BY RICHARD HEINBERG
A great scientific instrument lies sprawled over the entire surface of the globe. At some period, thousands of years ago, almost every corner of the world was visited by people with a particular task to accomplish. With the help of some remarkable power, by which they could cut and raise enormous blocks of stone, these people created vast astronomical instruments, circles of erect pillars, pyramids, underground tunnels, cyclopean stone platforms, all linked together by a network of tracks and alignments, whose course from horizon to horizon was marked by stones, mounds and earthworks.
– John Michell, The New View Over Atlantis
In Part I of this article [see New Dawn No. 37] we explored literature and evidence relating to the question of whether the ancient Egyptian, Mesopotamian, Indic, and Central American civilizations were seeded by an advanced antediluvian maritime culture which perished in some immense convulsion of nature. In this second, concluding part of the article we pick up the story of the unfolding investigation where we left off – at the beginning of the 1980s.
In 1979, amateur Egyptologist John Anthony West published Serpent in the Sky: The High Wisdom of Ancient Egypt, later updated in 1987 and 1993. In it he summarized the ideas and research of mathematician-Egyptologist R. Schwaller de Lubicz. One chapter in the book, concerning the Sphinx, would eventually spawn a heated debate in the scientific community and open a promising new line of inquiry into the origins of Egyptian civilization.
In the 1950s, de Lubicz had written that the Sphinx’s body “shows indisputable signs of water erosion.” Moreover, he suggested that it was built far earlier than the conventionally ascribed date of 2600 B.C. West decided to investigate. He showed respected geologist Robert Schoch a detailed photo of the Sphinx and asked, “What caused this weathering?” Schoch studied the photo carefully and replied, “Water erosion.” Schoch immediately grasped the implications of what he had said. Water erosion in the Egyptian desert? Given the climatic history of the region, the weathering suggested a construction date of at least 5000 B.C. (West himself is convinced that the Sphinx was built some time between 10,000 and 15,000 B.C.)
Most Egyptologists consider the Sphinx a likeness of the pharaoh Khafre (Chephren); Mark Lehner, Field Director for the American Research Center in Egypt, went so far as to “prove” on national television, by way of computer imaging, that the face of the Sphinx and the face of Khafre are identical. West was skeptical of Lehner’s methodology and enlisted New York Police forensic artist Frank Domingo to compare the Sphinx with a statue of Khafre. Domingo concluded that “If the ancient Egyptians were skilled technicians and capable of duplicating images then these two works cannot represent the same individual.” He noted, for example, that the Sphinx face has a distinctive “African,” “Nubian” or “Negroid” aspect lacking in that of Khafre.
Members of the Egyptological establishment were furious with West and dismissive of Schoch. One prominent Egyptologist, Dr. K. Lal Gauri, said that “Neither the subsurface evidence nor the weathering evidence indicates anything as far as the age is concerned. It’s just not relevant.” The Egyptologists’ minds were made up, and no amount of hard scientific data could change them. The entire incident served to publicize how the methods of Egyptology differ fundamentally from those used in the natural sciences, and drove a wedge between the Egyptologists on one hand and physical scientists on the other. At the 1992 Convention of the Geological Society of America, and again at the 1992 meeting of the American Association for the Advancement of Science, Schoch stated his case that the Sphinx presents “a classic, textbook example of what happens to a limestone structure when you have rain beating down on it for thousands of years,” and on both occasions geologists by the score expressed their support for his conclusions. The majority of Egyptologists refused to budge an inch.
Meanwhile, seismic analyses of the Sphinx complex carried out by Schoch and architect Thomas L. Dobecki showed signs of several unexplored cavities under and around the statue. Cayce-inspired researchers found this significant because in several of his “life readings” Cayce noted that an Atlantean Hall of Records lies buried under or near the Sphinx.
There were signs, also, of at least one unexplored chamber in the Great Pyramid. In 1993, the Egyptian Antiquities Organization hired robotics engineer Rudolf Gantenbrink to improve the ventilation in the structure. He first used a miniature robot (named Upuaut, after the Egyptian god of the “opening of the ways”) to clear debris from the “air shafts” of the King’s Chamber, then designed another, more sophisticated robot (Upuaut II) to do the same with the unexplored “air shafts” of the Queen’s Chamber. Two hundred feet up the southern shaft, he found a sliding stone door with copper fittings. There was a gap at the base of the door, and when Gantenbrink directed Upuaut II’s laser spot into the gap, the beam disappeared into a void, indicating a sizable open space.
