Lemuria: The True Story of the Lost Continent That Sank Beneath the Sea

Was Lemuria the cradle of humanity? This is the real story of the legend that has perplexed humanity for centuries.

Isabel Cara

Lemuria: la historia real del "continente perdido" que se hundió bajo el mar

The story of the legendary Lemuria oddly related to lemurs has been a mystery that has perplexed historians and scientists alike. Or so we have been told for years, even in articles that purport to be scientific and are intended to explain the presence of certain animals, such as lemurs, in different parts of the world. Thus begins the story of Lemuria, the lost continent:

The Origins of the Lemuria Theory

During the 19th century, naturalists noticed the curious distribution of these animals in different parts of the world, including islands to which they could not have swum or migrated easily. This is where Philip Lutley Sclater came into the picture. In an 1864 essay entitled The Mammals of Madagascar, he speculated the reason behind the distribution of the animals around the world, specifically the lemurs.

“The anomalies of the Mammalian fauna of Madagascar can best be explained by supposing that before the existence of Africa in its present form, a great continent occupied parts of the Atlantic and Indian Oceans, extending into what (is now) America on the west, and into India and the eastern islands; this continent broke up into several islands, of which have amalgamated with the present continent of Africa, and, some with what is now Asia, and that in Madagascar and the Mascarene Islands, we now have relics of this great continent, so the original object of the ‘Stirps Lemurum,’ I must propose the name of Lemuria!”

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Lemuria: The Cradle of Humanity?

To this theory is added that of the biologist Erns Haeckel, who in 1868 ventured that this same area, between Asia, Africa, and the supposed piece of land – or continent – would be the cradle of humanity, thus making Lemuria, not only the continent of origin of the lemurs but also allowed man to migrate to other areas of the world.

It was this theory, that of the cradle of humanity, that inspired Elena Provna Blavatskaja and others to continue publishing that Lemuria, the lost continent, could be the site of one of the seven races of humanity and, in a way, support what would be the great dream of any geologist: to find a lost continent in the depths of the sea that could reveal secrets of the development of our history and the migratory movements of animals and humans alike.

It has even inspired works of fiction whose plots revolve around lost continents, such as the somewhat more famous mythical Atlantis; as well as aquatic discoveries that are often automatically associated with these continents. However, thanks to technological progress and the knowledge we have, we now know that continents cannot sink out of nowhere. Scientific American explains that Granite does not form on dry land and has a lower mass density, so it would float on top of the much denser mantle materials.

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Debunking the Legend of Lemuria

The evidence associated with Lemuria and other “lost” regions of the world corresponds to what is known as Gondwana, one of the first fractions of the supercontinent Pangaea 200 million years ago. This evidence lies beneath the island of the Republic of Mauritius in the Indian Sea.

At the same time, the most accepted theory to explain the migration of the lemurs is that they traveled on rafts of vegetation accidentally, taking advantage of the fact that, at least 60 million years ago, the continental plates were in other positions and the ocean currents flowed in different directions than today.

Certainly, even now with the knowledge we have about continental earth materials and mammalian evolution, it is hard not to be hopeful about such an incredible theory as Lemuria, and for that, we cannot blame the scientists of the 19th century.

Story originally published in Spanish in Cultura Colectiva

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