5/20/02 10:24:46 PM Pacific Daylight Time
Attached is a news article which is the latest update on the continuing
explorations of the alleged undersea ruins off of the Isle of Youth in
Cuba. The irony here is that Paula Zelitsky, besides being a former KGB
operative, was actually running an academically-connected treasure
hunting enterprise loosely affiliated with a Florida university when her
team came upon the "ruins." She was not seeking such a find and has no
expertise in their evaluation. Cuban academics have immediately tried
to explain the 2,310 below sea level depth of the "ruins" by citing
geologic activity in the area as the cause of their great depth (and, of
course, they may be right). Of course, if the depth cannot be explained
by the surface upon which the ruins are located "dropping" almost half a
mile due to earthquakes, then they would be evidence of human
civilization in an era during which it is generally agreed none
existed. It would certainly be nice if they would share the videotapes
with a larger audience so that there could be more input on the find,
but, so far, they have only been shown to a very limited audience. Ms.
Zelitsky and her colleagues enjoy an exclusive right to explore the area
granted by Fidel Castro, so they control all access to the data so far.
It is an awkward situation, since she and her treasure-hunting team are
not exactly set up for this kind of thing (except insofar as they have
some of the technical means to retrieve images of the structures).
As for Garcilaso Inca de la Vega's account of ruins on the bottom of
Lake Titicaca, that account remains to be confirmed by diving
expeditions. Some of the Tiahuanacan ruins are under shallow waters of
the lake around the shore near Tiahuanco. However, some of you will
recall that there was a new discovery in the last couple of years of a
sunken island in the lake which was covered with pre-Columbian ruins,
found in only 65 feet of water. The expedition which made the find was
searching for extensions of the massive tunnel complexes discovered
around Cuzco and other major Inca centers, based upon Amazonian Indian
legends of the tunnel complexes being part of a larger tunnel system
which supposedly covered most of the South American continent. These
legends may have grown out of the large Inca and Nazca tunnel and
underground aqueduct systems already found by archeologists. However,
as far as anyone has discovered thus far, those tunnels do not appear to
be part of a larger complex covering the entire continent.
Nevertheless, the discovery of the sunken island city in Lake Titicaca
was still quite a find and was not anticipated by its discoverers.
The discoveries of the Cuban and the Titicacan ruins contrast with those
Harappan cities recently discovered off of the India coast, the latter
of which were actively sought by their discoverers. The relative ease
with which these discoveries were made (excepting the Cuban, which
required use of very advanced equipment) suggests that wider
explorations of continental shelves and lake bottoms would yield even
more ancient ruins which would help fill in the enormous gaps in our
understanding of ancient peoples around the world, such as the
discoveries made a few years ago under the Black Sea (which some now
cite as a possible origin of the Noah-Deucalion-Manu-et al. legend [I've
forgotten the name of the "Noah" figure in the Epic of Gilgamesh, but
that ancient tale also contained a version of the Noah Flood]).
Oddly enough, even the Indians living around Lake Titicaca relate a
Flood myth as part of their oral history of the region, despite its
great altitude. This myth is to some degree reinforced by reported
evidence of the incursion at those high altitudes of marine life known
to exist only in oceans, not fresh water, suggesting that either there
was one enormous flood or a geologic cataclysm in the region which
occurred relatively recently, lifting it from a much lower position.
The Titicacan oral history tells of the Christ-like Viracocha who came
with his colleagues to the ruined and dispirited people of the Andes
whose culture was so devastated by the flood's effects that they had
reverted to a mean barbarism. Viracocha was said to have wept at the
circumstances in which he found the Andean people, hence, he was later
referred to as "the weeping god." Viracocha and his followers
reinstructed the Andean people in the arts of civilization, so the
legend goes, before they departed, restoring them to order and
prosperity. But note that the premise of the Viracochan legend is that
civilization in the Andes pre-existed the flood disaster.
