Book Review: Magicians Of The Gods by Graham Hancock

The hardback edition of Magicians of The Gods next to a cup of tea

This is the first book on "alternative" history that I've read, and it's proven to be a compelling and rewarding read.

I picked up this first-edition hardback copy of Magicians Of the Gods not long after it first went to press. I had seen one of the author's presentations on YouTube and been intrigued, his theories were not only attractive to the curious and open mind, but they were also unusually well-reasoned and internally consistent for a supposed "fringe" scientist.

The proposal is that a technologically advanced "ancestor" civilisation developed and flourished during the end of the last Ice Age 12,000 years ago - a time when, according to the present school of thought, our hunter-gatherer ancestors' most accomplished feats were little more sophisticated than cave paintings. (For a comparative timescale, the earliest Egyptian dynastic period started in 3150 BC).

This civilisation was then purportedly wiped out during the cataclysm following multiple comet fragments impacting the North American ice sheet, causing global temperatures to plummet (starting the geological period known as the Younger Dryas) and a dramatic, almost instantaneous rise in sea levels due to the vast amount of ice meltwater.

According to Hancock's research, the survivors of this ancient, advanced civilisation then travelled from their sunken homeland and settled amongst hunter-gatherer tribes at several key locations (eg. Egypt, Mesopotamia, Peru) in an attempt to spread the "seed" of civilisation and ensure the survival of their knowledge and culture. Their legacy is remembered in numerous myths and legends, and they were, according to the author, involved directly in the construction of several surviving ancient monuments and megalithic sites around the world.

It is firstly important to note that Graham Hancock is not a scientist, archeologist, or geologist - his lifelong profession is journalism. He does not follow the established scientific process of publishing peer-reviewed material in scientific journals, and as a result, many mainstream scientists and media commentators are quick to dismiss anything produced by Hancock as pseudo-science.

However, within minutes of opening the book the level of the author's commitment to and love for his work, which could easily rival that of any decorated scientist, is made glaringly apparent to the reader. Hancock has, in preparation for this book, personally travelled to ancient sites on almost every continent of the world. He has interviewed venerated archaeologists and geologists to build his case in support of the ancient "ancestor" civilisation. While being viewed as a "crackpot" by the archaeologists at work excavating the sites he visits, Hancock appraises and catalogues the structures and reliefs in minute detail - whilst, through the words he has chosen to commit to the page, communicating a strong sense of wonder and respect for the ancient craftsmen who's work he is studying.

Infact, Hancock's lack of any formal initiation into the scientific community has perhaps given him a strength where many of his critics see a debilitating weakness - a strength that I can personally identify with, being a self-taught software developer without any formal qualifications, and with only the passion and dedication I have invested in my past body of work available to demonstrate my efficacy.

What Hancock has presented here is not a cold analysis of the factual evidence. He is a storyteller. He uses colourful language to elucidate his arguments. Skills he has obviously acquired during his journalistic career have surfaced as tools to help organise and present information from the disparate sources that make up the bulk of the evidence cited in the book. The myths, oral traditions, and architecture left by the world's most ancient cultures are masterfully weaved together to represent a single continuity that Hancock recognises as the legacy of his theorised ancestor civilisation.

He discusses his beliefs that the civilising figures remembered by our ancestors as the "sages" or "heavenly teachers" who came after the "great flood" are infact the last survivors of a technologically advanced civilisation who guided our primitive ancestors in the construction of great monuments, such as the Pyramids at Giza and the megalithic sites recently uncovered at Göbekli Tepe in Turkey.

By looking at the many photographs taken by his wife, Santha, of the author gazing in awe at the immense blocks of stone left as parts of these great structures, it is easy to imagine a dialogue with the "sages" who's work he is appraising. He seems to regard it as his spiritual, almost divinely-ordained mission to decrypt the messages left for us by this extinct civilisation, and puts forward compelling evidence that such monuments encode, through their position on the ground related to the arrangement of certain constellations in the night sky, the date at which the fatal comet impacted the earth.

When reading a book like this, I'm inclined to maintain constant vigilance against dubious and unsubstantiated claims. The author, however, in true journalistic style through a generous scattering of footnotes, provides an external reference with almost every claim he has made. Theories such as the Younger Dryas Comet Impact Hypothesis and the Orion Correlation Theory which Hancock draws upon extensively are currently debated openly within the mainstream scientific community. And where Hancock does ask the reader to take a small leap of faith, he presents his motion as an open-ended question rather than as a factual truth. It is this that I greatly admire about the author and is what makes the attacks that are often made upon him seem grossly unjustified.

Regardless, beyond the simple black-and-white delineations of "truth" and "falsehood" that are so endlessly debated, there seems to be something more to this argument that Hancock is presenting. There's a prevailing sense that the "establishment" overshadows all scientific work, and that real discovery only ever happens when you willingly fly in the face of it. We can draw parallels with the life of the meteorologist Alfred Wegener and his now-accepted early twentieth-century theories of plate tectonics, which were ridiculed by the scientific establishment of the time. It seems that for all of the manpower and funding possessed by our most powerful institutions, we see time and again that it's the lone visionaries who push our understanding of the world forward.

It's precisely because of those who love their work enough to risk humiliation at the hands of their peers that I'm confident we'll one day know the truth about our past. After all, discovery is fuelled not by the constancy of bureaucratic organisation, but by the unbridled power of human curiosity.