The Mayans believed that a land called Mu once existed above the waves and that when that civilization fell below the surface, the survivors created the Mayan people (Hancock, Underworld: The Mysterious Origins of Civilization 73). In their creation story, the Mayans place Mu in the Pacific as a continent that pre-dates the Atlantis story. According to a translated Mayan Codec, the Land of Mu, like Atlantis, had been the center of significant social, scientific, religious, and cultural thought - it was, unlike Atlantis, an ideal place. When Mu fell during a massive geological upheaval, its people were able to escape to the continent of what is now South America and created the Mayan civilization - one of the most complex and significant of the ancient civilizations on the Americas.
Mu has been since taken up by what can only be loosely called New Age writers using it to link present day life to ancient and possibly alien origins.
In the Tamil (Indian) traditions, an island strikingly similar to Mu and Atlantis existed in what is now called the Indian Ocean, called Lemuria. Interestingly, while Lemuria is part of Tamil legend, the idea of it was actually popularized by English biogeologists taking up Darwin's work and using this legendary island as the explanatory place between the existence of particular species throughout the entire oceanic region. Again, though, Lemuria's original existence was as a human civilization - one that, along with another sunken land in Tamil legend "Kumari Kandam," were lands that had been part of the Indian sub-continent that over time became flooded by the ocean (Hancock 18). These histories claim an ancient landmass that connected Australia to India.
The problem with these geographical and geological tales, however, is that they simply fail to stand up to our modern understanding of Plate Tectonics - a debunking argument that will be made later.
In addition to the Greek, Mayan, and Indian legends of the Lost Continent, other mythological lands have been promoted throughout human history. But in this last category, mostly the idea of a lost or "undiscovered" civilization is little more than an intellectual exercise (Hope 17). In trying to explore the ideas that shape and create tales of the Lost Continent, using modern fiction is a completely useless exercise - anyone can make up a story, anyone can assert anything if they use the right words in the right way.
What we need to establish is this, can we trust ancient accounts of a land and people that no one can prove exists, that there is no true historical record of, that exists only within the context of legend and supposition?
Let us take myth and legend for what they are - unsubstantiated ideas that are used to explain a particular aspect of human life. Many Lost Continent myths are creation myths - this is how our people got here stories. As such, they are easily debunked when we understand the very tangible science of plate tectonics. Geologists have some rather to-the-point things to say on this topic- "let me just briefly mention that there is no such thing as a sunken continent," (Erlingsson & Karlen, Atlantis from a Geographer's Perspective 27). Wait, it can't be that simple. Just because a geologist says that there is no sunken continent does that make it so? Does that simply debunk the millennia of popular thought on the subject? Perhaps a further explanation is necessary:
After the advent of deep sea research...there is no longer any room for hesitation. We know no how ocean bottoms are formed through plate tectonics, and we know the morphology of the oceans in significant detail. There is simply no room for any sunken continent in the oceans. A lost continent, though, is quite another cup of tea," (Erlingsson & Karlen, 27-28).
What these two geologists are referring to is the basic tenet of plate tectonics, that at one time nearly all of the land of the earth that stood above water was one massive continent -a central island upon which existed nearly every part of the known geological world. Over billions of years, the tectonic plates (large overlapping puzzle pieces of the Earth's curst that move and shift in response to pressures of rising and falling temperatures, magma, and other forces) caused the breakup of Pangaea (Joseph 112). In this account, a continent that would have been once part of another, that broke off and shifted below the surface of the ocean in a series of events taking place over millions of years, could be possible - one such place is the southern and western parts of California, west of the San Andreas fault, which, it is theorized, will one day split the majority of that state off from the rest of the United States (Colins, 3).
Charles Pellegrino's work Unearthing Atlantis: An Archaeological Odyssey to the Fabled Lost Civilization, wrote that evidence of the possibility of burying entire places under mudslides, volcanic ash, and other such eruptions is quite possible (Pellegrino 249). In tracking geologic events between known effects of flowing magma (which can make massive tunnels under ground as it bores through or just under the surface) and the force of volcanic eruptions, and the example of Pompeii, it becomes entirely possible that an entire city could be buried or even sink below the surface of the water. This however, does not prove the existence of Atlantis, Lemuria, Mu or any other Lost or Sunken continents. What it succeeds in doing is creating the possibility for part of a continent to have broken off or shifted below the surface as the tectonic plates tilt, or for the burying of a city - but is not itself evidence or proof.
Without argument, there are many different things to be found on the ocean floor. Countless thousands of ships and their millions of artifacts contained therein have fallen below the waves. Pompeii proves that an entire city can be wiped under the surface of the earth in a matter of minutes. Earthquakes, tsunamis and other effects of nature can be used to explain an uncountable number of disappearances and destruction (Haven 34). but, do these support the concept of Atlantis? Can we prove a negative? Can we conclusively prove that Atlantis, or any of the other legendary lands, did not exist? In short, not really. but, we have to always apply a true scientific eye - we cannot measure the spiritual. Therefore, we cannot prove or disprove God scientifically. We cannot weigh or carbon-date something that we don't have in front of us - therefore we cannot prove that a vase, ceramic shard, or utensil found is definitely Atlantean.
Graham Hancock asserts that Atlantis, Lemuria, Mu, are all distinct possibilities. In his work to explore the legends of Lemuria, he looked at a particularly unique and apparently man-made structure in the water off of the coast of Bengal.
Because the samples we took found no organic materials that could be dates by carbon 14 and no pottery that could be dated by thermoluminescence or by type. We have only stone which cannot be dated in any meaningful sense. Except by one factor - which is that the structure is now under 23 meters of water, (Hancock 6).
We can find evidence of such structures, right off the coast of many places - structures that are either simply the result of tectonic movement, or are quite possibly human in origin. but, as Hancock pointed out - there is no way to prove or disprove human creation in the vast majority of these examples.
The truth about the Lost Continent is that there is no truth. Proving a negative is harder than writing a fictional account or believing a myth. What we have to do is look at the possibilities - could an entire continent have sunk beneath the ocean? No, because tectonic plates do not shift in precisely that manner. Could a coastal city have eventually tilted into the ocean during platonic shifts? Probably not as the billions of years it takes for such shifts predate humanity. Could a civilization have been built upon a soft strata of earth and sunk into the ground or been buried by ash or lava? Certainly. But the truth is that none of these proves or disproves Atlantis.
Gateway to Atlantis: The Search for the Source of a Lost Civilization. Carroll & Graf Publishers, 1st Edition, New York
Erlingsson Ulf and Wibjorn Karlen.
Atlantis from a Geographer's Perspective. Lindorm Publishing, Oslo.
Flem-Ath, Rand and Colin Wilson.
The Atlantis Blueprint: Unlocking the Ancient Mysteries of a Long-Lost Civilization. Delta, Chicago.
Forsyth, Phyllis Y.
1980 Atlantis: The Making of Myth. University of Toronto Press, Toronto.
Underworld: The Mysterious Origins of Civilizations. Three Rivers Press, New York.
Wonders of the Sea (Wonders of Nature: Natural Phenomena in Science and Myth). Libraries Unlimited, Ithaca.