This is one of the more unusual books I have read as there is a lot of controversy about it in the academic world, regardless of its popularity. I enjoy learning about ancient cultures and what they knew and how they lived their lives. I will admit that I came across this book on the TV show Ancient Aliens, yeah I know some of what they have to say is far-fetched, some is just hard to explain and cannot be overlooked, and there is a small but very important portion that really makes you think that maybe they have a strong point. So I think that if you keep an open mind and do your own research on the “facts” then you can get a better understanding of some of the ideas in this book.
Hancock is an author who has made regular appearances on the show Ancient Aliens on the History channel, which blows my mind that that show is on the History channel, anyways. He has written several books and this one is his most famous. As I mentioned, quite the uproar has been made over this book. Many scientists have completely dismissed it as “pseudoscience” and believe that it has no place in the academic world. I have always been of the opinion that having a theory no matter how silly could be right and just because you are an “expert” in a field does not make you infallible. Even Einstein and Hawking have been known to be wrong about a few things during their careers and I would put both of them in the top 1% of the smartest people who have ever lived.
The whole premise of the book is basically, Hancock believes, that there was an ancient civilization way older than anything we know about, say around 10,000 to 15,000 years old. Some sort of catastrophe happened and the civilization died out, but their survivors lived and were responsible for the famous ancient civilizations we know of including the Egyptians, Myans, Incans, and many others. Hancock claims that this ancient civilization inhabited the island of Antarctica and because of what is called the Earth Displacement theory or the Pole shift hypothesis that the civilization had to abandon their home spreading across the globe. This is one of the many different theories that are presented in the book. There is no mention of aliens as Kirk von Daniken suggests in his Chariots of the Gods (which I have also read). There is a large amount of information presented in this book so it is important to do your own research to follow up the claims.
Hancock does bring forth some evidence to support many of his claims, mainly an ancient map (Piri Res Map) that shows Antarctica hundreds of years before the continent was discovered. He says there is historical evidence that this map was based on an even earlier map depicting the more of the then unknown world, which I found was true. The most interesting point is that it appears to depict the continent of Antarctica, but most scientists disagree on this point, simply saying that that map is just wrong. Another point that the book makes is that the map takes into account the curvature of the earth and that at the poles of the map the land masses are stretched which is consistent with what we know to be true today. The earth is obviously a sphere and sticks out more in the middle, making it bulge in the middle. Now this could just be a coincidence, as I would like to believe, or perhaps the ancients knew more than we gave them credit for.
Another interesting point that Hancock makes in the book is when he discusses all the creation myths and the flood myths that all ancient civilizations have. The crazy part is that they are all basically the same. How is it that almost all ancient civilizations have some sort of flood myth? I found that extremely bizarre. It is largely accepted that almost all ancient cultures had no contact with one another, so why would they all come up with a very similar specific flood myth? I guess there are two ways to look at this. One, there was some sort of ancient flood the affected almost all the world, which is possible as around 10,000 years ago the Earth came was coming out of the ice age. So the glaciers were melting creating rising waters all over the world. Two, all of these cultures just happened to make up a flood myth independent of one another. I think the first is much more likely, then if you follow that line of logic I do not think it is as farfetched as the “experts” say that there could have been a highly advance ancient civilization that was destroyed coming out of the last ice age. Then its survivors scattered around the world and passed down the flood myth. There is no real evidence to support this claim, but I do not think it is impossible for this to be true. Recently scientist have found sites of peoples in Turkey (Gobekli Tepe) that date back over 10,000 years, which completely debunked what we thought we knew as the beginning of civilization. Now I do not think this civilization is anything close to the “advance” civilization we are talking about, but the age of this civilization in Turkey is what is surprising. I am not one to say that such and such is impossible and that just because someone has an odd theory that it is wrong and can’t happen. Our past is incomplete, to say the least, so I think any and all theories should be considered until we find the missing pieces to the puzzle. Although, I would say that as much as I would like to believe it, as it would make our (and by our, I mean human) story so much more exciting, I might have to rule out aliens. Sorry von Daniken.
Also, there was another myth about how the earth “turns” that some 200 civilizations had in common, that when you translated the words back to English they were all more or less saying the exact same thing. For this one I have less of an explanation for. The book goes into greater detail and makes the claim that all these civilizations passed this idea down from the same lost ancient culture. Is this impossible, that a very ancient civilization was destroyed and its survivors spread across the planet and some of their myths were passed down generation from generation, absolutely not. Although, it is very improbable it is not impossible, but again there is little evidence to support this claim. Still though it does raise some questions as to how and why they all have this same myth, as it had to come from somewhere. I think it is highly unlikely and near impossible that they all created it out of thin air independently.
Honestly there are so many ideas in this book it is really hard to pick a few talk about. When he talks about the pyramids at Giza I did find that very interesting as well. He did not go into as much about how they were built, but rather about what they stood for. He claims that they were a symbol or code for something that was meant to be passed down and never forgotten across time and generations. The plan failed miserably, thanks a lot Egyptians!
As I said there a ton of ideas in this book, BUT they all need to be taken with a giant grain of salt. As with most things I read, especially when dealing with things like this, I always do my own research to fact checking. A lot of what is in the book I had trouble fact checking, like the crust displacement theory, which I think Hancock has come out and said that he no longer supports that theory. Although this is a valid theory and a thing that can happen, it is just much slower than what Hancock uses in the book. The Piri Res map is real but it was made in the 1500’s and the person who drew it used maps that Columbus made as well as other sources. It is very accurate for its time and for having so much of the world being unexplored. So even thought it looks like Antarctica, if that is indeed what the land mass is on the map, was not discovered and mapped until 1820, the general consensus is that Piri Res did not have knowledge of Antarctica and the map is just misconstrued. Most of the book focuses on this map and the crust displacement theory, and he uses those two points to build the rest of his argument with the starter civilization. Despite Hancock reneging on his crust displacement theory he still asks a ton of great questions about who we are and where we come from.
