hancock graham before america
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Around 12,800 years ago, North America suffered a massive cataclysm of cometary bombardment, alternately burning and freezing much of the continent. Not much survived. But what of what came before? In his latest book, Before America, Graham Hancock provides a journalistic account of the latest research into the pre-Columbian history of the Americas - North and South. Hancock catalogues the academic back-and-forths, the controversies and intellectual battles, and the widening acceptance that there was a lot more going on in the Americas back then than researchers had previously thought possible. Archaeology, genetics, mounds and henges, myths and migrations - it's a story that is only beginning to emerge after years of bad theories dominating the various fields.

On today's MindMatters we review Hancock's book, highlighting its strengths and weaknesses, and tying in some of his speculations with Witzel's work on world mythology, covered on previous episodes of MindMatters.

Running Time: 01:03:20

Download: MP3 — 58 MB

Here's the transcript of the show:

Corey: Hello everyone. Welcome back. Today Harrison and I are going to be discussing Graham Hancock's latest book, America Before: The Key to Earth's Lost Civilizations and as the title suggests, what he is looking at in this furiously interesting book is the hidden history of the American, North and South America, the history that you're not taught in schools about the Native Americans, native to North America - Mexico and Brazil and the Amazon. He really looks into all the data that has been consistently published over the past five or six decades that reveals a very startling break from accepted history, that there was a migration of the natives into North America and then from there down to South America.

He points out all the discrepancies in the actual data that falsify this theory that has been pretty much set in stone since the western colonization process of the Americas began, just the idea that the natives in South America wouldn't have been capable of building or of creating the vast geoglyphs as he calls them, vast stone structures, vast civilizations, giant cities, because they wouldn't have had the know-how in order to do such a thing, to undertake such a giant civilizational undertaking because of the agricultural limits that there are to living in a rainforest and the kinds of ingenuity that they implemented in domesticating hundreds of different species of plants, fruits and vegetables that we live on today.

So in this book he's going through that and debunking a lot of the myths. He's looking at places like Serpent's Mound, things reminiscent of the Nazca lines and various other different kinds of artifacts that are found in the caves of Siberia to caves of Chile or Peru or in the Amazon rainforest and really tying it all together and giving us a much broader picture of what America was like. We tend to still think of it as the new world, that it was discovered in 1492 and then if you're a little bit more liberally minded, then you tend to think, "Well it was just a bunch of tribes before then. The west didn't discover it but it was still populated by tribes that were not very advanced."

But he goes and blows that apart. Graham Hancock's major hypothesis, as everybody knows, is that there was an advanced civilization that straddled the globe at some point in the distant past and that a lot of the mysterious artifacts, the wanderers of the ancient world that we see are either artifacts of that or artifacts of the knowledge that had been passed down over generations that had been corrupted but that people continuously trying to replicate what was perhaps a golden age on the earth. With that Harrison, what do you think about the book?

Harrison: Well maybe I'll just give a bit of background on Hancock. Like you mentioned, probably most of our listeners or viewers will be familiar with him to some degree. He got a big jump in popularity when he did the Joe Rogan podcast a couple of times in the last several years. His first book that started him on this topic was Fingerprints of the Gods in 1995 or around there. That's when he first went on record with this hypothesis of his about a lost ancient, advanced civilization as he put it, like you said, whose knowledge was then either passed down or spread among various cultures and ancient civilization, the most typical being Egypt. You go into a new age section in the book store and you'll find just dozens of books on ancient Egyptian civilization with all kinds of theories.

So he naturally gets lumped in with all of the alternative woo-woo writers on this because here he is hypothesizing this ancient, advanced Egyptian civilization. That sounds crazy right off the bat to a lot of people that watch the History Channel, maybe not so crazy on the face of it. But he's been developing these themes since before he wrote that book in the early 1990s. So this is probably the culmination of his work on these topics. I get the impression reading this book that he planned this book to be his last one, that he feels like he has wrapped up his life's work. We'll see if he writes anything else along the same line.

But it seems like he has come full circle and wrapped it up. This book is billed as the sequel to Magicians of the Gods which was the sequel to Fingerprints of the Gods. These ones both came out in the last couple of years. In between then he hadn't really written a lot on this kind of history and his speculations on that. He wrote that book Supernatural on Ayahuasca and then a bunch of novels on post-Columbian era Mexican civilization and a bunch of stuff there. But he came back to these topics for Magicians of the Gods. I haven't read that one yet but he talks about Göbekli Tepe in Turkey and the Younger Dryas impact hypothesis which he also gets to in this book.

So he puts it all together and then in this book you can tell throughout the book he ties what he's saying now to previous things he has written on this topic in Fingerprints and subsequent books.

