Ġebel ġol-Baħar

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by Ayla Schwartz

Ġebel ġol-Baħar is an alleged underwater megalithic site in Malta located off the coast of St. George's Bay. [1] It was discovered by pseudoarchaeologist and unaccredited academic Hubert Zeitlmair on April 13th, 1999 and announced at a "Paleo-Astronauts" conference later that same year. [2]

Photograph of supposed site of Ġebel ġol-Baħar[3]

What is Ġebel ġol-Baħar?

Malta and Pseudoarchaeology

Map of Malta[4]

Malta has long been the focus of pseudoarchaeologists and Atlantean conspiracy theorists for the incredible breadth of its archaeological history as well as its location as an island in the western hemisphere, which unfortunately fits the bill for a potential site for the mythical Atlantis as described in the Platonic dialogues. Pseudoarchaeogy's interest in Malta began with a guide to Malta written by British army chaplain Rev. George Nelson Godwin. In this guide, Godwin noted the legitimate scientific fact[5] that before the melting of the glaciers at the end of the ice age, Malta was part of a larger, now submerged tract of land that was "either a large island or islands, or else formed part of Europe or Africa, if not both."[6] In 1854, Maltese architect and antiquarian Giorgio Grongnet de Vasse first proposed that the Maltese Islands composed part of the lost continent of Atlantis, citing the platonic dialogues as proof, as Plato described Atlantis being "pro" or in front of the Pillars of Heracles, which he proposed meant an area proximate to the strait of Sicily, or in this case, Malta.[7] Following de Vasse, Maltese botonist John Borg stated that Atlantis was situated between Malta and North Africa, and R. M. Gattefosse commented that he believed that Malta's legitimate archaeological sites bore an "Atlantean" Character.[8] Importantly, much of the focus on Malta as a home for Atlantis occurred during and right after the period of time Malta existed as a British Protectorate and was denied home rule by the British Empire, one of the reasons George Godwin had such good access to Malta in the first place.[9] Although the British occupation of Malta was far from the scale or impact of other British colonial pursuits, it did have a significant impact on the development of Maltese political parties and national identity.[9] Because the burgeoning far-right nationalist movement in Malta had a vested interest in ousting the British, when Malta was allowed to form political parties, the nationalist party, which was headed by Malta's upper classes, allied itself with Italy (the previous occupying force before the British) and the Liberal-Democratic party, who favored the British democratic reforms, allied themselves with England.[9] As a result, a lot of early Atlantis narratives in Malta by indigenous Maltese people incorporate an element of nationalist pseudoarchaeology. Not only did the postulate that Malta was related to Atlantis bolster national pride and identity, but pseudoarchaeology that specifically tied Malta to Sicily via landbridge, reifying the claims and prerogatives of the Nationalist party.

After the 1956 referendum to incorporate Malta into the UK failed however, and colonial rule became less of an issue, nationalist fueled narratives of Italy-Malta as the site of Atlantis fell out of favor. It wasn't until 2001, when pseudoarchaeologist Anton Misfud revived the idea in his book "Echoes of Plato's Island," that the idea of Malta as the ancient location for Atlantis resurfaced.[10] Misfud, building off of the ideas of Gowin, de Vasse, Borg and Gattefosse, supported his belief with a typological comparison of some of the skulls found in Maltese prehistoric temples and skulls from pre-dynastic egypt.[10] Additionally, he claims that the high volume of megalithic temples on Malta, as well as the deep, abruptly ending tracts still present on the islands, is evidence that Malta was once home to an advanced, Atlantean civilization.[8]

Hubert Zeitlmair

Hubert Zeitlmair[11]

Hubert Zeitlmair is by far the most involved player in the Gebel gol-Bahar narrative. Born on May 22nd 1954 in Augsburg, Germany, Zeitlmair is a former real estate investor who now works as an educator and self-proclaimed professor at the University of Quantum Dynamics, a non-for-profit organization that operates largely through in-person workshops and one on one skype tutoring[11]. Zeitlmair first ventured into pseudoarchaeology while attempting to "search for the primeval roots of [his] ancestors and humanity,"[12] though no explanation as to what that means or entailed has ever been documented. During this period, Zeitlmair became increasingly more interested in European pre-history and became acquainted with the works of Zecharia Sitchin.[12] He believes that Malta is the original home of Atlantis and subscribes to Sitchin's postulates about the visitation of Earth by the Nibiru of Planet X, attributing this contact to the Atlanteans advanced knowledge.[2]

In 1999, Zeitlmair sponsored a dive in the area off the coast of the Maltese town of St. Julian's to look for submerged temples.[8] On July 13th of that year, Shaun and Kurt Arrigo purportedly discovered an underwater megalithic site that became the basis of Zeitlmair's career, which he named Gebel gol-Bahar - Maltese for "Stones in the Sea."[13] Zeitlmair reported this find at the 1999 Paleo-Astronauts conference and returned to Malta later that year as well as in 2000 to further "study" the Gebel gol-Bahar site and take detailed measurements of an area he claimed to be a megalithic temple.[2]

