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Writing about Outrageous Hypotheses and Extraordinary Possibilities: A View from The Trenches

Archaeological dreamers?

Of course I believe that the same question applies to the wider mystery of prehistory. It is not inevitable that we must go on seeing our "Stone Age" predecessors as "primitives" or "savages". Nor is there any cause for us to assume that their spiritual and metaphysical thinking was in any way less "developed" than our own. One need only mention the poignant and eerie beauty of cave art around the world to demonstrate that powerful thinkers and inspired creative artists were at work in those times.

When I re-released the idea of a great lost civilisation into general circulation with the publication of Fingerprints of the Gods in 1995 the book was universally condemned by academics. In the years since then, however, I have seen -- at the very least -- a reaction to my ideas in scholarly circles. While the overall tone of hostility has never abated, it is a fact that more and more mainstream academics today are opening themselves, in one way or another, to the lost civilisation hypothesis. A recent example, well worth reading, is Richard Rudgley's Lost Civilisations of the Stone Age (Century, London, 1998) which calls for a complete rethink of almost all our basic attitudes towards palaeolithic man. Although Rudgley accuses me and Robert Bauval of having built "castles in the sands of Egypt" with our books, his own supposedly more sober approach provides masses of compelling evidence for a point we have long argued - namely that modern man is a creature with amnesia with extensive blank patches in his memory covering long periods of his past. The earliest-surviving written records that we have date back less than 5000 years. Of the time before that, and of what people thought then, we know nothing and can only guess.

What is at stake is our memory of at least the first 40,000 years of our species' existence (perhaps much longer) What is needed is a mood of willingness in society to investigate extraordinary possibilities -- even it is just on the off-chance that there may be something to them. We have enormous resources as a species. We can afford to do this! And what does it matter if we make a few mistakes along the way and even end up looking foolish on some occasions. 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."

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