Underworld

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Who discovered the underwater ruins at Mahabalipuram? And who is claiming what?
Originally posted on the Message Board, 13 April 2002

(1) In another thread Martin Stower draws attention to the following commentary:

Mohapatra, G. P., and M. H. Prasad (1999) Shoreline changes and their impact on the archaeological structures at Mahabalipuram. Gondwana Geological Magazine. vol. 4' pp. 225-233

Reading this paper, person finds that they had proposed in print back in 1999 that underwater archaeological ruins lay offshore of the coast of Mahabalipuram. In this case, Hancock is wrong in stating ""But here in Mahabalipuram we have proved the myths right and the academics wrong.

In fact, he has proved the academics, in this case G. P. Mohapatra and M. H. Prasad were correct in hypothesizing that the remains of ancient ruins lay offshore of coast of Mahabalipuram.

(2) I was unaware of Mohapatara and Prasad’s work; had I known of it I would certainly have referred to it in Underworld. A propos of this, during the recent SES/NIO expedition to Mahabalipuram, Kamlesh Vora informed the team that the NIO too had previously thought of diving there to check out the local flood tradition. This was back in the 1980’s under the leadership of S.R. Rao (unfortunately now retired) -- a man with a great interest in India’s flood myths. Apparently, however, the water was too “muddy” when the NIO marine archaeologists arrived at Mahabalipuram and they decided not to dive. The project was never taken up again.

(3) There is no need for speculation about what exactly I’m claiming with regard to the Mahabalipuram underwater discoveries. My views are already on the record on this Message Board. Here are the two definitive passages:

6 April 2002

“Of course the real discoverers of this amazing and very extensive submerged site are the local fishermen of Mahabalipuram. My role was simply to take what they had to say seriously and to take the town's powerful and distinctive flood myths seriously. Since no diving had ever been done to investigate these neglected myths and sightings I decided that a proper expedition had to be mounted. To this end, about a year ago, I brought together my friends at the Scientific Exploration Society (SES) in Britain and the National Institute of Oceanography (NIO) in India and we embarked on the long process that has finally culminated in the discovery of a major and hitherto completely unknown submerged archaeological site.”

9 April 2002

“Despite a friendship with the NIO stretching back over two years I note that the NIO statement makes no mention of my instrumental role in bringing about these exciting discoveries off Mahabalipuram. I regret this oversight since there can be no doubt that I have earned the right to recognition in this discovery and that my input both in formulating the hypothesis of submerged ruins at Mahabalipuram, in putting that hypothesis forcefully before the public, and in the conception and implementation of an expedition to test that hypothesis, has been absolutely decisive.”

(4) It should be clear from the above that I do not claim to be “the” discoverer of these underwater ruins -- the existence of which has been known since time immemorial to the local fishermen. Nor do I even claim to be “the” theorist who first proposed the hypothesis that there might be ruins underwater offshore Mahabalipuram. As I report in Underworld, that “hypothesis” has been around in scholarly circles since at least the eighteenth century. I and several others have subsequently made input to the elaboration of this hypothesis and the NIO actually set out to test it in the 1980’s but in the end did not go diving. Thereafter the question of whether or not there were ruins underwater off Mahabalipuram lapsed into obscurity until Mohapatara and Prasad’s work on the one hand, and my own on the other. My path to understanding why the question was worth asking is described in Underworld. What I claim is to have been is the first person to have followed that path all the way through to its to its logical conclusion and to have been instrumental in the actual discovery of actual ruins – ruins that had been previously suspected but never proven to exist – underwater off Mahabalipuram.

From my post of 9 April 2002:

“It is in black and white on pages 119-122 and pages 258-261 of my book “Underworld” (published by Penguin 7 February 2002), and in my Channel 4 Television Series “Flooded Kingdoms of the Ice Age” (broadcast 11, 18 and 25 February 2002), that I have long regarded Mahabalipuram, because of its flood myths and fishermen's sightings as a very likely place in which discoveries of underwater structures could be made, and that I proposed that a diving expedition should be undertaken there.

“It is also absolutely a matter of record that it was I who subsequently took the initiative to bring together the Scientific Exploration Society (SES) and the NIO during 2001 so that the expedition could take place and that I expended considerable efforts putting the two groups in touch and nudging along their co-operation.

“I think you will find if you remove Graham Hancock from the equation that another 20 or many more years might have elapsed before the marine archaeology division of the NIO would have dived at Mahabalipuram.

“If you remove Graham Hancock from the equation, the SES and the NIO would not have been brought together and the SES would not even have been aware that there was a mystery to investigate at Mahabalipuram.

“In other words if you remove Graham Hancock from the equation it is a plain fact, and nothing more nor less than the truth, that neither the NIO nor the SES would have been diving at Mahabalipuram.

“The discoveries that we have made might have been made later, or never at all. Such questions are entirely hypothetical, however. The fact is that the discovery has been made now and that my research, initiatives and efforts were instrumental in bringing it about. In any kind of moral or decent universe, in which credit is given where credit is due, I believe that I deserve some recognition for this. I ask nothing more than that.”

(5) Credit is also due and should be given to all who have played a part in this discovery – including Santha, Monty Halls, all the individual members of the SES and NIO diving teams and the steadfast Tamil fishermen of Mahabalipuram who took us on board their little boats and straight out, with unerring accuracy, to each of the submerged sites. I have no idea whether the NIO is aware of Mohapatara and Prasad’s work or whether the latter are aware of the work of the NIO. But when I come to update Underworld later this year I will certainly make reference to it.

Graham Hancock


STOP PRESS!

The Times of India reports, on July 6th, 2002, that the Archaeological Survey of India’s Underwater Archaeology Wing (UAW), in dives undertaken by Alok Tripathi, explored the Mahabalipuram site as early as November 2001 and again in March 2002. It is hoped that more information regarding these earlier investigations will be forthcoming.

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Original posting on the Message Board can be found here.

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