There are rough parallels between the Viracocha legend and that of
Queztlcoatl in Mesoamerica. Similar tales are told in Sumer of the
amphibious god Oannes and his colleagues who, it is said in the Sumerian
tablets, taught the Mesopotamian people all that distinguished them from
the hunter-gathers who surrounded them. Likewise, the Dogon of North
Africa claim that amphibious gods from Sirius helped them to transcend
hunter-gathering and achieve the modest level of civilization evidenced
in that region (North Africa has the ruins of large brick towns built
under huge cliff faces on sites overlooking a river valley, which
structures look remarkably similar to those found in the American
Similar echoes of an instructive period in human development can be
found in Pacific cultures and in those of the American Southwest. Of
course, all of this seems at the moment to be very thin gruel, without
sufficient substantiation in the archeological record beyond a few
carvings, ruins and stories told in clay tablets or oral traditions.
Perhaps there is more to be found which would cast light on our
ignorance if we continue to dive under the waters for artifacts which
have lain undisturbed for thousands of years. It seems improbable that
all such legends are only the product of some sort of intrinsic habit of
the human mind (along the lines of Jungian archetypes) without a basis
in the actual experience of ancient peoples. The legends seem too
ubiquitous for a mere psychological explanation to suffice. Even the
relatively prosaic Will Durant concluded that there seemed to be a
repeated theme in ancient legends of a Golden Age of high civilization
lost which existed at a place and time which we have yet to discover.
The one great region which has until recently been denied to our
explorations has been the three fifths of the Earth which is
underwater. If new answers are to be found to old questions, it seems
most likely that they will be found there.
With all that is being discovered, one cannot help but feel that our
understanding of humanity's past is very sketchy indeed and much less
comprehensive than we were generally led to believe. The subtext of
much of what was taught when we were in school was that academic
scholars knew the general outlines of what there was to know and that
all that was left was to elaborate the details through further
archeological digs and study. Although we may not live to see it, I
suspect that a university curriculum of the study of ancient
civilizations by the middle of this century will be very different in
its general overview and specific content than what was being taught
when we went to school. And the rate of change in this field will
accelerate as the technical means for ocean floor exploration become
more generally available, safer and less expensive. Given the hard fact
that much is lost to time's ravages, our successors may never have a
complete vision of who and what preceded us, but we may rest assured
that their vision will bear little resemblance to the conventional
wisdom which was handed down as knowledge in the latter half of the 20th
And this is no mere academic exercise, of interest only to the
backward-looking amongst us. The "hard" sciences taught us that the
Earth has undergone a long series of overlapping cycles of changes in
temperature, ocean currents, geologic activity, extinctions, cometary
and meteorite impacts and other poorly understood events which may yet
confront us or our descendants in the future. The study of how ancient
people lived and died and what changes in their world led to the demise
of their proud cultures may give us the key to avoid or at least survive
a similar fate. There is ample evidence to suggest that the cycles
which left many civilizations in ruins (including those which we have
yet to discover) continue their unabated progress today. How well we
study and understand our past may well determine if we are to have a
HAVANA- Floating aboard the Spanish trawler she chartered to explore the Cuban coast for shipwrecks, Paulina Zelitsky pores over yellowed tomes filled with sketches and tales of lost cities - just like the one she believes she has found deep off the coast of western Cuba.
Zelitsky's eyes grow wide as she runs her small hand over water-stained drawings of Olmec temples in a dog-eared 1928 study of Mexican archaeology. The Russian Canadian explorer compares the shapes with green-tinted sonar images captured in March while studying the megalithic structures she discovered two years ago off Cuba's Guanahabibes Peninsula.
Amid piles of sonar-enhanced maps is a well-worn copy of "Comentarios Reales de las Incas," or "Royal Commentaries of the Incas," a classic of Spanish Renaissance narrative by the son of an Inca princess and a Spanish conquistador. Zelitsky is particularly fascinated by Garcilaso Inca de la Vega's account of ancient ruins at the bottom of Lake Titicaca, Peru.