New data challenging the conventional version of the human past have come not just from Egypt, but from far and wide. In the Americas, the standard view of prehistory has humans first crossing a land bridge from Asia about 12,000 years ago. Numerous finds of human remains and artifacts apparently dating from much earlier than 10,000 B.C. (recent examples include a spear point lodged in a horse’s hoof, radiocarbon dated at 34,400 B.C., found in Pendejo Cave near Oro Grande, New Mexico) have routinely been ignored. However, during the past fifteen years the evidence has grown to such an extent that the anthropological establishment is beginning to hedge. The latest data weighing in on the side of an early arrival consists of genetic reconstructions of evolutionary patterns among Amerind populations. These studies, carried out by a research team led by Dr. Antonio Torroni of Emory University, suggest a first settlement date of at least 30,000 years ago.
According to the orthodox view, once early humans migrated to their present homelands they tended to stay put. We should expect to find evidence of the ancient Chinese only in China, of the Polynesians only in Polynesia, of the Africans only in Africa, and so on. Yet recent finds suggest that migratory or exploratory patterns in the distant past were complicated. Well preserved 4000-year-old bodies of Caucasians have recently been uncovered in China, and coins, petroglyphs, and other artifacts suggest that Celts, Basques, Libyans, Arabs, Romans, Egyptians, Hebrews, and Chinese all visited North America at one time or another.
Meanwhile, the search for Atlantis near the island of Bimini has continued into the 1990s, producing a few significant discoveries – underwater zoomorphic effigy mounds and hexagonal “paving” stones – as well as neutron-activation analysis evidence that “roads” discovered in the 1970s are indeed artificial and not (as some critics argued) natural features of the ocean floor. That these artifacts are now below sea level suggests either that the area around Bimini has sunk over the past few centuries, or that the artifacts date from a time prior to the rise of ocean levels that accompanied the end of the last ice age roughly 12,000 years ago. If the latter turns out to be the case, then we will be faced with one more bit of hard evidence for the existence of an antediluvian high culture.
The Bimini stones raise an important question: How much more evidence of lost civilizations may rest on the ocean bottom? After all, people in all historical eras have tended to live along rivers or on seacoasts. Given that ocean levels rose by up to 300 feet at the end of the last ice age, and that many rivers were then flooded with the water of melting glaciers, wouldn’t the continental shelves be the logical places to look for signs of antediluvian settlements? Maybe the fact that few unequivocal relics of these have been found so far is merely a result of archeologists looking in the wrong places.
The past fifteen years have brought not only new evidence, but new ways of looking at facts already known.
Engineer Robert Bauval, author of The Orion Mystery (Crown, 1994), claims to have found the purpose of the Giza pyramid complex – as a monument to an archaic star – religion. For the ancients, Egypt was equivalent to the sky, the Nile to the Milky Way. The three main pyramids at Giza were the three bright stars on Orion’s belt. Bauval has shown that the presumed “air shafts” in the King’s and Queen’s chambers of the Great Pyramid were sighting holes trained on Orion, and that they establish a construction date of 2450 B.C. But, says Bauval, the overall layout of the Giza pyramids, and their correlation with the night sky, suggests that the site as a whole was planned much earlier, around 10,500 B.C. – the Egyptians’ legendary “Time of the Gods.” Since that was one of those periods that comes along once every 26,000 years when Orion appears lowest in the night sky, the ancients may have regarded it as the start of the great precessional cycle (which de Santillana and von Dechend described inHamlet’s Mill as the focus of archaic myth).
In their book When the Sky Fell: In Search of Atlantis (Stoddart, 1995), Canadian librarians Rand and Rose Flem-Ath update the work of Charles Hapgood, who brought to light medieval maps showing an ice-free Antarctica. How is it, Hapgood asked, that during much of the last ice age a large part of North America was under mile-thick glaciers, but a third of Antarctica was not? Hapgood suggested that perhaps the continents were then in different places relative to the poles – that the Earth’s crust had shifted over the molten layers beneath it. But if Antarctica was once further north and partly ice-free, was it also inhabitable? The Flem-Aths add up the clues and come to a startling conclusion: Antarctica was Atlantis! They retrace Plato’s description of the lost island and show that Antarctica fits it at least as well as any other place ever suggested. According to their reconstruction, Lesser Antarctica was once the homeland of a great maritime civilization that sent colonists worldwide. But 13,500 years ago, as certain astronomical cycles meshed to create a warmer global climate, the asymmetrically distributed weight of the polar ice packs caused the Earth’s crust to shift. Massive earthquakes and tidal waves followed, Siberia moved closer to the pole (quick-freezing the mammoths), the ice sheets covering much of North America melted, ocean levels rose, many large land animals became extinct, and Atlantis became a polar wasteland. Refugees from the catastrophe sailed to the most stable and hospitable areas available – the highlands of South America, the Near East, Egypt, Southeast Asia, and the Indus Valley – and there tried to preserve as much of their culture as they could. It was in these places that we find the earliest known experiments with agriculture and the apparent beginnings of civilization. According to the Flem-Aths, the disaster of 11,500 B.C. was the great turning point of history, an event whose memory would persist in the myths of cultures around the globe.
