WRITINGS OF THE EGYPTIANS
Egyptian Vignettes of the story of Atlantis
THOTH THE SCRIBE
This page has evolved somewhat since its inception. After spending a number of years analyzing the writings of the ancient Egyptians and their possible connections in regard to Atlantis, the picture forming from the data collected is gradually coming into focus. Since Plato gave an Egyptian origin to his Atlantis saga (via Solon and the priests at Saïs), I think the following discussions may be relevant.
Scattered though they may be, an interesting picture emerges from the numerous references to Thoth in the earliest writings of the ancient Egyptiansand that picture fits the theory of an Atlantean origin for this intriguing character. Although late writings depict him as a god, the earliest texts depict him as a king (The Palermo Stone versus The Coffin Texts; Faulkner, 1974).
Thoth was born in a distant country to the west which was across a body of water. Its main city was by the sea (Plato's metropolis). The land possessed volcanos and the city had a low mountain or large hill in the center. This land is sometimes referred to as an Island of Flame. (Book of the Dead, Hymn of Rameses IV and Pyramid Texts)
Like Poseidon ("the earthshaker"), Thoth is sometimes called "cleaver of the earth" (Papyrus of Ani, Chapter LXI).
Creation stories in the Pyramid Texts speak of iu neserer (the “Island of Flame”) as the original land, the mythical place where the gods were born "beyond the limits of the created world" (Faulkner, 1969). Such myths place Thoth, as well as his birthplace in the west, at the very beginning of Egyptian traditions. One can't help but recall the similar origin myths of the Atlantean tribe of North Africa (Diodorus, Lib. Hist.).
Thoth is also known as the "Lord of the horizon" (presumably, the western). However, in later texts Osiris (Lord of the Dead) is said to dwell there as well, only by then it has become a place of final reward. Book of the Dead ritual has the hopeful deceased, after uttering certain sacred passwords, shouting jubilantly:
"Hail, Flame, who comest forth from the horizon. Hail, thou who art in the city. . . . Give me thy two hands, and let me pass my time in the Island of Flame." (Chap. LXXXVI)
Thoth had just been described (Chapter LXXXV, Papyrus of Nu) as ruler of the "Western Domain"; but by the end of the New Kingdom he is called the "Lord of the West" (Seth, 1912). He is accredited with the invention of writing, mathematics, astronomy, and civilization in general (Budge, 1960). In addition to being the author of a large number of esoteric books, Thoth is also called the Scribe (Pyramid Texts; Book of the Dead, et al.); his Egyptian name, Tehuti, means "the measurer" (Budge, 1960).
In summation, a catastrophe occurred which darkened the sun and disturbed the gods, but Thoth led them across the sea to an eastern country [Egypt]. Thoth is depicted as the "controller of the Flood," (Leyden Papyrus) and the Theban Recension includes the Island of Fire in the Flood story. (Papyrus of Ani, Chap. CLXXV) Thus it appears that Thoth was once the ruler of an Island Kingdom beyond the western horizon before the Egyptian priests turned him into a god. The question therefore is: Was the Egyptian Tehuti-Thoth originally a migrant from Atlantis, and did he once rule as a king there?
Nu, the Egyptian god of the Primeval Sea, is represented on the marble sarcophagus of Seti I as being up to his waist in water with arms upraised to carry the Solar Boat across the Sky. The boat, with its ten royal occupants, is being carried above the flood waters engulfing their mountainous island home in the West. According to Budge (1960), Nu had been ordered to bring about this very flood by Atum in order to purify the world. Does this primeval flood scene depict the final migration from the Lands of the West to Egypt because of the sudden loss of Atlantis?