I guess I call myself an open-minded skeptic, so a lot of what he builds his argument on is technically not correct or has little evidence to support it. Which again does not mean he is wrong just cannot prove that he is right, in other words what is known as a theory in the academic world.
There are some very compelling theories in the book that actually do make a lot of sense, but still main stream science still shuns them. Hancock says that the three pyramids at Giza were aligned with the constellation Orion. I have to admit they do share a striking resemblance to the hunters belt, even having one of the smaller pyramids offset to mimic the stars as they are not in a straight line. He claims that around 10,000 years ago Orion’s belt would have been in perfect position for the Egyptians to copy their formation. The problem is that no scientists who have studied the pyramids thinks they are even remotely that old, by their assessment they are around 5,000 years old. Now I do not know who is right here, but I may have to lean toward what mainstream scientists are saying. There is also the issue that there are no real markings on the pyramids to help date them. When they were first opened way back when there was said to be a marking on a single stone inside the Great Pyramid, but many believe this was a hoax and the archeologist put it there to make the find more famous and more importantly date it. So of the thousands of stones used at on the pyramids only one has a marking on it and we just happen to find it. That is a little hard to believe or some damn fine detective work, however you want to look at it. So once again we are back to Hankcock’s theory and the more you look at it I think it is still on the table as plausible.
What gets stranger is when he talks about the Sphinx. I have my own theory about this and when you gather all the information about it, I think it is very plausible. There are a ton of theories out there about the Sphinx. Most scholars think it was built by a pharaoh and that is the end of it around 2,500 BC. I have a few problems with this, the first being that it is carved out of a single piece of bed rock. When a geologist examined the Sphinx he said that there is erosion and weathering on the rock. Ok, makes sense it has been there a long while exposed to the elements. He later said the erosion and weathering was consistent with that of a large amount of water or rain fall. Basically the erosion was due to rain fall and not the wind as you would expect in the desert. Now we all know that there has not been much rain in the Sahara Desert for quite some time. You have to go back to around 10,000 BC, the weather during that period was much wetter and there was much more rain fall during that time. This could help explain the erosion on the Sphinx. The problem is the age, no Egyptian Scholar will talk to you if you mention this and think that the Sphinx is anywhere near that old, yet there is, in my opinion, significant evidence to support that claim. What I think is funny is that the geologist, a person who studies rocks and knows a lot about rocks and nothing about archeology, is claiming that just based on the rock of the Sphinx (remember it was carved out of a single piece of bed rock) it has to be much older. But the academic world being very accepting decides to dismiss this idea. This is why I despise them so much!!
The other problem is that the head on the Sphinx is way too small for the body that is sits on. I never noticed this until I really started to look at pictures. And no this is not one of those things were you look at it and you have to make yourself see it, saying well it kind of looks like a bird or a frog or a cat. If you look at a picture you will immediately notice how small the head is, I was shocked when it was first pointed out to me. I didn’t believe it and was thinking no way it’s just this guy trying to see what isn’t there. No it’s there.
Now this could have just been a mistake that is very likely (although I kind of find that hard to believe as the Egyptians were master stone masons, but they did make mistakes and there are pyramids that were not designed properly and have fallen in). Hancock claims that if it was built around 10,000 years ago, as the geologist suggest, then the constellation Leo was the brightest in the sky. He thinks the Egyptians or whoever just carved a lion with a lion head to honor the constellation. He also claims that this civilization did not make it and the desert swallowed up most of the Lion, a few years down the road a pharaoh stumbled upon the Sphinx and decided to put his face on it. There is a story of a pharaoh falling asleep and waking up and seeing the sphinx in the desert or something like that and he had to dig it out of the sand. That would imply that it had been sitting for long enough for the desert to cover most of it. This would help explain why the heads looks so small in proportion to the body. I will admit there are a lot of if’s with this theory, but again is it plausible, I think the answer is a resounding YES! Especially when you start looking at the other information he uses to support his theory.
This is a hard book to review as it is very popular but the academic world has more or less shunned Hancock and his ideas. At the end of the day some of his points are null, some are interesting, and others truly have no explanation as to why or how that happened. I always enjoy books that make you think, and this one will do just that. I will also warn you that this one is lengthy to say the least, as it the size of a dictionary, and there are long parts during the middle when he discusses some of the myths that are almost impossible to get through.
All in all this is an ok read. Regardless if you think Hancock is a quack or a real scientist he does raise some points that I think need some real answers, and not just saying no that is stupid because I am in the academic world and I am right. What I also find interesting about all this is that because he has a certain label and some, if not most, of his theories may not be wrong or inaccurate there are still a few that still need to be addressed, but they probably never will. Archeology is rewriting history all the time, in my mind I think it is beyond wrong to totally dismiss someone’s theory, but who am I to question the infallibility of the academic world. (In case you cannot tell there is a little bit of sarcasm in that last sentence.)
Check this one out if you have a general interest in the ancient world. Do your own research while you read and you will find the read more enjoyable, as it is full of interesting ideas. At the end you can make your own conclusions, which is what life is all about.