Graham Hancock, former East Africa correspondent for The Economist, is the author of Fingerprints of the Gods (Crown, 1995) – a summary and popularization of the work of the Flem-Aths, Bauval, West, and Gantenbrink. In Britain, Hancock’s book is something of a publishing phenomenon (the 10,000 copy initial printing was sold out within a week). Fingerprints of the Gods is written for a popular audience, and in it Hancock leads us on a globe-circling journey from Macchu Picchu to the Great Pyramid, describing his first-hand observations with the breathless excitement of a detective about to crack the biggest case in history. While it contains little in the way of original theory or research, it is a big, engaging book packed with up-to-date information.
The date and site of the earliest archeologically identifiable (i.e., non-“Atlantean”) civilization are also up for review. In the nineteenth century, historians believed that Egypt was the earliest civilization; then came the discovery of Sumer, then Catal Huyuk in Turkey, then Harappa in the Indus Valley. Gradually, the date of the first civilization has been pushed back from 3000 B.C. to at least 7000 B.C. In their book In Search of the Cradle of Civilization (Quest, 1995), David Frawley, Subhash Kak, and Georg Feuerstein explore the implications of the new evidence. They argue convincingly that civilization began not in the Near East but in the Indus Valley, and call into question the now-established idea that Hindu culture came to India by way of an Indo-European invasion; they suggest instead that the authors of the Rig-Veda were the indigenous heirs of an already ancient tradition. Frawley, Kak, and Feuerstein also note signs of a tremendous natural catastrophe that brought what they call the Indus-Sarasvati civilization to an end, and they propose that we begin to take seriously the mythic idea of history as a series of World Ages.
Perhaps the most shockingly unorthodox new book having to do with the human past is Michael Cremo and Richard Thompson’s The Hidden History of the Human Race (Govardhan Hill, 1994), a condensation of their daunting 952-pageForbidden Archaeology (1993). In both books, the authors collect the evidence that mainstream archeologists have rejected-bones of anatomically modern humans in geological formations tens or even hundreds of millions of years old; artifacts recovered from mines and coal beds; signs of human presence in the Americas up to 750,000 years ago. They also re-evaluate the accepted evidence of the human evolutionary past – the bones of Australopithecus, Homo erectus, and Neanderthal, and show convincingly that this evidence has passed through a “knowledge filter” whose purpose is to perpetuate a reigning paradigm. Whatever evidence fits the paradigm (no matter how flimsy) is accepted; whatever doesn’t (no matter how solid and unequivocal) is suppressed. Along the way, Cremo and Thompson compare the Australopithecine/Homo erectus data with modern reports of living ape-men (the Yeti of the Himalayas, the Sasquatch of the Pacific Northwest, and the Yeren of southern China). Perhaps, they suggest, the ape-men who lived a couple of million years ago were not our ancestors; they were merely other primate species who coexisted with Homo sapiens then, just as the Yeti and Sasquatch do to this day. The authors do far more than push the temporal borders of civilization back a few thousand years; they question the basic premises on which we have based all our ideas about the prehistoric human past. They don’t offer an alternative theory; they merely show that the one that is dominant today is based on an extreme form of intellectual tunnel vision.
Some sort of consensus seems to be emerging from the work both of the older generation of theorists such as Tompkins, Michell, de Lubicz, de Santillana and von Dechend, and Hapgood, and from that of the current generation of writers such as West, Hancock, Zink, Bauval, and the Flem-Aths. According to this hybrid scenario, a complex, technologically and scientifically advanced maritime culture existed during the last ice age. How long it existed we do not know; nor do we know if it was unique or merely one of a series of such civilizations. At any rate, it was destroyed by cataclysm about 13,500 years ago. Migrations that preceded and followed the cataclysm resulted in the establishment of outposts from which the historical civilizations of the Americas, the Near East and the Far East would eventually arise. If this scenario is even partly correct, it would mean that humankind has a vastly richer, more ancient and more interesting past than conventional historians have dreamed possible.