In the vignette (left) Nu's name is immediately above his head (Osiris appears at the very top). Hieroglyphs identify two of the figures on the left as Tehuti (Thoth) and Seb (Kronos). The legend below the boat reads: "Come forth from the waters and bear up this god." The text just above the boat reads: "The god rests in the Ant Boat with the gods who are with him." (Budge, 1960)
The figure of a man bent around backwards in a circle is identified as Osiris, enclosing the underworldTuat, which is said to be perpetually shrouded in darkness and terror. Yet it originally contained the more pleasant Sekhet Hetepet ("Field of Offerings") or Elysian Fields, and Sekhet Aaru ("Field of Reeds"), and the even more delightful Amentet, which I believe to be the Egyptian "Atlantis". Judging from the long explanation by Budge (pp. 130-161), Tuat was thought of as the "Other World," i.e., the world of the dead. Sekhets were the special paradises reserved for those whom the gods favored.
Nu carrying the Solar Boat
Supporting this migration tradition, Diodorus of Sicily writes: "The Egyptians were strangers, who, in remote times, settled on the banks of the Nile, bringing with them the civilization of their mother country [Atlantis?], the art of writing, and a polished language. They had come from the direction of the setting sun [the far West] and were the most ancient of men." (Library of History)
Another even more ancient historian wrote: "Moreover, Cronos visiting the different regions of the habitable world, gave to his daughter Athena the kingdom of Attica . . . visiting the country of the south [he] gave all Egypt to the god Taautus (Thoth), that it might be his kingdom ." (The Generations, Sanchuniathon, 1193 B.C.) In case there is any doubt that Taautus and Thoth are the same, the following passage should clear up the uncertainty?
In History of Phoenicia, Sanchuniathon also writes: "The Egyptians descended from Misor, who descended from Taautus, who invented the writing of the first letters: him the Egyptians call Thoth, and the Greeks Hermes." (Cory, 1832) All ancient sources seem to agree with the Egyptian writings on this point.
THE ZODIAC OF DENDERA
The Zodiac in the temple of Hathor at Dendera begins with the constellation Leo (red arrow) indicating a "mean date" of 9825 B.C. Could this signify a new cycle beginning immediately after a tremendous world-wide geological cataclysm? Makrisi, a famous Arab historian of Egypt, affirms that "fire issued from the sign of Leo to destroy the world." Such a conflagration serves to confirm the above connection between the beginnng constellation of the Dendera Zodiac and the Atlantean cataclysm disclosed by Plato.
After several years of studying the various ways that Amentet is used in the writings of the Egyptians (incorporating the glyph set as a determinative), and the various ways it is usually translated, I have come to the opinion that Amentet ("Land of the West") was the early Egyptian name for Atlantis; but with time and the fading of the memory of Atlantis, it became merely a term for the realm of departed spirits. The same happened in the case of Atala, the Western Island of ancient Hindu theology.
THE LAND OF THE WEST
Like the Atala of the Hindu Epics, there are tangible reasons to assume that Amentet, the Land of the West of the Egyptians, doubled for a lost western homeland as well as the world of the deceased. Firstly, Amentet is usually divided up into a group of seven islands, which need not be the case if it were merely a spirit realm; secondly, it seems there is always an associated glyph indicating a physical "land" or "country".
Amentet means "the West" or the "Hidden Land" (Budge, 1960). Egyptologists will interprete the latter as meaning the "spirit world," which is merely invisible; but Budge reminds us that Amentet was the "western region" where the sun goes after it sets, and was originally thought of as "a district". Only later did it become associated with a spirit realm, a world reserved for the departeda significant observation in view of our "Atlantis" interpretation.
Below is a vignette from Chap. CXXVII of the Book of the Dead (Papyrus of Ani). Here water symbols cover a double rectangle (glyphs for "land" or "country"). Guarding each corner is a baboon, and facing all four sides are fire-glyphs. This is Amentet in its alternate aspect as the "Lake of Fire". Oddly enough, Amentet as the Island of Flame is stated to be a desirable destination for the deceased; but for the impious the Lake of Fire was a place of torment. Glyphic elements (which may have been misenterpreted by later temple priests) suggest that Amentet may have suffered intense conflagration before its final subsidance.
The Lake of Fire, was mentioned as early as the Coffin Texts (Faulkner, 1974), and in Chap. CXXVII of the Book of the Dead (Budge, 1960). It's a place of regeneration for the sun god Re and his faithful followers; but a place of torment and destruction for the damned.
