Books by J.M. Allen

Released: Feb. 10, 1999

Further grist for the Atlantology mill—though not outlandish, it's an intriguing stretch, from British cartographer Allen. Figure that Plato was telling it straight when he referred to Atlantis as a continent outside the Pillars of Hercules, Allen suggests. That would make it the Americas. Now, where thereabouts could a place like Plato described (the great rectangular plain encircled by hills, the fabulous city island encrusted with precious metals, all that rain) be found? Allen makes a bid for the Bolivian Altiplano, beneath the sands of the remote desert bordering Lake Poopo: He likes the fact that there is a nice big plain that used to be a great lake, that gold and copper and silver and tin are in abundance nearby (perhaps the wondrous orichalcum too, and then there are those seductive links to El Dorado), that "atl" means water in the Aztec Nahuatl tongue, and "antis" is Incan for copper. Most of all he likes a series of possible colossal irrigation ditches that conform to Plato's 100-stade intervals. Ancient systems of measurement are Allen's pet topic, and his discussion of barleycorns and Saxon feet is the best material in the book. These and a host of other potential convergences are enough to raise an eyebrow on an Atlantis enthusiast. But then Allen starts trotting out such qualifiers as, "Now suppose that in the translation there should be an error so fundamental and simple as this" (in regard to Plato's comment that Atlantis was swallowed up in a single day); later Allen starts tinkering with Plato's measurements (cutting some in half, and then blaming it on Solon, who in making his story more agreeable to his readers confused old and new systems of measurement). As ever, fiddle here and twiddle there with Plato's description, and you can situate Atlantis just about anywhere. And while Allen's theory has launched an international expedition—he too has tampered with the evidence, tarnishing its magic. (8 pages color, 62 b&w illustrations, not seen) Read full book review >