Unfortunately, when we get down to the details of the scenario, disagreements arise. One point of contention has to do with the nature and cause of the catastrophe. As Hapgood, Hancock, and the Flem-Aths have it, ice ages result from astronomical factors-changes in the obliquity of the terrestrial axis, the precession of the equinoxes, and variations in the shape of the Earth’s orbit. Taken together, these variables produce what geophysicists call the Croll-Milankovitch effect, which (according to theory) should produce periodic global climate fluctuations. According to Hapgood and his followers, the asymmetrical buildup of ice at the poles occasionally leads to a crust displacement. While the Hapgood model of a shifting crust has not been given much consideration by orthodox scientists, the Croll-Milankovitch effect (on which it is partly based) is widely accepted as real.
But in his 1981 book Ice: The Ultimate Human Catastrophe, astronomer Fred Hoyle skewered the idea that the Croll-Milankovitch effect could explain ice ages. True, combined axial and orbital effects unbalance the hemispheres climatically – with a gain or loss of solar radiation to each hemisphere alternating every 11,500 years or so – and also make for a cyclical one percent change in the distribution of solar energy between polar and equatorial regions. But, Hoyle pointed out, since about half the energy that heats the polar regions comes from water vapor that evaporated from tropical areas, the effect at the poles of the Croll-Milankovitch variation would be moderate. The ice pack would increase or decrease slightly and gradually, not significantly or suddenly. What is needed to explain the beginnings and endings of ice ages is some more dramatic event with global repercussions. For this, Hoyle proposed occasional comet or meteor impacts powerful enough to send millions of tons of dust into the upper atmosphere, reflecting a significant percentage of incoming solar radiation and creating a years-long winter over Earth’s entire surface.
In the fifteen years since Hoyle published his critique of the Croll-Milankovitch theory of the ice ages, the idea that Earth experienced severe cometary bombardment episodes in the relatively recent past has been taken up by others. Victor Clube, currently Dean of Astrophysics at Oxford University, has published two books in collaboration with fellow astronomer Bill Napier (The Cosmic Serpent, 1982, and The Cosmic Winter, 1990), in which he discusses evidence for periodic bombardment episodes over the past 2.5 million years. On the basis of computations of Earth-crossing comet and asteroid orbits and observed cratering rates, Clube estimates a strong likelihood of a collision of several megatons energy somewhere on Earth every 200 years or so, and one of 50,000 megatons energy every 100,000 years on average. Such an impact would certainly have severe short-term climatic effects, perhaps triggering the onset of an ice age. Clube also notes that “Within the past 500 million years…there have been about fifty collisions of energy more than seven million megatons, ten of more than 100 million megatons, and one or two of energy in excess of three or four billion megatons.” It was these latter immense impacts, he believes, that resulted in the mass extinctions revealed in the fossil record.
There is plenty of mythological evidence as well, for bombardment episodes: ancient humans around the globe feared capricious sky-gods who, they believed, occasionally rained destruction on hapless humanity; and the Chinese, Babylonians, Egyptians, and Native Americans all represented deities by way of comet symbols.
Both Clube and the followers of Hapgood say that Earth is accident-prone; they merely disagree about the agent or process of destruction. Perhaps the two scenarios – one based on cometary and asteroid impacts and the other on crust displacement – are not mutually exclusive; it is possible that the first phenomenon is capable of triggering the second. At present, there seems to be more hard evidence for impact events than for crustal shifts (which would be quite different in character from the well-attested phenomenon of gradual continental drift), and no geologist is now working publicly to prove or disprove Hapgood’s theory. In any case, there are good reasons for assuming that humanity was deeply traumatized by events that occurred just prior to the appearance of agriculture.
If Victor Clube is right and sizable comet or asteroid impacts have occurred every few thousand years on average, then we have yet another reason for taking a closer look at the mythic idea of World Ages. Have there been several “Atlantises”? Cremo and Thompson open the door to extraordinary possibilities: if anatomically modern human beings have been on Earth for hundreds of thousands or perhaps millions of years, what were they doing all that time? The downside to catastrophes (aside from the inconvenience caused to their direct victims) is that they tend to erase signs of whatever preceded them. Thus it may forever be impossible for us to accurately reconstruct the antediluvian past. We have the myths, of course, but they paint a garbled picture. Perhaps the best we can hope for would be the discovery of some bit of evidence of the immediate survivors of the Deluge-ideally, a manuscript from 13,500 years ago written by witnesses to the events!
