Here is the trailer. Take a look, and then we’ll review some of its key claims.
“Recent scientific discoveries have provided strong evidence that North America was peopled at least 130,000 years ago.”
In a word, no. Hancock refers to the 2017 paper in Nature by Steven R. Holden et al. alleging that mastodon bones found near San Diego show evidence of having been butchered by a hominin species. This paper is not “strong” evidence of a human presence in the Americas at such an early date for a number of reasons. First, the paper is highly controversial and has been criticized by experts in the field because the authors did not categorically exclude natural explanations or the results of disturbances to the site over time. Even supporters of the study conceded that the evidence was “equivocal” rather than convincing. But were we to accept the evidence at face value, it still doesn’t provide evidence of anatomically modern humans in the Americas (or Denisovans, for that matter) but rather for some species that used tools. While human species are the only ones known to have done so, the presence of tools doesn’t necessarily imply the presence of a specific species of human.
“There are powerful connections between the spiritual beliefs of the mound builder cultures of America’s Mississippi Valley and the spiritual beliefs of the Ancient Egyptians.”
In a word, no. Hancock suggests that the presence of pyramid-shaped structures connected to astronomical alignments of potentially astrological significance implies deep connection. On screen, he even uses images of birds in the art of both cultures to imply a similarity, as though birds were somehow unusual or rare. (The Holy Dove would disagree.) “How do we explain these connections?” he asks. Hancock recognizes that the American mound builders lived thousands of miles and in most cases thousands of years after the Old Kingdom of Egypt built the pyramids, so he concludes that America’s many different mound-building cultures shared a legacy of knowledge with Egypt descended from an Atlantis-like original, a claim made famous by Ignatius Donnelly in Atlantis: The Antediluvian World. The parallels, which have been part of alternative views of American prehistory since the colonial era, are largely superficial. Before the use of steel-frame construction, pyramid-shaped structures, for example, were the only way to build tall buildings and keep them stable and standing. Where there are seemingly more specific similarities, such as the use of astronomical alignments in architecture, this requires no master plan from Atlantis. The stars are freely available to everyone, and people everywhere have always looked up at the night sky in awe. Indeed, the fact that cultures around the world recognized different constellations and recorded heavenly cycles with different systems testifies to the emergence of astronomy independently in different areas.
Hancock shows a picture of an Egyptian statue and an actual Native American both clothed in garments depicting stars while he intones that a lost civilization was “ancestral to both” cultures. I need not repeat that the stars are available to everyone and are not the exclusive province of Atlantis.
“Recent genetic research has revealed that certain tribes of the Amazon jungle are closely related to Australian Aborigines and the tribes of Papua New Guinea.”
For the moment, I will leave aside the loaded use of outdated terms like “jungle” for “rainforest” or “Aborigines” instead of the preferred terms “Indigenous Australians” (which includes Torres Strait Islanders) or the more restrictive “Aboriginal Australians” (which excludes Torres Strait Islanders). Some Indigenous Australians dislike these terms and prefer to be identified by their cultural group; many consider the term “Aborigines” to be offensive.
Hancock wonders how a population sharing similar DNA could exist in both Australia and the Amazon basin unless both were the legacy of a lost civilization … even though his lost civilization was located in the North Atlantic or America. … Anyway, the obvious explanation is that North America received more than one wave of immigration over the millennia, and the Amazon tribes represent the descendants of one wave, preserved largely because Amazon tribes are isolated and had relatively little contact with other groups. That’s the conclusion that Harvard’s David Reich reached when he published the study on Amazon-Australian DNA connections in 2015. Hancock also omits a key fact: The DNA connection is not direct; rather, the American and Australasian groups shared a common ancestor, likely one that lived in Asia tens of thousands of years ago. In short, while the results are fascinating from an anthropological point of view, they provide no evidence whatsoever that Atlanteans colonized Brazil.
“[Amazon earthworks] have much in common with the equally grand and mysterious earthworks of Ohio [and] Stonehenge in England and Angkor in Cambodia.”
Hancock suggests that the use of geometric shapes and alignments to specific stars or to cardinal directions creates an “uncanny similarity” in ancient architecture around the world, and he asks if this is merely a coincidence or if there is an underlying connection. It is not a coincidence, but neither is it evidence of Atlantis. Geometric shapes are known to everyone around the world and play to the universal human love of symmetry and patterns. There are only so many ways to build earthworks, and common geometric shapes such as squares, rectangles, and circles are obvious choices. Similarly, stone structures tend to follow common architectural forms, such as post-and-lintel. How many ways can you create a doorway? It must have vertical and horizontal elements, for example, however fancy or plain you make them. It is hardly surprising that people around the world worked form the same set of basic construction methods and produced results that have superficial similarities—but much more profound differences. Any astronomical alignments can be attributed to the universal interest in the stars, which needs no Atlantean tutors to explain.
