My good friend, Dr. Conspiracy, has taken ill and asked me to respond in his stead to the challenge you issued to him and Dr. Edlin. I am happy to oblige.
For those unaware of the challenge, Mr. Hancock asked Drs Conspiracy and/or Edlin to read his appendix to the Horizon Scandal section of his webpage which reprints the interview he conducted with the BBC on radiocarbon (C-14) dating. The appendix highlights what was actually aired from the extended interview, which had formed part of his complaint to the BSC. He asked if the BBC’s procedure seemed fair to Drs Conspiracy and Edlin.
I have now carefully read the “Arts of the Cutting Room Floor” appendix numerous times. I shall reply only to the C-14 section, since the BSC agreed with you that your counter-arguments to Dr. Krupp should have been aired, as they will be on Dec. 14th. However, with your C-14 complaint the BSC found no unfairness. Indeed, despite the repeated claims in this website, it found no overall unfairness in the “Atlantis Reborn” episode and no unfairness in 9 of 10 instances of your complaint. Your total vindication, as vaunted on this webpage, therefore rests on a 10% success rate.
Before I begin, I should note that in your interview you seem to think that the object of archaeology is (I quote) “to deprive [a site] of all mystery and render it as boring and predictable as possible, I think it would be nice if orthodox scholars approached it [Tiwanaku in Bolivia] with a slightly more generous and a more open attitude, and at least a willingness to be amazed, rather than writing that off at the outset.” How can one reply rationally to such vapidity? It seems you are free to cast as many aspersions as you wish on the motives of professionals, but any questioning of your own motives earns the sort of petulant reproach you issued to Eyeswideshut, when you called him “an idiot” and “an abject failure in life.” So much for your standards.
But I digress. As to your challenge, I determine the following points, none of which I expect you or your faithful fans to accept:
1). The BBC were well within their rights to edit the interview to reflect your most important contentions that in turn reflected your mode of “research,” which they did.
2) Had your full statements been aired you’d have made yourself look like a total idiot.
3). The broadcasted portion of the interview fully reflected your “methods” and indicated to the public how slipshod your “extensive research” really is.
Let me now elaborate on each of these points.
1). TV editing: You obviously did many hours of interviews with the BBC. Did you expect that they would air a 20-hour Horizon episode that would allow you to explain all of your contentions in detail? You’ve worked on TV programmes yourself in which the editors weighted the programme in your favor. I’m not talking here about your C4 series but supposedly “objective” TV presentations I’ve seen here in the USA on channels like The History Channel or The Learning Channel (perhaps 5 of them) on the pyramids and sphinx and other “mysteries” that typically allotted – I’ve time it – 2 1/2 or 3 minutes of a 50-minute programme to the “orthodox” view. The rest was Graham Hancock and his clan presenting their case, with nice graphics. When a skeptic appeared, usually not an Egyptologist or archaeologist, he just dismissed your claims out of hand. You can be damn sure the “arts of the cutting room floor” were in effect here and the detailed position of the skeptic had been excised. The “orthodox” voice got to make no detailed arguments, just blanket dismissals. Then back came Graham Hancock with a detailed reply, with nice graphics. The logical conclusion for the viewer: “Graham Hancock has all the answers and his bozo critics haven’t a leg to stand on.” Remember, like “Horizon,” these shows purport to be a serious and objective investigation of the subject matter. Yet they are weighted in your favor by the editors. (What is more, “Atlantis Reborn” never aired here in the USA, so the public has only see your side of the case.)
Now since you are so keen on fairness and full representation in TV editing, I presume you have haled these pro-Hancock TV editors in front of quasi-judicial bodies to demand that the skeptics’ view be properly represented? No? How come? For such a defender of fairness, this seems incongruent. Or do your concerns for “fairness” only apply to your point of view?
Basically my response to your complaints about editing is this: “Stop whinging. You’ve had hours of TV broadcasts in your favor in the past and you’ve not complained about them leaning in your favor. Now comes along one programme that takes a critical view of your claims and you’re off on the Grand Crusade of Fairness. It’s hollow posturing, Graham. Get over it.” Or, as they say over here, “deal.”
