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Dusting for Fingerprints II

In the second part of our look at Graham Hancock, we examine his views on Egypt and Cambodia and hear from the author in his own words as he defends himself against critics.

> Read more about this topic in THE CULT OF ALIEN GODS

Great Sphinx at Giza

V: When the Stars Are Right: Egypt and Angkor

The centerpiece of Fingerprints and its sequels Mystery of the Sphinx (1997) and Heaven's Mirror (1998) stands guard over the pyramid complex at Giza, positioned exactly on the border of the ancient Two Kingdoms of Egypt. For centuries the Great Sphinx stood guard over Giza, which the ancients knew as Rosteau. The head of this statue has long puzzled archaeologists because it seems out of proportion with the rest of the creature's body. Simply put, it is too small.

Building on an actual theory that the head had been recarved at a later date, Hancock makes a baseless assumption that the Sphinx was once a full lion with the head of the animal to match the body. No document or evidence confirms this; in fact the theory was first put forward during a 1993 NBC special which claimed Atlantean origins for the statue. However, this assumption is vital for Hancock's theory to work.

Hancock uses the work of maverick amateur archaeologist and tour guide John Anthony West to bolster his claims of ancient civilization. West did extensive work on the statue, measuring and photographing all of the weathering on the body of the lion and the walls of the "Sphinx enclosure" surrounding it. His conclusions were mind-blowing.

West concluded that the weathering occurred by falling water, not blowing wind. This meant that extensive rainfall must have weathered the statue before the desert sands had buried it. Since the last Egyptian rainfall of that magnitude was over 7,000 years ago, this meant that history as we know it needed an overhaul.

Egyptologists quickly reacted with outrage and anger. They concluded that there was no evidence for an older Sphinx and returned the statue to its comfortable place safely stowed away in the reign of the pharaoh Khafre. Unfortunately, a team of geologists led by Dr. Robert Schoch of Boston University reached the same conclusions, and a number of prominent geologists agreed.

Egyptology fired back with a theory that the Sphinx was weathered by "salt crystal exfoliation" where Nile salts were sucked into the sand-covered Sphinx enclosure and performed a leeching of the limestone walls. Geologist August Matthusen sums up the criticisms of Schoch:

Schoch's ideas ignore several things. "Precipitation-induced weathering" versus "wind-induced weathering" producing different weathering morphologies is not an accepted idea, rather variations in the rock usually account for the different weathering morphologies.

Matthusen claims that different densities of the layers of Giza limestone account for the weathering pattern. However, neither side has absolute proof, and the water-weathering is a seductive hypothesis, much simpler to understand and agree with than an obscure "hydrostatic exfoliation." While the burden of proof falls on West to prove the antiquity of the Sphinx, the exfoliation reaction sounds like the last gasp of Ptolemaic theory adding epicycles upon epicycles to compete with the simpler heliocentric universe. Obviously, this question requires extensive research before either answer can be accepted as fact.

Though by the time this argument came to a boil, Hancock had arrived fresh from his success with The Sign and the Seal. While researching the controversy, Hancock met former surveyor and amateur archaeologist Robert Bauval, and history changed again.

Bauval became famous at about the time of the Sphinx controversy because of his book The Orion Mystery, co-authored by Adrian Gilbert who in turn wrote The Mayan Prophesies predicting the end of time itself on December 23, 2012, the last day of the Mayan calendar. Building upon the Erich von Däniken-inspired Robert Temple's The Sirius Mystery, a search for ancient alien-Egyptian astronomers, Bauval sought to apply Temple's lessons to Egypt and arrived at yet another stunning conclusion. The pyramid complex at Giza, including the Great Pyramid, was a map of the constellation of Orion as it appeared over Egypt in 10,500 B.C.

Hancock and Bauval then teamed up to become co-authors of Mystery of the Sphinx where they elaborated Bauval's theory, showing a correlation between the three Giza pyramids and the three belt stars of Orion. To explain a discrepancy between their position at the time of construction in 2500 B.C. and the position of the stars, the two authors were obliged to rotate the sky backwards through the slow changes in position wrought by the precession of the equinoxes to find a match.

