Atala, Earliest Name for America

From cover of Atala, by Chateaubriand, illustrated by Gustave Doré (New York: Cassell, 1884)

From cover of Atala, by Chateaubriand, illustrated by Gustave Doré (New York: Cassell, 1884). ­­­

Atala, Earliest Name for America

Matriarchy vs. Patriarchy – Part 4

Atala (Great Goddess) was the name given to the Americas when North Africans and Europeans first sailed to it, and its inhabitants were called Atalans. Ata meant “The Door, entrance to another dimension, death, Underworld, Land of Souls” in the Uskan (Euskaran, Basque) languages once widespread in North Africa and Europe. Atala, then, is believed to be a title for the White Goddess in her role as keeper of the gates of the Underworld and transformer of the dead.

It’s not every day that an anthropology journal publishes an article with the name Mother Goddess in its title.[1]  Most modern-day authorities ridicule the mere existence of “Goddess religion.” Nor is it a common occurrence for a prestigious medical journal to withdraw and delete an article and instruct their subscribers and librarians to rip its pages out of their copies as though it had never existed.[2] Yet these very events overtook Antonio Arnaiz-Vellene, a professor in Spain. Also, he was accused by his scientific peers of embezzling funds thought to exceed EUR 300,000—a charge from which he was exonerated nearly 20 years later.[3]

Arnaiz-Vellena has an unusual approach to deciphering unknown scripts. In the case of Iberian and other puzzling ancient writing systems, he claims that 85% of the words that occur are  related to the burial and funeral practices of the Mother Goddess religion, which he calls worldwide and Mesolithic if not Paleolithic, and that the language to unlock their mysteries is similar to Basque. As many now believe, writing systems developed in the West, not in the Middle East or with the Phoenicians, and much earlier than most people believe.[4] Moreover, there was a time when the Sahara Desert was home to an advanced civilization that migrated west, north and south as the vast region dried up and became uninhabitable.

Basque, or Euskara, is a language isolate retained by about 750,000 people living on the westernmost ridges of the Pyrenees toward the Bay of Biscayne and Atlantic in northwest Spain and southwest France. Aquitaine, a language once spoken in most of western France, from the Loire River towards the South, was related to it, and it is believed by one school of linguistics that the ancient language documented throughout Iberia, Iberian-Tartessian, was its precursor. Basque is the only language isolate in Western Europe.

Arnaiz-Vellena’s heresies do not end with his theory of a Basque-like substrate beneath Europe’s Indo-European languages. His boldness extends to the hypothesis of an African origin for the Greeks, Celts from the West, matriarchal societies preceding patriarchal ones and an Indo-European homeland in Central Asia being a myth. He believes the Jews came from Crete (as does the Bible—so this can’t be heresy, strictly speaking, but should be described as orthodoxy!). His research turns European history on its ear. Probably no historian has been as hated since Marija Gimbutas.[5]


Saharan Civilization migrations about 7000 BCE, according to Arnaiz-Villena

Gimbutas long ago pointed out a megalithic tomb and relief of the Goddess at Trigueros and identified the famous Dolmen de Soto as one of two thousand ritual burial sites from around 4000 BCE in the province of Huelva, the Tartessian heartland.[6]

A key concept in Arnaiz-Vellena’s linguistic work is the religious term The Door, ata in Basque and Iberian-Tartessian, as well as in Guanche, Etruscan, Minoan, Berber, Punic/Phoenician, Hittite, Sumerian and Egyptian. The word appears on epitaphs and in cemeteries and megaliths in the sense of “entry to another dimension, the underworld, death.” It was a central rite in the Goddess Religion.[7]

As the meaning and significance of ata (or AT in semi-syllabary or abbreviated form) dawned on me, it made me want to reevaluate a rock inscription in Arizona which my wife Teresa and I had discovered in 2013 and had first thought to be Latin.[8]

Donald Yates at the Tator Hills petroglyph site

Donald Yates at the Tator Hills petroglyph site, with the Sawtooth Mountains to the north, October 26, 2013.

Goddess with fancy skirt at the same Tator Hills

Goddess with fancy skirt at the same Tator Hills site. She seems to hold a knife, representing death, and have two bowls. If she is like other goddesses of the dead, she brings new souls back to life and protects them like children under the ample folds of her skirt. The two bowls suggest weighing sins and rewarding good and evil. In her Egyptian counterpart, Hathor, one is full of milk and nourishment and the other gall and bitterness.

Petroglyph standing for transformation and rebirth at the AT

Petroglyph standing for transformation and rebirth at the AT site in Tator Hills. Nearby are symbols of fertility and food, butterflies and dragonflies.