First of all, I read Supernatural and thought there were some interesting bits in that but I really can't get behind his take on psychedelics. I think he's misleading himself and a bunch of others. We won't get into that but I don't agree with his take on psychedelics and his advocacy of their use. He's super pro psychedelics. He has taken ayahuasca 70 times and DMT 15 times or something and that's just not something that I would do for various reasons.

But in this book in particular he pretty much stays to the facts. Just to review the book I thought it was really well done. He reads all the literature and he cites it. It's basically like a pop science book. He's summarizing a vast body of scientific literature and just making it accessible which I think is a great service because a lot of this stuff is new, a lot of it is not in pop culture. It hasn't filtered down yet. He's the one who's actually doing this filtering to bring this vast body of research down to the level where a regular person can just go to the bookstore, buy this book and read about it.

So from that perspective I found a lot of the book to be pretty rigorous reporting on the state of research for these various topics. Then every once in a while he'll throw in his speculation and he's always really clear about it. "Well here's what I think this could mean" but for the most part he just stays to the researchers. He interviews all these people, talks to them and gets the inside scoop.

So I think it's worth reading just for that because, like you said, he goes into such depth and there's so much interesting information in here that you didn't learn in school like the peopling of the Americas. One of the trends he points out is that as research develops and the old dogmas die out, things are moving in a different direction. It seems to be pushing back a lot of the earliest possible dates, earlier and earlier. For instance, scientists, researchers, academics used to believe that the first Americans only came to America 11,000 years ago. Then that got pushed back because there were these discoveries of the Clovis era people, named because of the name of the arrowheads, the Clovis points as they call them, that they found all over the place.

So okay, so the Clovis area. Now those were the first people. He goes through all the scientific controversies and the backstabbing, sniping and meanness in the academic community about this and the gatekeepers, the people who represent a certain theory and then just shut down anyone who will bring up any kind of anomalies that might not support the current theory and just how nasty they are. Academics are not morally virtuous people for the most part, just like everyone else. They're just as petty and small-minded as the average petty, small-minded person you meet on the street. They are just more educated so they have a higher opinion of themselves. I think that would apply to about 99% of academics.

Now even the Clovis first theory, as it was called, is no longer the mainstream theory. There are still a few that hold onto it but it is widely accepted now that there were people in the Americas before that. If you look at the genetic evidence, for instance, and referencing back to David Reich's book which I've recommended several times on the show before that just came out last year, Who We Are and How We Got Here, his estimate based on the genetic stuff is something like 15,000-20,000 years. So it's twice as far back as the first 11,000 years ago theory.

But now, as he shows in the book, there's some evidence from archeological sites that suggests an occupation of the Americas as far back as 130,000 years ago.

Corey: Yeah. That was a study that just came out two years ago? Last year?

Harrison: It might have been two years ago. I can't remember exactly. They first found this site. It was a mastodon bone that triggered them to it, which was found during a road construction project or something. So they called in the archeologist and he sat on the research for several years and didn't publish it because he wanted to be absolutely certain of it because he knows that when you publish something like this, immediately the entire academic community involved is going to shut you down and say, "Well that's impossible. You must be an idiot" essentially.

But the thing about that, 130,000 years ago, that's as old as mitochondrial Eve is hypothesized to be. That's pre-out of Africa according to the mainstream timeline of the history of humanity. That's a long time ago. I can't remember if he specifically gives a hypothesis on who these people might have been, assuming that this archeological site is accurate and the dating is accurate which it seems to be, I think that if anything, the biggest possibility is that it was one of the archaic human species, like Denisovan or Neanderthal. Neanderthals were limited to western Europe and the Levant but Denisovans were all over Siberia and down in Australia and Papua New Guinea. So who knows? Maybe there were Denisovans over in the Americas over 100,000 years ago because it seems like there was someone there at some time.

Another interesting thing in reference to the genetics is that the genetics researchers found a genetic signal in some of these isolated Amazon tribes that showed they were more closely related to, again, Australians and Papuans than to any alternative groups, like the northeastern Siberians from who the Native Americans are assumed to have been or concluded to have come from originally.

Corey: Right. This was deep in the heart of the Amazon. They found this trace or strong signal suggesting a strong connection to Australia and that area so then the theory was - it's hard to wrap your head around - that these people with that genetic trace just went up through the Bering Strait up there and they marched straight down through North America, avoided everybody and marched down past Mexico, through Central America to the Amazon and then just set up camp in the Amazon, like they just made a beeline. Because like you said, in North America they don't have that same genetic trace. It's just completely out of nowhere for whatever reason, across the world, a world away, you have this connection. So they were trying to figure out, how do you square that.

