A More Measured Response to the Magicians of the Gods
It all sounds reasonable, wholesome and convincing. But actually, like so much else in the sceptical literature that is passed off as fact, it turns out, on close scrutiny, to be speculation, opinion, and bias masquerading as objectivity. —Graham Hancock, criticizing mainstream archeologists but also inadvertently describing his own book
In a previous rant—I mean, eh, essay—I vented indignation against what I considered to be blatant sophistry and pseudoscience on the part of Graham Hancock, as he tried to persuade a mostly non-scientific audience of the existence of a prehistoric technologically advanced global civilization which was wiped out by a sudden cataclysm approximately 12,800 years ago. Or I should say almost wiped out, as, according to Hancock, a remnant of these techno-Atlanteans traveled the world teaching stone age hunter gatherers certain fundamentals of their advanced civilization…and also warning future ages (namely ours and us) of the risk of the very same sort of cataclysm that (almost) wiped out the first advanced one.
Although I was letting off steam in the earlier post, I think I covered well enough his patently absurd claims that a stone age pillar at Göbekli Tepe with a scorpion and some deformed-looking birds on it is an amazingly advanced star map, that the dimensions of the King’s Chamber in the Great Pyramid at Giza indicate the same sort of amazingly advanced astronomical knowledge, and likewise with regard to the fact that the Roman temple to Jupiter at Baalbek had 54 columns. Even if some of his conclusions in this regard turn out to be true, it will not be based on deductive logic so much as on a lucky guess. Anyway, I’ve vented enough about his weird attempts at logical deduction (though he does cite actual science when it seems to serve his purposes), and so in this post I will simply and calmly, I hope, explain the archeological and geological evidence that Hancock seems to consider so stupendously indicative of Magicians of the Gods.
So I suppose I should state my opinion of the evolution of human culture over the past 200,000 years or so, based upon what anthropological and archeological information I’ve read, plus my own attempts at reason. Thus at first I’ll consider the earth’s climate during the existence of the species Homo sapiens.
The last (so far) major ice age glaciation of this planet is referred to as the Late (or Last) Glacial Maximum, which lasted about a hundred thousand years, which had huge land masses in Eurasia and North America under sheets of ice one to two miles thick, and which had so much seawater converted into ice sheets on land that the sea levels were as much as 120 meters lower than today, exposing many land areas that are now under the ocean. This long glaciation ended abruptly around 14,690 years ago, according to scientists, with a warming period called the Bølling-Allerød interstadial. This warm period gradually cooled over the course of about 2000 years, ending with what is known as the Younger Dryas, a relapse into ice age temperatures and conditions. The Younger Dryas cooling period lasted around 1500 years, after which the earth entered upon the current warmer climate and the beginning of the Holocene geological epoch, in which we abide to this day.
Now for Homo sapiens. Mainstream anthropologists, backed up by geneticists, claim that anatomically modern humans have existed in this world for about 200,000 years. Surprisingly, Graham Hancock appears to accept this idea, and even accepts the Out of Africa theory which states that Homo sapiens arose in eastern Africa and migrated out into Asia and eventually everywhere else less than a hundred thousand years ago. In his own words,
Where humans are concerned, the conventional wisdom is that our ancestors attained anatomical modernity exclusively in Africa over a long, slow, evolutionary process that unfolded between six million years ago and approximately 200,000 years ago. The DNA evidence supporting this view is impressive, and remarkably complete, as we shall see.
He also apparently rejects the idea that we are an alien hybrid, or even that we were genetically engineered by space aliens, and he furthermore rejects the notion that the scientific community’s rejection of the Prehistoric Technologically Advanced Global Civilization hypothesis is some kind of conspiracy (generally perpetrated by Talmudic globalist Jews) to hide the truth from the world for political reasons. So I have to give him credit for that.
So anyway, anatomically modern humans evidently evolved in Africa, after Homo heidelbergensis had already evolved into the Neanderthals and Denisovans in Asia. Small numbers of H. sapiens migrated out of Africa prior to 75,000 years ago, but various causes, including the explosion of a huge supervolcano around 75,000 years ago which caused a kind of nuclear winter (the Toba catastrophe), resulted in all or almost all H. sapiens outside of Africa dying off. This was the ice age too remember, so it may be that the Neanderthals and Denisovans were better (or at least equally) adapted to such conditions than were recent migrants from Africa anyway, and could effectively compete against them. Thus our species didn’t really strike traction outside of Africa until migrations occurred out of the dark continent no later than 70,000 years ago. This presumably would rule out the possibility of any advanced human civilization existing before the Last Glacial Maximum. Any human civilizations (as opposed to Neanderthal or Denisovan civilizations), even according to Hancock, would thus date no earlier than the last glaciation or the Bølling-Allerød warm interlude preceding the Younger Dryas relapse.
