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Monday, December 29, 1997 Published at 23:31 GMT


Russians seek Atlantis off Cornwall
image: [ Atlantis could also be Lyonesse ]
Atlantis could also be Lyonesse

For centuries explorers have searched for the remains of Atlantis - the fabled city under the sea.

Now a team from Russia says it has identified it - 100 miles off Land's End, off the south-west coast of England. And this summer they intend to prove it.

The team from the Moscow Institute of Meta-History is one of two new projects to start in the New Year. The other is a 30-strong British expedition to Bolivia to find Atlantis under a lake.

The Russian search is based on a re-reading of classical Greek texts. They believe Atlantis is at Little Sole Bank, a hill on the Atlantic seabed.

The site is at the edge of the Celtic Shelf which, before the Ice Age, was above sea level.

The site description fits in with the Cornish myth of the land of Lyonesse - also known as the City of Lions. Lyonesse is said to have stood between Cornwall and the Isles of Scilly.

[ image: Plato, the Greek philosopher who detailed Atlantis' location]
Plato, the Greek philosopher who detailed Atlantis' location
Atlantis was first described by the Greek philosopher Plato in his work The Republic nearly 2,500 years ago.

Plato said the city existed for more than 9,000 years with walls paved with silver and gold.

In The Republic, Atlantis is destroyed by the gods when its people become wicked and decadent.

But classical scholar Dr Peter Jones told the BBC: "Historically Atlantis is nonsense."

He added that Plato was using a political allegory but also that he was very precise about the location of Atlantis.

"It is an island in front of the straits of Gibraltar, and no such island exists," said Dr Jones.

"This is pure invention. It's not history, it's not even myth, it is an allegory - a fabulous science-fiction superstate - a utopia, and ancient philosophers like Plato use allegories like this all the time."

British explorer Colonel John Blashford-Snell, believes there is enough evidence in The Republic to justify a search for Atlantis in Bolivia. His team leaves in March.

His team has used satellite mapping technologies to analyse the topography in Bolivia and has found striking resemblances between the area and the site Plato describes, he says.

Dr Peter Jones and Colonel Blashford-Snell debate the existence of the city of Atlantis on BBC Radio 4's Today programme.

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