Mary Settegast is described on the jacket simply as an archeological researcher, the 20-year-old book being Plato Prehistorian; 10,000 to 5,000 B.C. Myth, Religion, Archaeology (Hudson: Lindisfarne, 1990). It's obvious she is not a member of the entrenched academic community of archeologists and prehistorians, for she spends most of the introduction to her fascinating study inveighing against the Old Model and New Archeology and defending the value of myth. She then retells the Egyptian Priest's tale from Plato's Timaeus about how Solon's ancient Greek ancestors defeated an aggressive Atlantic sea-power situated on a now-lost continent beyond the Straits of Gilbraltar--the so-called Atlantis myth, which has no other source but the writings of Plato. Her thesis is that Plato is representing what he believed to be historical fact. Among other arguments, Settegast points out that it would have been impious for him to contrive a political fiction and put it in the mouth of Critias, who attributes the story to his grandfather, who received it from Solon himself, given the occasion of the dialogue, a celebration of Athena's festival day. She asks, "Would Socrates have Critias offer to the goddess as 'a just and truthful hymn of praise' (Timaeus 21) an intentional misrepresentation of Athena's own past history with the Greeks?"
Once Plato's word and intentions are vindicated it is possible to study the scattered clues he gives us to prehistory of the Mediterranean world in a new light. Settegast makes a good case that the Magdalenian cave art of 17,000/15,000 to 9000 BCE preserves the fading glory of an Atlantic culture of enormous power and sophistication that came to an abrupt end toward the end of the tenth millennium. She brackets the question of the location of a sunken continent and dwells instead on the blunders of modern prehistorians who fail to grasp the advanced picture of civilization left to us in Paleolithic remains like the Lascaux paintings. For instance, most anthropologists have explained the paintings as vehicles for sympathetic hunting magic without noting that it is the horse that is most commonly depicted while excavations of Magdlenian sites reveal almost exclusively the remains of reindeer as their principal animal food. The religious significance of the animals is lost on most analysts. Plato, as usual, provides the pertinent clue: the Atlantics worshipped Poseidon and regarded his sacred animal the horse with great awe. A revisionist look at the horses in cave paintings clarifies that the lines on horses' heads represent harnesses, not natural contours or anatomical details, proving that the Magdalenians or Atlantic peoples had tamed the horse by 12,000 BCE, some eight thousand years before the date assigned to the domestication of the horse in the conventional model.
Upper Paleolithic writing recovered from Magdalenian cave sites (top) compared to characters in three early written languages: (b) Indus valley signs, (c) Greek and (d) Runic. Settegast (p. 28) after Forbes and Crowder, 1979.
I've just started to read the book and will conclude this "preview" for the blog by mentioning that one obstacle to accepting Plato's story at face value was that he describes the Atlantics as literate. The recent reevaluation of the "magic signs" in Magdalenian caves as a writing system with heirs in many Old World alphabets seems to bear him out once again...and make his detractors look stupid and full of hubris. It is the effect many Socratic dialogues were meant to have on their readers.
Addendum: One of the offshoots of Atlantic Culture according to Plato Prehistorian was the Çatal Hüyük civilization that flourished in Anatolia from 6200-5300 BCE. Only 2-3 % of the 32 acre site has been excavated, but what has come to light so far includes amazing cyclopean walls, refined wall paintings and peculiar religious practices such as a vulture-bull rite, leopard shrine and Mistress of the Animals cult reminiscent of Venus figurines. It is conceivable that Atlantic Culture itself was spurred to life originally by admixture of Europeans with Neanderthals, since there are numerous signs of Neanderthal culture in archeological remains. Significantly, the Venus figures once associated with Gravettian Culture now appear to have had their origins with Neanderthals, who occupied Europe for 350,000 years before H. sapiens sapiens. Venus figurines were worn about the neck by Neanderthals, as proved in several excavations in Spain and elsewhere. In 1961, archeologists unearthed the skull of a Neanderthal man in the ancient site of Chalcedon on the east side of the Bosporus in Asia Minor, although the find is seldom mentioned today.
Our Neanderthal Index is based on affinities with archaic populations presumed to carry the highest rate of admixture with Neanderthals. These include many of the Atlantic and Mediterranean populations mentioned in Plato Prehistorian, including Greek, Turkish, Syrian, Arabian, Basque, Egyptian and Berber.