“A global cataclysm occurred at the end of the last Ice Age, around 12,800 years ago. A disintegrating comet […] bombarded our planet with a swarm of fragments.”
This claim is highly controversial. While a team of researchers has steadily advocated for the so-called “Younger Dryas impact hypothesis,” also called the “Clovis Comet,” for more than a decade, the majority of researchers dispute the evidence and do not support the team’s conclusion that a comet—even if it did hit the Earth—created a global conflagration that burned a significant portion of the planet’s surface and led to the extinction of the megafauna. That claim, incidentally, is almost exactly the one Ignatius Donnelly made in Ragnarok, based on remarkably similar lines of evidence. Donnelly drew his conclusion from a large layer of unstratified clay and rocks that he imagined was the remains of a comet’s destructive upheaval. The Clovis Comet researchers similarly rely on a layer of charcoal and nanodiamonds that they allege is the remains of the same. Regardless of whether a comet actually hit the Earth 12,800 years ago, this proves nothing about the existence of a lost civilization like Atlantis for it to destroy, no matter how persuasive Donnelly (and later Hancock) was in trying to link myths and legends of conflagration to the comet.
“In the turmoil, an advanced civilization, hitherto the stuff of myth and legend, was lost to history … until now.”
There is no evidence that this civilization ever existed. No buildings, objects, or graves associated with it have ever been found. While it’s true that many cultures had myths about vanished cities, it’s also interesting to note that in ancient times, these were almost universally imagined as being pretty much the same as the civilizations of those writing about them. Even Atlantis was depicted as scarcely more advanced than the Athens of Plato’s day, give or take orichalcum and a taste for grandiose circles. It is really only with the development of the myth of pre-Flood super-science and magic among Egyptian Christians in Late Antiquity that we start to see the concept of a true lost civilization emerge. The Arabs were particularly important in developing the legend that the antediluvians (later translated into pre-Ice Agers) had superior science beyond anything known until modern times. While there were occasional stories in Antiquity of individuals possessed of great cleverness (e.g. Daedalus) or magic, or particular objects of near magical properties (e.g. bendable glass), medieval Arab myths associated with pre-Flood Egypt were the first known to me to imagine an entire civilization that (a) possessed advanced science beyond anything known to man, (b) was destroyed by a world-ending cataclysm, and (c) left traces in the form of scattered megalithic ruins and tales about civilizing saviors. Because this story more or less formed around 850-900 CE (give or take—parts might go back to 300-400 CE) and can’t be found before, it’s really difficult to imagine that there is a genuine tradition of the same tracing back in unbroken succession to 10,500 BCE. Hancock might have followed Donnelly in revising the civilization down to basically a Bronze Age culture in a Paleolithic setting, but his ideas originate in these medieval fantasies about antediluvian Egypt, no matter how well they are hidden.
3/12/2019 11:22:12 am
Seems to me this book will be the fringe version of 1491...
3/12/2019 06:46:17 pm
I think I have found what will be my new career in retirement. Take old fringe claims, toss in poor interpretations of recent academic papers and make sensational claims about them. Toss in my PhD and work for a DoD research land and I should be golden. Just have to check my ethics at the door
3/14/2019 06:59:36 am
Why wait until retirement? There's tens of dollars to be made now.
3/14/2019 07:48:58 pm
The guys on Ancient Aliens and people like Hancock seem to make a lot more than tens of dollars
3/14/2019 05:16:26 am
Hominins in the Americas 130k years ago? They must have been time jumping Bigfoots (Bigfeet?).
3/15/2019 06:42:52 am
That's an excellent and informative review. One quibble. You say:
3/15/2019 08:49:56 am
"pyramid-shaped structures, for example, were the only way to build tall buildings" Not true. The Great Pyramid of Giza was the tallest for a very long time, but was beat out in the late Medieval and Renaissance period by cathedrals. Even so, there were "tall" buildings not pyramid in shape before these cathedrals existed; to an extent, this depends on your definition of "tall." Still in any case buildings, not of steel frame nor pyramid in shape, were built prior to other modern construction techniques. I know this is a bit nit-picky, but you demand precision from those you critique (justifiably), so what is good for the goose is good for the gander.
3/20/2019 01:55:19 am
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I am an author and researcher focusing on pop culture, science, and history. Bylines: New Republic, Esquire, Slate, etc. There's more about me in the About Jason tab.
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