Frank Joseph, New Dawn
As the former editor-in-chief (1993 to 2007) and ongoing writer for Ancient American - a US magazine examining Old World impact on the New World before 1492 - recently released materials regarding pre-Columbian possibilities often come my way. I was surprised, however, to find that Graham Hancock's latest tome, America Before, compares remarkably with Before Atlantis (2013), my own book, published six years earlier, in more than title.
Both works go into the Bering land-bridge Theory, megalithic alignments with the Cygnus constellation, Easter Island's moai, Gobekli Tepe, the discoveries of Albert Goodyear, Brazil's Stonehenge, the Meadowcroft Rock shelter, Neanderthals, the Clovis First Controversy, Pedra Furada, etc., etc. Other topics tackled in America Before - Ohio's Great Serpent Mound, North American earthworks, the Piasu Bird, Cahokia, et al. - were likewise described at length in my earlier releases: Discovering the Mysteries of Ancient America (2006), Atlantis and Other Lost Worlds (2008), Unearthing Ancient America (2009), Advanced Civilizations of Prehistoric America (2010), Lost Worlds of Ancient America (2012), Lost Colonies of Ancient America (2014), and Lost History of Ancient America (2016).
Independent research that arrives at common conclusions tends to validate disparate investigators at work in the same field. Of them all, Graham Hancock is certainly the best known, thanks to his early association with such prestigious periodicals as The Times, The Independent, The Economist, and The Guardian, which granted him access to major book publishers with international distribution, such as St. Martin's Press, publisher of his latest work. His Fingerprints of the Gods was a worldwide bestseller. At the time of its release in 1995, critics - even those sympathetic to the author's belief in ancient catastrophism - faulted him for merely reworking long-known if not well-publicised information. But they were forced to admit that Hancock acquainted millions of readers with otherwise neglected information about the deep past.
America Before is not unlike Fingerprints of the Gods in that it introduces an international audience to a version of antiquity not otherwise available in schools or mainstream publications. America Before also joins Before Atlantis in highlighting "a global cataclysm that occurred near the end of the Ice Age around twelve thousand eight hundred years ago. A disintegrating comet crossed the orbit of the Earth and bombarded our planet with a ‘swarm' of fragments." Familiar language to readers already familiar with The Destruction of Atlantis (2002) and its sequel. Survivors of Atlantis (2004) similarly tells how an abundance of physical proof for worldwide destruction left by comets during the Bronze Age was offered by scientists meeting at Fitzwilliam College in Cambridge, England.
In 1997 they presented undeniable evidence in the form of annual growth rings at Irish bogs and oak forests, ash-fall deposits from Greenland ice-cores, impact lines made by colossal waves along the shores of Morocco, abrupt lake level changes from Western Europe to South America, and small, glassy spherules that result specifically from cometary collisions subjecting rock to intense heat. Earth's periodic brushes with celestial upheaval belong to a pattern of astronomical interface with our planet that abruptly terminated the Ice Age, as described in America Before and earlier in Before Atlantis.
Buried in the floor of Lake Cuitzeo was a thin, dark layer containing unequivocal evidence for a large, cosmic body that struck central Mexico just when the Younger Dryas period opened with such violence. Virtually identical sediment strata dated to the same period have been previously located at numerous locations throughout North America, Greenland, and Western Europe. According to Science Daily, "The data suggest that a comet or asteroid - likely a large, previously fragmented body, greater than several hundred meters in diameter - entered the atmosphere at a relatively shallow angle. The heat at impact burned biomass, melted surface rocks, and caused major environmental disruption." The resulting crater became Lake Cuitzeo, measuring twelve and one-half miles across, with an average depth of ninety feet.
Dr James Kennett, professor of earth science at the University of California (Santa Barbara), told the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences: "These results are consistent with earlier reported discoveries throughout North America of abrupt ecosystem change, megafaunal extinction, and human cultural change and population reduction. These changes were large, abrupt and unprecedented, and had been recorded and identified by earlier investigators at a ‘time of crisis'. The timing of the impact coincided with the most extraordinary biotic and environmental changes over Mexico and Central America during the last approximately twenty thousand years, as recorded by others in several regional lake deposits."