But there is another complication which may push the earliest possible date for an advanced civilization even later. The first wave of Homo sapiens to establish themselves successfully outside of Africa were evidently similar genetically to Australian aborigines and the Khoisan peoples (especially the Kalahari Bushmen or San) of southern Africa; these early migrants, who still exist in small remnant populations across southern Asia, are often referred to as Proto-Australoids. Even after interbreeding with Neanderthals and Denisovans on their migration south of the ice sheets eastwards across southern Asia, the average measured IQ of these people today, no offense intended, is in the mid-60s. I have also read that the minimum mean IQ necessary to maintain a technologically advanced civilization is somewhere around 90. Hancock in his book actually claims that Australian aborigines could be technologically very advanced if they wanted to be, but that their philosophical views caused them to prefer the lifestyle of hunter/gatherers so primitive that they hadn’t even thought of using drinking vessels but drank from their hands or else simply sucked up water on their hands and knees. I am sure that they are well adapted to the environment in which they evolved, but I am skeptical that Proto-Australoids could develop a prehistoric technologically advanced global civilization, and Hancock appears to concur in a strange way that I will mention later.
The next successful and significant wave of humans out of Africa involved a more evolutionarily derived race or subspecies than the Proto-Australoids (again, no offense intended but I’m speaking biologically here, referring to humans as a kind of evolving animal, and don’t give a damn about political correctness hysteria), who moved out apparently no later than 50,000 years ago, and largely outcompeted the less cognitively advanced earlier H. sapiens everywhere they met, leaving them undisturbed in Australia and some of the South Sea Islands, plus some remote forest areas in Asia, until modern times. I suppose that this later wave of anatomically modern humans were about as intelligent as we are, and as capable of establishing a complex and relatively advanced culture. I doubt that it would be very advanced technologically or scientifically, going with the modern meanings of those words, but they would have the same innate intelligence, the same inherent wisdom, and thus would have the same capacity for mental cultivation and deep introspection.
And then there is the archeological evidence. Thus far, Göbekli Tepe in southeastern Turkey is the oldest megalithic site acknowledged by mainstream archeologists, and it is clearly a relatively primitive attempt from the stone age. There was no evidence of agriculture at the oldest levels, no sign of technology obviously above a neolithic level, no pottery even, no written language, and the art is clearly primitive, looking as though it were sculpted by children.
A very important argument for me, pretty much of a clincher even, is that no high-tech artifacts have been found in prehistoric archeological sites, other than maybe a few mind-bending anomalies that could be hoaxes. The standard argument, on which the Prehistoric Technologically Advanced Global Civilization theory depends, is that no high-tech implements other than stone would survive for 14,000 years; they would all wear away due to entropy and the elements, leaving nothing behind but stone. However, this argument is almost certainly a false one. The fossils of delicate leaves and insects have survived for tens of millions of years, and even wooden spears around a hundred thousand years old have been dug up in Europe which were preserved by being buried in mud. It may be true that even a plate of hardened steel would weather away to nothing after ten thousand years if left on the surface exposed to wind and rain, but if it is buried in a landslide for example, or in an earthquake or some Pompeii-like scenario, then certainly there would be plenty of preserved artifacts, and there are none—none that are not very controversial and “fringe” anyhow. Hancock’s cataclysm theory would practically necessitate these sorts of landslides and other artifact-preserving phenomena too. So it seems very likely to me that if there was really a prehistoric technologically advanced global civilization, then we would be digging up the equivalent of old pop bottles everywhere. But sites older than the end of the Younger Dryas produce only stone implements, as would be expected from the stone age. Again, for me this is practically a clincher.
I may as well also cast some shade on Hancock’s comet theory, that a sudden cataclysm ended the high-tech Atlantean civilization and began the Younger Dryas at the same time. If one looks at graphs displaying the average temperatures during the Bølling-Allerød warm interlude, one sees that the Younger Dryas didn’t happen all of a sudden, cataclysmically, but rather that the world cooled back down to ice age conditions in three more or less gradual stages. (I have no idea what caused these three separate dips in temperature, and I would guess that Hancock doesn’t either.) There may have been a comet impact for all I know, the jury is still out on that one, but it evidently did not suddenly slam the earth into a nuclear winter the way Hancock imagines it. Then again, there were still mile-thick ice sheets at the time that the comet supposedly hit the earth.
