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Lemuria (/lɪˈmʊriə/), or Limuria, was a continent proposed in 1864 by zoologist Philip Sclater, theorized to have sunk beneath the Indian Ocean, later appropriated by occultists in supposed accounts of human origins. The theory was discredited with the discovery of plate tectonics and continental drift in the 20th century.[1]

The hypothesis was proposed as an explanation for the presence of lemur fossils in Madagascar and India but not in Africa or the Middle East. Biologist Ernst Haeckel's suggestion in 1870 that Lemuria could be the ancestral home of mankind caused the hypothesis to move beyond the scope of geology and zoogeography, ensuring its popularity outside of the framework of the scientific community.

Occultist and founder of Theosophy Helena Blavatsky, during the latter part of the 19th century, placed Lemuria in the system of her mystical-religious doctrine, claiming that this continent was the homeland of the human ancestors, whom she called Lemurians. The writings of Blavatsky had a significant impact on Western esotericism, popularizing the myth of Lemuria and its mystical inhabitants.

Theories about Lemuria became untenable when, in the 1960s, the scientific community accepted Alfred Wegener's theory of continental drift, presented in 1912, but the idea lived on in the popular imagination, especially in relation to the Theosophist tradition.

Evolution of the idea[edit]

Lemuria was hypothesized as a land bridge, now sunken, which would account for certain discontinuities in biogeography. This idea has been rendered obsolete by modern theories of plate tectonics. Sunken continents such as Zealandia in the Pacific, and Mauritia[2][original research?] and the Kerguelen Plateau in the Indian Ocean do exist, but no geological formation under the Indian or Pacific Oceans is known that could have served as a land bridge between continents.[3][original research?]

The idea of Lemuria was later incorporated into the philosophy of Theosophy and has persisted as a theme in pseudoarchaeology and discussions of lost lands. There is a vast fringe literature pertaining to Lemuria and to related concepts such as the Lemurian Fellowship and other things "Lemurian". All share a common belief that a continent existed in what is now either the Pacific Ocean or the Indian Ocean in ancient times and claim that it became submerged as a result of a geological cataclysm. An important element of the mythology of Lemuria is that it was the location of the emergence of complex knowledge systems that formed the basis for later beliefs.

The concept of Lemuria was developed in detail by James Churchward, who referred to it as Mu and identified it as a lost continent in the Pacific Ocean. Churchward appropriated this name from Augustus Le Plongeon, who had used the concept of the "Land of Mu" to refer to the imaginary lost continent of Atlantis. Churchward's books included The Lost Continent of Mu, the Motherland of Men (1926), The Children of Mu (1931), The Sacred Symbols of Mu (1933), Cosmic Forces of Mu (1934), and Second Book of Cosmic Forces of Mu (1935). The relationships between Lemuria/Mu and Atlantis are discussed in detail in the book Lost Continents: The Atlantis Theme in History, Science, and Literature (1954) by L. Sprague de Camp.

Pseudoarchaeological and New Age beliefs about Lemuria have been promoted in books by fringe author Frank Collin writing under the pen name Frank Joseph in books published by Inner Traditions - Bear & Company. Additional discussion of fantastic speculation about the imaginary land of Lemuria are examples of Lemuria in popular culture.

Scientific origins[edit]


In 1864, "The Mammals of Madagascar" by zoologist and biogeographer Philip Sclater appeared in The Quarterly Journal of Science. Using a classification he referred to as lemurs, but which included related primate groups,[4] and puzzled by the presence of their fossils in Madagascar and India, but not in Africa or the Middle East, Sclater proposed that Madagascar and India had once been part of a larger continent (he was correct in this; though in reality this was Mauritia[5] & the supercontinent Gondwana).