It is important to remember that Manetho affirms that the ancient god-kings of his famed king-list (which I believe to represent the ten Atlantean rulers mentioned by Plato) reigned not in Egypt itself, but in a foreign land. The Egyptian hieroglyph set, commonly translated "foreign land," arouses our interest.
Set: can mean a mountainous land,
any foreign land, or the Underworld
(Inscription of Anebni, 18th Dynasty)
Amentet: can mean West, Land of
the West, or Underworld (Funeral
Stele of Panehesi, 19th Dynasty)
Now the "Land of the West" would be a natural Egyptian name for Atlantis. Ancient Egyptian records sometimes refer to the Atlantic as the "Western Ocean". Did Manetho translate "foreign land" from set, or from Amentet? In either case, we probably have ourselves a reference to Atlantis in the writings of Manetho. Either of these are quite often translated by Egyptologists as "underworld" (Budge, 1966), which in some cases may be misleading.
That the glyph set also represented the "underworld," does fit, after a fashion, since this is the land where the sun shines after it has set (no pun intended) on the land of Egypt. It was believed in popular Egyptian mythology that the sun passed through the underworld on its way back to rise once more in the east. Prof. Arysio dos Santos of Säo Paulo believes that Amentet is the Egyptian counterpart of the Isles of the Blest of Hesiod.
The Egyptians often appear to distinguish between Amentet (the opposite side of the world where the sun makes its return to the east) and Tuat (the realm of the dead, that of departed spirits), yet Egyptologists arbitrarily translate either glyph as "underworld". Amentet combines the glyph for "foreign land" (using set as a determinative for "land" or "country") alongside standard glyphs for "west", meaning "Land of the West". The "land" (set) determinative is entirely missing in Tuat, which I consider of more than minor significance.
The "Seven Islands" of Amentet*
We therefore have a glyph representing a western, mountainous land, a land where the sun went after it had set on Egypt, and whose earliest rulers were probably called "Auliteans" or "Aleteans". To top it off the reign of these god-kings ended circa. 9850 B.C., very near the date of the alleged disappearance of Atlantis.
*It appears to me that the largest island (which could conceivably represent the main island of Atlantis) has a harbor on its southern shorejust where Plato described itand a ship docked therein. The staircase glyph represents "going up" [to the temple?], which is suggestive. Farther to the north are several granary glyphs. Plato described a great irrigated plain in this areaare the granaries for storing the harvest thereby produced? To the left are two herons with the meaning "to flood, to inundate". The panel next to the top depicts the god Osiris ruling over Sekhet Aaru ("Field of Reeds"). He is faced by another "inundation" (irrigation?) symbol.
THE HOMELAND OF OSIRIS
Dr. Carleton Coon of Harvard made a most interesting observationone in which he seemed not a little puzzledconcerning Egyptian descriptions of where King Osiris lived and reigned. One can't help but notice similarities in the place described and Atlantis. The following is not an off-the-wall comment by a confirmed "atlantologist" but that of a highly qualified, professional ethnologist and anthropologist.
Dr. Coon alleged that Osiris' home is sometimes said to be in the north, as opposed to the West (viz., Amentet). But notice Coon's description of this place: "The land was said to be foggy and bordered with high mountains, some of which were volcanic. On the side away from the mountains stood an immense lake, and in between lay a network of rivers and irrigation ditchs. Toward the mountains rose a dense forest. Many of the trees were conifers, sacred to Osiris." (Coon, 1954)
Coon further observes: "The interesting thing about all this is that nothing in this description resembles Egypt . . . ." (Ibid.) And why would the conifer be sacred to Osiris, unless he once lived in a land in which conifers were abundant? Whatever land is being described, it certainly isn't Egypt!
So, if not Egypt, what land or country could this be describing? I'm not certain where Coon came by the "northern" location of Osiris' homeland; but I would like to make an observation of my own. Although not mentioned by Plato, it's entirely possible that the Atlanteans created a large lake, or reservoir, as a supply for the irrigation canals mentioned in both of these accountsin fact, it seems such would be a necessity!