Harrison: And the most obvious answer, which he gives, is that there was a migration of Australian aboriginals - it's hard to know when, but maybe 13,000 years ago - but a separate migration that established this colony or something, that wasn't related to any of the Siberians that crossed the Bering Strait or went down the coast or went through the gap in the ice caps, that this was a separate group of people.

Even the geneticists don't really want to go that far. David Reich talks about this in his book. He talks about the discovery of these genetics and hypothesizes what he called population Y, I think.

Corey: Yeah.

Harrison: So this unknown second migration that would contribute to this but it doesn't really make sense. Like you said and like Hancock says, for this group to just come through Alaska and then trek all the way down and not leave a trace anywhere except in the Amazon, it looks like they were planted in the Amazon. That blows people's minds. It blows academics' minds in these areas because they can't conceive of something like that. But I don't know. If you look at how the Micronesia and Polynesian Islands were populated, they got pretty far. They got as far as Hawaii and that was in a recent migration. I think the Polynesian migrations were just in the last 5,000 years or something.

This seems to be an older migration because the thing about Papuans and Australians is that they've been relatively genetically and geographically isolated for thousands and thousands of years with not a lot of mixture with southeast Asia. Polynesia was populated by East Asians essentially from Taiwan and moved over. Then of course after that a whole bunch more mixing goes on. But for this very isolated ancient population, for Australian aboriginals, it doesn't really compute for that group to have somehow gotten to South America when their genetics don't show up anywhere else but in that area and perhaps up along in parts of South Asia. It's a mystery.

He doesn't really get into too much speculation on what it is but it makes sense that somehow they managed to get there as a separate group, kind of like the first Europeans coming to America and setting up a little colony. That seems to make sense.

You mentioned the new world when it could be as old or older than a lot of the old world with a history of occupation and human populations as old as a lot in Africa and as old as the archaic humans that were living in Europe and Asia at the time, hundreds of thousands of years ago. That brings the Americas on a level playing field as everywhere else.

I wanted to tie this into our discussion last week and a couple of weeks ago on Witzel's book on the origins of the world's mythologies because one of the points that I brought up in reference to the last chapter of his book and the meaning and the overarching themes and meanings that are found in these mythologies, the one that stuck out in relation to Hancock's work is this above/below relationship and dichotomy.

First of all, there's the difference in quality of the heavens and earth. The heavens is the region of the gods and the spirit world essentially and earth is just the material world, the earth that we live in and the place that we live. But there's also, like I mentioned, this relationship and similarity and continuity between the two regions where they mirror each other. So what happens below is a reflection of what happens above and vice versa.

This is something that Hancock has been saying for years in relation to the structures built on earth by ancient civilizations. Again, going to the clichéd examples like the Great Pyramid and Sphinx and Stonehenge, the ones everyone knows about, what he and a lot of others have done is work on archeoastronomy, relating the archeological features to astronomical features. Again, most people will probably know this at various ancient sites like the solstices or equinoxes, you'll see the sun rising in a perfect straight line out from the middle of the pyramid or along a causeway or something and it creates these intricate and exactly well-placed arrangements that result in these kinds of phenomena.

So basically the people who had designed this had knowledge of the heavens and quite a good mathematical understanding of mapping these things out and creating these structures to reflect the happenings in the heavens. In this book particularly, he gets into that idea applied to the structures in the Americas. So maybe we can talk about that a bit, about what structures there are in the Americas.

Since the first Europeans came over they noticed certain things about the Americas, whether north or south. In the south, you hinted at this. The first guys to travel along and explore the Amazon for instance, noticed huge cities, vast architecture, massive roads linking all these communities together and just hinting at and suggesting a very advanced level of civilization, one that later academics would deny. They would look back on these reports and said, "Oh well that couldn't have been true. We don't see any evidence for that anymore." But again, Hancock gives the latest research suggesting that they were probably telling the truth.

The thing is that most of these people died off, whether from disease or warfare in the last 500 years and the Amazon just grew over everything. The Amazon had probably grown over a lot that had existed before. Now they're finding all kinds of mounds, so built up structures, and henges, like Stonehenge. The henge is actually in reference, I believe, to the trench and hill that was dug out in a circle around the area. What they do is dig out, almost like a moat, a square or a circle or some geometric shape and then pile up the dirt that they dug out on the outside or the inside so you have a double structure where there's a hill and then there's a depression and then it levels out.

So they're finding all of these henges and mounds, artificial hills essentially. One of the most famous one in North America is the serpent mound. Where is that one?

Corey: Is that in Ohio?

