“If ever a society could be said to meet all the mythological criteria of the next lost civilization — a society that ticks all the boxes — is it not obvious that it is our own?”
— Graham Hancock
It’s not often that anthropology, archaeology and geology soak up the spotlights of mainstream attention. While the field itself is full of fierce debates and fanatical disputes, it all usually remains silently confined within the insulated walls of academia.
Until Hancock came along.
For decades now, he's been pushing a theory so controversial that it has even made the likes of Scientific American lose their usually-cool-headed approach to scientific reporting:
“Graham Hancock is an audacious autodidact who believes that long before ancient Mesopotamia, Babylonia and Egypt there existed an even more glorious civilization”
— Michael Shermer, writing for Scientific American
It was his infamous book, Finger Prints of the Gods (published in 1995) that set everything into motion. And while many of us have bumped into his hypothesis at one point or another, it may be worth recounting his postulations as we wait patiently for an interview with Mr. Hancock himself.
The quotes below, compiled from his numerous works, all weave and stitch together a summarized depiction of his central theory: that an ancient civilization may have existed before recorded history, advanced beyond the regular standards that we over-impose on ancient cultures and eventually wiped away by a celestial catastrophe (the impact hypothesis, as Hancock has come to argue and cross-reference with the work of other researches like Randall Carlson).
“Human history has become too much a matter of dogma taught by ‘professionals’ in ivory towers as though it’s all fact. Actually, much of human history is up for grabs. The further back you go, the more that the history that’s taught in the schools and universities begins to look like some kind of faerie story.”
It may be a necessary place to start — Graham’s attitudes towards the established dogmas of academia can be easily illustrated by watching any one of his debates.
His theories are grounded in the simple premise that we shouldn’t remain tied to our current interpretations with such conviction because all scientific theories, no matter how factual they may seem, are mere conjecture (the best guess that we’ve managed to formulate). Especially when we’re talking about matters from millenia prior..
This is the cause of all animosity between Hancock and his skeptics, which mostly include institutional academics that have built their careers upon their hypotheses. Graham fervently asserts that we can’t claim, with total certainty, to know how everything went down and how we’ve arrived to where we are today, and that there exists a large body of evidence that calls for a reconsideration of our current understandings relating to ancient existence.
While it may be a slippery premise to his overall foundation of hypotheses, it nonetheless remains a valid point. There are many blanks to be filled in with respect to the advancement of numerous civilizations and, despite how we’ve managed to fill those blanks, we can’t quite be sure that we’re right.
“Ancient Egypt, like that of the Olmecs (Bolivia), emerged all at once and fully formed. Indeed, the period of transition from primitive to advanced society appears to have been so short that it makes no kind of historical sense. Technological skills that should have taken hundreds or even thousands of years to evolve were brought into use almost overnight — and with no apparent antecedents whatever.”
Hancock bases a lot of his speculation in the gaps that exist throughout history, gaps that mysteriously fail to reveal the existence of a gradual progression of civilized existence.
The Ancient Egyptians knew an awful lot about astronomy and, as Hancock has worked to discover, correlated the construction of their iconic structures with celestial patterns — a process which seems much too complicated to calculate as accurately as they did.
One possible extension of Hancock’s theory is that a group of nomadic survivors, representing the remnants of an advanced civilization that had been largely eradicated before our recorded history, traveled the world and shared their superior knowledge of astronomy, agriculture, and architecture, with budding civilizations like that of the Inca’s.
“We learn that they arrived in Mexico “from across the sea in a boat that moved by itself without paddles,” and that Quetzalcoatl was regarded as having been “the founder of cities, the framer of laws and the teacher of the calendar.”
The God’s of certain cultures — sometimes regarded as Viracocha, sometimes Quetzalcoatl, sometimes Bochica — all share striking similarities in folklore and historical depictions, leading many (beyond Hancock himself) to believe that the founders of many civilizations around the world had really been these nomadic survivors.
