About 2,400,000 years ago the earth entered into an ice age. This ice age is likely still going on, there having been at least 17 interglacial periods which represented a warming of the planet, a receding of the ice caps, and then eventually a re-freezing. The glacial periods were likely about 100,000 years long, with the interglacial periods lasting about 20,000 or 25,000 years. The current interglacial period for the earth started probably around 15,000 BC.
But the current interglacial period was not like the others. Something dramatic happened, an apocalyptic event sometime around 12,800 BC, a few thousand years into the warming which simultaneously slowed down the warming (another cool period for 1000 years) while at the same time causing a massive melt-off and a massive flood. This dramatic event was likely a meteor, about 1.5km across that smashed into Greenland right around that time. This meteor would have been apocalyptic, causing a darkening of the sky, volcanos and tsunamis and earthquakes. The great flood. Noah’s flood.
None of that is very controversial. Most is well-established and increasingly better understood through the geological record.
The question is, was there a pre-diluvian civilization of any sophistication at all? An “Atlantis” lost in the rubble of the cataclysm?
Humanity, evolutionists would say, in its current form (Homo Sapiens) came onto the scene maybe 50,000 years ago. Or during the last glacial period. They were likely a result of an older competition between Neanderthals and Homo Floresiensis and Denisovans (and a few others). A sort of “Middle Earth” where various species were living together and vying for dominance, upon a world which was much colder and in which the land available was significantly less. We won. Then, we were almost wiped out in the catastrophe and the ensuing fallout.
The question that this book looks at is, before this catastrophe hit – that is to say during the last ice age – and presumably within the last 50,000 years, was there a civilization that we don’t know about? Now, that question is more controversial than it would seem. There do appear to be hints at this civilization: in Plato and in Genesis and in Gilgamesh (and many other cultures). But it’s hard – we have even lost track of major civilizations in our own time (the Hittites, for example) to say nothing of what might have happened before the meteor hit Greenland. So, how do we learn about ancient cultures? Archeology is the study of random stuff you find buried in the ground. Philology is the study of words, etymologies, what they mean, in what other languages they appear and the attempt to follow them backward. Mythology is the study of ancient stories. A good researcher tries to blend all three.
This book is mostly about mythology, and in that it is interesting. Why do all cultures have a flood legend? Why do the legends of the Bolivian Altiplano seem so similar to those of mezo-America? It is the study of ancient stories in ancient manuscripts like the Popol Vu and the Peri Rais map in Istanbul and the Epic of Gilgamesh, of carvings on rock. And there is a lot to wonder about: why were the Incas waiting for white European looking people as their saviors? Same for the Aztecs? Why did Olmec statues look like Africans? And how did the Mayans have such an advanced calendar but no wheel? Etc.
That is the first 200 pages, which were riveting. Then Hancock went to a very dark place, where most conspirologists go – looking for a master designer of all myths; dabbling in the kabala and seeking meaning in random numbers seen here because that same number appeared over there. Finding star charts in everything and extrapolating some mathematical master-code in odd buildings and random foundations. Confirmation bias, when we look for something we can usually find it. And this is why Hancock gets called a quack.
The reality, however, is extraordinary. And it’s good enough. Was there a pre-diluvian civilization? Probably. It was probably small, and pretty sophisticated, and wiped out by an asteroid. Survivors hid in the mountains, away from the waters – the remainder of the human race. And they became our ancestors: Urartians from Ararat; Tuaregs descending from the High Atlas Mountains; Mongols coming down from the Altai; Tiwanaku people from the Altiplano of Bolivia. All these cultures talk about how their ancestors came from high mountain valleys.
It seems that our own interglacial period is coming to an end. Why, we don’t know – what these rhythms represent (Einstein thought they had to do with gravity and the Earth’s position relative to the sun and other planets), we can know if we study. What will happen when the glacial period resumes? Will the cataclysm have affected this process? Will our own carbon emissions have any impact? I don’t know. But I am glad to think about these things.
I have fallen in love with our interglacial period. These few 15,000 years – a blink of an eye really – which gave us Tolstoy and Homer and Hercules; which took us to the moon and gave us flat-screen TVs and the World Cup; which gave us Rome and the Persians and the great Armenian Empire of Artashes. I have been glad to be a part of it. I don’t know what happens next; are we able to break through into the galaxy before the next cooling? Or have we reached our own singularity, and we have to start from scratch – with the exception of a few pyramids and a group of men in 100,000 years wondering who put those rocks on top of each other?
Those are the great questions.