Harrison: I think so. It's this kind of giant artificial hill in the shape of a serpent on the edge of a mini-cliff that's looking out to the horizon and he devotes several chapters to this one. It's really interesting. Over the years the researchers analyzing this have found that the head of the snake is one of these archaeoastronomical alignments. I can't remember if it's the solstice or the equinox but at one time in the year, one of those important times, the sun rises right in the line of sight with the snake. Even some of the curls in its body link out to these other of the eight significant earth/sun alignments. So sunrise and sunset on the equinoxes and solstices.

But you find the same thing in some of the sites in South America which aren't as researched as yet but more and more are being discovered every year, these alignments to the cardinal directions. They all seem to follow this same pattern. This again links back to the idea of above and below and second to his overarching thesis that these are the remnants of a lost civilization, that these techniques are best explained not by coincidence and not by cultural sharing between one. It's not like the Egyptians were traveling all over the place telling people how to do this. There was rather a common ancestor.

So in that sense his thesis is very similar to Witzel's because Witzel has the same idea in regard to mythology, that all the similarities in all these myths track back to common ancestors until you get to one common ancestor that is the source of the narrative storyline for all of these other myths in all of Laurasia as he puts it or Eurasia, Europe, Asia and the Americas. For Hancock it's that these specific practices relating to geometry and astronomy and mathematics trace back to an original civilization. This would be one that he places in the last ice age, so pre-13,000 years ago.

I don't know, do you want to get into his idea on that? Where do you want to go with that.

Corey: I just wanted to read this passage that Hancock has written. Let me see if I can find it. He's talking about the serpent mound and one of the interesting things is that where it's at allegedly has a lot of strange anomalies around the area dating back to a possible cometary bombardment.

Harrison: So this is magnetic anomalies and stuff?

Corey: Yeah. So this is what an Ohio geologist says,

"They had to know there was a significance to that spot," said Ohio geologist Mark Buranosky. "They placed a deep reverence in old mother earth. It's almost mystical that they built a spiritual site there." Similarly, geoscientist Raymond Anderson of the University of Iowa describes serpent mound crater as one of the most mysterious places in North America. The Native Americans found something mystical there and they were right. Dating back to the time of the impact (this cometary impact over the area), an intense magnetic anomaly centered on the site causes compasses to give wildly inaccurate readings.

There are also gravity anomalies caused by the impact and there are multiple underground caverns, streams and sinkholes that, in the view of Ohio archeologist William Romain, would have been seen by the ancients as entrances to the underworld. Among many peoples unusual or transitional areas such as this are often considered sacred. Indeed, such places are often considered supernatural gateways or portals between the celestial upper world and the underworld."

He goes on to say that the kinds of scientific know-how that you have to do in order to plot this out, to map it completely north and south, requires a kind of know-how that we didn't even have until recently. He said that it wasn't even really perfected until 1987 and to think that what were called primitive savages were doing such a thing is quite mind-blowing. It suggests to me also what is really causing these gravitational magnetic anomalies. Is it really from an impact? I'm letting my Graham Hancock flag fly. Was there a residue of something that was going on in this place, something of whatever they were doing there? Is that just a residue of that time and whatever potential technology they were using?

Harrison: Could be. {laughter}

Corey: But that's the thing. He points out that with all of this stuff, it's all speculation and as he says, every time you stick the spade into the ground you could unearth your entire pet theory and that's one of the biggest problems with archeology in general. Based on very limited data, a few bones and just thinking about that, you can create this whole story line that is just pure fantasy. Then you go down two more feet and you find out, "Okay, everything that I just said is absolute nonsense."

You see that happen time and time again whether it was with the serpent mound or with the caves in Siberia. This was one of the really interesting stories about the Denisovans and the material they found in the caves. One was a beautiful bracelet and it looked like it had been built with techniques that weren't exhibited until thousands of years later so then they just said, "Well that can't have actually existed at that time". But then they found even lower and older, by dating it, older than that, they found what looked like a surgical needle made from bone and it had a microscopic tip. It looked just like a surgical needle and that's even older than the bracelet and these are in Denisovan caves.

So Graham Hancock says, "Well I want to go look at these things for myself." So he goes and it turns out that these artifacts have been sent to Paris. So then he says, "Well fine, I'll go to Paris and look at them". And they said, "Well the public is no longer allowed to look at them. It's an international team of archeologists that are looking at this." So I think under the surface there, there's some kind of a crisis occurring. Maybe not a crisis but there's intrigue behind the scenes with archeologists who are looking at the data, the actual raw data and they're looking at it and thinking, "What the heck! We can't let this out!! We can't let just any random people look at this."

