OMG. Sigh. I have so much to say about this book, and a lot of it isn't good, and
the main complaint is that it really isn't about the legendary city of Atlantis, at least in the New Age concept. (The word isn't even mentioned until the very
end in the "Conclusions" section.) In fact, the name of the book is actually Ragnarok, or the Age of Fire and Gravel.
Apparently Dover decided to add that to the title when they republished it.Why? Why? I'm sure this has misled others into buying
this book. However, disregarding the Atlantis thing, there is a lot of interesting, albeit questionable information here, but certainly material to
seriously ponder and make one rethink old beliefs. and that is the positive aspect, and it's quite important. I also want to point out that Donnelly did
write a book about Atlantis, inspired by
Plato's account of that
civilization, entitled Atlantis: The Antediluvian World. You may read more about that book at
or you may read the actual book for free at
Project Gutenberg. I perhaps
may do that. Or not.
In any case, I made numerous notes as I read this book, along with a non-stop running mental commentary (often grumbling) about some of the material presented here, usually adding, "really? seriously??." I will try to limit the length of this review. . .
Normally when you read about Atlantis, it is in a metaphysical or spiritual work. Ignatius Donnelly (1831-1901), was an attorney, Minnesota congressman from1863-69, state senator from 1874-78, and an amateur scientist. He sets out, in this book, published in 1883, to prove that the Ice Age or what he calls the "Drift" was caused by a comet hitting the earth. There is a great deal of confusing and seemingly contradictory material in this book, perhaps just because Donnelly has not communicated his thoughts in a comprehensible manner, at least that was my impression. It wasn't until the Conclusions section of the book that I noticed he was referring to "30,000 years ago." As mentioned above, I took lots of notes while reading, and did extra research. During Donnelly's time, the idea of a comet hitting the planet was radical. Now, however, it is accepted that this most likely did happen. There is information online about an event called the Younger Dryas Impact Hypothesis, preceding the Younger Dryas cold period, and took place about 12,900 years ago, not 30,000. It is believed this resulting Ice Age lasted 1,200 years. The description of this event in Wikipedia is very similar to what Donnelly describes, except for the difference in dates. (But again, I want to point out, I could be misunderstanding what Donnelly was saying, because I found his writing confusing.) What was very interesting to me is that all this occurred right here where I live. In fact, one of the artifacts discovered was exhumed in Marlboro, which is just a short drive from my house. However, Donnelly credits the impact or influence of the comet to forming the Great Lakes, but the Wikipedia article merely states that it hit near the Great Lakes, (already there) in the area of the Laurentide Ice Sheet, which covered Canada and most of the Northern U.S. from about 95,000 to 20,000 years ago. I am providing lots of links here, because Donnelly's information just doesn't prove to be true with the scientific data now available. I am obviously not an expert on this, and of course, in order to make a definitive judgment, one would have to study this material in depth, but there is enough here to state that Donnelly's theories had lots of errors.
The first section of the book is about the unique rock formations on certain areas of the planet which he calls the "Drift." (He includes a map, and it covers the eastern half of North America, through all of South America, east through most of Europe and all of Africa. He goes through a thorough discussion of the types of rocks and minerals found here, including the clays or "hard-pan" (which I am painfully familiar with here on the farm). Then he covers other theories as to how these formations came about, including icebergs, glaciers and ice sheets, which he disputes, and comes to the conclusion that it could only have been the impact of something powerful, which he surmises was a comet, to create the geological situation in which we find planet earth at present. OK, a lot of what he's saying here makes sense.
But then he gets a little goofy, claiming that the entire planet was a tropical paradise, including the Arctic Circle. Please note: If you check out the above link to the Laurentide Ice Sheet, it states that the North Pole to the northern U.S. was covered with an ice sheet from about 95,000 to 20,000 years ago—hardly a tropical paradise. I'm not saying our planet, ever in its history wasn't very warm, but it wasn't in the time of humanity, at least scientifically. (Metaphysically, now that's a whole 'nother story, but you can read my articles for my theories on that.)