Now it gets even more confusing.

Precession is the wobble-effect of the earth's axis which makes the stars move one degree every 72 years, or one complete cycle every 25,920 years. (The actual figure is one degree every 71.6 years, so all numbers are approximate.) As a result, astrologically the sun rises on the spring equinox against a new constellation every 2160 years. Today that constellation is about to be Aquarius, in Roman times it was Pisces. Before that Aries and Taurus. This constellation is considered the "ruling" constellation, with the solsticial and equinoctial constellations forming the "four corners" of the astrological "earth."

Anyway, Hancock and Bauval turned the cosmic clock backwards to align the pyramids with Orion c. 10,500 B.C., which they claim was the date of the lost civilization's entry into Egypt. That time falls within the astrological "Age of Leo," and lo and behold: we have a giant lion, the Sphinx, dating from that same time! What's more, on the equinox of 10,500 B.C., the Sphinx would have stared eastward at its own celestial image while the pyramids reflected the setting of Orion and the Nile mirrored the Milky Way. A very neat and seductive hypothesis.

But, like any new theory, there are many problems. First, there is no evidence that the ancient Egyptians had any constellation called Leo. In fact, the only constellations we know they shared with the modern zodiac were Orion and Draco. Other correlations are unproven. Even if it were true, there is no clear evidence that the Sphinx represented Leo or a lion at all. Robert Temple, for instance, thought the Sphinx resembled a dog more than a lion, since the dog-god Anubis guarded most sacred spaces.

Also, there is no hard evidence that the Egyptians knew about the Precession of the Equinoxes, let alone had the ability to calculate it to fix pyramid positions.

However, Giorgio de Santillana and Hertha von Dechend wrote an elaborate and dense study of ancient myth called Hamlet's Mill where they chronicle the use of numbers derived from the precessional figures (i.e. 72, 144, 216, 432 etc.) in ancient mythology, like the 72 conspirators who killed Osiris or the 432,000 warriors of Valhalla. They discovered that most ancient myths carried what they considered to be antediluvian star knowledge. Their study, written a decade before Chariots of the Gods brought aliens into the equation, concluded that ancient man had advanced knowledge of the stars from generations of observation, but it stopped short of claiming proof for any advanced civilization to account for the knowledge.

This puts the researcher in a bad position. Hamlet's Mill was a powerful and convincing study of prehistoric knowledge, but how does it apply to the structures ancient man created? The answer was once again, we don't know. But Hancock tried to find out.

Hancock's research assistant brought something interesting to Hancock's attention in the summer of 1997. While running a check on the temple layouts at Angkor Wat, the 12th century Hindu and Buddhist temple complex in Cambodia, the assistant discovered that the main dozen of the 72 temples of Angkor corresponded roughly to the constellation of Draco as it appeared in 10,500 B.C. A look at the "correlation" at first appears to be amazing because the temples align so perfectly. (see Heaven's Mirror). But upon further inspection the industrious researcher discovers that the correlation is achieved by ignoring the majority of the temples. Hancock justifies this by claiming that only the largest and oldest of the temples deserve to be counted, since the others were built later by people unfamiliar with the master plan handed down from antiquity.

But even without the faulty veneer of a 12,000 year old civilization, the pyramids of Giza do seem to line up with Orion and the oldest temples of Angkor seem to bear an uncanny resemblance to Draco. While there is no proof that Angkor had anything to do with Egypt, somehow it seems too much of a stretch that these buildings would line up by coincidence. Of the two, the Orion correlation is the stronger. While still controversial, it has been published in reputable, but not peer-reviewed, journals like Discussions in Egyptology and is slowly gaining acceptance because Egypt abounds with Orion mythology that makes the positioning of the pyramids almost inevitably tied to Orion, identified with the death-god Osiris.

VI: Risen Pharaohs and British Television: Backlash

The BBC's flagship science program Horizon sought to demolish Hancock's theory much the same way another BBC program built up Bauval a half-decade earlier. The show picked apart the lost-civilization hypothesis point by point, but then it too made a tragic and silly mistake. Astronomer Ed Krupp presented his opinion that for the Orion correlation to work, the pyramids would have to be flipped upside down. This is because the pyramids are arranged with the smallest and "uppermost" pyramid located at the southernmost point of Giza. The smallest and "uppermost" star of Orion is in the northern extreme of the belt.