But there's some very serious study being done on the topics that Graham Hancock is discussing. It's not just the realm of pseudoscience. It's very serious and very alarming information in terms of our modern worldview that we just all evolved over a million years and then it was only in the past however many thousands of years that we were able to wipe our butts. {laughter} Well, if 50,000 years ago they were making surgical needles out of mammoth bone, what is our history? Where did we come from?

Harrison: Well one of the things I enjoyed the most was reading about the Amazon stuff because a lot of that is really new. They're just discovering a lot of these mounds year-by-year. It's a very recent thing. Until recently, this was one of those overarching theories, the scientific dogma of the time in the middle of the last century where you couldn't say anything contradicting it. The idea was that the Amazon couldn't have been populated to any great degree prior to several hundred years ago or something like that and here they are now finding all of these mounds, thousands of them, that are thousands and thousands of years old.

He gets into a whole bunch of weird stuff...

Corey: Like black dirt?

Harrison: Yeah, terra preta, this black soil because one of the reasons they thought widespread agriculture in cities couldn't have existed back then was because the soil isn't very great in the Amazon. You can't farm on it repeatedly because the soil is really depleted. It doesn't offer the correct nutrition for growing crops like that.

But there's this phenomenon of black dirt, terra preta, which is the most nutrient-rich and best growing dirt that you can find and it's this black dirt that they find at certain archeological levels and it can still be used today and its thousands of years old. The conclusion is that it was anthropogenic. It was made by humans. I can't remember if this is the current theory but this was or is a prevalent theory that it was created by accident, that there were these villages that just used certain areas to throw all their trash like their fish bones and human waste and then accidentally burned it and then covered it so that it didn't actually burn, it smoldered, and that created this great dirt that allowed agriculture to then take hold.

It's kind of a dumb theory {laughter} because like Hancock says you need the existing large population to make enough refuse to create this dirt. So how do you get to that point if you don't have the dirt to start out with? It's kind of a chicken and egg problem. What it really looks like is that this was a kind of knowledge. We know how to create this dirt. We need this dirt in order to farm. We're going to create this dirt in order to be able to expand and to be able to create this civilization.

So that leads him again, in his speculative manner, to the hypothesis that perhaps the original populating of the Amazon was sent out by this previous civilization. To get there we need to talk a little bit about the Younger Dryas impact because another big event in the history of the Americas which is only in the last 10 years or so coming to light, is the Younger Dryas impact. This was 12,800 years ago. Previous to that the earth was in a big ice age for 2,000 years. From about 14,000 years ago the earth was warming up. Then all of a sudden the temperature just dropped for a thousand years before it started climbing again.

At the same time we have the extinction of all of these what they call megafauna in the Americas, giant saber tooth tigers and mastodons and just a whole bunch of giant species that are no longer alive. There was a mass extinction level event that went on and also the Clovis people disappeared at that time. So you have this record of Clovis-level technology and then you've got this black mat of soot, charcoal and all of these different little bits of evidence that are lying right on top of the level of the Clovis people.

So it's like the entirety of North America and just a bit south was just blanketed in something. It's only been in the last several years that a small group of scientists, renegade mavericks have proposed that there was a massive cometary bombardment of the Americas, of the ice sheet at the time that was responsible for all of these events. So you have massive nuclear bomb-level explosions going on above the ice sheets above Canada, essentially and that would melt a lot of the ice, displace it, potentially shoot out giant boulders of ice to then impact again further south. He quotes one guy who hypothesizes that the Carolina Bays are a result of that, a controversial theory as he gets into, but seems legit.

But then for 21 years - I think this was Bill Napier - but the picture painted by a bunch in this cometary impact hypothesis group is just massive destruction, huge explosions, like setting perhaps the majority of North America and parts of South America on fire. Something like 10% of the entire biomass of the planet, so all of the plant life, went up in smoke around this time. So you have these massive explosions, intense heat and burning. When these bolides happen, when these meteorites and cometary fragments come through the atmosphere, they punch a hole through the atmosphere and suck in the cold from space which then flash-freezes the region that was just previously in the past microsecond on fire from this massive explosion. So you get massive heat and melting followed by extreme cold and freezing.

Then, from all of this destruction you get all of the particulate matter in the atmosphere, cometary dust and soot and all the stuff that will create a cosmic winter like a nuclear war is supposed to bring about. So that's why you have thousands of years of cold temperature because it totally changed the climate of the earth and there was mass destruction everywhere and for these 21 years they hypothesized there were probably cometary bombardments every year for those 21 years as we were passing through the Taurid meteor stream at the time because that's probably where the Taurid came from, the break up of this massive comet.

