In the first of a series of articles addressing the relationship between coastal flooding and the origins of agriculture, Christopher discusses the central problem of Underworld’s model of pre-historic cultural history and points out what may be a clue to its resolution.
Part 1: The Great Flood(s)
Graham Hancock, in his latest book, Underworld, proposes that a number (unknown) of sophisticated, urban civilizations disappeared at the close of the Ice Age. A catastrophic rise in global sea level at that time, according to Hancock, had fatal consequences for these maritime peoples, as the lands upon which they had chosen to settle were just those lands most susceptible to flooding. Thus, the disaster that eliminated their culture also destroyed all obvious trace of their existence.
As all of Hancock’s hypothesized Ice Age civilizations are alleged to have followed a similar settlement pattern -- with the exception of the Jomon culture of Japan (the pre-history of which, according to Hancock, is more complex) -- his detailed exposition of India’s pre-history exemplifies the model Hancock proposes for the globe. Thus, through the sub-continent, we can view the effect of ocean inundation activity on the planet in microcosm.
On pages 262-263 of Underworld, Hancock reproduces a series of maps that show the landmass of India over a breadth of 14,400 years. In eight quick steps, these “inundation maps” take us from the water’s low point, 21,300 years ago, to its present high point, which occurred 6900 years ago (these maps have been reproduced here as an animation). It is easy to sweep one’s eyes over these panels and imagine a time-lapse film revealing the deluge, washing up over the land.
From this series of stills however, it is immediately apparent just how relatively small a portion of the Indian land mass was affected by flooding. If the maritime character of Hancock’s model civilization sufficiently explains the absence of evidence in its favor, from inland areas, it is less useful in explaining why positive evidence is similarly lacking in those coastal regions remaining largely static during the key post-Ice Age period.
Aside from some minor incursion, nearly the whole of India’s eastern seaboard remains perfectly recognizable from the last glacial maximum (LGM) through to the present day. In fact, only the Indus valley and a narrow strip of land down the western coast of India suffers measurably from land loss. This certainly complicates matters for Hancock, for he must restrict his hypothesized Ice Age urbanites not to the coasts, but to specific coasts – and Hancock must do this all over the globe if his thesis is to (excuse the pun) hold water.
As Hancock himself states the problem on page 155,
Even in the unlikely event that a culture that was a little out of the ordinary had existed at that time [8,000 to 11,000 BP]…why should it have chosen to concentrate itself in the very part of India that would suffer the most extensive post-glacial inundations – when there were so many other parts of India to choose from?
Hancock simply cannot explain why these ancient urban cultures were so unfortunate as to have settled exclusively in areas fated for inundation at the end of the Ice Age. To his credit, Hancock admits this poses a problem for his scenario. Perhaps in an effort to avoid embroiling himself in defending inadequate solutions, he (wisely) avoids giving any at all. Hancock merely begs the reader’s indulgence and puts forth a model for cultural development that, though substantiated by some measure of evidence, relies on “bad luck” as its basis.
At the risk of proposing just such an inadequate solution, I suggest that Hancock’s own data reveals a more plausible and significantly more substantial agent for this scenario than “bad luck.”
Hancock assumes the reason archeologists find no evidence for his antediluvians on dry land is because no evidence is there for archeologists to find. If this assumption is safe (and I think it is), the only certain, common characteristic of Hancock’s antediluvian civilizations is that their peoples chose to settle exclusively on lands fated for post Ice Age inundation.
Might there then be something unique about these areas that could facilitate or encourage cultures of this type: something, the absence of which, would have discouraged permanent settlement elsewhere?
The maps on pages 262-263 of Underworld may provide us with a clue.
The most apparent unique quality of the area in which our Ice Age ancestors are alleged to have settled is the one quality identified by Hancock himself: the land was flooded at the end of the Ice Age. However, unless the laws of cause and effect are to be reversed, future flooding could not possibly produce better living conditions in the past.
Or could it?
The Vedas of India tell us that the universe moves in cycles; where tomorrow’s cause is yesterday’s effect. Let us then follow their advice and examine the maps of pages 262-263 of Underworld again, but this time, reversing the flow of time.
Tracking our eyes backward across the eight panels, the time-lapse film reverses, taking with it the waters of the ocean and revealing dry land where once water had been (this reversed flow has been reproduced here as an animation). The film may be played in the mind several times and each time we see the reverse of nature’s destiny: ending each time, not with a flood, but with dry land.
There, quite possibly, is the explanation we seek: a single factor that can explain both the location and the eventual destruction of Hancock’s antediluvians.
The fact is, we need not appeal to metaphysical theosophy to wrap time in a circle, when science tells us just how cyclic nature has proven to be.
130,000 years ago, a great deluge washed over the entire globe at the end of an Ice Age. This was the birth of the “Eemian Interglacial Era,” a time not unlike our own “Holocene (presumably inter-glacial) Era.”
For 30,000 years, until 100,000 years ago, the earth basked in the sun’s warmth and the oceans swelled to even greater fullness than do our own (six or seven meters higher).
Then, suddenly, it all came to an end, as gigantic Ice Caps formed in the earth’s high arctic and swept down over the great continents, pushing our ancestors and the beasts with which they shared the planet into the close confines of the equatorial regions.
With the birth of the last great Ice Age, the floodwaters of the Eemian receded, leaving dry land where once there were great seas (see animation).
So it is that the one unique quality of the land that once would be flooded is that it once was flooded. As we shall see in subsequent sections, this one unique quality may well be the single factor to have both fostered early civilization and sealed its fate.