AT inscription in color at Tator Hills location

AT inscription in color at Tator Hills location.

Similar spiral at Signal Hill petroglyph

Similar spiral at Signal Hill petroglyph site in Tucson Mountains, about 15 miles away. There is an even larger spiral at the top, on a rock that is the highest in the site.

Inscription enhanced in black and white

Inscription enhanced in black and white.

Large petroglyph panel with butterfly and thunderbird among other symbols of regeneration or rebirth

Large petroglyph panel with butterfly and thunderbird among other symbols of regeneration or rebirth.


Considering the dominant fertility, goddess and transformation symbolism at this site, I now think AT is probably the Usko-Mediterranean form Ata, marking a place where people held funeral and fertility rites. The goddess figure embodies life and death. She uses her knife to “cut” the thread of existence, like Atropos (Greek Ἄτροπος “without turn”) or Aisa, one of the three Moirai, goddesses of fate and destiny, whose Roman equivalent was Morta. Atropos was the oldest of the Three Fates, and was known as “the Inflexible One.” It was Atropos who chose the manner of death and ended the life of mortals by cutting their thread.

The style of the lettering is definitely Roman, a form known as littera monumentalis, with pronounced serifs, but it seems to have been incised over an older petroglyph or pecked markings, suggesting that the inscribers with their metal tools simply superimposed their own inscription on an ancient sign. An adjacent phoenix or thunderbird is pecked in the same way.

On  the surface of the outcropping is an inscription in the Iberian/Guanche linear form of writing, resembling the Roman numeral IV. It could be the same as the word BA, marking the spot as sacred ground.[9] Iberian semi-syllabary characters are often mistaken for Latin.

In Basque and cognate languages, one of the words for “dead person” is eba, meaning, literally, “cut.” So the worshipers of the Goddess prayed to her in her aspect as the Terrible One (Hecate in Greek tradition) to accept their dead ones and reincarnate them in the same clan. The Underworld was marked as The Door (AT). Atropos, or Aisa, or Morta, corresponded to the White Goddess, the crone. The other two Fates were Clotho and Lachesis, stand-ins for the Goddess in her Virgin and Matron phases.

While we were investigating this site, a flutter of tiny white butterflies poured out of the rocks and languidly alit on Teresa. Their presence seemed appropriate, since psyche can mean both soul and butterfly. In many ancient religions, including the Great Goddess cult, white butterflies represent transformation, renewal and rebirth. These had no markings and their wingspread was about half an inch, smaller than common cabbage butterflies. We found no identifying pictures on the Web.

Indeed, there was a prominent butterfly petroglyph beside a phoenix or thunderbird on the largest panel at the Tator Hills AT site.

Spanish immunologist Antonio Arnaiz-Villena, discoverer of the Usko-Mediterranean language substrate and linear writing system of the Saharan Civilization that spread after the region’s drying up around 7000 BCE. Photo courtesy Universidad Complutense de Madrid. 

Spanish immunologist Antonio Arnaiz-Villena, discoverer of the Usko-Mediterranean language substrate and linear writing system of the Saharan Civilization that spread after the region’s drying up around 7000 BCE. Photo courtesy Universidad Complutense de Madrid.

Heide Goettner-Abendroth

German philosopher Heide Goettner-Abendroth, first generation feminism scholar, author of numerous books and founder of matriarchal studies. Photo courtesy International Academy HAGIA for Modern Matriarchal Studies.

UCLA archeologist and Old Europe goddess religion pioneer Marija Gimbutas

UCLA archeologist and Old Europe goddess religion pioneer Marija Gimbutas (d. 1994) at 5000-year-plus-old passage tomb New Grange in Ireland world-famed for its goddess spirals, 1989. Photo Michael Everson.


Teresa Panther-Yates in the Ironwood national parkland

Teresa Panther-Yates in the Ironwood national parkland, October 27, 2013

Significance of a Name

Anciently, the New World, or at least the North American continent, was known as Atala. Berbers in North Africa used the name Atala or Attala of an island in the Atlantic. In the sacred books of the Hindus, Atala, or the White Island, was used to identify a continent in the Western Ocean. Francis Wilford, the translator of the Vishnu Purana in 1808, located Atala on the same latitude as the Canary Islands (about 28° N)–see Tony O’Connell, s.v.). Early accounts portrayed Atala as a type of happy or blessed Other World, a paradise.

