Graham Hancock Announces Plans to Investigate Mound Builder Myth, Search for Lost White Race in America
Remember the myth of the lost white race of Mound Builders? It’s currently en vogue thanks the resurgence of white supremacist and white nationalist thinking among racists emboldened by the coarsening public discourse encouraged by the Trump campaign. Never one to miss a cultural moment, on Columbus Day here in America—a day Native Americans protest as honoring the destruction of their culture—Graham Hancock announced on his blog yesterday that he plans to overcome the relatively disappointing sales of last year’s Magicians of the Gods by exploring whether North America’s Native American mounds were actually the work of his lost ancient civilization, the one that he identified in both Magicians and its predecessor, Fingerprints of the Gods, as “white.”
… I would like to explore the possibility (a) that these mounds are just the more recent incarnations of much more ancient, prehistoric structures and (b) that they incorporate knowledge from an earlier time and civilization, in much the same way that historical ancient Egyptian monuments from around 5,000 years ago and less also incorporate a legacy of much older knowledge and a memory of “The First Time”.
Hancock’s position, as you can see, is slightly different from that of the early advocates of the lost white race hypothesis. He allows that Native Americans may have built the mounds, but only in reconstructing the lost white race’s more sophisticated knowledge. Indeed, the lost white race, he claims, might have been located right here in good old North America, or as Hancock puts it, this culture “may have had its most significant outpost, perhaps even its center in North America.”
In Magicians of the Gods, Hancock asserted his belief that a comet hit North America at the end of the Younger Dryas, and in his blog posts he hypothesized that this destroyed any remnants of an advanced Ice Age civilization. In the blog post, he said that this civilization likely dates back 60,000 years in North America: “We must now consider the possibility of stable and advanced civilizations in the Americas going back 60,000 years or more and with mysterious links to the populations that settled Australia and other far-flung regions in remote prehistory.”
It is, of course, astonishing that such an “advanced” civilization thrived for tens of thousands of years and yet left not a single trace of itself anywhere on the face of the Earth, until its alleged descendants started raising up stones in its memory after 10,000 BCE.
The Lost Race of the Mound Builders hypothesis speculated that the mounds of North America were the result of outside influence. There were several different strains of the theory, some attributing the mounds to Vikings and others to Toltecs, but the most popular version held that a lost white race had colonized and developed North America until they were eradicated by “savage” Red Indians, who invaded and massacred all of the white people in relatively recent historical times. This version of the myth was the underlying historical justification for the Indian Removal Act of 1830, as Pres. Andrew Jackson admitted in his 1830 State of the Union message, when he spoke of the mounds as “the memorials of a once powerful race, which was exterminated, or has disappeared, to make room for the existing savage tribes.” We find this same myth in the Book of Mormon, where the noble white race of the first Americans falls to decadent savages who are punished by having their skin darkened (2 Nephi 5:21; 3 Nephi 2:15; Alma 3:6). This line of thinking continued for a century, and not just in the United States. In Canada, the cleric George Bryce wrote in 1885, not untypically, that white appropriation Native lands was justified because each white colonizer was “the avenger of the lost race, in driving before him the savage red man.”
Let us not mince words: Hancock has been quite clear that his lost race is identical with this fantastical lost white race of Mound Builders. He happily claims in Magicians, for example, that Native American lore declares that the lost race’s “white skins and beards” were so impressive that they created an “ancient tribal memory, passed down from generation to generation, of civilizing heroes….” In Fingerprints, he identified the survivors of the Lost Civilization as “white,” “white-skinned,” or “white-skinned and bearded” more than a dozen times. Most egregiously, he wrote that the ancient civilizers of the Americas “had come from the same place and had belonged to the same distinctively non-Indian ethnic type (bearded, white-skinned, etc.).”
Such claims were not original to Hancock, of course. The books that he shamelessly modeled his own after, Ignatius Donnelly’s Atlantis: The Antediluvian World and Ragnarok: The Age of Fire and Gravel both made explicit the belief that the Americas were civilized by white men, as did Eugène Beauvois in France and dozens of others, all drawing on colonialist and imperialist pseudohistory dating back to the Spanish Conquest and its attempt to justify colonization through an appeal to lost white colonizers. In case you care, Donnelly followed the French Assyriologist François Lenormant in arguing that only white people were true descendants of Noah, and the other races were a separate and inferior branch of humanity from Adam’s evil son, Cain; therefore, the Flood which destroyed the Nephilim—i.e. white folk who engaged in miscegenation with non-white Cainites—and Atlantis was meant to purify the white race and had no effect on the non-white races. Lenormant was much more explicit than even Donnelly was prepared to go, arguing further in the very paragraph of the very work Donnelly quoted that the white race was “the superior and dominant race, to whom, over all others, pre-eminence must be conceded and the glory of representing humanity in its noblest aspect.”
Donnelly, in Atlantis, merely applied this line of racist reasoning to America, identifying it as the “opposite continent” of Plato, inhabited by this superior white race: “Plato says that in Atlantis there was ‘a great and wonderful empire’ … Those parts of America over which it ruled were, as we will show hereafter, Central America, Peru, and the Valley of the Mississippi, occupied by the ‘Mound Builders.’”
Hancock, who explicitly conceded in Magicians that his “lost civilization” was Atlantis, wants to bring this specious and racist line of reasoning, derived explicitly from a white supremacist view of the Bible, back to life as “alternative” archaeology.
In addition to the echoes of the Lost Race of the Mound Builders theory, Hancock’s hypothesis also has clear echoes of the Renaissance speculation that North America was the Atlantis of Plato, as channeled through Donnelly’s analysis of the same. While Donnelly assigned America the role of the “opposite continent,” earlier writers had made North America into Atlantis itself. In 1552, Francisco López de Gómara argued that the Indies were Atlantis and America the continent: “But there is now no cause why we should any longer doubt or dispute of the Island Atlantide, forasmuch as the discovering and conquest of the west Indies do plainly declare what Plato hath written of the said lands” (trans. Richard Eden, adapted). The Welsh occultist John Dee, however, took the argument further and argued in a 1576 manuscript for the portions of North America that the English crown controlled “beinge notable portions of the ancient Atlantis, no longer—nowe named America.” Naturally, he used this as justification for first the Welsh Prince Madoc’s imaginary colonization of America and later for the right of the English crown to reclaim land that belonged to Atlantis rather than Native Americans.
Graham Hancock, a British writer seemingly oblivious to the history of the ideas he resurrects, happily joins with the colonizers, conquerors, and conquistadors in fantasizing about an ancient “outpost” or “center” of a lost white civilization in America.
I am an author and researcher focusing on pop culture, science, and history. Bylines: New Republic, Slate, etc. There's more about me in the About Jason tab.
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