So for 21 years around Halloween - can't remember if it was once or twice a year -you'd run through this region of space that was very occupied so there were probably relatively large or small explosions, potentially all over the planet for at least 21 years before it went through the worst of it and it died off until in the history since then, we haven't had that many encounters. It hasn't been as intense as it was 12,800 years ago. Looking at all of what they call the impact proxies like different kinds of heavy metals and elements that they find in this black mat, what they've concluded is that this was the biggest worldwide catastrophe since the extinction of the dinosaurs. This is the biggest signal in all of their measures of looking at past events like this, this was the biggest one in millions of years.

This was a massive catastrophe primarily for North America, but for the entire world. The way Hancock ties this all together is with his proposed idea that an ancient lost civilization existed before this point and in America primarily, with outposts around the world potentially, but that it just got wiped off the face of the earth through this destruction. One of the points he brings up is that back then the sea level was a lot lower, tens of meters lower. You can search on Google images, ice age coastlines or something and you'll see that the continents look pretty different. Some look similar but some look remarkably different. Southeast Asia is one landmass. It's not a bunch of islands and the coastlines are all stretched out.

And where are most of the cities? Historically and even currently they're on the coast. They're close to water. So when the ice caps got destroyed and melted and there was this rapid rise in water, all of the prime real estate got drowned. They were under water. So most areas that would have been populated are now off-limits for archeological research because not many academics and scientists and universities go out and take scuba teams to look for this kind of stuff off the coasts of all these continents.

Corey: Just to hammer on that point a little bit more before we go on, I just wanted to say that he points out that that's a worldwide problem with archeology. You really choose where you're going to look based on the theory that you have. So if you have the theory that there is nothing to find in these areas because there was no such thing as an advanced civilization or as in the case of South America, 'they couldn't possibly have built these large cities so we won't even look', then what happens is that there's just the natural elements take over, like in the case of the Amazon which he points out is double the size of India. It's not that big but it's roughly that much space covered in rainforest.

So it's difficult to navigate, difficult to get into. If you don't think that there's any good reason for you to go in and spend all this time, your budget and line up all the visas and government approvals to go in and start digging things up, you're not going to do it. So there's this huge amount of area, like you were saying, in this area that used to be settled land but is now under water and in the Amazon and also in desert areas where there used to be fertile land, abundant wildlife. It would be a prime place to go and look if you were trying to see if perhaps people did build cities there. You could go down and dig. But unfortunately that kind of science is not being done.

Harrison: When I was reading his idea, I think it's a cool idea. I like science fiction and fantasy so it's like a really cool sci-fi story that might actually be true. So I'm reading this and I'm thinking, "Okay, if there was an advanced civilization that was essentially global in some nature, had seafaring ability like he thinks they did, then wouldn't you be able to see the genetic traces?" One thing you learn from Reich's book is that the hunter-gatherer populations that were alive during the ice age tend to be pretty identifiable. They don't mix very much. Doing these studies you can find that for 30,000 years the western Europeans didn't mix with anyone else and the same down in Australia for a different amount of time and up in eastern Asia.

So how do you get these isolated groups that don't seem to have any kind of worldwide cultural or genetic connections with each other and how do you square that with this idea of a global, ancient, advanced civilization? Well the idea he has, and I think it makes sense, I don't know if it's true or not, is that the hunter-gatherers could have been like our relationship with the Sentinelese in the Andaman Islands and a lot of hunter-gatherer populations up until recent centuries that were isolated. There were pockets of civilization, cities with large populations and then there were all kinds of areas that were just populated by hunter-gatherers.

So he's saying that it's possible that that was the case back then for all these thousands of years, potentially like an American or relatively small, but who knows how big, population that was advanced but that all the other regions of earth were inhabited by hunter-gatherers that didn't have an advanced level of technology, at least not as we think of it. And that's what we find in the archeological record. We find the hunter-gatherer technology, the relatively simple but sometimes beautiful stone tools, for instance. Those levels of technology persisted for thousands and thousands of years oftentimes without any great shifts one way or the other, of course with exceptions here and there but that's the general trend.

In order for his hypothesis to be true, you'd need to have a relatively isolated group living in coastal areas or in North America that was completely destroyed 13,000 years ago and that had perhaps interaction but not much mingling of genes going on. So who knows? Again, if this is true, maybe they had a rigid, almost caste-like structure, "We don't sleep with the natives" essentially. They could have isolated themselves as global overlords or something like that.

Corey: Yeah.

Harrison: That reminds me of one thing. The one thing I don't like about Hancock, which didn't bother me too much because it only crops up every once in a while, but he seems to have this idea that the older the better and any previous civilization must have been just this great idealized golden age civilization. He seems to idealize the past like that which I think is kind of annoying because even if this culture existed, even if this civilization existed, doesn't necessarily mean that they were any better than we are. They could have been a lot like us, for instance.