Professor of earth science Dr James Kennett and other researchers postulate from the evidence that a fragmented comet slammed into the Earth close to 12,800 years ago, causing rapid climatic changes, megafaunal extinctions, sudden human population decrease and cultural shifts and widespread wildfires (biomass burning). They studied the impact spherules in 18 sites in nine countries on four continents for their study. (Graphic credit: YDB Research Group)
The floor of Lake Cuitzeo is rich in spherules formed when they collided with each other at high velocities during the whirling chaos of an extraterrestrial impact. They are joined by numerous specimens of lonsdaleite - an identifiable configuration nanodiamonds assume when they are pressured by large meteorite collisions - and aciniform soot, the acne-like appearance of dust residue resulting from the same cause. "These materials form only through cosmic impact," Kennett explained, not through volcanic or other natural terrestrial processes. In the entire geologic record, the only other known continental layer with abundant peaks in lonsdaleite, impact spherules and aciniform soot is in the sixty-five-million-year-old Cretaceous-Paleogene boundary layer that coincided with the extinction of the dinosaurs.
Evidence for Early Human Settlement
"Recent discoveries show that North America was first peopled at least one hundred thirty thousand years ago," according to Hancock, "many tens of thousands of years before human settlements were established in Europe and Asia." Homo sapiens-sapiens? Yes, but the European continent was actually settled one hundred seventy thousand years earlier by Neanderthals. In fact, the oldest evidence for proto-humans in Europe goes back 1.3 million years. "At least" is a bit of an understatement for human settlement in the New World, because Before Atlantis describes how prehistorian Juan Armena Camacho discovered lithic implements at Hueyatlaco, seventy miles south-east of Mexico City. According to US geologist Dr Virginia Steen-McIntyre, "radiometric dates using methods identical to those used in Africa to date the early sites there place Hueyatlaco's stone tools to slightly over a quarter of a million years ago."
Some thirty years prior to Camacho's find, a still older site came to light one mile north from the Oklahoma town of Frederick, at a ten-mile-long, half-mile-wide ridge. Ten to twenty-five feet beneath the surface of this gravel deposit occur dozens of well-crafted stone implements cemented in place in common strata with the bones of extinct animals firmly dated to seven hundred fifty thousand years ago. C.N. Gould, Director of the Oklahoma Geological Survey, reported: "There can be no doubt that the artifacts occur in the pit near the basal portion, on the same level as the fossil remains. An examination of the undisturbed face of the pit, immediately above the position of the finds, showed unbroken, nearly horizontal strata above it. As the case stands, it looks very much as though the artifacts are of the same antiquity as the fossil animals. At the same time, it would be well to reserve final judgment until we are certain that the artifacts are not secondary inclusions."
Since Gould released his report in 1929, subsequent investigations of the Holoman Pit, as it is locally known, repeatedly confirmed that the stone tools are not later inclusions but were indeed laid down at the same time the animal bones were stratified, three quarters of a million years ago. As recently as 2005, archaeologist Silvia Gonzalez of Liverpool's John Moore's University in England discovered a line of human footprints dating back forty thousand years ago near Puebla, in Mexico. Conventional scholars, convinced no human set foot in Middle America before twelve thousand years ago, sought to debunk the heretical period she assigned the evidence by dispatching a team of leading geologists led by Paul R. Renne, director of California's Berkeley Geochronology Center, to the site.
Once there, they took repeated argon testing to investigate the magnetic imprint of the foot-printed, magmatic rock, together with other state-of-the-art procedures. Renne announced their results in the scientific journal Nature, stating that the rock featuring the footprints was not forty thousand years old after all. It was, instead, 1.3 million years old.
During the early 20th century, archaeologist Carlos Ameghino (1865 to 1936) led teams of excavators along the Argentine coast south of Buenos Aires after detecting clues to an early habitation site at Miramar. By 1914, he discovered numerous stone tools cemented within Pliocene Era strata. As Silvia Gomez experienced in the following century, Ameghino's critics commissioned a group of professional geologists to debunk his assertion. Instead, they verified it, stating that the artefacts had been laid down between two million and three million years ago. Although their analysis was released by the prestigious Anales del Museo de Historica Natural de Buenos Aires, it has since been ignored by archaeologists in the outside world.
Australia-Amazon: An Unexpected Discovery
"Certain tribes of the Amazon jungle," states America Before's back cover blurb, "are closely related to Australian Aborigines. How did this extraordinary, unexpected, and extremely ancient DNA signal get to the Amazon?" This question elevates Hancock's new book with fresh discoveries that threaten to shake the scientific establishment to its core by opening an entirely new and revolutionary archaeological theatre of operations.
The vast Amazon region has long been dismissed by mainstream scholars as anciently under-populated and barren of all but the most backward, native cultures, hermetically sealed off by nature from the outside world. Hancock writes, "in September 2015, Pontus Skoglund, his senior colleague Professor David Reich of the Department of Genetics at Harvard Medical School, and other leading experts in the field, announced in the pages of Nature that they had found new evidence in South America, and specifically in the Amazon rainforest, that called for a rethink."
