seemed to come later.
In effect, I’d argue that a Fisheries Revolution occurred, thousands of years in the past, in isolated coastal communities around the world. Advancing possibly up to a stage equal to the ancient Egyptians, they eventually learnt navigation and linked up into a global cosmopolitan civilization.
From 12,000 to 8,000 years ago, the last Ice Age ended, raising water levels. Hence, these communities were wiped out, leaving only enigmatic structures poking up from the sea bed, the survivors going inland and using their expertise to kickstart the Agricultural Revolution. These survivors are remembered only as gods. And the first global society rose to greatness, and was finally wiped off the face of the Earth.