Hancock was not allowed to present a rebuttal that the Egyptians saw south, not north, as up and therefore arranged their pyramids to face "up" the way Orion does. So, like any good post-modern individual, Hancock sued.

After months of adjudication, the verdict was in. From the Daily Telegraph of December 11, 2000:
The BBC has taken the unprecedented step of re-editing a television programme to show immediately after broadcasting a watchdog's attack on the original version.

The move follows a Broadcasting Standards Commission ruling that a Horizon documentary last year was unfair on an author.

It is the first time that the BBC has taken such action after a critical judgment since it began showing television programmes in 1936.

The journalist goes on to make several errors about both the BBC and Hancock, but the gist is correct.

Egyptology has also not been very kind to Hancock and his theories. The Director of Antiquities for the Egyptian government, Dr. Zawi Hawass dislikes these theories because they deny Egypt its cultural greatness. Dr. Hawass is not without his own problems. He has worked for years with Mark Lehrner, a former disciple of alleged psychic Edgar Cayce who instructed his followers to find the Hall of Records from Atlantis at Giza. Hawass and the government of Egypt have denied Hancock and other researchers the right to measure or investigate the pyramids and the Sphinx and has stopped any more conclusive dating of the monuments, providing ample fodder for conspiracy theorists. Hawass is acting out of self-interest because to preserve classic Egyptology's view of Egyptian greatness is to preserve that of his impovershed country. If Khufu did not start a pyramid dynasty, the modern nation of Egypt could not claim it as a true cultural legacy.

Yet Hancock, Bauval and others act on their own self-interest with a rather generous interpretation of facts. Solid proof would be the only way to change minds.

VII: Primordial Waters and Japanese Rocks: Underworld

For his millions of readers, Graham Hancock is a maverick standing alone against an oppressive establishment. His victory over the BBC solidified this view in the minds of his legions of devoted fans, and even skeptical readers voiced approval on his website's message boards. Buoyed by this success, Hancock sought to take on his toughest challenge: finally providing proof of his theories that science would accept. The problem is summarized by geologist August Matthusen:

"How did a civilization capable of carving a monolithic structure come into being, which vanished without any other trace? As many other people have pointed out: what happened to their pots and pot sherds, stoneworking tools, and evidence for their residences?"

Hancock is currently researching that answer in the only place no one has ever looked: the ocean. His theory is once again seductively simple: during the Ice Age, sea levels were lower, and since most people live on the coast, the remains of the lost civilization must lie under the ocean. Oddly enough, that same theory is now being used to rewrite the peopling of the Americas since new settlements have been found off the Canadian coast showing people did not walk to America, but sailed down the coast.

Hancock has just finished conducting dives around the world seeking out sunken cities and temples, hoping to find indisputable proof of a lost world. In February of 2000, Hancock sent out an e-mail saying he was

"collecting legends and traditions of the ancient Dravidian people of [India] - legends that speak of lost lands now covered by ocean. These legends seem to be confirmed by underwater discoveries at sites such as Poompuhur, including a mysterious U-shaped stone structure, three miles off the coast at a depth of more than 80 feet."

Three years before, Hancock reported on the discovery of another underwater monument, the Yonaguni megalith under the ocean off the southernmost island of Japan. This monument bears a striking resemblance to a terraced temple, and the archaeological community is, like always, divided on the issue. Many geologists, including ironically Robert Schoch, believe only natural processes created the formation. Other scientists, primarily Japanese, believe ancient man created it because of its regular features.

But so what? What difference does this rock make? Well, plenty since that area of the ocean was last above water around 7500 B.C., before Egypt began.

