Author of the Month

Mysterious Ancient America
Paul Devereux

Published by Vega (Chrysalis Books), London, October, 2002.
Softcover; 174 pp; colour plates; line drawings; index; notes and references.
£12.99/ US$14.95 / CAN$22.95. (Published by Sterling Publishers, NY, in USA.)

This book is sub-titled “An investigation into the enigmas of America’s pre-history” and aims to be the most up-to-date and comprehensive single-source publication on its subject area. It is divided into three sections: “Mysterious Origins – Who Are the American Indians?”, “Lost Civilizations – Ancient America’s Mystifying Legacy”, and “Supernatural Ancient America – The Inner World of the New World”. Although it uses only valid, authentic research and does not invent false mysteries, the book reveals that there are many genuine enigmas concerning the ancient Americas. 

The first part collects together all the very latest genetic, skeletal, archaeological and other information in an attempt to identify where the American Indians came from. It also surveys the vexed questions about the dating of archaeological sites throughout the Americas. While this part of the book dispenses with phoney histories – such as the “Lost Tribes of Israel” or Atlanteans peopling America – it also dispenses with some supposed scientific theories, such as that the first migrants to the Americas crossed the Bering Strait 13,000 years ago. It is revealed that genuine cases of human occupation in the Americas have in fact being unearthed that go back at least 30,000 years, and possibly much further, and the book chronicles all the arguments and the angst this is causing amongst scholars. Further, only two of the skeletons dating back 8000 years or more found anywhere in the Americas seem to be ancestral to the present-day American Indians. So who were the others, and where did they come from? The book succinctly explores skeletal, DNA, linguistic, mythic and other evidence that indicates that the Americas were subject to many migrations, that across the Bering Straits being only among the more recent, with people coming from across both the Atlantic and the Pacific oceans, from as long ago as the European Stone Age.

Part Two explores the lost civilizations of the Americas, starting with the city of Caral in Peru: this recently uncovered site is the oldest American city yet found, dating back about 5,000 years. And guess what? Pyramids and other great architectural features are found there, in full flowering. So there must be older cities in the Americas still waiting to be discovered As this section of the book’s review of the rise and fall of ancient American civilizations continues, we learn about ancient astronomy, weird rites, strange earthworks, and so forth. For instance, the mysterious Olmec people of prehistoric Mexico, famous for the giant carved stone heads they left behind, are shown to have had Asian-like characteristics, to have used language glyphs very similar to those of Shang Dynasty (1750 – 1050 B.C.) China, to have used magnets and lenses, and to have apparently worshipped embryos and still-born babies. This second section of the book also contains a chapter dealing with a variety of “riddles and relics”. These range from the strange chambered mounds of New England, still not fully explained, to rocks carved with supposed ogham inscriptions – these are shown to be highly suspect.

The third and final part of the book looks at the shamanism, sorcery, witchcraft and religion of prehistoric American peoples. There is a treasury of little-known material here, some of it never published in book form previously, if at all. Such as the widespread tradition throughout the Americas of treating certain mountains not only as holy, but as being actual conscious entities -- we learn of human sacrifices on high peaks in the Andes and hear the personal account of one old Indian “doctor” from Arizona, who was a hundred years old by the beginning of the twentieth century and who had the mountain in his home territory appear and speak to him in dreams, guiding his life. We learn of shamans who flew in spirit along invisible threads that connected sacred peaks in Southwest USA. We visit strange landscapes emblazoned with giant markings – don’t think the Nazca lines are the only example, for that is far from the truth – and learn what their various meanings are (forget modern mechanistic notions about landing strips for ancient spacecraft: this book honours the true history of the American Indian and locates the meaning of the ground markings in the inner space of the Indian mind, not the outer space of our fantasies). There are sites pictured in this book the reader will have never seen before. 

In the process of untangling all these deep mysteries, the book makes it clear that we can forget claims about some exotic lost super-civilisation of the distant past, whether Atlantean, Extra-Terrestrial, or other: the human story is clear, it is written in our DNA. Modern human beings emerged out of Africa several tens of thousands of years ago, paused in central Asia, then dispersed to all the compass points. Of course, individual civilizations will have come and gone, and we almost certainly do not know about them all, but we should no longer hold onto fantasies about some original super-civilization that spawned all that followed. It is time to reclaim our true human heritage from the fantasies. And that is what Mysterious Ancient America tries to do with regard to the mysteries of the New World.

Paul Devereux

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