Graham Hancock has released the description of his new book, America Before, which is due out in April. According to the description, Hancock will be examining claims that the Americas were populated 130,000 years ago, and he will argue that North America was the homeland of his lost civilization before it was destroyed by a comet at the end of the Younger Dryas, a claim previously seen in Ignatius Donnelly’s Ragnarok: The Age of Fire and Gravel (1883), where the author similarly proposed a comet strike in the North American Arctic, affecting a civilization that stretched across North America and northern Eurasia. I remain interested to see what new evidence he has accumulated.
After describing the standard model of world population, which sees anatomically modern humans leaving Africa and populating Asia 70,000 years ago, Australia 60,000 years ago, Europe around 50,000 years ago, the Americas around 20,000 or so years ago, and Polynesia in relatively recent times, the America Before description challenges the timeline:
We now know that something of immense importance is missing from this long-established picture, and that the Americas were first peopled more than 130,000 years ago – many tens of thousands of years before human settlements became established elsewhere. Yet because of the dominance of the former – and now entirely discredited – theory of the late peopling of the Americas, and of mental blocks associated with that theory, scientists for too long focussed only on the ‘Old World’ in their search for the origins of civilization and have not considered the revolutionary possibility that those origins might in fact be found in the ‘New World’.
The reference to the 130,000-year date must surely refer to the paper published by Steven R. Holden et al. in Nature last year alleging that mastodon bones found near San Diego showed evidence of having been butchered by an unknown species of human. The study was controversial because it made dramatic claims without categorically excluding alternative explanations. At the time, archaeologist Tom Dillehay pointed out that the study did not exclude the possibility that the marks on the bones were the result of natural processes rather than intentional butchering.
Earlier this year, six experts, led by archaeologist Joseph V. Ferraro, published a communication in Nature challenging the original study. The authors did not question the age of the site but provided evidence, including examples from comparable sites, where natural processes produced the same damage to bones. They faulted the original authors for failing to consider disturbances to the site over the past 130,000 years, evidence for which they said was present in the original data. Citing the “equivocal” nature of the damage and the lack of supporting evidence for human presence in California at that early date, the authors concluded that “caution requires us to set aside the claims of Holden et al.” Holden and co-authors then replied with a rebuttal, and this spring Ruth Gruhn of the University of Alberta concluded that the breaks in the bones could not have been caused by modern heavy machinery, thus making them “an anomaly.”
A new excavation was planned for this year, but I don’t believe anything has been published yet.
I will be interested to see what additional evidence, if any, Hancock uses to defend this date, and how he sees the supposed human occupants of 130,000 years ago as connected to the Atlanteans who were said to have died around 9600 BCE—some 120,000 years later!
I also just want to tease the writer of the description just a little bit for an odd turn of phrase. After the part quoted above, the writer calls the book a “mind-dilating exploration of the mystery of ancient civilizations.” I believe “mind-expanding” is the more usual phrase (“Mind’s Dilation” is a card from Magic: The Gathering), but mind-dilation is certainly both more colorful and evocative, if somewhat frighting to consider too literally.
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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