So he's got that vibe kind of going on and that ties into his psychedelics idea. Anything that's what others might call primitive or out there he just thinks is really cool, so psychedelics are really cool and getting high and having these visions, man that's awesome and that must be the high point in life and humanity, going on these trips and getting this knowledge from these spirit beings and all that stuff. It's very simplistic. Reality isn't often that clear-cut.

Corey: Well not only that, but if you're positing that this is one way that this advanced civilization got their information then look at what happened to them. {laughter}

Harrison: Yeah. That's why I was happy at the very end of the book, in the last chapter he writes this, which relates back to Witzel too. You'll see the connection. This is in a section called Past Imperfect, Future Uncertain.

"There are literally thousands of myths from every inhabited continent that speak of the existence of an advanced civilization in remote prehistory, of the lost golden age in which it flourished and of the cataclysm that brought it to an end."

So this is the Laurasian story line essentially.

"A feature shared by many of them, the story of Atlantis for example, or of Noah's flood, is the notion that human beings, by their own arrogance, cruelty and disrespect for the earth had somehow brought the disaster down upon their own heads and accordingly were obliged by the gods to go back to basics and learn humility again."

I'll pause again. This is what we were talking about last week, about the flood myths. I pointed out that it seems like the structure of that myth inculcated and introduced the idea of moral responsibility and of consequences for actions, individual and global in nature. So he goes on,

"Where does this sense of ancestral guilt come from with its peculiar intimations of a mistaken direction taken by humanity in some remote period and purged by global catastrophe? These are not the kinds of thoughts one would expect hunter-gatherers to devote much time to. A technologically advanced people on the other hand, particularly if they had mastered the transmutation of matter, would have had vastly more potential for hubris and overreach. In the event of the cataclysmic downfall of their civilization, those who survived might well have reflected on their history and blamed themselves for what happened."

Or not necessarily blame yourself but you blame your ancestors. It's the same thing essentially. Again, maybe a too rosy view of people. "They saw the error of their ways and repented." Well maybe, maybe not. Who knows? He writes,

"Perhaps some hubristic excesses had occurred that would justify such speculations, a drift towards self-indulgent materialism, the introduction of human sacrifice, the appearance of a new and vigorously proselytizing cult denying the existence of the soul, the enslavement and exploitation of hunter-gatherer tribes, the arming of one group of hunter-gatherers such as the Clovis to give it a competitive advantage over others. There could be a thousand reasons why the humbled survivors of a once powerful but now utterly destroyed civilization seeking refuge among hunter-gatherers might have arrived with a sense of guilt."

I was glad he wrote that because it shows that he's actually thinking about it and not just blinkered and blinded by his own vision of what the past must have been like. He is actually just speculating, saying 'Well maybe it was this, maybe it was that'. And he's tying it into these mythologies.

There's a similarity but there's also a tension between Hancock and Witzel. I don't know if Hancock has ever read Witzel. I haven't seen him reference him in this book or in any other place, but it seems like Hancock would probably trace back the origin of all of these stories to the destruction, the cataclysm essentially, of the Younger Dryas impact 12,800 years ago. Witzel traces it back much further, pre-Younger Dryas, to 40,000 or 50,000 years ago from a time at which one population could spread that through all of the continents essentially by a direct transmission in that branching phenomenon.

I guess Hancock would probably say, "Oh well there was this massive destruction and everyone wrote the same myths about it". But I think Witzel's probably more correct in the sense that the overall storyline probably existed because you wouldn't get so many features of the storyline to be so similar. Probably the extent of what you could have from that destruction would be previous good times, massive destruction and rebuilding but you wouldn't get, like Witzel points out, the four-generations of the gods and the individual creation myths, like the humans descended from the sun god and all of the specific features that Witzel gets into.

I don't think you could have that. But definitely that event almost 13,000s of years ago would have solidified all those myths and reinvigorated them. It would be seen as a playing out of the existing mythology. It wouldn't come out of nowhere. It would be, "Oh, those are the gods in the skies and they're angry and we've done something wrong and here's the destruction". It would basically fit those events. It would provide the framework in which to place the events that were happening at the time and the explanatory framework for these completely anomalous and cataclysmic events that brought destruction to North America and various levels of destruction all over the planet.