The debate over Yonaguni is far from over. The History Channel weighed in with its opinion that the formation is man-made because that opinion made for a great documentary linking the rocks to Plato's Atlantis. Schoch believes it natural to bolster his credentials as a debunker so others will accept his dating of the Sphinx. The Japanese believe it artificial to bolster their national pride as the cradle of civilization (a Japanese archaeologist just admitted to forging a stone-age site to bolster this claim). Hancock needs it to be artificial to confirm his theory. Missing from this debate is anyone acting as a disinterested researcher.

Assuming it is artificial, the first question any researcher must ask is who built it? Was there a civilization capable of this? Actually, there was. The Jomon culture could have done this without much problem, so while Yonaguni would be the grandest example of Paleolithic culture, it would not need a lost civilization. So either way, the monument's importance to the lost civilization hypothesis is secondary at best.

None of this is stopping Hancock from publishing a new book, Underworld, with Yonaguni as a centerpiece. In his own words, via the internet:

"A sincere objective of Underworld is not to repeat myself. This is one of the reasons why the main areas of study are India, Maldives, Japan, Sumer (ancient Iraq) and the Mediterranean. Japan is not just Yonaguni (although the world has so far only seen approximately one-tenth of what is there; the rest will feature in Underworld and the linked TV series) but also other intriguing underwater sites like Kerama, Chatan and Aguni, plus the whole mystery of the ancient Jomon culture of Japan (dating back to at least 16,500 years ago). Another objective, which is why I have gone in for this difficult and dangerous game of diving in places where leisure divers never go, is to provide my scientific critics with the hard evidence they say they want. Another objective is to set the academic theory of the origins of civilisation [o]n its head. I'm not putting any of this on the website at the moment but concentrating instead on researching and writing the book and shooting the TV [series]."

If Hancock can deliver on his promises and not just produce a slick TV series and another best-selling book, he stands a chance to shape the debate on ancient history in a way that von Däniken could only dream.

VIII: Motivations and Considerations: In His Own Words

After Hancock's success with five books of alternative history, the formerly financially-strapped reporter has seen the potential for a market willing and able to spend money to read about the enigmas of the past. In his words: "After years of debt and dicing with financial disaster I am proud to say that my books are now making money."

Hancock concedes that his purpose is not primarily to rewrite science, but to serve a market: "Whether my arguments are 100 percent right or 100 percent wrong, [his book sales figure] tells me that people must like to read me and must, by and large, feel that they get value for money' from doing so."

Perhaps the most damning argument against Hancock's methods can be made in his own words. Via the Internet, Hancock wrote that his book sales figure

"tells me what my job' is - the job, in other words that the public are funding me to do when they buy my books. This is to make the best case I possibly can for a lost civilization, to fight tooth and claw with historians, archaeologists and other historians [and] champion the intuition - which many of us share - that a great mystery may have been locked away in humanity's past."

Authorities often accuse Hancock of being selective with his evidence and using innuendo to "prove" his case. Comparing himself to a lawyer for his "client," the lost civilization, Hancock responds:

"Of course I'm selective! It isn't my job to show my client in a bad light. Another criticism is that I use innuendo to make my case. Of course I do - innuendo and anything else that works. I don't care about the rules of the game' here - because it isn't a game and there are no rules."

Hancock says he is glad that his books have reignited an old debate about the origins of civilization, and here Hancock has a point. Ever since Louis Henry Morgan proclaimed his stages of civilization more than one hundred years ago, it has been common knowledge that civilizations arise through barbarism from grades of savagery. Despite the fact that this model was tossed out with the arrival of relativism, it holds a powerful clamp over many archaeological minds. Civilization does not always flow in a linear direction, as evidenced by the Middle Ages, so old theories based on this model can and should be challenged.

"I'm proud," Hancock says, "that orthodox thinkers, who would prefer to have ignored us, have been compelled into a backlash."

Perhaps this is Hancock's greatest contribution to the ongoing debate over the origins of civilization, that he has provided a catalyst to force old theories to be revised before new evidence. The Hegelian diacletic requires opposing thought for intellectual advancement, so maybe Hancock's antithesis can create a new synthesis to finally help explain the enigmas current theories cannot. After all, revision is at the heart of the scientific method, so even if Hancock's work is not scientific, the very fact that he focuses attention on the weakest parts of the current paradigm must count for something.

