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“The antediluvian kings colonized the world; all the gods who play in the mythological dramas in all legends from all lands were in Atlantis.”

This is an excerpt from the legend of Atlantis – or more accurately from the 1968 Donovan song “Atlantis”, but it makes my point. Since the days of Ancient Greece when Plato wove the notion into his dialogues Timaeus and Critias, humans have postulated on the possible existence of a great civilization that sunk into the sea. Once the European jet-set (or large-boat-set, I guess) discovered the New World, the concept of Atlantis was used to explain some of the wonders of the tribes they encountered. The sunken island has a glorious history.

All of it completely fiction, of course. Atlantis is not one of our planet’s uncovered mysteries like the Bermuda Triangle or the physical content of a McRib. Europeans tried to use it as justification for the existence of the Mayan culture because there was no way those indigenous doofuses could have concocted such an elaborate civilization on their own, right?

If you have to invent an entire continent to justify your inherent racism, maybe it’s time to give it up.

Atlantis is not the only slab of land that Mother Earth has misplaced. We should also look to that other massive ocean and the lost island of Mu.

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We can blame the so-called Mu mystery on Augustus Le Plongeon, a 19th-century writer who had investigated the Mayan ruins in Yucatàn and allegedly translated some of the ancient writings. Actually he was working off a mistranslation of a piece of Mayan literature then called the Troano Codex, and he interpreted the name ‘Mu’ to mean a land that had sunk after a catastrophe. It was a tiny leap of connection for Le Plongeon to decide that Mu was Atlantis, or something just like it. He claimed that the magnificence of Ancient Egypt was founded by Queen Moo (probably not a cow), a refugee of Mu.

If only Le Plongeon’s contemporaries had had some sort of Snopes-like debunking source for stories like this. I’m not entirely certain that even educated folks back then were aware that Plato’s Atlantis was conceived as a piece of fiction. Mu was simply another attempt by our species to explain our origin via a story with a bit more panache and zing than plain ol’ science and adaptability.

Then along came James Churchward.

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Long before James became an established and renowned writer, he encountered a priest in India who taught him to read an ancient language, dead to all but three people in India. James was told of these old tablets which told of Mu and its peoples – fortunately, it only took a little bit of badgering for the priest to give in and show them to James. Suddenly, it all made sense.

Mu was home to the Naacal people, the ancient tribe who Augustus Le Plongeon claimed were the emissaries of the Mayan religion, and who James Churchward insisted were the bringers of everything we call civilization. Not just the Mayans but the Indians, the Babylonians, the Persians and Egyptians were all descended from the Naacal folks. There’s no evidence of their existence if we’re speaking in a scientific context, but throw in some quotation marks and you’ll find there’s plenty of “evidence” that the Naacal roamed the earth.

Most of which probably involves aliens.

Most of which probably involves aliens.

James Churchward insists the Nacaal encountered their demise on Mu about 12,000 years ago (I guess that’d be about 12,080 years ago now). He figured at its peak Mu contained roughly 64 million inhabitants, about as many as you’d find in Thailand. Hawaii might be a remnant of the sunken continent, same with Easter Island. He believed the big stone hats atop the giant Moai statues on Easter Island are tributes to the Egyptian sun god Ra, who also happened to be the king of Mu.

Ra plays a big part in James’ justification for Mu’s existence. He points out the evidence (sorry, the “evidence”) of similar symbols around the globe from societies that would never have met one another: bird symbols, sky symbols and representations of the sun. Forget that every one of these civilizations would have encountered birds, the sky and the sun, and that they’d all probably elect to record their surroundings in a similar fashion. James was reaching for clues.

If only he'd found some droids inscribed in that Mayan text.

If only he’d found some droids inscribed in that Mayan text.

Unfortunately, as fun as speculation and creative ancient fiction may be, real science always shows up to kill the buzz with a quick bullet of truth. First of all there’s the theory of plate tectonics (“But that’s only a theory!” cried the schmucks who don’t understand what ‘theory’ means in the scientific sense). Our continents are made up of lighter sial rocks floating upon heavier sima rocks. Along the ocean floor you’ll find virtually no sial rocks – they make up the continental crust and they tend to remain under our feet. Had there been some sort of massive catastrophe that had destroyed a continent the size of Mu, there would be a heap of sial rock rubble somewhere along the ocean floor. It ain’t there.

A continent can’t simply ‘sink’. Continents can split apart, and they can shift and boogie from one place to another, but that didn’t happen around the onset of human civilization. 12,080 years ago the continents were all pretty much where they are now, give or take a sliver of coastline. It takes hundreds of millions of years for continental drift to pull off anything noticeable.

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The Yonaguni monument, an unusual underwater structure off the coast of Yonaguni Island, Japan, has been suggested as a possible relic of Mu, its lone surviving edifice (maybe it was a rec center – who knows?), clinging to a spot close enough to the surface for scuba enthusiasts to visit. Maybe?

No, this is a fairly closable case. Le Plongeon’s investigations reached full debunkery when other researchers tried to replicate his translations and came up with gibberish. James Churchward’s ideas were interesting, but nothing in the realm of documented fact can back them up. In fact, all archeological and genetic research runs counter to Mu’s existence. Just like Atlantis, Mu is a land reserved for comic books, fantasy games and other fanciful meanderings of the imagination.

And maybe a folk song. Someone should get on that.