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If, for a moment, we suspend our scepticism regarding Hancock’s ‘Lost Civilisation’ and attempt to understand the character of the society he hypothesises, we immediately run into problems. He is apparently more keen to discuss its legacy than its nature: the pyramids, the maps, the layout of temple complexes are all incontrovertibly much later than the end of the civilisation. This means that there is no contemporary evidence he can bring to bear, other than the disputed underwater ‘sites’ such as Yonaguni or the ‘city’ in the Bay of Cambay, which have produced no archaeological material.

World-wide but only coastal

We are told that the civilisation was world-wide, yet it seems only to have occupied the coastal plains that were exposed during the late Pleistocene marine regression. It was apparently maritime, hence the production of allegedly accurate maps in the remote past, which were used as mariners’ charts. It was, in some undefined way, more ‘spiritual’ than contemporary civilisation. Its people – or at least its priests – were concerned to warn future civilisations of the terrible dangers of earth crustal displacement or, since Hancock abandoned Antarctica as the home for ‘his’ civilisation, of climate change and rising sea levels.

Spiritually enlightened but vague

Although these ideas are rather appealing in a ‘lost golden age’ way, they are woolly and vague. Indeed, it is the very lack of precise characteristics that makes them so appealing, as the individual reader can impose their own interpretation of what these positive features were like. It is evident that Hancock is pushing an idea that is very like Plato’s Atlantis: a lost ideal state, although in this case, it was wiped out not as a punishment for its degeneration by the gods but as a result of natural forces beyond its control. That part of the moral fable is lost, but the rest is there. Hancock seems to be saying that if we can recapture the lost values of that civilisation – especially its spirituality – then we, too, can live in a golden age, and all those problems that trouble the modern world will become a thing of the past. In other words, he is peddling a religious, almost messianic message. It is little wonder that his readers betray all the symptoms of following a guru.

As a typical Bad Archaeologist, Hancock is unwilling to put forward testable hypotheses about the nature of the ‘lost civilisation’: he is content to assert that it existed and leave it at that. Dealing with the mundane details is not in his repertoire, as he has convinced himself that he has answered the Big Question (a question which, it must be pointed out, is entirely of his own making and not one that exercises Real Archaeologists). In other words, in our state of suspended disbelief, we have not learned anything concrete about this ‘lost civilisation’.

6 Responses to The nature of the ‘lost civilisation’

  • Simon says:

    One of the reasons i became interested in Hancock is that altough he proposes alot of huge theories, when he speaks his main point is that there are evidence of great mysteries out there, and nobody seems to really bother checking it out, e.g. the underwater sites that is mentioned, but not produced any archeological material, why is that? This seems to be very interesting, yet no one does research?

  • Mrs Grimble says:

    In the case of the Yonaguni underwater formations, yes, they have been researched. Most experts have decided they are mainly natural formations, perhaps modified in some cases by human activity : http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Yonaguni_Monument#Natural_formation
    (Wikipedia isn’t always the best reference, but with it’s links and information it’s always a good place to start looking.)

  • Anonymous says:

    The reason he doesn’t say a lot about the Lost Civlisation as it would have been is because he would have no evidence to support his views. Whereas his evidence for the aftermath of the civilisation is abundant in his opinion, so he discusses this more so. Pretty simple. This isn’t really a criticism, it’s just an observation that Hancock didn’t delve deeply into what the nature of the civilisation, as his book was about the legacy of the civilisation, not the civilisation itself.

  • Mauro Martinelli says:

    I have very recently come across Hancock´s Fingerprints of the Gods and must say I was curious and I am still intrigued by his line of thought, which seems speculative but bold in trying to find sense in myths and ancient stories we keep repeating nowadays.
    It is not much the truth that he intends to bring but a different approach to telling our story. In that attempt, we are forced to review our knowledge and at least challenge it.
    I agree with the author of this article. There is no paleontological evidence or every day human life trails, pottery, etc that can support his interpretation of the life around these ancient cities 12,0000 years ago. Dating seems to be closer to at least half that time and, in the case of America, even less.
    Now, I have been to Teotihacan, Tiwanaku, Machu Picchu, Sachsaywaman and Chichen Itza and can´t still wrap my head around the way its architects designed them and more over built them. From exquisite acoustics to obvious alignment with the sun.
    I can therefore understand Hancock´s passion and genuine, that is my opinion, interest in finding something else beyond the fragmented material evidence.

  • Nik Kelly says:

    I bought H’s ‘Underworld’ fully aware that I would have to dredge data on Pleistocene low-stand coastlines from between his flights of fancy. He didn’t disappoint. Why must he demand anachronistic technology for work that just needs patience and hammer-stones ??

  • Tgl Moa says:

    Read C .G. Jung’s ” Symbols of Transformation”, “Psychological Types” and “The Archetypes and the Collective Unconscious” and you’ll know where Hancock got his theories.

Agree or disagree? Please comment!