When asked how the world of alternative archaeology is different now than when Fingerprints of the Gods was published in 1995, Hancock says that the most important change over the past twenty years has been the “attitude of the man in the street” toward authority. He credits the internet with reducing the public’s trust in authority and opening the gates to allow for contrarian ideas to gain credibility because they challenge authority.
Moving on to the science of archaeology, Hancock states that North America has been “misrepresented” by archaeology. For a man who speaks of tens of thousands of years as though they were mere months also speaks of the period from the mid-1960s to the mid-1990s when Clovis-First was the dominant hypothesis for the peopling of the Americas as though it were an eternal dogma. He wrongly thinks Clovis-First is still the dominant view, but it’s just weird that can’t put it into context over time. From the late 1800s to the 2010s, the story has been the gradual pushing back of the dates for the first Americans based on successive discoveries of new and better evidence. Early estimates in the 1800s started at 4,000 years, and we are now at 15,000 or more years. Far from Clovis being a suppressive dogma, it was a logical and in fact somewhat radical revision of what came before, and within a few decades, it had been succeeded by a further revision.
At the 00:25:00 mark, Hancock and Rogan briefly discuss a point from my book review of Hancock’s work, though they frame it in terms of Michael Shermer, who debated Hancock a couple of years ago on the podcast, and who emailed Hancock and Rogan a copy of my book review over the weekend along with a series of questions that he wrote for Rogan to ask Hancock. (Rogan did not use any of the other questions Shermer provided, and neither man addressed the points of criticism from my review.) Hancock recognizes the publication of the new PaleoAmerica article that calls into question the claims that San Diego’s Cerutti Mastodon was killed by humans 130,000 years ago and challenges the author of that paper on the grounds that the author did not examine the bones in question before concluding that road construction caused the spiral-shaped breakages attributed to human activity. Hancock says that the use of “secondary references” negates the conclusions of the article, but this is specifically why in my review I also cited a journal article from 2017 that demonstrated that the exact same type of spiral breaks that were reported for the Cerutti Mastodon were discovered in mammoth bones following another instance of road construction, and in that case a careful investigation found the road construction to blame. Hancock dismisses the criticism as “very sloppy, very weak,” but did not address the more thorough analysis of how spiral fractures develop from road construction damage. It’s rather frustrating, truth be told, to have my work used in a game of telephone between me, Shermer, Rogan, and Hancock without being able to speak. It lets Hancock off the hook since he and Rogan can simply omit points that don’t fit.
In discussing the Amazon, Hancock again claims that there was a “dogma” demanding us to see the rainforest as nearly devoid of people, but again he falls into the same trap that mars his discussion of Clovis-First. The “dogma” was actually a conclusion from the best possible evidence at the time. The Spanish found cities in the Amazon in the 1500s, but when later explorers tried to find them, there was nothing. From the 1600s to the 1980s, explorers failed to find any trace of these cities, so the only logical conclusion was that they didn’t exist. As soon as evidence emerged for these cities thanks to deforestation, archaeologists immediately revised their conclusions. This occurred in the 1990s. I remember reading about it in Science in the early 2000s. That was almost 20 years ago. Hancock, however, imagines that an ironclad dogma only fell because of heroic challengers. That’s not at all what happened.
A massive section of the discussion is about spirituality and drug use, pet topics of Hancock’s since he is a former self-confessed marijuana addict and current user of ayahuasca. (Hancock quit marijuana in 2011 but said in the interview that he is now smoking pot again, which he credits to Rogan.) Rogan claims marijuana “removes the blinders” from life and says that he “welcome[s]” marijuana paranoia in order to reduce “cockiness.” Hancock elides this into a kumbaya utopian vision of a world without nationalism and without government, where spiritual leaders promote love and heads of government are tripping on hallucinogens. It’s all very John Lennon “Imagine” and tends toward revealing Hancock’s real agenda, which is less about Atlantis than it is about a New Age vision the Age of Aquarius, the pipe dream of aging hippies everywhere. Both Hancock and Rogan state that they oppose “authority” and feel that any and all types of authority are suppressing the human potential that hallucinogenic drugs can unleash. Hancock claims that drugs are illegal because they cause people to “question the existing control system.” That’s not entirely true; many were made illegal in the United States for economic reasons, not ideological ones. I’m also not entirely sure that meth heads are really going to be questioning political norms or organizing to vote for a third party.
Changing topics again, Hancock gives a lengthy disquisition on the movement of large blocks for the Great Pyramid. He claims that “the idea that has been foisted on us by archaeology” that the ancients used manpower, ramps, and simple machines to move the stones is absurd. Instead, he speculates that the Egyptians used telekinesis to move the blocks. This is a claim that came out of medieval Arabic legends, where the blocks flew into position through the intervention of a magic spell. Interestingly, the ancients didn’t have these kinds of stories, and for good reason. Since the Greeks and Romans moved similar blocks in similar ways, they had no need to speculate about magical movements of stones. Only after the cultural collapse of the ancient world and the loss of much of its knowledge in the Middle Ages did these sorts of myths emerge.