“What is remarkable is that there are no traces of evolution from simple to sophisticated, and the same is true of mathematics, medicine, astronomy and architecture and of Egypt’s amazingly rich and convoluted religio-mythological system (even the central content of such refined works as the Book of the Dead existed right at the start of the dynastic period). The majority of Egyptologists will not consider the implications of Egypt’s early sophistication…Look at a 1905 automobile and compare it to a modern one. There is no mistaking the process of `development’. But in Egypt there are no parallels. Everything is right there at the start. The answer to the mystery is of course obvious but, because it is repellent to the prevailing cast of modern thinking, it is seldom considered.”
Egyptologists are possibly Hancock’s arch nemeses for the sole fact that, should his theory ever prove more valid, it would destabilize a long-held interpretation of Ancient Egypt (among many other cultures). The institutions that guard their long-held beliefs seem to be especially aware of this and don’t entertain any refutation to their current belief structures, which do remain the most convincing until more contradictory evidence is discovered.
“No, the problem at Göbekli Tepe is the pristine, sudden appearance, like Athena springing full-grown and fully armed from the brow of Zeus, of what appears to be an already seasoned civilization so accomplished that it “invents” both agriculture and monumental architecture at the apparent moment of its birth.”
Göbekli Tepe itself stands as Hancock’s most prized bit of archaeological support for his theory. The nature of this, what many call, ‘worlds first temple’ located in Turkey is such that it indicates that the prior inhabitants seemed to contradict our history. The temple had been founded in the 10th millennium BC, a time whereby the hunter-gatherer ought to have characterized our progression as a human species; instead, discoveries made at this temple point to the fact that systems of agriculture and complex construction had been around much longer than most currently anthropologists agree on, shattering the conventional view of how our civilization really progressed.
“The Maya knew the time taken by the moon to orbit the earth. Their estimate of this period was 29.528395 days — extremely close to the true figure of 29.530588 days computed by the finest modern methods. The Mayan priests also had in their possession very accurate tables for the prediction of solar and lunar eclipses and were aware that these could occur only within plus or minus eighteen days of the node (when the moon’s path crosses the apparent path of the sun).”
While the Mayan’s may have been wrong about their apocalyptic calculations, the accuracy of their other calculations is something that shouldn’t be disregarded.
Simply put, there was no way for certain civilizations to know what they knew. Whether it relates to the construction of the Great Pyramids of Egypt, the celestial predictions of countless South American cultures, the celestially-correlated construction of Angkor Watt in the 12th century or the underwater ruins of lost civilizations like Yonaguni Jima, we know very little, in all actuality, as to how we’ve come to where we are today.
This mystery, perhaps no longer at the forefront of mainstream curiosity, is still one that teases us without end.
Our collective psychology demands such answers because, maybe, we simply can’t truly appreciate who we are or where we’re going without understanding who we once were and where we had come from.
This may be Hancock’s primary motivation and the fuel that drives his curiosity. As much time as he spends looking back, like all historians and archaeologists do, the whole point is to simply enhance our look forward, equipped with a greater understanding of our own origin.
“If ever a society could be said to meet all the mythological criteria of the next lost civilization — a society that ticks all the boxes — is it not obvious that it is our own? Our pollution and neglect of the majestic garden of the earth, our rape of its resources, our abuse of the oceans and the rainforests, our fear, hatred and suspicion of one another multiplied by a hundred bitter regional and sectarian conflicts, our consistent track record of standing by and doing nothing while millions suffer, our ignorant, narrow-minded racism, our exclusivist religions, our forgetfulness that we are all brothers and sisters, our bellicose chauvinism, the dreadful cruelties that we indulge in, in the name of nation, or faith, or simple greed, our obsessive, competitive, ego-driven production and consumption of material goods and the growing conviction of many, fuelled by the triumphs of materialist science, that matter is all there is — that there is no such thing as spirit, that we are just accidents of chemistry and biology — all these things, and many more, in mythological terms at least, do not look good for us.”