Towards the end of his book Hancock floats some odd ideas in an indirect way, just as hints or intimations, possibly putting out teasers for a later book, or else because he was just diffident about them, as even he realized they were too flimsy even to be stated as legitimate scientific hypotheses. First he points out some evidence that the Denisovans (not quite Homo sapiens and more closely related to Neanderthals) originated in Southeast Asia rather than farther north as the mainstream anthropologists prefer—and this may be true, considering, as Hancock points out, that the highest percentage of Denisovan DNA in modern populations is found in places like Micronesia. Also earlier in the book he favors the idea that the legendary Atlantis was really located in Sundaland, which was a large landmass located around the Malay Peninsula and the western part of Indonesia, and which was above sea level during the glacial period but was largely submerged when the ice melted and sea levels rose (hence the legend of Atlantis sinking under the sea). So he hints, without really coming out and saying it straight, that the Denisovans originated in or around Sundaland, and that they or a hybrid of them with early Australoids were the highly intelligent and technologically advanced citizens of Atlantis. But enough of Hancock’s revisionist prehistorical ideas.
And so, based on the evidence I have seen, including the evidence put forth in Magicians of the Gods, my best guess is as follows—assuming of course that we can take scientific empiricism seriously at all as a way of understanding the world. Places like Göbekli Tepe were relatively culturally advanced even though there was no literacy, no abstract symbolic mathematics, no agriculture, no domesticated animals except maybe for dogs, no pottery even, and emphatically no advanced material technology in the modern sense. Göbekli Tepe was clearly constructed and used during the stone age, earlier human sites like the Gunung Padang hill/pyramid in Indonesia were also evidently stone age monuments, and the other ancient societies that Hancock sites, like early Egypt and the earliest megalith builders of Peru, were considerably later yet still devoid of modern technology. Nevertheless the people were approximately the same as us, and had approximately the same level of consciousness and intelligence, and so they presumably had enough depth of spirit and inspiration that they could produce great things, and even without modern technology could devise ingenious ways of cutting and stacking huge stone blocks, for example. I suspect that the earliest glimmers of stone architecture and any sort of high culture were originally religious in nature, and controlled by shamans or priests, possibly even mages. Thus I cannot rule out the possibility that some of the amazing feats of “primitive” humans with regard to cutting and moving huge stone blocks, etc., could have been through these early masters mastering their own mind and cultivating psychic powers or “magic.” People may scoff at this because of modern materialist beliefs that psychic powers are bullshit or are limited to guessing cards at slightly higher accuracy than random, but the people of 15,000 years ago may have had radically different beliefs about what is and is not possible, and those beliefs, in accordance with the first verse of the Dhammapada (“Mind is the forerunner of phenomena; they have mind as chief, they are mind-made”), or Christianity’s faith of a grain of mustard seed which can move mountains, conditioned their reality. Also it would help to explain the total absence of high tech tools or other artifacts associated with these sites, which ought to be there if the builders really did have high technology. But I have elaborated on my wizard theory elsewhere, so I move on.
It may very well be that the first glimmers of advanced civilization began before the Younger Dryas and that civilization was set back by the return of ice age conditions. Or, the Younger Dryas possibly inspired these stone age humans to develop new techniques for survival out of necessity, like secure dwellings, agriculture, and food storage. So I have no problem with Hancock’s idea that there was more human civilization and relatively advanced culture in prehistoric times than is acknowledged by most archeologists; and future discoveries and investigations will no doubt push the earliest dates for things farther and farther back. Even so there is no convincing evidence that I have seen, even in Hancock’s book, which indicates a prehistoric technologically advanced global civilization of Denisovans, Australoids, or anyone else. It is plausible, at least, that during the 1500 years or so of warmer weather between the last major glaciation and the Younger Dryas there were early developments towards what is now called “civilization,” with walled towns, agriculture, governments, temples, specialization of labor, and all the rest, but Hancock’s theories strike me as so far fetched and lame, most of them anyway, that I have to side with the conservative scientific normies on this issue.
I apologize to devout Buddhists who believe in the cyclical view of time, and the traditional Buddhist idea that human beings, speaking Pali in an essentially Indian culture, have been living on this planet for literally millions and millions of years. I’m just calling them as I see them, based on the empirical evidence, or rather on the books and Wikipedia articles discussing the empirical evidence. The sort of eons-long cyclical humanistic cosmology endorsed by early Indian Buddhism is certainly not essential to Dhamma however, and so I hope that nobody’s faith in Buddhism has been shattered by my provisional defense of mainstream western archeology.
“We are confronted, in other words, by vast, inexplicable antiquity, immense scale, and unknown purpose – and all of it seeming to unfold out of nowhere, with no obvious background or preparation, shrouded utterly in mystery.” —Hancock, appealing to mystery with regard to Göbekli Tepe