Guide to Patagonia's Monsters & Mysterious beings

I have written a book on this intriguing subject which has just been published.
In this blog I will post excerpts and other interesting texts on this fascinating subject.

Austin Whittall

Thursday, March 3, 2011

Ancient Greeks in the River Plate!

Map showing the location of Dolores, Uruguay, site of the "Greek" remains.
Copyright © 20011 by Austin Whittall

This post is about a farmer who, in the early 1800s, lived close to the Uruguayan town of Dolores. He made an amazing finding: an inscribed stone and some ancient body armor, which was supposedly identified as belonging to a Greek explorer from the days of Alexander the Great. This story, sounds like a hoax, but since I have been posting on Phoenicians in America, I thought, ok why not! So here it is:

The original text is worth quoting from its source (a local magazine published in Soriano, the Uruguayan District where Dolores is located), a 1963 article:

A farmer [...] had discovered an ancient stone, sunk in the ground, on which some unknown letters were written. Picking up the stone, he came across a small stone chamber , inside of which were two very ancient swords, a helmet and a shield, very rusty, and a regular sized amphora. He took those pieces to Montevideo, and the priest Martínez managed to decipher the coarse and worn greek characters, whose translation was: "During the reign of Alexander king of Macedonia, son of Phillip, on the 63 olympics, here Ptolemy...", the rest of the phrase could not be read. On the hilt of one of the swords, whose blades were completely destroyed, a relief with the head of Alexander could be made out. The helmet still displayed a delicate work of metal craftmanship, representing in relief Aquiles dragging Hector's body around Troy. [1]

The sources

Text about Ptolemy, the "Greek" from 320 BC whose remains were found in Uruguay. From [1].

The above text was originally published in 1835 in the Montevideo newspaper "El Universal", who in turn took it from the December 9, 1934 issue of the "Jornal do Comercio" of Rio de Janeiro. The Brazilian journal informed that it had got the news from the "Gaceta de Francia" of Paris, which had taken it from the "Le Temps" of April 11, 1832, and this paper from the "Messager des Chambres " of March 22, 1832.

The article seems to have been published before that date in the "Giornale del Regno delle Due Sicilie" on June 11, 1829 and before that, in the "Gaceta Universal" of Bogotá Colombia.

Criticism and comments

The first flaw found in the story was the date. The 63rd Olympic games took place around 528 - 524 BC, long before Alexander's regin (Alexander died in 323 BC).

However, if instead of 63, you read 113, the Olympic games date would fit neatly within Alexander's reign over Macedonia and most of the "known" world.

The thing is that at the time (1829) Uruguay was just coming out of a war against Brazil, in which it won its independence (with the help of Argentina), and political turmoil would have covered up the news, which was disclosed through a distant paper in Colombia instead of locally, in Montevideo.

What would a Greek ship be doing at Dolores? In those days, the delta of the Paraná River was several tens of kilometers up stream from its current position just 20 km (12.5 mi.) north of Buenos Aires.

The delta advances at about 25 to 100 m/year (82 to 328 ft/year),[2] so over the last 2,320 years it would have been located between 58 and 232 km further north (36 to 144 mi.), upstream. See the map below.

The Uruguay River lacks a delta and drains into the eastern side of the River Plate as a wide river.

Dolores, the site of the finding, is located on the San Salvador River which drains into the Uruguay River. Perhaps it offered a good port for the Greek sailors. Actually, Sebastian Cabot, the first to explore the region after Magellan and Solis, actually built a fort on the mouth of the San Salvador. He must have chosen it for some strategic reason. This fort is the first Spanish settlement in Uruguay (1527). He would later sail up the Paraná and establish Sancti Spiritus at Carcaraña, Argentina.

Could the Greek soldier be a dead member of Cabot's expedition?

Map showing coastline in 320 BC with the possible maximum and minimum area covered by water. This area in now occupied by the Delta of the Paraná River.
Copyright © 20011 by Austin Whittall

The map above shows the maximum and minimum extent of the River Plate in the days of Alexander the Great. The delta did not extend beyond Rosario or Zarate based on the max. and min. advance of the delta (58 and 232 km) mentioned above.


[1] Un Enigma histórico. Ptolomeo fue enterrado en Dolores. Revista Histórica de soriano. May 31, 1963. No. 8. pp. 8.
[2] Marcos Pittau, Alejo Sarubbi, Angel N. Menéndez Analisis del avance del frente del delta del rio Parana

Patagonian Monsters - Cryptozoology, Myths & legends in Patagonia
2011 International Year of Forests
2011 International Year of Forests Copyright 2009-2011 by Austin Whittall © 

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