Readers' reactions

November 12, 1999

Last week in The THES...Ken Feder argued that archaeologists should fight the pseudo-science of the Atlantis myth.

* Cornelius Holtor, Assistant lecturer in archaeology, University of Cambridge: It is true that popular notions of the past deserve more attention by archaeologists. But I am amazed how quickly Ken Feder dismisses some such notions as "rubbish".

Every past is a construct of the present. Different logics and conceptions of the past correspond to different contemporary discourses and contexts. It is the role of universities to indoctrinate their students with a particular version of the past. Students should be taught the mechanisms that make some accounts of the past locally more meaningful and plausible than others. Critical understanding, not dismissive polemics, is the way to engage with multiple pasts.

* Rosemary Wright, Professor of classics, University of Wales, Lampeter: The Atlantis myth has its origin in 18 pages of Greek text by Plato. The story is summarised in Timaeus and details begun in Critias. The dynasty of kings on the Atlantic island had ambitions to enslave the Mediterranean lands. After considerable success, the invaders were stopped by soldiers of prehistoric Athens and the lands taken were freed. The moral was a warning against imperialist ambition.

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