This Wednesday, Discovery Channel is debuting an exhilarating family-friendly series about the hunt for the famous lost city of Atlantis with author and researcher, Stel Pavlou.
Many people wonder if Atlantis was a real place, or simply lore handed down from philosopher Plato that has fueled the interest in finding evidence it existed.
Thanks to his childhood obsession with the stories of Atlantis, Stel, along with geologist Jess Phoenix, have set out on a quest to solve the greatest archaeological mystery of all time — the rediscovery of Atlantis.
Born in England, Pavlou now calls Colorado home. In between the two continents, Stel has covered the globe in his life and now his research to find the purported lost city. As a result, he has come up with plausible theories. "Hunting Atlantis" for Discovery allows him to put them to the test.
Stel and Jess have traveled around the world exploring ancient sites and interviewing leading academics in each region, from Varna, Bulgaria, to the earthquake-ravaged areas southwest of Zagreb, Croatia, and beyond. They have explored sunken cities, examined archaic artifacts, and analyzed geological catastrophes.
The series presents Pavlou's groundbreaking new theory Atlantis' disappearance and timelines this occurred, as he shares how he has fine-tuned the timing. Stel believes it was near the beginning of the fifth millennium BCE that Atlantis likely existed, and that theory is assiduously put to the test. Phoenix is the scientist with the expertise as she connects the leads and sorts the facts with Stel.
Throughout the docuseries, Stel and Jess' expedition leads them to incredible destinations few people have seen in their lifetime. The premiere takes viewers to Varna in Bulgaria, on the Black Sea. There they investigate a 7000-year-old skeleton buried adorned in stunning amounts of gold treasure.
Idaho Press had an exclusive interview with Stel Pavlou ahead of the premiere.
Idaho Press: I blame Donovan's hit song "Atlantis" for my obsession with the lost city of Atlantis, but what spurred your interest?
Stel Pavlou: For me, it was the TV series "Man from Atlantis," there you go. I didn't know the Donovan song till later.
IP: These ancient civilizations that got swept under the sea by seismic activity require a geologist. Tell me about your series partner, Jess Phoenix?
Stel Pavlou: We hit it off immediately. I am the "truth is out there" guy, and she is well, 'likely not.' She's not afraid to challenge me. I'm not afraid to put her ideas out there.
But by the same token, she wasn't dismissive of anything that I have to say as long as there was a decent logic behind what I have to say.
She will note that was a pretty scientific way of looking at it. So we find real common ground on a lot of the issues, and it was fun. Plus, it turned out we had the same sense of humor.
IP: Atlantis and the story of it feels a bit like the telephone game in history. Plato got the information Solon who wrote about hundreds of years earlier. Talk about your process to unravel this mystery.
Stel Pavlou: Essentially, there are a million different theories about where Atlantis may have been if it was real at all. So we're taking some of the locations that people have mentioned those years, and we were looking at the early fifth millennium, BC, and we're looking at what societies live there.
Did they have extravagant wealth? Like the story says, and did they have metalworking? Did they have any seafaring? And then the really big thing is, is there a catastrophe that could have happened in that area that could have swallowed the city?
And so the Black Sea is the first place we go. Varna culture has all this gold. No one's found the city that it came from, so there are many bits to the lost Varna culture that kind of fit, but it's not necessarily a slam dunk because we can't find the city. We can't guarantee that this is the spot, but other locations can also kind of fit it. There are different ways of destruction. What we're finding in different locations is that we've got bits of the story. And so, we are trying to find the one where all the criteria fit.
When we get to Croatia, there's a sinkhole, big enough to swallow a city. And there's one there that we can look at that is that big. When we get to Turkey, there's liquefaction there because of the earthquake, the ground liquefies, and the buildings sink straight down into the ground.
So these are all the different aspects of the story we're looking at. But, essentially, my position is that if Atlantis is real, it's more than likely a society that we have already encountered. And we haven't entirely connected the dots to who they were.
There were many kinds of catastrophes around that time because it was the last pulse of water from the Ice Age. It was the beginning of this enormous thing called the Y chromosome bottleneck, where only one in 17 men were left alive. So it was a million men over about a period of 1500 years wiped out because of warfare. And there's something in the Y chromosome. It's a real thing.
Then it was a warmer climate. It's seven degrees warmer. You could have two crops a year, just like Plato mentions in his story of Atlantis. So you have got all the elements that exist in the early fifth millennium BCE, all the significant elements from that story right there. And then it's a question of looking at the civilizations as we know about, and if there could plausibly be the origin of the story [of Atlantis]. That's the position we take.
IP: Anyone paying attention to the news has got to see your perspective and believe it. Look at Miami, the coastal limestone is collapsing. It's incredibly likely — to your point — the changing coastlines have changed people's lives.
Stel Pavlou: Oh yes, absolutely. So far around the coasts of Europe, there are approximately two and a half thousand different underwater sites that they've found in the last ten years. Underwater archeology is really in its infancy.
One of the places we went to was off of Sicily, which has a 40-foot monolith they found submerged that could only have been above the water, likely 8,000 or 9000 years ago. And then also underwater is an 800-meter long seawall that you can see on the radar.
Things happened that would have stayed in human memory. I mean, you're talking about only the fifth millennium BC is when cities started being constructed. They have no idea where to build them that is safe. So it's going to be in the collective memory when they build the thing in the wrong place, and it goes belly up in the water.
Also, to them would have been an enormous undertaking. So it would have stayed in their memory that the most significant, best city that has ever been built [failed or sunk]. But it's not our perspective of what an impressive city looks like [to us]. It's theirs. So you have to pair it all back down to how people lived at that time.
'Hunting Atlantis' premieres Wednesday, July 21 at 9 PM ET/PT on Discovery.