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Atlantis Returns

Some time ago, a few colleagues and I made two films for the BBC’s Horizon strand about the myth of Atlantis. The idea was inspired by a two part Horizon made a quarter of a century earlier about Erich von Däniken. We focused on a British writer called Graham Hancock. His best selling writings had many ingredients in common with von Däniken and, as we discovered,  the 19th Century re-invention of Plato’s Atlantis by an American politician and populist writer Ignatius Donnelly. It was Donnelly, rather than Plato, who fixed on a simple idea: an ancient culture – terrestrial or not – had been destroyed in a cataclysm of some kind and that its survivors had wandered the earth or arrived in spaceships to inspire the rise of civilisations in different regions of the world. We contended that this imaginary history was underpinned by 19th Century racism: civilisation was created by indigenous peoples but by superior outsiders. The second documentary, which focused on Hancock, was controversial in its day – and we were required to defend it at what was then called the ‘Broadcasting Standards Commission’. I described the sequence of events in a chapter contributed to ‘Archaeological Fantasies‘, edited by the […]
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