It’s been a big week for Graham Hancock. A South African professor endorsed his lost civilization, and a luxury magazine conducted a fawning interview. Now, Bear & Company is getting ready to publish Spirits in Stone: The Secrets of Megalithic America: Decoding the Ancient Cultural Stone Landscapes of the Northeast by Glenn Kreisberg, and Hancock has his name on the cover as the author of the book’s credulous forward. Of the book itself there is little to say. It is more than 400 pages long and seeks to explore alleged stellar alignments among various rocks and earthworks in the northeastern United States to conclude that an advanced super-civilization once occupied the future United States. Weirder, it is partly the work of Kresiberg and partly an anthology of partially related essays by other writers. It is an odd book.
Kreisberg developed his ideas while living near Woodstock, New York, which he identified as a center of megalithic star culture. He has been promoting version of the idea since at least 2011, including on Graham Hancock’s own website. I remember reading the linked article last year and finding it so unimpressive that I didn’t think to say anything about it. Kreisberg is also the editor of Mysteries of the Ancient Past: A Graham Hancock Reader, so you can see where from where he takes his inspiration.
I feel like I should be reviewing Spirits in Stone, but I must confess that the thought of giving more than a cursory reading to 400 pages of minute arguments about stellar alignments makes my eyes glaze over. The problem is reducible to a simple point: Even if we accept that such stones and earthworks were indeed purposefully aligned to stars and constellations (and that they are all artificial constructions and not, as is the case with some, natural), it implies nothing about the existence of an “advanced” Atlantis-like civilization, for observation of the stars and the ability to point rocks at them is, in the final analysis, not an inherent development of state-level societies. Anyone with sufficient motivation and a rudimentary ability to carve records of stellar positions could do it.
Anyway, Kreisberg invited Hancock to tour some of what he views as megalithic sites in the northeastern United States, and Hancock came away convinced that Native Americans once had a scientifically advanced civilization that expressed sophisticated mathematical truths through the medium of stones aligned to stars. However, Hancock feels that Euro-Americans have destroyed these stony wonders:
What my rambles with Glenn have shown me, however, and what this book will reveal to you, are that those fragments are indeed present, even in the intensively settled, heavily farmed, and economically developed Northeast where the barbaric forces of “modernization” have been at work the longest, erasing and confusing the record of stone.
Here Hancock presents an infuriating mixture of fact and fantasy that marries a correct criticism—that agricultural and industrial development has disturbed or destroyed archaeological sites—to a romantic fantasy that the destroyed parts of the archaeological record would reveal a “Hermetic” civilization of staggering wisdom and complexity, one possessed of “energizing, healing, and soul-enriching effects.”
Hancock is at a loss, though, to explain why North America, if part of the same global system of megalithic construction inherited from Atlantis, lacks the kinds of massive stone sites that the Old World has in spades. With the haughty condescension of a wealthy, liberal European, he attributes the missing stone structures to deliberate destruction by us heathen colonials who lack a certain European refinement and British comfort with deep history.
What is different in America is only the scale of destruction of this ancient worldwide system, deliberate destruction, pursued for short-term economic gains, by rude and barbarous incomers whose cultures had been cut off from the wellsprings of planetary wisdom for so long that they were literally unable to see the pearls of great price that they so carelessly and callously swept away.
He doesn’t quite identify who these incomers are, but when he said that “we” are their “descendants,” he makes plain that he is speaking, somewhat imprecisely, of European colonists. Perhaps stung by the repeated criticism that his hypothesis about a lost white race civilizing the brown peoples of the world is racist, or at least racist-adjacent, Hancock has here and in his newer work from the past twelve months or so overcorrected and all but falls into the trap of demonizing Europeans while fetishizing Native Americans as possessors of a purer and more harmonious ancient earth wisdom that makes them all but avatars of occult earth magic.
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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