MAGICIANS OF THE GODS: THE FORGOTTEN WISDOM OF EARTH’S LOST CIVILIZATION
By Graham Hancock
Thomas Dunne Books/St. Martin’s Press, $27.99, 528 pages
Graham Hancock, a longtime British journalist, has written for respected publications such as the Times, the Guardian and the Economist. Alas, what he’s most known for isn’t well respected: a link to the highly questionable science of pseudoarchaeology.
Mr. Hancock has written controversial books such as “Fingerprints of the Gods: The Evidence of Earth’s Lost Civilization” (1995) and “Underworld: The Mysterious Origins of Civilization” (2002), which attempt to prove that other societies have existed on Earth. He appeared on the infamous 1996 NBC television special, “The Mysterious Origins of Man,” hosted by Charlton Heston, which challenged scientific and archaeological principles to argue that man had actually existed for tens of millions of years. He even believes that a comet will hit the Earth in about 20 years and destroy civilization.
In his new book, “Magicians of the Gods: The Forgotten Wisdom of Earth’s Lost Civilization,” Mr. Hancock tries to show “beyond a reasonable doubt that an advanced civilization that flourished during the Ice Age was destroyed in the global cataclysms between 12,800 and 11,600 years ago.”
Umm, say what?
No, I’m not kidding about this. Mr. Hancock is of the view that mainstream archaeologists, who believe our ancestors “were primitive hunter-gatherers, ignorant of agriculture and incapable of any architectural feats bigger than wigwams and bivouacs” before the last Ice Age, are mistaken in their assumptions. In this long, strange and exceedingly convoluted book, the author discusses his theories about ancient societies in the world that we have (ahem) plumb forgot over time.
For example, he writes about the ruins of Gobekli Tepe, located in the Urfa province of Turkey. The late German archaeologist Klaus Schmidt worked on this site until his death in 2014.
According to Mr. Hancock, he was welcomed by Schmidt — which is apparently a rarity, since he’s “used to archaeologists making the sign of the evil eye and turning their backs on me.” The author described some of the conversations he supposedly had with him, including Schmidt’s hypothesis that Gobekli Tepe was a “necropolis,” and the people who came here may have “invented agriculture.” He also points to the unique architecture with an ancient pillar that seems to have a “weird row of bags, with their curved handles.” (They look more like pails to me, but I digress.)
Very little of Gobekli Tepe has been unveiled to date. Maybe there will be interesting discoveries that change the course of human history in years to come. For now, it’s just a lot of wild speculation with a huge lack of proof.
The same goes with Gunung Padang, a megalithic site in Indonesia. There has been some extraordinary carbon dating found there, to be sure, and a pyramid made with “huge basaltic rocks … is laid out in a form never found in nature.” According to senior geologist Danny Natawidjaja, there are “potentially revolutionary implications for our understanding of history” at Gunung Padang, “and I think it’s vital that we be allowed to investigate them properly.”
Again, that’s all well and good. There’s no harm in digging at this site to see if unique things were built in different eras, either. But to assume that it’s a piece of a much bigger plan, so to speak, is completely baseless and without merit.
This doesn’t stop Mr. Hancock, however. He writes about the implausible theory of Atlantis in Egypt, or Island of the Ka, and how mainstream thinkers “dismiss Plato’s ‘outlandish’ story” of this mythical water world “by any and every possible means.” The controversial books of Thoth make an appearance, as well as the author’s trip to Baalbek (once known as Heliopolis) so that he can learn more about “the weird connection that I’ve found linking Giza with ancient Canaan, and with the ancient Semitic people known in the Bible as the Canaanites.”
Oh, and let’s not forget the comet.
Mr. Hancock appears to subscribe to the belief that a massive comet caused the last Ice Age. Naturally, the “evidence … is so new” and the “impact hypothesis is still disputed.” (Do you notice a common theme in this book?) Regardless, a few possible craters — three in Canada, one in the United States — are revealed, as well as some “radical thinking” (in Mr. Hancock’s words) and continual dissent by “highly credentialed scientists.”
Obviously, I don’t believe in Mr. Hancock’s creative fairytale about so-called magicians of the gods who kept the memories alive of ancient, advanced societies. But if a little magic is your cup of tea, this phantasmagorical book will do the trick.
• Michael Taube is a contributor to The Washington Times.