“America was discovered by some bold navigators who were led by the trade winds to the West Indies in a few days from the Atlantic islands,” according to Constantine S. Rafinesque. “They called them Antila Islands, which meant before the land, and America was called Atala or Great Atlantes.” The first settlers, he wrote, came from the western edge of North Africa and Canary Islands. He makes them into the Atalans and compiles their history based on American Indian oral sources, including a version of the Wallam Olum traced to Tenskwatawa (The Open Door), Tecumseh’s brother.[10]

In support of Arnaiz-Villena’s Usko-Mediterrenean thesis, Rafinesque noted that the North Africans were the most sophisticated of the Old World peoples, and that “all those nations were intimately connected in languages and manners.” The Kutans, of different culture, followed the Atalans and were what we would call Middle Easterners.

Plutarch (d. about 120 CE) recorded that Greeks settled among people who lived across the Atlantic Ocean. The Carthaginians preceded them. The Canary current was noted as early as the first century BCE by the Greek encyclopedist Diodorus Siculus. In 1492, it carried Columbus to the Antilles.

Atala can be taken for Greek and is related to Athena, whose name, however, is pre-Greek. The word (or name)  Ἄταλος is derived from an “unknown substrate,” according to authorities.[11] Like Atlas, Atalanta (the goddess figure and namesake of the city Atlanta), Attis (in the Phrygian religion of the Mother Goddess), Attica, Atabyrius (deity in Crete), Attalus and Atlantic (once called the White Ocean), Atala clearly comes, in our opinion, from the Basque-like substrate that emerged from Africa after 7000 BCE. Significantly, the goddess Athena was born from Lake Tritonis in North Africa. In the Greek language it meant “the tender one,” but to the devotees of the Goddess religion it was the name of the Goddess that cared for us all in life and death. Perhaps originally it literally meant “The One by the Door of Life and Death.”

Chateaubriand made Atala the heroine of his novel about the tragic love between the Indian Chacta and the half-caste daughter of Creek Indian chief Simagan.

“Atalà” was believed by Rafinesque to be related to the root Tol, as in Toltecas. Rafinesque also recorded that the root Atta- appears in the name of the Supreme God of the Tainos and other Caribbean Indians—Attabei, Attabeira or Atabex (Cuba). The goddess, along with the language and the first people came apparently from the Canary Islands or Berber/Basque/Iberian lands, what Arnaiz-Villena would call the Usko-Mediterranean orbit.[12] Says Rafinesque: “Titles of this god have astonishing analogies with the primitive God of Asia and Europe, the Basks [sic], Pelasgians, Atlantes [North Africans, Berbers], Guanches etc.”  In other words, Atabex is the same as the universally worshiped White Goddess.[13]

The divine name appears also in the Syrian supreme goddess Atargatis or Ata or Tarata, a favorite of the Phoenicians.

Significantly, as one native who is also a professor and academic tells us in connection with a discussion of the Horned Serpent, “One traditional name of Sky Woman, the progenitrix of life on Earth, is Ataensic, a word that includes the stem denoting the copperhead snake” (see Barbara Alice Mann, Native Americans, Archaeologists, and the Mounds, New York: Peter Lang, 2010, p. 232).

As Heide Goettner-Abendroth reminds us in an “Introduction to Matriarchal Landscape Mythology,” the concepts and characteristics that go with a geographical name are as important as its usage. Neolithic societies that became the first enduring residents of various places on earth did not interact with the topography in terms of just what was useful to them. They established their habitations and fields not just where water, fertile ground and resources like flint and salt were found. They regarded Earth as a divine being, as a primal goddess, a concept which the expression Mother Earth still captures today. “Such a viewpoint of seeing the earth as goddess is fundamentally opposed to the patriarchal one. Indeed, patriarchal societies find gods for themselves that have to do, by and large, with conquest and mastering, not with conditions for the creation and maintenance of life, such as propagation, nourishment and protection, qualities ascribed to the earth as mother by all living beings.”[14]

So the “bold seafarers” who first named, explored and mapped America called it by the name of a goddess, Atala. America was the land of the Goddess, its rivers and mountains were endowed with a sacred nature, it was never disrespected. According to Díaz-Montexando, the Guanches of the Canaries derived their name from the Uskan language: Gu=we, Ana=brotherhood of dead souls and Etche=clan, pedigree.[15] The Atlantic Isles were known as the Hesperides, the golden Sunset Lands, and Haiti was the Isle of the Blessed or Fortunate Isles. The whole of the West was conceived of as the domicile of happy souls when being dead was tantamount to eternal life, a paradise of carefree societies living amidst plenty without strife or warfare. In the Phoenician language, the Straits of Gibraltar were known as Calpe, a “passage to the western paradise of the Mother.”At first, the matriarchal culture of the Iberians and Berbers and Basques melded with the matriarchies of the American Indian tribes. Together they were called Atalans, Children of the Goddess.