After speculating that the Egyptians used psychic powers and magic to build the pyramids, Hancock derides archaeologists for relying on provable facts. “I strongly resist the idea that archaeology is a science. I don’t believe it should be described as a science. It’s more of a philosophy,” he says just before the 1:30:00 mark. He claims that archaeology is merely storytelling based on partial evidence. By denigrating archaeology, Hancock, of course, benefits by placing his own personal speculation on even footing with the entire global scientific project of archaeology, with all its artifacts, evidence, data, and bodies of theory.
Hancock returns to medieval maps of the world that he thinks show the world as it appeared during the Ice Age. These maps do not show Ice Age coast lines, but Charles Hapgood thought so and Hancock buys the argument hook, line, and sinker. That the maps are not based on Ice Age originals is rather obvious if you can read Latin. One of the key maps Hancock uses in his books, that of Oronteus Finaeus, has the mapmaker say literally that it contain lands “unseen before now, known neither to Ptolemy, nor Eudoxus, nor Eratosthenes, or Macrobius, but which have lain in shadows up to the present day” (my trans.). Hancock cites these maps because they include what he thinks is Antarctica, not officially discovered until the 1800s. But the early modern mapmakers disagree with Hancock. Finaeus says his southern continent is instead Tierra del Fuego, which he misunderstood and merged into the theoretical Terra Australis of Classical ideas. Other maps literally state that “Antarctica” was a conjecture. You have to read the legends on the maps.
Hancock claims that some polygons drawn on Cuba in the famous Piri Reis map of 1513 are actually the Bimini Road as it appeared above water in the Ice Age. Oh, this made me so mad. The rock-like shapes that Hancock claims as the Bimini Road are not depicting a flat path of stones. It is a picture of mountains, as can be seen by comparing it to the image of the Andes mountains on the map’s depiction of South America. Hancock’s failure to consider the map’s Turkish art style leads him into several minutes of wrongheaded speculation.
At another point, Hancock claims that ancient depictions of baskets or bags in the hands of deities or heroes around the world is the “badge of office” of Atlantean civilizers. These “man-bags,” as Hancock calls them, can be seen at Tiwanaku, among the Olmec, in Mesopotamian art, and at Göbekli Tepe. My guess is that no one would have looked twice at these bags if current Anglo-American society didn’t find men carrying bags to be effeminate. Bags and baskets were basically the only way to carry stuff in ancient times, and it isn’t really a mystery why depictions of various specialists would show them carrying their tools in a bag. Just because we associate the shape with a purse (a word, incidentally, that originally referred to a Hittite man’s hunting bag!) doesn’t mean that ancient people considered it extraordinary for a man to hold.
Rogan asks Hancock if he will debate his critics. Hancock says that he already did when he debated Michael Shermer on Joe Rogan’s show that one time. He and Rogan claim that skeptics are derisive and dismissive rather than open-minded. Interestingly, Hancock claims that debating Shermer shows the limits and failures of archaeology, even though Shermer is not an archaeologist and doesn’t have the depth of archaeological knowledge that someone working in the field might have. I imagine it is easier to debate a generalist than an expert, and Hancock is aware of this.
Hancock says that his audience is now made up of older people who discovered him in the 1990s and “young men” who discovered him through Joe Rogan’s podcast and feel that Hancock’s ideas have changed their lives. As Hancock talks about how young men are using his ideas to lash out against authority and see him as a guru and role model for standing up against the mainstream reminded me instantly of the young male cult of Jordan Peterson. In both cases, there is an idea that myth and legends from the deep past can transform humanity by recreating a new history that will better justify a preferred version of the present. Peterson’s cult may lean right and Hancock’s a bit to the left, but the impetus seems to be the same.
In the final section of the interview, Hancock turns to the opening chapters of his new book. Hancock claims that the mound builders of North America “manifest the entire set of Egyptian ideas” and that both share a spiritual and cultural set of “memes” based on geometry, spirituality, and astronomy. This goes far beyond what Hancock said in the book, where he compared elements of Native American culture to Egyptian religion. Here he more stridently suggests an absolute identity born in his quasi-Atlantis, though there is no absolute identity, only some vague similarities and a couple of coincidences.
He ends, thoughtfully, with a discussion of the wonders of Native American mounds and a call for greater respect for these ancient sites, many of which have been lost in the past 150 years. He calls on his listeners to visit Ohio and check out some of the mound sites for themselves. It is, I believe, the only call to visit Ohio I have heard in the media recently. The governor ought to send Hancock a thank-you note.
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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