Researchers mapped similarities in genes, mutations and random pieces of DNA of Central and South American tribes with groups in other parts of the world including Australia. Warmer colours indicate the strongest affinities. Researcher Skoglund said "a statistically clear signal linking Native Americans in the Amazonian region of Brazil to present-day Australo-Melanesians and Andaman Islanders" was confirmed. (Graphic credit: Pontus Skoglund, Harvard Medical School)
He quotes Skoglund's "genome-wide data to show that some Amazonian Native Americans descend partly from a Native American founding population that carried ancestry more closely related to indigenous Australians, New Guineans and Andaman Islanders than to present-day Eurasians or Native Americans," and are, in Hancock's words, "more closely related to Melanesian Papuans and Australian Aborigines than to any other Native American population." "We spent a really long time trying to make this result go away," Skoglund explained, "but it just got stronger." In the end, "a statistically clear signal linking Native Americans in the Amazonian region of Brazil to present-day Australo-Melanesians and Andaman Islanders" was confirmed.
"We also know it has to be pre-Columbian," added Professor Eske Willerslev of Denmark's Center for GeoGenetics at the University of Copenhagen. Further studies by Willerslev and his colleagues "found Australian DNA already present in skeletal remains from Lagoa Santa, Brazil, dated to 10,400 years ago, and confirmed the suspicion of the researchers that the anomalous genetic signal must have reached South America in the Late Pleistocene - that is, near the end of the last Ice Age, [when] a group of people carrying Australo-Melanesian genes settled in what is now the Amazon jungle."
This is undoubtedly one of the most striking revelations ever made in the entire history of archaeology, as inexplicable as it is astounding. It does not mean that a few Australoid castaways accidentally washed ashore on Peruvian shores, then somehow traversed the formidable Andes Mountains and descended into Brazil's totally different, but no less forbidding jungle, where they cohabited with a few, indigenous individuals.
Rather, DNA evidence signifies a mass-migration of Australo-Melanesians to Amazonia, where they interbred with native peoples on such a broad scale some ten and a half centuries ago, the genetic imprint is still discernible. Their epic, 12,940-kilometre, trans-Pacific voyage to coastal Peru and subsequent 1,890-kilometre trek to Brazilian rain forest were successfully achieved at a time when Western European Man was struggling to survive the challenging Upper Paleolithic, or Late Stone Age. Australia's contemporaneous material culture was itself far too underdeveloped for undertaking anything even approaching an oceanic crossing of such magnitude, not only in terms of the extreme distances concerned, but especially regarding the large number of persons participating in the expedition, or expeditions.
The maritime technological requirements necessary for conducting an operation of transpacific scope alone rule out all possibilities for Australoid responsibility. Moreover, what conceivable motivation could have possessed them to attempt such a huge enterprise? Hancock wonders if a third party was involved - a different, unrelated, unknown, though far higher culture that, for reasons even more obscure, transported Australo-Melanesians to Amazonia.
Speculation like this begins to conjure ‘legendary' Lemuria, the pre-Polynesian civilisation that rose to ancient heights of technological greatness and imperialist domination of the Pacific realm, before succumbing to a natural catastrophe sufficiently powerful enough to shake the very foundations of the Earth itself. Hancock, however, shies away from any Lemurian connotations.
Ancient Amazonia Rises Out of the Cleared Forests
Even so, America Before's most valuable and original contribution to our deepening grasp of antiquity is its investigation of Amazonia, an area of the world hitherto neglected by conventional and alternative researchers alike. They traditionally laboured under the assumption that Brazil's rain forest was always far too environmentally hostile for civilisation to have taken root there. Hancock cites the academic view "that the Amazon could only have been inhabited for about 1,000 years, and then only by very small groups of hunter-gatherers, since the jungle was ‘resource poor'."
Among the very few archaeologists who personally challenged this dominant paradigm was Percy Harrison Fawcett. His disappearance in search of the lost city of Z during 1925 seemed to confirm consensus opinion that no such place could possibly exist in the Brazilian jungle, and America Before is remiss in failing to properly credit or even mention in passing the British Colonel, whose self-sacrificial, if percipient effort foreshadowed the very discoveries Hancock describes in Chapters 11 through 17.
Together with the two previous chapters detailing Amazonia's genetic connection with Ice Age Australia, they combine to represent the book's highest worth. Nowhere else may readers learn more about the Amazon Basin's otherwise unknown archaeological wealth.
He tells how the first modern Europeans travelling the Amazon River from Ecuador to its estuary on the Atlantic coast of Brazil saw "great cities" that "glistened in white" (suggesting limestone construction, like that favoured by Maya construction engineers) during their 7,000-kilometre, seventeen-month journey. Some of these urban centres were "more than twenty kilometres from end to end, roughly the length of Manhattan... enormous expanses were given over to productive agriculture, and there were signs everywhere of large and well-organised political and economic systems linked to centralised states that were capable of fielding disciplined armies thousands strong."