Currently, Zeitlmair offers several workshops and "classes" on the topic of Atlantis, Malta, and Gebel gol-Bahar, as well as several other new-age courses related to overcoming transcience, natural energies, and ancient astronauts.[11]

Ġebel ġol-Baħar and Pseudoarchaeological Narrative

Hubert Zeitlmair's "Theories"

It is important to consider that Zeitlmair's theories, questions, and beliefs came to be within the context of other pseudoarchaeological discourse. Zeitlmair's interest in archaeology began and ended with the likes of Zecharia Sitchin, Erich von Daniken, and Anton Misfud. Zeitlmair's ideas are not as novel or revolutionary as he might claim. Instead, they are well understood, repetitious ideas within the archaeological community, common and predictable within the context. His 'theories,' if they can be called that, build on and are influenced by the ideas of other people before him, and are influenced by the culture and atmosphere of pseudoarchaeology when he entered the field.

That being said, Hubert Zeitlmair's theories are a particular blend of pseudoarchaeological and pseudoscientific beliefs that are interesting to explore. Ġebel ġol-Baħar occupies an intersection of common pseudoarchaeological themes: the Atlantis narrative, the ancient astronaut's hypothesis, biblical pseudoarchaeology, and astrology.

Atlantis Narrative

The strongest narrative thread in Zeitlmair's Ġebel ġol-Baħar work is the that Ġebel ġol-Baħar, and indeed, all of Malta and the associated sea floor, is the site of the lost civilization of Atlantis.[12] This narrative can be split into three separate claims: the argument against age estimation, the argument for primitivism, and the argument for astrological significance. Ġebel ġol-Baħar is an important part of this first claim, because Zeitlmair contends that the presence of Ġebel ġol-Baħar on the seafloor proves that the other Maltese temples have been incorrectly dated and they were actually built before the melting of the polar ice caps at the end of the last ice age.[12] This argument incorporates assertions by other pseudoarchaeologists that the mysterious cart ruts on Malta that run off cliffs and reappear on the other side of great bodies of water point to the existence of a continuous landmass and civilization pre-sea level rise that dates the civilization to "not earlier than 5000 BC."[12] The second important aspect to Zeitlmair's argument for Malta as Atlantis comes from the idea that the indigenous peoples in prehistoric Malta were too primitive to build the number of temples or temples at the level of complexity that we see in the Maltese archaeological record.[14] This leads into the assertion that the temples were dated incorrectly, because if you are to assume that the people present on Malta when archaeological science says the megalithic sites were built were too "primitive" to create such sites, then the dates accepted archaeology has come up with must clearly be wrong. This is not only dangerously ethnocentric but approximates the sort of backward attitudes the British used to justify the colonization of Malta in the first place.[15] When supporters of Zeitlmair's theories call native Maltese citizens "primitive grunting cave inhabitants"[16] it not only calls back to that historical, imperialist rhetoric, but it contextualizes their beliefs within the ethnocentric framework of rhetoric Atlantis theories generally occupy. Primitivism also plays a role in the final piece in the Atlantis narrative - the argument for astrological significance. Zeitlmair asserts that the structures present on Malta indicate a level of knowledge about astronomy and astrology that the primitives of neolithic Malta would have been unable to match. He claims that if you consider the 24 mega-stone circle temples he considers legitimate as one cohesive whole, assume each unit was originally at least three times as large when originally built, and assume the shape of each unit was "modeled on the appearance of our planet without its water,"[17] then the 24 stone temples follows the precession of the earth, representing a complex chronometer used to continuously observe and tract the movement of the Orion belt, specifically the smallest star in Orion's belt, which according to Zeitlmair is the star-like Planet X described by Zecharia Sitchin. [18]

Ancient Astronauts

Featuring heavily in Ġebel ġol-Baħar's pseudoarchaeological narrative is the ideas of Zecharia Sitchin, prolific author of "The 12th Planet," a 1976 book that claimed that Sumerian texts and the old testament held evidence that the earth had been visited by the Anunnaki from a planet (Nibiru) on a secret, elliptical orbit around the sun, who genetically engineered homo sapiens as slaves.[19] Zeitlmair defers to Sitchin when it comes to most questions on the origin of humanity and the origins of Atlantis[2], but has his own theories for how Ġebel ġol-Baħar fits into Sitchin's Nibiru narrative. Zeitlmair, who believes that the leaders of Atlantis and the Atlantean society still exists, claims that the founders of Atlantis and teachers of humanity were descendants of Nibiru colonizers and exert current control over our surroundings through "the squares of the sixth dimension of Atlantis."[20] Zeitlmair uses Ġebel ġol-Baħar as evidence for this connection between Atlantis and Nibiru, by arguing that the position of legitimate and unverified or discredited megalithic sites of malta form both an astronomical tracking device and an ancient powerhouse, meant to transmit of power back to Nibiru through plasma cosmology.[8]