Corey: Right. A lot of those myths, a lot of the features are pretty timeless too. You could see that they could go way back. We don't know how many times cometary bombardment has destroyed whatever humanity has built and left them cowering in caves. But I would imagine that it's more than just 12,000 years ago and maybe not even cometary bombardment but just some sort of form of natural destruction and things like materialism, hubris, overreach, imperial hubris. Clearly we've lived with these Laurasian storylines for eons but we still do the exact same thing. You know what I'm saying? It's very, very easy that such a myth pre-dated this hypothetical civilization and then afterwards, like you said, when everything fell apart it was like, "Oh I guess the ancestors were right. I guess the myths and morality were right but we were having such a fun time so we thought we had actually finally beat them". That seems to be a recurring theme with humanity. We always think, "Oh now this time we've got it beat! We figured it out this time! Now we can have our cake and eat it too. We'll just quantum remolecularize it."

Then everything comes falling down and you realize that no, there's something much bigger at play and the gods come to visit like 12,000 years ago and wipe everything out and give humanity a massive spanking and then we just get started back on doing the exact same thing again.

Harrison: Yeah.

Corey: Just caught in this loop that seems to be recorded in myths and mythology and then also recorded in the soil, in the dirt itself. If you go look, you can see time and time again the futility.

Harrison: Maybe one last thing. We're almost done, right? How are we doing for time? Okay. One last thing that stood out to me that I thought was pretty remarkable was that Hancock was at Moundville, Alabama. I think it's along the Mississippi. He was at this Moundville site and he looked down at the placard that they had set up. Moundville is a site of numerous Native American mounds and there he saw this myth set out and it had some features that reminded him of Egyptian mythology.

Then he spends three or four chapters going into these connections which are mind-boggling in how similar these particular Native American myths are to certain Egyptian myths. I'll see if I can list them off the top of my head. They both thought that after death the souls of the dead - first of all you had certain different types of souls. You had one soul that ascended into the heavens, one that stayed with your dead body. That's just one similarity. But that ascending soul had to get up to the heavens somehow so it went up and got in the milky way and the milky way was a path that it had to travel but it had to leap up to the milky way first of all, leap up to the skies and it did that by going to the west, again in both structures.

Every feature that I list will probably be in both of these systems. So leap up to the skies into the milky way. And then your soul had to then go through a portal through to the underworld, to the other side, and that portal was located in the constellation of Orion. So you had to get up to the milky way, get through the portal in Orion and then you're in the underworld. Then once you're there you have a whole series of trial to get through in the afterlife. You have to defeat a whole bunch of monsters and evade all these nasty creatures, including one who's the brain smasher or something like that. She's this female goddess or other worldly demon that is there to destroy your soul by smashing your brains. So you have to evade this nasty woman who's out to smash your brains in and out.

Then there's also a dog demon who is not actually dog. He's parts of different kinds of animals like hippopotamus and alligator and all this weird stuff, but he's also there to destroy your soul. That's only a small fraction of the similarities but both the Egyptians and the natives had this remarkably similar mythology and sequence and structure of the afterlife journey essentially. Not only that, how to prepare for the afterlife. You had to live your life in such a way that you could then pass through the trials of the afterlife and be judged worthy of continuing on and taking your place in the heavens and whatever happens after that otherwise your soul would be destroyed and you'd be utterly obliterated.

So not only similar beliefs in the afterlife and of the purpose of life and what to do and prepare for, but then these details like the portal in the constellation of Orion. That one was pretty amazing, just how many small details like that lined up perfectly, even just the idea that there's a portal in the heavens and that it just happens to be in the constellation of Orion and you get there by the same route along the milky way and then once you pass through the portal you encounter the same types of demon gods who are out to destroy your brains, and more than that.

It was just pretty remarkable. He even gets into some more ideas from the Egyptian myths about the history of this previous advanced civilization that destroyed and then they sent out people to recreate the civilization anew. And one of the features of that was to create mounds on the ground because the mounds were the earthly representations of the mounds in the sky, the heavenly mounds.

So there were these correlations and the inclusion of geometry and relationships to astronomy and all of these features are found in both these systems. That's just what he deals with in this book. In previous books I haven't read, he finds these same features all over the planet which is pretty remarkable. But it at least provides a potential explanation for why these mounds existed and their purpose. They were the earthly mirrors of the mounds in the heavens and earthly portals to maybe regions where the connections between above and below were more permeable, so more access to the spiritual realms and that is reflected in the correlations with the heavens at those particular times. They're aligned for these specific purposes and at those times the heavens and the earth are aligned. There's something significant about that. I just thought it was cool that there were so many specific correlations between Egyptians and Native Americans, which was just totally weird. Anything else?

Corey: No. I think that's furiously interesting though and I just want to thank everybody for listening and I hope that we sparked your curiosity and if we did then, click like, hit subscribe because there will be much more of this in the future. So thanks for listening everybody. Have a great week and we'll see you next time.

Harrison: Bye.