Traditionally the god Osiris, as Ruler of the Underworld, lived in a Great Hall built of reeds. However, according to the ancient Book of the Dead (Chapter CXLVI), as a living king the dwelling of King Osiris had no less than ten entrances and twenty-one "pylons" or columnsthe latter much more resembling a kingly Atlantean palace.
CRONOS THE ATLANTEAN
One of the kings appearing in so many ancient traditions in connection with Atlanteans (Sanchuniathon, Herodotus, Diodorus, etc.) is Cronos. He was often called the Great King and the bringer of civilization, who ruled over a large "Saturnian continent" in the Cronian Sea (the Atlantic) during the Golden Age. Such traditions refer to an ancient time when a Golden Race of men were governed by Cronos, who in wisdom promoted peace and created a Golden Age for all mankind.
His father Ouranos is reputed to have had a large number of offspring from various wives, but only those who were born from Ouranos and Titaea were called Titansthere were twenty-two such offspring (Diodorus, Lib. Hist, III). The offspring of Cronos and his wife Rhea were known as Titans also. Of these two generations of Titans, no one knows how many were male and how many were female. (Those who claim there were only twelve Titans simply haven't done their homework.)
Cronos and the Titans eventually engaged the Olymbian gods (lead by Zeus, a Titan himself) in a ten year-long battle. Plato described the Atlanteans as also becoming warlike, advancing through western Europe, approaching the Grecian border and across North Africa to the border of Egypt, before being stopped by the ancient Athenians. The defeat of the Atlanteans and the sinking of their homeland Atlantis happened in quick succession.
Upon losing the war, Cronos and the Titans were imprisoned beneath the Ocean in the far west. (For more info on these traditions, go to the Mythology page.) To find him listed in Manetho's king-list as one of the "Auritian" god-kings who ruled in the "foreign land" before Egyptian history began was truly intriguing. I wanted to find out how the Egyptians wrote his name.
Since the Egyptians have many ways to write a name (or any given word), there are several ways that the name Seb (Cronos) appears. Just as a picture of the ibis could be enough to represent Thoth in a text, likewise Seb could be represented by a goose, as on the Palermo Stone King-list. Below are two hieroglyphic versions: one representing King Seb, the other using Seb to represent the stars.
SEB (as Cronos):
SEB (as the stars):
The equation of the Egyptian Seb (Keb) with the Greek Cronos is not an arbitrary association. Biblical scholars, Egyptologists and Assyriologists have long known that Seb (Egyptian), Repa (Coptic), Kaiwan (Akkadian), Chiun (Hebrew), Cronos (Greek), and Saturn (Latin) are all names of the same deity (Barnes & Murphy, 1885; Budge, 1960; Tyndale, 1962). Sometimes Seb (Cronos) was associated with a particularly bright "star" in the heavensknown to us as the planet Saturn.
The goose glyph Seb, or even a single star, could be used to represent this deity. In this respect, it is interesting that the Bible only mentions this Seb-Cronos (Chiun-Rephan) in two places: Amos 5:26 and Acts 7:43. In both the star-image plays a prominent part (i.e., the "star of your god"). It is gratifying to see this "star" association in the Egyptian glyphs as well. Concerning the reference to the star-god Rephan in the Bible, scholars believe it to be "a deliberate substitution of Repa, a name of Seb, the Egyptian god of the planet Saturn." (Tyndale, 1962)
THE EGYPTIAN GOD-KINGS
Below is a list of the Egyptian kings who ruled during the "reign of the gods". This was the First Time, Zep Tepi, the so-called "Golden Age" of Egyptian prehistory. I have made use of The Turin Royal Canon, written in hieratic, which is the most complete list. In order for me to display the more familiar hieroglyphic forms, it was also necessary for me to convert them utilizing Budge's works on Egyptian Grammar.
There are numerous ways to present a given name in hieroglyphics, so I have occasionally given more than one (separated by commas). For certain names a determinative alone (given last) was all that was necessary for the Egyptians; but in most cases the names were spelled out phonetically in glyphs.
