Map could prove ‘Welsh Atlantis’ is rooted in fact, say academics | Wales

It is believed to be Welsh Atlantis, a lost land located underwater in Cardigan Bay. For at least 800 years, stories have been told of the legend of Cantre’r Gwaelod, but evidence of its actual existence is scarce.

Now a medieval map depicting two islands off the coast of Ceredigion provides proof that the legend may be rooted in historical fact, according to a BBC report.

The discovery was made by Simon Haslett, Honorary Professor of Physical Geography at Swansea University, and David Willis, Jesus Professor of Celtic at Oxford University.

Haslett, who searched for lost islands in Cardigan Bay while a visiting scholar at Jesus College, Oxford, explained that the two islands are clearly marked on Gough’s map, held in the collections from the University’s Bodleian Library.

The document is believed to be the oldest complete map of the British Isles, dating from the mid-13th century. The duo published their findings in the journal Atlantic Geoscience.

Two islands are depicted, each about a quarter the size of Anglesey. One island is offshore between Aberystwyth and Aberdyfi and the other further north towards Barmouth, Gwynedd.

Haslett told the BBC: “Gough’s map is extraordinarily accurate considering the surveying tools they would have had at the time.

“Both islands are clearly marked and may corroborate contemporary accounts of a lost land mentioned in the Black Book of Carmarthen.”

Cardiff University Welsh folklore expert Dr Juliette Wood – who was not involved in this research – told the BBC the Black Book narrative was key to grounding the story in Welsh mythos .

“Gough’s map may have its origins around 1280; shortly before that, around 1250, you have the Black Book of Carmarthen.

Building on previous studies of the bay and understanding of the advance and retreat of glaciers and silt since the last ice age around 10,000 years ago, Haslett and Willis were able to suggest how the islands may have arise and then disappear again.

Haslett said: “I think the evidence for the islands, and perhaps therefore the legends associated with them, fall into two parts.

“First, coordinates recorded by the Roman cartographer Ptolemy suggest that the coastline at the time was perhaps about eight miles further west than it is today.

“And, secondly, the evidence presented by the Gough map of the existence of two islands in Cardigan Bay.

He added that folk legends about the ability to walk between lands now separated by sea could be a folk memory resulting from sea level rise after the last Ice Age.

“However, legends of flash floods, as in the case of Cantre’r Gwaelod, might be more likely to recall marine flooding and erosion, either by storms or tsunamis, which may have forced people to giving up life along such vulnerable coasts.”

Wood added: “People, now as much as then, want to find a way to explain things that just seem inexplicable, especially during difficult times.

“Romantics among the Celtic population want to find meaning and a belief system to make sense of the current difficulties.”

Haslett, however, warned that his findings may have more bearing on the future than on the past.

“These processes did not happen once, they are still ongoing,” he said.

“With rising sea levels and more intense storms, it has been suggested that people living around Cardigan Bay could become some of Britain’s first climate change refugees, in our lifetime.”