Other lands or countries named after the goddess are Denmark (Dana), Ireland (Eriu), Scotland (Scota) and Europe (Europa). The centrality of Basque or a Basque-like substrate language is the main thread in Jacques R. Pauwels’ Beneath the Dust of Time: A History of the Names of Peoples and Places (London: Battlebridge, 2010).

The Indian nations encountered about 3,000 years later by the English were named as the Atzuli or Azilia Empire. That was a name in the Pelasgian or pre-Greek language for the powerful Apalache kingdom. It meant, literally, Children of the Sun.[16] The sun, of course, was female, a heavenly goddess, just as Atala was an earthly goddess. The Uchi even today have a myth that tells how they began as drops of blood falling from the Mother Sun.[17]

The fact that North America was discovered, explored and first settled by matriarchal people like the Basques and Berbers carrying the Goddess religion has huge ramifications not only for the study of place-names in America but its archeology, anthropology, art and history. In short, matriarchal values are the key to everything in its pre-Columbian past, before patriarchal invasion and genocide from Spain, France and England beginning in the 15th century totally rewrote its national culture and character.

More Information

[1] “The Iberian-Tartessian Semi-syllabary: Possible Evolution from Lineal Megalithic/Paleolithic Scripts and the Mother Goddess Religion,” International Journal of Modern Anthropology 2/17 (2022), pp. 820-41.

[2] Arnaiz-Villena A. et al (September 2001), “The Origin of Palestinians and Their Genetic Relatedness with Other Mediterranean Populations,” Human Immunology 62/9: 889–900. doi:10.1016/S0198-8859(01)00288-9. PMID 11543891. See Robin McKie (25 November 2001), “Journal Axes Gene Research on Jews and Palestinians,” The Observer,

[3]Antonio Arnaiz-Villena,” art. in Wikipedia, accessed Aug. 2, 2022. To give his critics their due, the HLAs (human lymphocyte markers) upon which Arnaiz-Villena relies do not seem to be neutral but affected by evolution, environment and selection. It’s complicated!

[4] See also Georgeos Díaz-Montexano, ¿La Escritura Nació en Occidente? Marcelina Sanz de Sautuola y Altamira. Ensayo sobre la Escritura Lineal Paleolítica: El Descubrimiento de las primeras Escrituras Lineales Fonográficas y los primeros Mapas de la Historia, en Cuevas y Artefactos Paleolíticos de España, Portugal y Francia (N.p.: CreateSpace, 2014). A western rather than eastern origin of the alphabet was espoused by the polymath Francisco Xanier Manuel de la Huerta y Vega as early as 1738 (Díaz-Montexano, p. 143). For a much outdated discussion of the Iberian script in comparison with Phoenician, Punic and a syllabic form from the tombs of Alvão in Portugal, see Hans Jenson, Sign, Symbol and Script, 3rd rev. and enl. ed., transl. George Unwin (New York: G. P. Putnam’s Sons), pp. 38, 290-293. See also David Diringer, The Alphabet: A Key to the History of Mankind, 3rd ed. rev. Reinhold Regensburg (New York: Funk & Wagnalls, 1968), pp. 192-95. In vol. 2 are reproductions of inscriptions of Iberian and Libyan, including Turdetan, see vol. 2, pp. 174 (Fig. 14.15), 182-84 (Fig. 14.23-14.25). Diringer, like many others, has the relationship between Iberian scripts and Phoenician backwards, deriving the former, along with Libyan, from the latter. Iberian writing clearly predates Phoenician, by at least a thousand years.

[5] See Prehistoric Iberia: Genetics, Anthropology, and Linguistics, ed. Antonio Arnaiz-Villena (conference proceedings from 1998, New York: Springer, 2012), with J. Alonso-Garcia, Chapter 9: “The Usko-Mediterranean Languages,” pp. 205-246. One of his team’s latest and best publications is A. Arnaiz-Villena et al, “Cumbres Mayores (Huelva, Spain): A New Striking Megalith Complex and Its Incise[d] Lineal Megalithic and Tartessian Scripts, International Journal of Modern Anthropology 2/17 (2022): 778 – 802. doi:

[6] Language of the Goddess (New York: Thames and Hudson, 2006; first published 1989), 350.