On the Verge of a Breakthrough?
Such a find is at least remotely possible.
The discoveries of West, Schoch, and Gantenbrink, and the theories of Bauval, are illuminating, and more revelations appear to be in store. What lies in that unexplored chamber in the Great Pyramid, or the cavities under and around the Sphinx? Cayce predicted that an Atlantean Hall of Records would be found under the Sphinx. Yet if the “Atlanteans” were literate, why have we so far failed to find examples of their writing?
It is also possible that the Bimini researchers (now organized under “The Atlantis Project,” which includes a few archeologists and geologists among its ranks) may come across definitive proof a Pleistocene civilization. A recent aerial survey indicated the presence of thirty possible megalithic sites around Bimini. And other areas in the Bahamas may also yield important finds.
Then there is the Flem-Aths’ theory that Atlantis was Antarctica. If it holds true, then sonar explorations of Lesser Antarctica should turn up something interesting-perhaps a street plan of downtown Atlantis. While no detailed, large-scale sonar surveys are now under way there, in a recent issue of Omnimagazine (August 1994), in an article devoted to the “face” and “pyramids” many people claim to see in photographs of the surface of Mars, NASA aerial photographer Michael Malin was quoted as saying: “I’ve done a lot of work in Antarctica, and there are lots of pyramidal shapes cut by ice. …there are far stranger things in Antarctica than I have seen on Mars.”
Since the implications of finding such a significant forgotten chapter in the human past would be immense, one might expect that archeologists would be champing at the bit to do field work in Antarctica, Bimini, or Giza. This, however, is hardly the case. Most are sitting on the sidelines and throwing stones. After all, there are careers and established doctrines to be protected. Mainstream Egyptologists appear to be the least imaginative and most vitriolic of the lot. Ironically, two of the leaders of the establishment opposition to West, Schoch, and Bauval – Mark Lehner and Zahi Hawass (Director of Antiquities of the Giza Plateau and Sakkara) – are both former Cayce-ites. Lehner once published a book titled The Egyptian Heritage, based on the Edgar Cayce Readings, in which he wrote: “If the readings’ story of 10,500 B.C. approaches truth (it is the author’s premise that it does on several levels of significance) then we should consider seriously the implications of this epoch being the motivating center of the Egyptian mandala – the real legacy of ancient Egypt.” These days he makes statements like the following: “When you say something as complex as the Sphinx dates to 9000 or 10,000 B.C., it implies, of course, that there was a very high civilization that was capable of producing the Sphinx at that period. The question an archeologist has to ask, therefore, is this: If the Sphinx was made at that time, then where is the rest of this civilization, where is the rest of this culture?” That, of course, is exactly what West, Bauval, et al., want to find out. But the Egyptological establishment is putting up road blocks at every step. One suspects that Lehner and Hawass may be exhibiting the psychological reactions of “reformed” cult members, and may therefore be acting on the basis of motives that however understandable, nevertheless compromise their objectivity and obstruct new discoveries.
Meanwhile, Schoch is seeking to open a department for the search for lost civilizations at Boston University, and Gantenbrink has distanced himself from West in an effort to gain permission from the authorities to investigate the chamber he discovered in the Great Pyramid. One way or another, it seems that important news may be in store within the next few years.
Discoveries about vanished civilizations have a certain poignancy these days, as our own civilization goes about destroying itself through environmental ruin, overpopulation, and economic predation. Perhaps at this unique moment in time we have some important lesson to learn from our distant ancestors. Were their civilizations as power-driven, politically unstable, and ecologically unsustainable as ours? How sad and ironic it would be if we were to attain the sophistication finally to open long-dormant time capsules from our counterparts in past millennia, and to decode their final warnings – or merely their note-in-a-bottle messages that “We were here!” – just as our own civilization succumbs to a catastrophe of its own making. Or is it possible that their legacy will consist of the realization of the inevitability of terrestrial cataclysms beyond human control? These lines of thought may be somewhat depressing, but they help us see the problems and achievements of our era from a larger perspective. One wonders: What will we leave behind for archeologists ten thousand years from now?
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RICHARD HEINBERG is the author of Memories and Visions of Paradise: Exploring the Universal Myth of a Lost Golden Age (Quest Books: 1995), Celebrate the Solstice: Honoring the Earth’s Seasonal Rhythms Through Festival and Ceremony (Quest Books: 1994), and A New Covenant With Nature. The above article originally appeared in his Museletter.
The above article appeared in New Dawn No. 38 (Sept-Oct 1996).
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