Graham Hancock: Comet Wiped Out Ice Age Civilization, Egyptians May Have Worshiped Comet's Fragments
After publishing Atlantis: The Antediluvian World in 1882 and claiming that the ancient global civilization of Atlantis had been destroyed in the Biblical Flood, author Ignatius Donnelly needed material for a sequel. In his follow-up book, Ragnarok: The Age of Fire and Gravel (1883), Donnelly tried to explain how the Flood could have occurred. To that end, he argued that ancient mythology captured a memory of the catastrophe that was the result of the impact of a large comet around 12,000 years ago: “the so-called Glacial Age really represents a collision of the earth with one of these wandering luminaries of space.” According to Donnelly, the destructive power of the comet caused massive floods, poisonous gases, and global fires before settling into a long glacial winter.
Donnelly, in turn, was essentially rewriting the argument made by the great scientist Sir Edmund Halley in 1694, in which the discoverer of the comet that bears his name. Halley speculated that the impact of a comet could have caused Noah’s Flood and destroyed the antediluvian world. He based this on the existence of fossils, which he though proved that a Flood had occurred:
That some such thing has happened, may be guessed, for that the Earth seems as if it were new made out of the Ruins of an old World, wherein appear such Animal Bodies as were before the Deluge, but by their own Nature and Defences from the Weather, have endured ever since, either petrified, or else entire in statu naturali.
Two years later, William Whiston published a book on the same theme, attributing to comets the major events and changes in earth’s history. Immanuel Velikovsky acknowledged Whiston as a source.
In 1995, Graham Hancock rewrote Donnelly’s Atlantis as Fingerprints of the Gods, changing very little of the original conceit except to add details from more recent fringe history. As Hancock moves toward publishing his latest sequel to Fingerprints, tentatively titled Magicians of the Gods, Hancock has once again turned to rewriting Donnelly to find a model.
Hancock has made reference to his belief that comet was responsible for destroying his lost civilization since the beginning of the year, but this week he published an article on his website (in two parts: here and here) laying out his reasoning in more detail. He begins by arguing that a comet hit the earth around 10,900 BCE, which scientists refer to as the supposed Younger Dryas Impact Event. This comet, in the generally accepted form of the impact theory, was responsible for devastating earth changes, including the extinction of the megafauna. Hancock recognizes that scientists are not in agreement that such a comet ever actually hit the earth; however, Hancock rejects the recent evidence against such an impact, arguing that “every attempt to refute the impact evidence has in turn been refuted and the case for the Younger Dryas comet is now so compelling that it is time to widen the debate.”
The argument is far from decided, but Hancock is right that there is new evidence. A study by David Meltzer et al. from the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences from May of this year found that the evidence for the Younger Dryas Impact is incorrect and that the supposed impact never occurred. After reviewing inconsistencies in the evidence and determining that the sites associated with the event were not contemporary with each other, the authors conclude: “There is no reason or compelling evidence to accept the claim that a cosmic impact occurred ∼12,800 y ago and caused the Younger Dryas.” But Hancock prefers an article published in the Journal of Geology in September by Charles R. Kinzie et al. that focused on the appearance of nanodiamonds (NDs) in the Younger Dryas Boundary (YDB) layer of sediment: “The large body of evidence now obtained about YDB NDs is strongly consistent with an origin by cosmic impact at ≈12,800 cal BP and is inconsistent with formation of YDB NDs by natural terrestrial processes, including wildfires, anthropogenesis, and/or influx of cosmic dust.”
Kinzie et al. also present an argument in favor of the claim that all of the Younger Dryas sites are contemporary with each other and therefore evidence of a comet impact.
Not being a geologist, I have no way to evaluate which of the two positions is correct. Nevertheless, I’m fairly certain that Hancock is wrong in his conclusions based on accepting the reality of this comet impact:
It is, I believe, the "smoking gun" that made us a species with amnesia and wiped out almost all traces of a former high civilisation of prehistoric antiquity. But there were survivors, who preserved at least some of the knowledge of the civilisation that had been destroyed with the intention of transmitting it to future generations, so it is not an accident that the first traces of the re-emergence of civilisation, in the form of the earliest known megalithic architecture and the re-promulgation of agricultural skills, occur at Gobekli Tepe in Turkey 11,500 years ago -- a date that coincides exactly with the end of the Younger Dryas and the return to a more congenial global environment. Everything we have been taught about the origins of civilisation occurs AFTER 11,500 years ago -- in other words AFTER the radical punctuation mark of the Younger Dryas.
Hancock’s logic is faulty. If we can recover evidence of the comet, then why not the civilization it squashed? How is it that the remains of Paleolithic culture survive in recoverable form but not the “lost” civilization of advanced science and technology? The Venus of Willendorf, for example, was made about 25,000 years ago and represents a page in the development of art and culture—despite having been made before the Younger Dryas. If it survived, how is it that not a single fragment of an advanced global civilization, nor any mark of its agriculture or industry, remains? No comet is that efficient.
Hancock, though, isn’t content to simply ascribe to the comet the remaking of the whole earth. He then wonders if the ancient Egyptians preserved a fragment of said comet for eight or nine thousand years and worshiped it as the primordial benben stone, the model for the pyramids and the place of creation: “I suggest it is worth re-opening this discussion to consider whether the mysterious object worshipped in the Mansion of the Phoenix in Heliopolis might in fact have been a fragment of the Younger Dryas comet that caused the global cataclysm of 12,800 years ago.” In 1989, Hancock’s onetime writing partner Robert Bauval argued that the stone was a meteorite, and Hancock would like to extend this to a comet, though it isn’t clear to me how a comet—typically composed mostly of ice and small bits of rock—would produce a recoverably large sacred rock after slamming into the earth.
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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