The god-kings (Auliteans) in Egyptian Hieroglyphics
I did not enclose names in the customary royal cartouche, since cartouches were not used until the end of the Third Dynasty. The 5th Dynasty Palermo Stone (circa. 2565-2420 B.C.), is inscribed on both sides with a list of kings from Pre-dynastic times down to the middle of the Fifth Dynasty: each name is enclosed in a sort of "box" formed by horizontal and vertical lines, rather than the later cartridge-shaped enclosure. This famous king-list "covers the period of the Old Kingdom back thousands of years into the predynastic period" (Winston, 1999-2003).
The Turin Papyrus lists every Egyptian king, including the gods, demigods, and all human Egyptian kings down to the time it was composed. It also includes a "reign of spirits," and two "mythical" groups of kings, before listing the "historical" ones (Gardiner, 1959). Whether "mythical" means non-existent or semi-historical is a matter of some debate among scholars. It is one of only three Egyptian documents which includes the "reign of the gods": The Palermo Stone, the Turin Papyrus and Manetho's Egyptian Chronicles.
Just as there were numerous Rameses in Egyptian history, there is more than one Horus in this list of early god-kings. And just like the several Rameses, these were separate rulers. (Later copyist may have made a scribal error, jumping inadvertently from the first Horus to the nexta common scribal errorsince some of our copies of Manetho leave the last three kings off the list.)
Herodotus (450 B.C.) says that Osiris reigned 15,000 years before Amasis (500 B.C.), and that Horus was his son. "In these matters they say they cannot be mistaken, as they have always kept count of the years, and noted them in their registers." (History, Book II) The priests also told him that no god has been on earth since the end of the "reign of the gods". (Ibid.)
The Turin Papyrus (register listing the Reign of the Gods), in the final two lines of the column, sums up: "Venerables Shemsu-Hor, 13,420 years; Reigns before the Shemsu-Hor, 23,200 years; Total 36,620 years." (de Lubicz, 1988) Manetho's overall figure is 36,525 years. (Cory, 1832)
Egyptologist Prof. Walter B. Emery (1961) identified these Predynastic kings with the Shemsu-Hor, the companions, or followers of the hawk-headed god Horus. Emery further describes the most distant ancestors of the Egyptians as being tall in stature and having large craniums, reminiscent of Cro-Magnons.
AN ANCIENT SEARCH FOR ATLANTIS
On much shakier ground is a claim by Dr. Paul Schliemann, grandson of Heinrich Schliemann of Troy fame, that among other relics relating to Atlantis he discovered an aging Egyptian papyrus in the Hermitage at Leningrad. According to the younger Schliemann, it read:
"Pharoah Sent sent out an expedition to the west in search of Atlantis from whence 3350 years before the Egyptians arrived carrying with themselves all the wisdom of their native land. The expedition returned after five years with the report that they had found neither people nor objects which could give them a clue to the vanished land." (Schliemann, 1912)
To my knowledge, this papyrus has never been seen by anyone else, so it remains in limbo. The appearance of "Atlantis" in the text, as opposed to a less controversial "Land of the West," only adds to its suspicious character. However, I did find that there actually was a pharoah with the unlikely name Sent. Pharoah Sent, or Senta, was the fifth king of the 2nd Dynasty (Budge, 1960).
A measure of support for Dr. Schliemann's "discovery" comes in the form of a hieroglyphic text inscribed on the Great Ebony Label found in 1901 by Sir Flinders Petrie in the "tomb" (actually a cenotaph) of King Aha Menes at Abydos (Petrie, 1902). Upon translation it told how this great king and admiral, in his old age, had embarked on a voyage of exploration with his fleet "to the Sunset Land in the Western Ocean":
"King Menes, the Ruler of Mizraim [Egypt], the Land of the Two Crowns, the perished dead one in the West of the Horus race . . . The Commander-in-Chief of Ships made the complete course to the end of the Sunset Land. Sailing in ships, he completed the inspection of the Western Land. He built there a holding in Urani Land. At the Lake of the Peak, fate pierced him by a Hornet (Kheb, or Wasp) . . . This drilled tablet set up of hanging wood is dedicated to his memory." (Compare with Petrie's translation, 1923)
Notice that one of the names given in the inscription for the Western Land is Urani, which some authorities associate with Erin, the old name for Ireland. But it also calls to mind Uranos, the father of King Cronos (Kheb, one of the names for King Cronos is also there), illustrating a possible connection between Ireland and the once great empire of Atlantis. Since the "tomb" at Abydos is empty, we must assume that Aha Menes, "the perished dead one in the West," was buried in Urani Land.