"You would not think that a reasonable woman of my age would fall for an idea like this," chuckled Zelitsky, a 57-year-old offshore engineer who runs the exploration firm Advanced Digital Communications of British Columbia, Canada.
Zelitsky passionately believes the megalithic structures her crew discovered 2,310 feet below the ocean's surface could prove that a civilization lived thousands of years ago on an island or stretch of land joining the archipelago of Cuba with Mexico's Yucatan Peninsula, about 120 miles away.
The unusual shapes first appeared on the firm's sophisticated side-scan sonar equipment in the summer of 2000, during shipwreck surveys off Cuba's western coast, where hundreds of vessels are believed to have sunk over the centuries.
The company is among five foreign firms working with Fidel Castro's government to explore the island's coast for shipwrecks of historical and commercial interest. But the mysterious shapes have become the focus of this crew's exploratory efforts.
Puzzled by the shapes with clean lines, the team has repeatedly returned to the site - most recently in March - for more sonar readings, more videotapes of the megaliths with an unmanned submarine. The crew left in mid-May for a month.
Evidence for Zelitzky's hypothesis is far from conclusive, and has been met with skepticism from scientists from other countries who nevertheless decline to comment publicly on the project until scientific findings have been made available. Submerged urban ruins have never been found at so great a depth.
Elsewhere in the Caribbean, the ruins of Jamaica's Port Royal are located at depths ranging from a few inches to 40 feet below the ocean surface. The once raucous seaside community was controlled by English buccaneers before it slid under the waves in earthquakes beginning in 1692.
Located at just 20 feet are the mysterious megalithic structures discovered in the 1960s and 1970s in the sound between the Bahamas islands of North and South Bimini. Scientific expeditions there have produced inconclusive results about the shapes' origins.
Back in Cuba, a leading scientist recently admitted there is no easy explanation for the megalithic shapes found by Zelitsky's crew. The shapes on the sonar maps look like walls, rectangles, pyramids - rather like a town viewed from the window of an airplane flying overhead.
"We are left with the very questions that prompted this expedition," geologist Manuel A. Iturralde Vincent, research director of Cuba's National Museum of Natural History wrote March 13. At the time he was visiting the area aboard the 270-foot long Ulises, the Spanish trawler Zelitsky outfitted with sophisticated computer and satellite equipment for her surveys.
In his written comments, later delivered at a scholarly conference here, Iturralde concluded it was possible the structures were once at sea level, as Zelitsky theorizes.
Because of the large faults and an underwater volcano nearby, Zelitsky supposes the structures sank because of a dramatic volcanic or seismological event thousands of years ago.
Providing some support for that argument, Iturralde confirmed indications of "significantly strong seismic activity."
Zelitsky shies from using the term "Atlantis," but comparisons are inevitable to the legendary sunken civilization that Plato described in his "Dialogues" around 360 B.C.
There have been untold, unsuccessful attempts over the ages to find that lost kingdom. One common theory is that Atlantis was located on the Aegean island of Thera, which was destroyed by a volcanic eruption nearly 3,600 years ago.
Zelitsky does, however, mention known archaeological monuments when discussing her find.
Numerous photographs are scattered throughout a video show of the megaliths, showing well-known ancient sites: the 1st century fortress of Masada high above the Dead Sea, Britain's circular monument of Stonehenge, the Roman fortress of Babylon in Cairo, the walls of Chan Chan, Peru, whose inhabitants were conquered by the Incas.
Perhaps, Zelitsky mused, the megaliths off Cuba are remains of a trading post, or a city built by colonizers from Mesoamerica. Those civilizations were far more advanced than the hunters and gatherers the Spaniards found upon arriving here five centuries ago.
Zelitsky admitted much more investigation is needed to solve the mystery.
But that doesn't keep her from believing, or from smiling slyly as she opens her agenda for 2002 to the first page.
Written there are the words Italian astronomer Galileo Galilei uttered under his breath at the height of the Inquisition, right after abjuring his belief that the Earth revolved around the sun.
"E pur si muove," it reads - "Nevertheless, it does move."