Surprising no one this book is filled entirely with speculation presented as fact, and fact treated as merely an inconvenience. We are entering the realm of pseudohistory and any attempt to wring out "facts" is bound to be confusing. Gavin Menzies is a former naval officer whose previous books (1421
) revealed how a culture (China)'s forgotten naval past was responsible for discovering America and stimulated the Italian Renaissance. Looking back even further he found another culture who's pattern in no way resembles the one in his previous book. The Atlanteans (Minoans)' forgotten naval past was responsible for discovering America and stimulated civilization throughout Europe. Amazing.
So his unfounded assertions are these:
1. The Atlanteans were really Minoans.
2. They not only discovered America but ran a major copper mine in Lake Superior.
3. They built Stonehenge and every other stone circle in Europe, but never on their own soil.
His evidence for such earth-shattering conclusions is:
1. The Minoans used copper of 99% purity. Only in Lake Superior is a copper mine of this purity known.
2. That's it.
3. No really, that's it. There is nothing else.
Aside from the fact that I question his basic assertion on that copper thing, proving that the Minoans did any of these things requires finding archaeological finds of a recognizably Minoan type in at least some of the sites in question. In fact, the evidence from all of these sites is that they were built by their own indigenous cultures. Stonehenge is built in the same basic manner as dozens of wooden henges scattered throughout Britain, including the numerous ones built on the same spot centuries earlier. There are other similar monuments scattered throughout Europe. It does not require the Minoans to explain that. Especially since he considers them a naval people and Stonehenge is located thirty miles inland. Many of the others are located even further from the sea. The equation of the Minoans with the Atlanteans is hardly a new idea. Unearthing Atlantis
made the same assertion in a much more realistic and speculative manner.
The Lake Superior copper thing is the most extreme of his beliefs. It may come as a surprise to an ex-naval officer but facts do have to be backed up. Finding a source of copper that matches the purity of copper implements does no more than suggest a possibility. When the possibility requires activity far beyond the capabilities of a Mediterranean Bronze Age civilization it becomes an impossibility. The Minoans existed on a few islands in the Mediterranean. They didn't have the human or financial resources necessary to create the massive fleet and permanent outposts that he describes, nor did they have a reason to do so. If one has to choose between a copper mine of reasonable purity only a few hundred miles away (in Turkey for example, where we know they existed), or one on the other side of the globe then which one would you expect them to choose? And how were they supposed to have known such a mine existed anyway? They would have to have had a colony there to begin with. It just doesn't make sense.
Other techniques for proving his thesis include sailing around looking for landmarks from paintings. This at least sounds like a fun activity (especially for a naval man), but it just won't wash. He's searching for the main naval base, the 'Admiralty House', that he assumes existed. He assumes it existed because "without doubt the Minoan's military strength came from their navy." Since nothing is really known for sure about the Minoan military (there are no translated written sources) such an assertion is just an assumption. Certainly there's nothing surviving in their artwork to indicate the scale or organization of their forces or even whether they had a standing navy or simply commandeered merchant ships when needed. More to the point for his search, when Thera erupted it irrevocably changed the shape of the island. Half of it is now under water and the city itself is buried under hundreds of feet of ash that now forms part of the land and has changed the coastline of the remaining section of the island. So he's searching for a naval base that would be buried under hundreds of feet of earth in a landscape that has changed unrecognizably since the Minoans left it. Good luck with that.
But even he recognizes that Santorini can't account for all of Atlantis. So he posits that Plato's Atlantis is actually composed of three separate places:
1. "Atlantis' metropolis was really Santorini"
2. "The island in the Atlantic as big as Libya and Egypt was in fact America."
3. "Atlantis' manufacturing base and breadbasket was Crete."
So after thousands of years of entirely oral transmission these places were conflated into one. Again, no evidence. Just Plato's description (and possibly invention) of a prehistoric civilization for the purposes of a story on ethics, which has been taken way way too seriously by so many people over the centuries. Atlantis is an attractive myth, so there are always going to be people trying to locate it. But the fact that none of them agree with each other should tell you something. So I'm ending this review by repeating his last words: "Most important of all - what do you think?" If you read this book make sure you do your own thinking, because the reasoning here is extremely sub-par.