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From Fingerprints of the Gods to Underworld

An Essay on Methods
By Graham Hancock

The central claim of my 1995 book Fingerprints of the Gods is not that there was but that there could have been a lost civilisation, which flourished and was destroyed in remote antiquity. And I wrote the book, quite deliberately, not as a work of science but as a work of advocacy. I felt that the possibility of a lost civilisation had not been adequately explored or tested by mainstream scholarship. I set myself the task of rehabilitating it by gathering together, and passionately championing, all the best evidence and arguments in its favour.

In the early 1990's when I was researching Fingerprints there were a number of new ideas in the air that seemed to me to have an important bearing on the lost civilisation debate. These included Robert Bauval's Orion correlation, Rand and Rose Flem-Ath's work on Antarctica and earth-crust displacement, and the geological case presented by John Anthony West and Robert Schoch that the Great Sphinx of Giza might be much older than had hitherto been thought.

At the same time I was aware of a huge reservoir of popular literature, going back more than a century to the time of Ignatius Donnelly, in which the case for a lost civilisation had been put again and again, in many different ways and from many different angles. I knew that not a single word of this vast literature had ever been accepted by mainstream scholars who remained steadfast in their view that the history of civilisation is known and includes no significant forgotten episodes.

But, I thought, what if the scholars have got it wrong?

What if we've forgotten something important in our story?

What if we are a species with amnesia?

After all, scientists are now pretty sure that anatomically modern humans, just like us, have been around for at least the last 120,000 years.

Yet our "history" begins 5000 years ago with the first cities and the first written records. And the prehistory of this process has presently only been traced back (often quite tentatively) to the end of the last Ice Age around 10,000 years ago when it's thought that mankind began to make the transition from hunter-gathering to food production.

So what were we doing during the previous 110,000 years?

And isn't it odd that we only really remember the last 5000 well and have to "reconstruct" our picture of everything that went before from extremely scanty remains that have accidentally survived the passage of time?

So I decided that I would re-examine the popular literature on Atlantis and other lost civilisations, including the work of writers like Erich von Daniken and Zecharia Sitchen, to see whether there was anything in it that might strengthen the new synthesis I had in mind.

I also made a clear decision at the outset that it was not my job to present an "objective" or "balanced" case for a lost civilisation by giving deference to orthodox views on the matter. Rather I saw my role as doing the best that I possibly could to present a persuasive counter-case to the orthodox position and to undermine the largely unquestioned support and acceptance habitually given to the mainstream version of the past. In the late 1980's when the idea of Fingerprints first began to take shape in my mind, orthodox history and archaeology enjoyed absolute intellectual dominance over the unorthodox, "alternative" camp. Reasonable people who even speculated vaguely that the Great Pyramids of Giza might have been more than tombs and tombs only were branded as "pyramidiots", anyone with an interest in Atlantis was automatically assumed to belong to the lunatic-fringe, and in general the notion of a lost civilisation was rapidly on its way to becoming the non-issue of the twentieth century, good only for popular entertainment but of no serious weight.

I felt that the only way to confront this mindset was to write a passionate one-sided book -- and this is exactly what I set out to do with Fingerprints of the Gods.

I sought out what I thought was most provocative and intriguing in the popular literature from Donnelly to von Daniken, and in the exciting new ideas of Bauval, the Flem-Aths, West and Schoch. I also looked for any and every weapon I could find in mainstream historical and archaeological research that I might be able to turn against the orthodox view of the past. At the same time I spread my limited funds as widely as I could, engaging myself at first hand in the mysteries of some of the most intriguing and spectacular ancient sites around the world -- amongst them the Pyramids and the Sphinx of Egypt, the Nazca Lines of Peru, the megalithic city of Tiahuanaco in Bolivia, and the Pyramids of the Sun and the Moon at Teotihuacan in Mexico. In each place I built my own synthesis upon a superstructure that others had already erected, trying to bring together disparate evidence and observations with the objective of reinvigorating the lost civilisation idea from the doldrums into which it had fallen.

I think I succeeded in this objective. As increasing numbers of university lecturers in disciplines like archaeology and ancient history will tell you, part of their job now is to "debunk Hancock" to credulous students -- in other words, those students who are foolish enough to suspect, as I do, that there really could have been a lost civilisation.

I know of three books that have been written rubbishing my work, an official "debunking" website has been founded with the same purpose, and I recently had the privilege, alongside my friend Robert Bauval (author of The Orion Mystery), of finding myself the subject of an entire episode of BBC2's prestigious science series Horizon.

The thrust of Horizon's argument was that the idea of any kind of great lost civilisation of prehistory is nothing more than "preposterous", "misleading", "insidious" "garbage". "You could summarise it by saying a load of codswallop" proclaimed Colin Renfrew, Professor of Archaeology at the University of Cambridge. The programme portrayed me essentially as a charlatan, or as a fool, or perhaps as a bit of both. No merit whatsoever was found in anything I have ever written. My ideas were dismissed as valueless and I was accused of presenting evidence selectively in order to bias the reader in favour of the lost civilisation hypothesis.

Thus the very method that I had chosen to restore balance to an extremely one-sided debate -- by writing a book that one-sidedly champions and advocates the neglected possibility of a lost civilisation -- was now being cited as a fundamental critique of my work.

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