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.


Göbekli Tepe

“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


  1. Thank you for this essay! It is sobering to consider the more fantastical theories of human prehistory from a critical point of view.
    I would like to add as a counter-question/comment, that although the lack of evidence from a positivistic point of view is not evidence in itself, there are still possible hints of something between modern mainstream archaeology and Hancock's et al. PTAGC. I am referring to the underwater pyramids found all across the world, being submerged nowadays, but which during the Last Glacial Maximum would have been along the coasts, since the the sea water level was about 100m lower than nowadays. While I'm not saying that this is outright evidence of a PTAGC, I do want to highlight the importance of marine archaeology in revealing more of Ice Age civilisation(s).

    1. Yeah towards the end of Hancock's book he mentions some kind of temples or other structures under about 27 feet of water off the eastern coast of India. I have no problem with stone age temples and so forth. My problem is mainly with the idea that they were technologically advanced at or near (or even above) a level with our own. The global aspect also is rather suspect, considering the non-global distribution of basic domesticated plants and animals. Similarities in building shapes can be coincidental, and with pyramids can simply be the exploitation of a very convenient megalithic design.

    2. The similarities in design could signify similarities in brain function and reasoning abilities across races and cultures. Obviously at a later date these cultures and races diverged, the slower thinkers being left in the dust, so to speak. Similar tools and structures made of less durable material just disintegrated, leaving no proof of budding civilizations. There may have been many more false starts than we could imagine.

    3. Regarding Buddhist cosmology, the suttas in either or both traditions describe a recurring expansion and contraction of the universe, which could imply multiple iterations of planetary and human evolution, so I see no conflict with the idea of millions of years of human history. Buddha and other adepts could be viewing these endless iterations of history as a continuum.

    4. Sure, Buddhist cosmology goes back with humans living in an essentially Indian culture forever, although I'm mainly just going with the available empirical evidence.

    5. Yes, a buddha or adept would have to relate his knowledge to fit the culture of his audience, in this case Indians of his time. Yes, we can only follow empirical evidence, but I offer the theory of eternal recurrence (not new) as a possible explanation for the seemingly impossible timelines. If the universe is endlessly expanding and contracting, one wonders if everything repeats, or if a certain amount of variability occurs.

    6. @Anonymous: Nietzsche's idea of eternal exact repetition of the same bullshit, which he thought to be provable by some simple math, just stems from his mathematical incompetence.
      But of course there could be similar patterns repeating themselves in each new "big bang eon".
      I am a big fan of Sir Roger Penrose's "theory" of Conformal Cyclic Cosmology (which I think may not fulfill all criteria to be called a proper "theory" yet by whatever standards that I don't really know much about), at least the general ideas which I am able to grasp, and I think it is in many interesting ways "compatible" with the Buddha's purported statements about cosmological evolution, timescales, eons, as far as I can interpet it to make sense of it.
      There are many statements by the Buddha about cosmological which can be quite reasonably interpeted to be an astoundingly good fit with modern scientific observations, e.g. the scales of "minor world systems" and "greater world systems" or some such, with such and such a number of suns etc., where the scales seem to fit quite well with the sizes of galaxies and galaxy clusters etc. I have stumbled upon some article about that in the past and it seemed really remarkable. I have been trying to find that article again several times, but don't remember where I found it. I just remember that I checked the numbers and arguments, and the way the scales fit was quite mind-blowing.

  2. This article looks to me like a case for "taboo your words":

    What is your definition of "advanced technology"? Knowing a little about engine mechanics and their history, micrometer precision is enough for me to justify that wording towards ancient artifacts:

    Regarding missing evidence for tools, I will follow up on a question from @Woryla. How much would be left of our civilization, if we submerged everything 100m above sea level? How many of those artifacts would be left by the survivors? How many would be kept 12'000 years?


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