by Graham Hancock
I had previously read Hancock's other book about the same topic, Fingerprints of the Gods, years ago. In that book, he presented evidence from around the world that we have an ancient cultural heritage, perhaps going back more than 10,000 years, that has been completely lost to us. I've also to listened to many talks & interviews with Graham Hancock, and think he is an intelligent, curious voice for uncovering truth in many different fields.
One of his favorite refrains is that "humanity is a species with collective amnesia." He is definitely correct to a large extent, this is obvious from the never-ending stream of archaeological finds that continually give us new insights into our past. One site that he focuses on in this book is the site in modern-day Turkey called Gobleki Tepe. Estimated to be around 12,000 years old, this megalithic site was one of the first to completely rewrite our conception of the timeline of ancient history.
In this book, Graham takes this evidence of lost civilizations and takes the next step. He tries to find an explanation for the sudden disappearance of seemingly widespread advanced culture around the time period 10,800 years ago, known as the Younger Dryas, after the last Ice Age. This was a thousand years of a dramatic temperature drop, creating a mini ice age. This period of intense cold was followed by major warming and melting of global ice, causing sea levels to rise. This tumultuous time likely gave rise to the flood stories of the biblical Noah and Utnapishtim from the epic of Gilgamesh.
Using scientific data, and good old common sense (that sometimes defies the stubborn entrenched views of the scientific establishment), Hancock comes to the conclusion that the likely culprit for this meteorological upheaval was a large comet that entered Earth's atmosphere & broke up as it traveled across Canada and the North Atlantic, raining hell down on the globe. Not only did this create havoc for the people and other life on this planet, but the debris thrown up into the atmosphere darkened the skies and caused temperatures to plunge for decades.
I find this to be highly plausible, especially given the presented evidence. Cosmological catastrophe is one the biggest threats to humanity and all life on this planet. A comet or meteor of sufficient size could completely obliterate most living things on this planet. Even a relatively smaller one could seriously disrupt the biosphere upon impact, and in the following years. The worst part of this scenario is we are mostly unprepared for such an event, which could literally come out of the void.
In fact, the fragments from this same comet that nearly wiped out our ancestors so many millennia ago are still speeding through space, and could cross our path again someday. Hancock goes on to theorize that certain works of ancient art and architecture were warnings of this event happening again.
This is where Graham loses me a bit, because I find some of his interpretations of sculpture and oral history from antiquity to be extremely subjective. For instance, he takes relief carvings of animals from a megalithic column at Gobleki Tepe and comes up with this whole astronomical explanation that seemed to be a huge stretch of the imagination to me... and I have a pretty good imagination!
His liberal interpretation of ancient art does not take away from the solid theories and evidence he puts forth about the catastrophic period around 12,000 years ago. The main takeaways from "Magicians of the Gods" are that we know much, much less about humanity's past than we think, and that we could fall victim to the same circumstances in the future. Whether or not there's anything we can do about it, other than migrating off-planet, remains to be seen.
I recommend this book to anyone who, like me, has a fascination with ancient cultures and the lost history of our planet. It makes you realize how brief and fleeting not only our individual lives are, but the whole human species, as well. We are one cosmic instant from ceasing to exist, but hopefully that instant is far enough away that humanity will be able to survive for the foreseeable future.