The anomalies of the mammal fauna of Madagascar can best be explained by supposing that... a large continent occupied parts of the Atlantic and Indian Oceans... that this continent was broken up into islands, of which some have become amalgamated with... Africa, some... with what is now Asia; and that in Madagascar and the Mascarene Islands we have existing relics of this great continent, for which... I should propose the name Lemuria![4]


Sclater's theory was hardly unusual for his time; "land bridges", real and imagined, fascinated several of Sclater's contemporaries. Étienne Geoffroy Saint-Hilaire, also looking at the relationship between animals in India and Madagascar, had suggested a southern continent about two decades before Sclater, but did not give it a name.[6] The acceptance of Darwinism led scientists to seek to trace the diffusion of species from their points of evolutionary origin. Before the acceptance of continental drift, biologists frequently postulated the existence of submerged land masses to account for populations of land-based species now separated by barriers of water. Similarly, geologists tried to account for striking resemblances of rock formations on different continents. The first systematic attempt was made by Melchior Neumayr in his book Erdgeschichte in 1887. Many hypothetical submerged land bridges and continents were proposed during the 19th century to account for the present distribution of species.


Map describing the origins of "the 12 varieties of men" from Lemuria (1876)
The coat of arms of the British Indian Ocean Territory with the inscription (in Latin) "Limuria is in our charge/trust".

After gaining some acceptance within the scientific community, the concept of Lemuria began to appear in the works of other scholars. Ernst Haeckel, a Darwinian taxonomist, proposed Lemuria as an explanation for the absence of proto-human "missing links" in the fossil record. According to another source, Haeckel put forward this thesis before Sclater, without using the name "Lemuria".[7]


The Lemuria theory disappeared completely from conventional scientific consideration after the theories of plate tectonics and continental drift were accepted by the larger scientific community. According to the theory of plate tectonics, Madagascar and India were indeed once part of the same landmass (thus accounting for geological resemblances), but plate movement caused India to break away millions of years ago, and move to its present location. The original landmass, Mauritia[8] & the supercontinent Gondwana prior to that, broke apart; it predominantly didn't sink beneath sea level.

Kumari Kandam[edit]

"Lemuria" in Tamil nationalist mysticist literature as Kumari Kandam, connecting Madagascar, South India, and Australia (covering most of the Indian Ocean)

Some Tamil writers such as Devaneya Pavanar have associated Lemuria with Kumari Kandam, a legendary sunken landmass mentioned in the Tamil literature, claiming that it was the cradle of civilization. A Tamil commentator, Adiyarkunallar, described the dimensions that extended between the Pahruli River and the Kumari River in the Pandyan country that was taken over by the ocean later on.[9]

When the southern part of Kumari was covered by the sea, Kapatapuram was described to have been made the capital of the Pandyas. According to the Tamil commentators there were 49 countries in this lost land; they interpreted Nadu as country. In actuality, Nadu referred to a settlement or town or village.[10]

In popular culture[edit]

Since the 1880s, the concept of Lemuria has had a prominent place in the mythology of Theosophy, Anthroposophy, and other occult and New Age beliefs. inspired many novels, television shows, films, and music. These are not scientific ideas, but fall within the realm of pseudoarchaeology and popular culture.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Roos, Dave. "Did the Lost Continent of Lemuria Ever Exist?". HowStuffWorks. Retrieved 15 July 2022.
  2. ^ Morelle, Rebecca (2013-02-25). "BBC News - Fragments of ancient continent buried under Indian Ocean". BBC.co.uk. Retrieved 2013-09-21.
  3. ^ "Navigation News". Frontline.in. Retrieved 2013-09-21.
  4. ^ a b Neild, Ted Supercontinent: Ten Billion Years in the Life of Our Planet pp.Harvard University Press (2 Nov 2007) ISBN 978-0-674-02659-9 pp. 38–39
  5. ^ "An Entire Lost Continent Was Found Under the Island of Mauritius". Forbes.
  6. ^ Neild, Ted Supercontinent: Ten Billion Years in the Life of Our Planet pp.Harvard University Press (2 Nov 2007) ISBN 978-0-674-02659-9 p.38
  7. ^ L. Sprague de Camp, Lost Continents, 1954 (First Edition), p. 52
  8. ^ "Fragments of continents hidden under lava in Indian Ocean: New micro-continent detected under Reunion and Mauritius".
  9. ^ "Login - Single Sign On | The University of Kansas". login.ku.edu. Retrieved 2022-04-27.
  10. ^ a b "Download Limit Exceeded". citeseerx.ist.psu.edu. Retrieved 2022-04-27.
  11. ^ Lewis, C. S. (1964). Poems. Geoffrey Bles. pp. 40–41.
  12. ^ The Deep (TV Series 2015– ) - IMDb

Further reading[edit]

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