He goes on to discuss that effects the impact of a comet might have on the planet, plunging it into a long period of darkness and cold. He says:
And from that day to this we live under the influence of the effects produced by the comet. The mild, eternal summer of the Tertiary Age is gone. The battle between the sun and the ice sheets continues. Every north wind brings us the breath of the snow; every south wind is the sun's contribution to undo the comet's work; and, if no new catastrophe falls on the earth, our remote posterity will yet see the last snow-bank of Greenland melted, and the climate of the Eocene re-established in Spitzbergen.
The Tertiary Period was from 66 million to 2.58 million years ago. Donnelly is trying to say that a highly intelligent human race lived on the
planet prior to that. Again, scientifically that is hogwash. Metaphysically, I'm open to the possibilities.
Let me briefly state the scenario Donnelly describes. He believes there was a very advanced society on the planet, but then the comet struck with such a catastrophic impact (and I'm not disputing the disastrous global effects that this would have), that the gravel and rocks from the comet were thrust deep into the earth, and the dust and debris caused a blacking-out of the sun. The planet was plunged into a period of darkness and very, very cold temperatures, rain, snow and flooding, also making the air and water toxic. OK, I can also imagine that happening. But then he goes to goofy land, when he claims that the people escaped into caves and lived there until it cleared enough for them to emerge, which he says may have been from days or a week to a century. Then he lost me.
I'm sorry, but if humanity lived in a cave for a century, we'd all look like Gollum.
First of all, humanity could not survive in a cave for a century. Period. Second, he claims there may have been migration, or areas not as badly
affected, but if the sun was blacked-out by cosmic dust, it is incomprehensible to imagine that only certain parts of the world were affected.
From page 113 to page 340 is the long, long irritating section in which he cites numerous myths, legends, and even the Bible, which he "corrects" to justify his theories that: a serpent or something (which he believes was the comet) hit the planet; the planet went through a catastrophic period where much of the population of everything was wiped out but those who survived lived in caves awaiting the return of the sun. These myths dated from all different periods. He claims that those who wrote them must have experienced this first hand because it never could have been imagined. He twists and turns everything and uses lots of italics to further accentuate phrases that he interprets to fit his theory. He claims the Book of Job is about the impact of the comet, and that in Genesis, the planet was already created, but now was being recreated after the catastrophe. Sigh.
I'm not saying the myths and legends aren't significant. I just read a book on Norse Mythology, which implies the coming of an Ice Age, and a while back, I read a book Sun Lore of All Ages, and many of these same legends are included in this book. But it doesn't necessarily mean a comet hit the planet. Ancient people had their own creation stories, just like people today have the Bible—and they are just that—stories, an interpretation of an event and an attempt to make sense of it.
Donnelly was raised Catholic, but left the Church and religion in the 1850s. He has no sense of the magical or mystical, which MUST be included when speaking of any myth, including the Bible. Along with real facts, there is symbolism. Darkness means two totally different things at the physical level and the metaphysical level. And that alone, at least for me, brings great discredit to his writing.
I realize this was written in 1883, and scientists now know so much more about everything, including comets. Donnelly apparently was not aware that comets are giant ice balls (along with the other debris). He gives lots of other erroneous information. Here are some facts about comets from Wikipedia. Donnelly also linked the impact of Comet Biela with the Great Chicago Fire in 1871, along with a series of other disastrous fires that hit across several states about the same time. But that was his theory alone, and has been disproved. He also claims the Drift comet hit the planet at 360 miles per second. Ask.com says comets travel from between 26 and 298 miles per second (faster when near the sun), but a comet approaching 300 miles per second would be "thrown into a parabolic or hyperbolic orbit and end up ejected from the solar system."
In all, I would not recommend reading this book. It's way too friggen long to waste your time. Unless, however, you are like me and enjoy critiquing books, then I might tell you to give it a try. I found the legends in themselves (without Donnelly's commentary) to be interesting enough to justify reading it. I also found the geological material in the first section interesting, especially since it was about my geographical area.
All material on this site copyright © 2015 by Laughing Crow.
This site designed and written by Laughing Crow.