Hancock quotes the mid-16th century expedition's Spanish chronicler, Dominican friar Gaspar de Carvajal, concerning an abandoned, native "villa, in which were a great deal of porcelain ware of various makes, both jars and pitchers, very large, with a capacity of more than twenty-five arrobas [one hundred gallons] and other small pieces such as plates and bowls and candelabra of this porcelain of the best that has ever been seen in the world, for that of Malaga [Spain's centre for pottery production] is not its equal, because this porcelain which we found is all glazed and embellished with all colours, and so bright, that these colours astonish, and, more than this, the drawings and paintings which they make on them are so accurately worked out that one wonders how with only natural skill they manufacture and decorate all these things making them look just like Roman articles." Native porcelain of such high quality does not appear in Brazilian archaeology.
The largest native city Carvajal and his companions saw was greater than twenty kilometres in extent, with a population of twenty thousand or more residents. Their chieftain, Machiparo, also ruled over "many settlements and very large ones, which together contribute for fighting purposes fifty thousand men..."
Two, subsequent expeditions, twenty years later and 1637-38, respectively, supported Carvajal's report. Hancock quotes UCLA Professor David Wilkinson, "an authority on long-term and large-scale phenomena in world politics [who] has made a special study of the level of civilisation in the Amazon prior to European contact." Based on a late 17th-century report that one of Brazil's native cities could field 60,000 warriors, Wilkinson found "comparative-civilisational standards have implied an urban population of 300,000 to 360,000."
He goes on to describe "more than 30 epidemics - smallpox, measles, and other outbreaks - some on a massive scale - in 16th-18th century South America." With fatal consequences in the upper ninety percentile, the Amazonian metropolitan areas literally died out though depopulation. "Once left deserted," Hancock explains, "the great cities and monuments and other public works of any hypothetical Amazonian civilisation would quickly have been encroached upon and soon completely hidden by the jungle..." They only began re-emerging in 1977, "when giant, geometrical earthworks were discovered in the Rio Branco area of the Brazilian state of Acre, in the southwestern Amazon."
It was the first of many related sites that have since come to light, including a pair of perfect squares - 200 metres and 100 metres wide - connected by a 20-metre-wide, 100-metre-long causeway. Archaeologists estimate "that as many as 1,500 geoglyphs might ultimately be found." Severino Calazans, the largest Amazonian structure of its kind so far surveyed, "defined by an enclosure ditch twelve metres wide, measures 920 metres." This particular location and other, outsized designs "have since been revealed by mass clearing of the forest for the cattle industry, thus becoming visible, especially from the sky, over the past 30 years. Indeed, the enormous size of the geoglyphs makes it easier to distinguish their shape and configuration from an aerial perspective, than at ground level..."
Groups are composed chiefly of circles, ellipses and rectangles, suggesting possible celestial orientations. Hancock writes that "because they offer an unobstructed view of the horizon, such locations are also very often what ancient astronomers looked for when they set out monuments on the ground - aligned, say, to the June solstice sunset or to the March equinox sunrise. Without a full-scale archaeo-astronomical survey of the Amazonian geoglyphs," however, their suspected celestial significance remains unproven.
Their resemblance to Old World Stone Age sites nevertheless inspires provocative comparisons. Hancock tells how "the square enclosure ditch at Severino Calazans shares the ground plan, base diameter and cardinality [orientation to the Four Cardinal Directions] of the Great Pyramid of Egypt. That epoch, moreover, around 2500 BC, coincides and overlaps with the megalithic epoch in Europe, so another curiosity is the way that the circular geoglyphs of Amazonia resemble henges - the circular embankments with deep, internal ditches that surround the great, stone circles of the British Isles. The scale is very similar and the resemblance is so obvious that even the most sober archaeologists, usually wary of cross-cultural comparisons, are willing to remark upon it."
Whatever critics may make of America Before, they cannot deny that its unique discussion of the lost civilisation of the Amazon, plus revelations concerning the mind-boggling heritage of its present-day descendants from 9th millennium BCE Australia, opens new vistas of antiquity, as trailblazing, as they are intriguing.
About the Author
Frank Joseph has published more books (eight) about the lost civilisation of Atlantis than any other writer in history. These and his twenty other titles dealing with archaeology, military history and metaphysics have been released in thirty-seven foreign editions around the world. He was the editor-in-chief of Ancient American, a popular science magazine, from its inception in 1993 until his retirement fourteen years later. He lives today with his wife, Laura, in the Upper Mississippi Valley of the United States.
The above article appeared in New Dawn 175 (Jul-Aug 2019)