Citing the fallacy of relying on authority and tradition, Hancock says that the errors he has made in the past should not detract from his and Bauval's theories:

"Does this mean that it would have been better if we hadn't begun to develop the theory in the first place? I don't think so. Does it mean we should have sat back and ignored the anomalies and puzzles that orthodox historians offer no satisfactory explanations for? Again, I don't think so."

IX: Scientism and Paradigm-Shifts: Conclusions

Hancock's work reflects an attitude many people share, that science is no longer a method for achieving knowledge but a system designed to prevent the masses from ever understanding the world around them. Hancock fights against what seems to outsiders to be an uncaring and unresponsive scientific community too set in its ways to see that theories are not facts and that assumptions are not realities. While much of Hancock's evidence is misrepresented, flawed or non-existent, there is a core that deserves further investigation even if nothing ever comes of it.

Hancock makes mistakes. Many of them. He also uses bad evidence and evidence too sketchy and too speculative to be taken seriously. However, at the end of the day, when all the elaborate innuendo is stripped away and all the dead wood removed, there are still questions about man's past too important to be ignored. There are genuine anomalies still unexplained, and the scientific community is not innocent in this. If Hancock's sin is being too eager to accept a lost civilization, scientists err in too quickly rejecting anomalies that threaten the dominant paradigm.

In a Greek museum there is a complex series of dials and gears that form a perfect and complex computer for calculating star positions. It is a fact, yet history refuses to acknowledge this, claiming that the computer is "unique." It defies reason to believe that the only ancient computer in history would end up in the bottom of the ocean. Logic dictates that there must be others. Hancock says:

"I believe the time has come to ask serious questions about the almost pathological eagerness of intellectuals to disparage any intelligent interest in the unexplained puzzles of the past as 'mystery fever' and to persuade us that any opposition to the dominant historical paradigm must be the work of 'archaeological dreamers.'"

As far as that goes, he is right. Even if all of his answers are wrong, Hancock's questions deserve to be asked. Science not only tolerates but demands challenges to paradigms in order to produce an ever-clearer picture of the world. The same should apply to history, and even when a theory is wrong, investigating it can never do harm so long as the investigations are scientific. The worst that could happen would be a paradigm shift.

After all of his work, Hancock still does not consider himself a scientist. His old journalistic instincts have not died. The thrill of finding a good story still inspires him to go to work each day and fight the good fight.

"I still believe that my primary role in all of this is as a reporter and synthesizer," he said.

Like any good investigative reporter, for Hancock the story is never finished. There is always one more story left to tell. Be sure to look for it in bookstores everywhere.


I: Hancock's Books

Hancock, Graham. Fingerprints of the Gods. New York. Crown: 1995.

-----------------------. Heaven's Mirror. New York. Crown: 1998.

----------------------- et al. The Mars Mystery. New York: Crown. 1998.

----------------------- and Robert Bauval. The Message of the Sphinx. New York. Crown: 1997.

-----------------------. The Sign and the Seal. New York. Crown: 1992.

II: Other Sources

Bauval, Robert and Adrian Gilbert. The Orion Mystery. New York. Three Rivers Press: 1995.

Däniken, Erich von. Chariots of the Gods? New York. Putnam: 1970. postings and message board writings.

Heinrich, Paul. "The Wild Side of Geoarchaeology Page"

Highfield, Roger. "BBC Reedits Horizon After Watchdog's Attack." The Daily Telegraph (London). 11 December 2001.

Orser, Charles E. "The 15,000-Year Mistake." Discovering Archaeology. 31 January 2001.

Pethokoukis, James. "So How Old Do I Look?" US News & World Report. 24 July 2000.

Robins, Jane. "Horizon Censured for Unfair Treatment." The Independent. 9 November 2000.

Santillana, Giorgio and Hertha von Dechend. Hamlet's Mill. Boston. Nonpareil Books: 1969.

Temple, Robert. The Sirius Mystery (revised). Rochester, Vermont. Destiny Books: 1998.

Yronwode, Catherine. "Notes on a Lecture by Graham Hancock."

© 2001-2002 Jason Colavito. All rights reserved.