Genesis Flood Story

Underwater tracts in the Ġebel ġol-Baħar site[21]

The final piece of Ġebel ġol-Baħar's pseudoarchaeological narrative contains the seeds of biblical pseudoarchaeology. Hubert Zeitlmair believes that there are legitimate events associated with most aspects of mythology, and although he usually associated them with the misunderstood presence of extraterrestrials, when it comes to the Bible he takes a far more literal approach. In attempting to prove that the Maltese temple constructions took place at an earlier date than archaeologists claim, Zeitlmair uses the Genesis flood narrative to support his idea that many of the Maltese temples, including Ġebel ġol-Baħar, could not have been constructed later because they must have been submerged by the great flood.[14] In this case, Zeitlmair associates the great flood with the melting of the ice caps at the end of the ice age, as opposed to an act of god or extraterrestrial intervention.[8]

The Archaeological Response

Ġebel ġol-Baħar discredited

The existance of Ġebel ġol-Baħar as anything more than a collection of rocks on the sea floor has been widely discredited by legitimate archaeologists and scholars.[2] A number of experts of Maltese archaeology have visited the site, and none to date have verified Ġebel ġol-Baħar's existence or recognized it as a part of Malta's archaeological record.[2] In 2015, Dr. Reuben Grima, an expert in archaeology and the curator of the Maltese Museum's department of archaeology, visited the site and was "unconvinced that the stone on the seafloor [were] indeed a temple."[2] He has stated that no compelling evidence to support Zeitlmair's claims were ever produced.[22] Based on videos provided by Hubert Zeitmair, a second archaeologist, Anthony Bonanno, stated the site Zeitlmair considers Ġebel ġol-Baħar is a natural underwater rock formation, and that the megalithic temple is purely fictitious.[23]

Malta's temples and archaeological record

Although it is a well-documented fact that Malta's rich archaeological is disproportionate to the island's size and early notions of its prehistoric societal complexity,[24] Malta's temples and prehistoric architecture are well-understood within the archaeological and historical contexts that surround them.[25] Malta's first settlers were likely from Sicily, and although seasonal changes left Malta occasionally isolated, it is well documented that Malta's agricultural settlement kept up steady trade and correspondence with Sicily, especially in times of low yield, when Malta's settlement would have perished were it not for the aid of neighboring lands.[25] Therefore, the prehistoric Maltese inhabitants were far from the grunting, primitive peoples Zeitlmair made them out to be, but instead were well connected to the architectural traditions of other well-understood civilizations. During the temple period that followed Malta's initial colonization and during which archaeologists agree the megalithic temples were built, there was a surge in cultural production that has been linked to a new wave of Sicilian settlers in Malta.[25] Far from the abrupt, jarring transition pseudoarchaeologists, the transition from an agricultural settlement to a culturally efflorescent society was gradual and increased in complexity. The first few temples were modest, with a simple trefoil plan that was later embellished during the last phase of the temple period. Other archaeological data tells a similar story - gradual increases in complexity of funerary architecture, pottery, and increases in incorporated lithic imports, which likewise proves that this transition was within the context of other world events and contact with other civilizations.[25][26] Thus, Zeitlmair's narrative of sudden temple creation, too complex for the prehistoric society that archaeologists believe created it, doesn't fit the archaeological record or the historic evidence left behind.

The Evidence (or lack thereof) for Atlantis and Extraterrestrial influence

Beyond the well-understood archaeological progression of Maltese society in prehistory mentioned above, there is little concrete evidence available to refute Zeitlmair's claims about Atlantis. However, an argument from ignorance is not a proper argument, and Zeitlmair has failed to present suitable evidence that Malta's archaeological record was at all influenced by aliens or lost civilizations.[27] There is no evidence for the interference of aliens or Atlanteans into Maltese societal development. There is no evidence against this theory either. However, there is widely accepted, well document evidence for the gradual development of an independent Maltese identity and society from the Sicilian settlers of the Mediterranean island cluster.[26]. There is evidence archaeological evidence for the slow development of sophisticated temple complexes on Malta from 4000 BC to around 2500 BC.[25]. Evidence for an idea is a lot more compelling than a lack of evidence against it, a lot more convincing. Therefore, it is safe to conclude that the overwhelming evidence for archaeologically verifiable development of Maltese culture through contact with Sicily and other neighboring lands is more likely than the existence of a massive invasion of aliens or a lost civilization that left nothing more than a few rocks in its place.


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