Originally Published: October 2, 2006 4:01 a.m.
PRESCOTT Several theories abound as to whether the ancient civilization of Atlantis was real, and National Geographic has recruited local anthropologist George Erikson to offer proof of its existence.
Erikson authored "Atlantis in America: Navigators of the Ancient World," a book that he says, stirred controversy about whether the story of the society told by the ancient Greek historian Plato was real or mythology.
Monday night, "Atlantis: Is It Real?" airs on the National Geographic channel, investigating both sides of the story. Erikson is one authority who believes that Atlantis, or the Atlantians, were a society that lived in what is now Central America at the end of the Pleistocene era and met its destruction from giant tsunamis that wreaked havoc on the Americas.
Erikson said he toured archaeological sites with a National Geographic crew in the Yucatan this past March showing them what he thought was evidence that the Mayan civilization dates back at least to that of the ancient Greeks.
"I told them why the civilizations had some interconnection," Erikson said.
Erikson has used evidence from other research he said ties the region to that of the ancient Egyptians, such as cocaine and tobacco found in samples with the unearthing of mummies in excavations substances that were native only to South America.
"Ninety percent of the bodies examined were positive for tobacco, and 3,000 years ago, tobacco was again only in South America, not in Egypt certainly," he said.
Erikson said that his book, co-authored by Iver Zapp, a professor at the University of Costa Rica, provides evidence of navigational contact between peoples across the Atlantic possibly 12,000 years, definitely 6,000 years ago.
"This resulted in our believing that Plato's tale of a civilization across the Atlantic that was destroyed by floods was in fact a real event," he said.
"A geologist at the University of Miami now believes that there was one day in which the Gulf of Mexico rose by about 62 feet," he said, which would have been roughly three times the size of the Asian tsunami of 2004.
Erikson said he has studied Mayan civilization for about 28 years, and arrived at a theory of the Atlantian connection 12 years ago while working with Zapp in Costa Rica.
"He was showing me his finds of a lifetime of work down there, and so much of it was navigational, and I can't remember which one of us said Atlantis first, but one of us said 'it could be," said Erikson. We decided not to back away from the idea that this ancient navigational culture that we had uncovered in Costa Rica was in fact part of Atlantis." Erikson added that the civilization would be ancient predecessors to the Maya.
According to Erikson's timeline, which he bases on Plato's account, the destruction would have been about 11,500 years ago, corresponding to the end of the Pleistocene era.
"Plato says that Salon (an ancient historian) came back from Egypt talking about a more ancient civilization, and that the Egyptian priests had record of it, but the Athenians knew nothing about it, so Plato wrote these two books about (Atlantis)," he said.
Richard Ellis is another researcher on the program, who has published a book that tries to debunk the theory of Atlantis.
"Atlantis: Is It Real?" airs at 8 p.m. Monday on the National Geographic channel.
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