Netflix released the first viewership figures for Graham Hancock’s Ancient Apocalypse, and the numbers were less impressive than I expected. Netflix reported that for the week of Nov. 14-20, the show’s first full week of release, viewers of Netflix’s English-language services worldwide watched 24.61 million hours of the show. By contrast, the comedy series Dead to Me had 30.3 million hours viewed in half the time (it was released mid-week) and Warrior Nun, released the same day as Apocalypse, had 27.74 million hours viewed. All of them paled before 1899, which had nearly 80 million hours viewed in its first few days of release.
The success of Graham Hancock’s Ancient Apocalypse surprised me greatly. The show reached #2 on Netflix’s viewership rankings in the U.S. and U.K. and was in the top 10 worldwide. Consequently, it has become the most-watched speculative history series in a decade, likely outstripping the viewership for previous ratings titans in the genre, like History’s Curse of Oak Island (3 million at its peak), Ancient Aliens (2 million at its peak), and America Unearthed (1.5 million at its peak) and easily leapfrogging similar series on the Discovery, Travel, and Science channels, which averaged around 600,000 viewers. (Netflix does not release exact viewership figures.) Part of the reason is likely due to Netflix itself. Cable channels narrowcast. Viewership for the History or Science channels is primarily older white men, while Netflix, which has found success with other New Age shows like the Gwyneth Paltrow Goop series, can put Ancient Apocalypse in front of all four quadrants: men and women, young and old. Thus, they can appeal to a wider anti-establishment audience that would not tune in on cable.
Graham Hancock has made this show before. Netflix’s Ancient Apocalypse is in substance and style very much like the Channel 4 / TLC series Quest for the Lost Civilization that Hancock made nearly twenty-five years ago, albeit with different archaeological sites. In the intervening decades, all that has really changed is the use of drones for better aerial footage, a lot more dramatic music to paper over gaps in logic, and a growing bitterness behind Hancock’s carefully rehearsed enunciation. Each episode, for example, starts with an angry rant about Hancock’s greatness and his critics’ meanness. He opens time and again with some variation on “many archaeologists hate me” and poses as a truth-teller who will singlehandedly overturn archaeology.
I have had to take on additional work due to rising costs, and that has left me with less time to write blogs recently. However, I want to briefly make note of two important developments that are worthy of note. First, next month Graham Hancock is getting a splashy eight-episode Netflix series to present his false claim that a lost Atlantis-like civilization was destroyed by a comet at the end of the last Ice Age. The series is dishonestly framed around the notion of Hancock as a truth-teller locked in battle wih a blinkered “academia,” a favorite theme of Hancock’s since his Fingerprints of the Gods phase. Hancock will be appearing on Joe Rogan’s podcast on the day of release to promote the series, in which Rogan also appears. I imagine I’ll have something to say about the show when it debuts on Nov. 11.
This week, geologist Robert Schoch proposed a bizarre new idea about the temple complex at Karnak in Egypt after viewing nineteenth-century photographs of the ruins before they had been cleared of rubble and partially restored. He claimed that the blocks making up the rubble were too big for wind to have moved (true!) and that therefore the buildings, which he consequently redates to the Ice Age, had been deliberately buried by a lost civilization (false!). So where did he go wrong? It’s pretty obvious.
News Roundup: William Shatner Is Mad at Archaeologists, Nick Pope Says Will Smith's Slap Stopped an Alien Invasion, and Bryan Bender Finally Says I'm Right
It’s been a busy week in the world of the pseudoscientific fringe, so busy in fact that I don’t even have time to do more than mention that Graham Hancock has a new book out, Visionary, a revised and expanded “definitive” edition of his 2005 book Supernatural. Yesterday, William Shatner got upset because archaeologists and proponents of science took to Twitter to complain about the hogwash his The UnXplained offered as archaeology on Friday.
A new article published on Tuesday in the journal Antiquity offers another in a long series of claims that Stonehenge was an ancient calendar. British archaeologist Timothy Darvill says that he has decoded how the calendar worked, suggesting that its rings of stones were intended to track the twelve months of thirty days, with the largest stones standing for five intercalary days between 360-day years and four station stones helping to calculate leap years. So far, the argument is not dissimilar to a range of previous calendar claims for the monument, except for being a bit more elaborate in its mechanics. Then things get weird.
The people behind the Younger Dryas Impact Hypothesis—the claim that a comet struck the Earth during the last Ice Age, often alleged to have destroyed an Atlantis-like civilization—are at it again with a new claim alleging that another comet hit Ohio in the early centuries CE and destroyed Ohio’s Hopewell civilization, who conveniently commemorated their own incineration with a comet-shaped earthwork.
Last night, the CW's Legends of Tomorrow attempted to thwart the assassination of Archduke Franz Ferdinand in Sarajevo in 1914. Coincidentally, yesterday I traced back the origins of the occult claim that the car carrying the archduke also carried a curse that killed a dozen people or more. It turns out that Smithsonian magazine was wrong about ufologist and Fortean broadcaster Frank Edwards inventing the story, just as occult writers are wrong about the story being true. My findings, with translations and transcriptions of the original documents can be found here.
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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