SEAWORTHY EGYPTIAN SHIPS
Dr. Kathryn Bard, associate professor of archaeology at Boston University, leading a team of archeologists, has been digging in ancient Egypt along the coast of the Red Sea. Remains of an ancient ceder planked ship dating almost 4000 years old were found at Wadi Gawasis, along with evidence that Egyptians likely sailed the 2,000-mile round trip voyage to Punt, located in what is today Ethiopia or Yemen.
A number of limestone stelae, most of them worn blank from centuries of wind and sand erosion, were also discovered. However, onefound lying on its facewas in near-perfect condition and was therefore decipherable. According to Bard, "It contained the complete historical text of two expeditions, one to Punt and one to Bia-Punt, as ordered by King Amenemhat III, who ruled at about 1800 B.C.” (Waltz, 2009)
Such finds demonstrate that ancient Egyptians were fully capable of embarking on long journeys across the open seas involving thousands of miles. A modern experiment with a similarly constructed ship sailed 150 miles in only seven days with no major problems. The distance covered in so short a time surprised the participants.
According to the Palermo Stone, the pharaoh Snefru built ships 100-cubits (160 feet) in length with hulls made of "ceder wood" (: transliterated mrw, Wb 2, 108.14-109.1). Other large ships have been found buried near the Giza pyramids (Hancock, 1995,; Heyerdahl, 1972). The largest of the latter, called "Khufu's ship," is 142 feet long and made of Lebanese cedar wood. It is difficult to estimate the limits of such large and hardy vessels.
ETYMOLOGICAL NOTE ON ATLANTIS
Let's look at a possible etymological origin of the word "Atlantis". Egyptian, in its early stages, had no letter L. So originally the word "ATR" (or "ATL" as it later became), had several meanings in relation to water: "ATRU" is the water, the flood water, the water boundary, a limit, measure, or water embankment. But once R became L, "ATR" would change to "ATL". (Ward, 1960)
Add this to the root word ANTU or ANTI, which equals "a division of land". Thus, Atlantis appears to be a compound of ATL and ANTI, or ATLANTI (with a Greek S ending added), meaning "a division of land bounded by water". We know that Plato described Atlantis in his Timaeus as a land in the midst of the ocean. So, the word Atl-anti(s) may have an Egyptian connection after all.
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Champollion, Francois (translator), Turin Papyrus, 1300 B.C.
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Cory, Isaac P., "Ancient Fragments", Reeves & Turner, London, 1832.
de Lubicz, Schwaller, R. A., "Sacred Science: the King of Pharaonic Theocracy," Inner Traditions International, Rochester, Vermont, 1988.
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Sanchuniathon, "History of the Phoenicians," 1193 B.C. (from Eusebius' Praep. Evang. lib. 1. c. 10.)
Sanchuniathon, "The Generations," 1193 B.C. (from Eusebius' Praep. Evang. lib. I. c. 10.)
Schliemann, Paul, "How I Discovered Atlantis, the Source of All Civilization," The New York American (weekly), New York, 1912.
Sethe, K., Zur altagyptischen Sage vom Sonnenauge, das in der Fremde war, Untersuchungen zur Geschichte und Altertumskunde Aegyptens, 1912.
Tyndale House Publ., The Bible Dictionary, "Rephan" article, Inter-Varsity Press, Leicester, England, 1962.
Waltz, Vicky, "Archaeologist Kathryn Bard's Amazing Egyptian Digs," BU TODAY, Boston University, Nov. 30, 2009.
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Last update: 15 Jun 2012