[7] See Prehistoric Iberia, Table 1, p. 222. It is distinguished from ate, the common word for “door,” which is also the same in all the related languages as ata (p. 223). Other matriarchal religious terms in Uskan (Basque) that are identical or cognate in the same panoply of circum-Mediterranean languages are: “land,” arka “grave,” arri “stone,” arren “pray,” ba “yes,” baba “spirit,” bake “peace,” bitu “gather together,” eba “dead, literally ‘cut’,” eme “goddess,” ez “no,” gune “place,” il “dead,” Jaun, Iuna “Lady, Goddess, cf. Juno,” kai “ravine, cemetery,” mama “Little Mother, Goddess,” mu “word, prayer,” su “fire” (Sumer=literally Fire or Hot Land), uda, ur “water.”

[8] See Donald N. Yates, Merchant Adventurer Kings of Rhoda: The Lost World of the Tucson Artifacts, 2nd corr. ed. (Longmont: Panther’s Lodge, 2018), p. xv.

[9] See Díaz-Montexano, p. 436 for a site with a similar inscription. Roman numeral-looking inscriptions that are actually linear Iberian Neolithic semi-syllabaries are found in several funereal or burial contexts in Arizona and France; see ibid, p. 437. For comparative tables of Iberian and Tartessian signs, see Elena Maria Whitshaw, Atlantis in Spain (Stelle, Ill.: Adventures Unlimited Press; orig. title Atlantis in Andalucia, London: Rider, 1928), pp. 282-84.

[10] Constantine Samuel Rafinesque, Ancient History, or Annals of Kentucky: with a Survey of the Ancient Monuments of North America, and a Tabular View of the Principal Languages and Primitive Nations of the Whole Earth (Frankfort, Ky.:  Printed for the Author, 1824). He later wrote The American Nations, or, Outlines of Their General History, Ancient and Modern:  Including the Whole History of the Earth and Mankind in the Western Hemisphere:  the Philosophy of American History:  the Annals, Traditions, Civilization, Languages, &c., of All the American Nations, Empires, and States… (Philadelphia:  Printed for the Author, 1836). For summaries and discussion of the trustworthiness of Rafinesque’s tribal histories, see Donald N. Yates, Old World Roots of the Cherokee: How DNA, Ancient Alphabets and Religion Explain the Origins of America’s Largest Indian Nation, foreword by Richard Mack Bettis (Jefferson, N.C.: McFarland, 2012), esp. Ch. 4, “Ancient History of the Indians,” pp. 58-7, and Ch. 5, “America’s Middle Ages,” pp. 74-85.

[11] Robert Beeks, with Lucien Van Beek, Etymological Dictionary of Greek, Leiden Indo-European Etymological Dictionary Series 10/1-2 (Leiden: Brill, 2010), pp. 16, 29. The great goddess is named as a-ta-na po-ti-ni-j-i-a (Atana the Ruler) in Mycenaean Linear B.

[12] Rafinesque, The American Nations, pp. 90, 166. Cf. Donald N. Yates and Teresa A. Yates, Cherokee DNA Studies II: More Real People Who Proved the Geneticists Wrong (Longmont: Panther’s Lodge, 2021), p. 109.

[13] Robert Graves, The White Goddess: a Historical Grammar of Poetic Myth (New York: Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 1966); Erich Neumann, The Great Mother: An Analysis of the Archetype, trans. by Ralph Manheim (Princeton: Princeton UP, 1972).

[14] Heide Goettner-Abendroth, Berggöttinnen der Alpen: Matriarchale Landschaftsmythologie in vier Alpenländern (Raetia, 2016), p. 10.

[15] Díaz-Montexando, p. 288.

[16] Cherokee DNA Studies II, p. 193.

[17]  Frank G. Speck, Ethnology of the Yuchi Indians (Philadelphia: University Museum), p. 143.



  Comments: 3

  1. Years ago, I ran across an obscure travelogue book claiming Amerigo Vespucci’s real name was Albertigo Vespucci. “Amerigo” was adopted from his travels to the New World from the native’s (Inca?) name for South America: something like “Am-arca” which presumably meant “Great Land of the Sun” which he transformed into “Amerigo” or American to celebrate his travels there in his reports. In other words, Vespucci named himself after his “discovery” rather than the New World being named for him. For what it’s worth, if any.
    Wilton Dingus

    • We’re inundated with so many half truths and blatant falsehoods, that it’s imperative to read and sift through as much information as possible, while removing that, which, after proven false, remains a semblance of truth. Or, as close to it as can be expected. Yes, we’ve all heard the tales pertaining to Amerigo Vespucci and just as the contrived, “Christopher Columbus” is but another obfuscation to conceal and distort the truth. Amaruca, or the Land of the Feathered Serpent, is where America derives from..or, so it would seem.

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