2). C-14 and other forms of dating. Your "well worked-out" position on C-14 dating, as presented in this interview, is so ridiculous that had the BBC aired it, along with the truth about how this method of dating actually works, you’d have made yourself look like a complete ignoramus and a fool. By NOT airing your supposedly “well-worked out” position, the BBC did you a favor. If I were you, I’d have written them a letter of thanks, not complaint.
According to your interview, your main objections to C-14 dating are threefold, listed below in descending order of importance, with excerpts from your statements quoted as verification:
a) C-14 cannot date stone, therefore it is not reliable in dating megalithic sites: “Well, it beats me how a block can be dated using radiocarbon … I think that first of all there's a degree of ignorance about carbon-dating. There's a tendency to believe that its some sort of infallible, foolproof method that can be applied to any ancient site at any time, and it can't be applied to stone. This is a very important point. And when we're dealing with sites that are made of huge stone megaliths I think it may be a little bit hasty to date the creation of those megaliths to the same date as some organic material that has been found associated with those megaliths. And that's one of the main problems that I have with carbon-dating.”
b) The C-14 dates reflect only one period when a site was occupied and may not reflect earlier, busier occupations: “And carbon-14 dating, for me, says that this site was used and occupied at the date that that carbon-14 material comes from. It doesn't mean that the site was necessarily built at that time, or was originally laid out and planned at that time.”
c) C-14 dates may not reflect all the occasions when stones were moved about and put in place, which could have been many times over the years: “If we look underneath the block and find organic material under the block then we can say that that block was placed on top of that organic material at a particular date - which does not preclude the possibility that the block has been moved around several times and that the temple we have on Tiahuanaco has been constructed and reconstructed again and again over thousands of years. This is perfectly possible and cannot be ruled out by the carbon-dating at all. And [since C-14 is] applied to organic materials, we have to make an assumption that the organic artefact that we have found arrived at the site at the same date as the site was made - and that assumption may not be correct.”
Before analyzing these claims, I note a fourth one here, a new and novel dating method you propose for archaeology in the future. That is, dating sites by feeling: “the site [Tiwanaku] feels wrong for the date range that is ascribed to it by orthodox archaeologists. It just feels older.” A technical question: does adopting a yoga position increase the accuracy of “felt” dates for ancient sites? Or the use of crystal balls? Or astrology charts?
Mr. Hancock, what sort of inanity is this? You cannot expect to be taken seriously when you make such statements. It matters not in the least that you went on to say that you could not prove your “feeling.” Presumably, if your case required a site to be more recent than “orthodox” thinking allowed, it would have “felt” more recent. This, however, is not historical argument but farce. Let’s not waste our time on it any longer. (For the open-minded reader, however, I urge you to note this piece of Hancockian rigor. You can see of it in the two accompanying postings.)
Enough digression. Let me deal with each of your main points on C-14 in turn and in detail.
a). “C-14 can’t date stones.” Well, this is obvious. It is also entirely irrelevant. Let’s assume, for the moment, that C-14 COULD date stones. What would such dates show? They would reveal the age of the stone itself, and therefore render dates in the millions, not thousands of years. While such data might be of interest to geologists, it would be of no interest to archaeologists, who are concerned with when the stone was quarried, moved, and put in place by humans. To find that out, archaeologists would be looking at associated material to date the human activity by which the stone had been manipulated. And that is precisely what they do. So whether or not C-14 can date stone is entirely beside the point. By making such an “argument” you display a profundity not of argument but of ignorance.
b). “C-14 is not a reliable guide to human activity at a site.” Another embarrassing display of gross ignorance concerning even basic archaeological methods. Such information is readily available in many first-year introductions to archaeological techniques, but such difficult texts obviously evaded your “extensive research.”
C-14 dates organic material found in archaeological context. Archaeological context is usually sealed strata of occupation, layer upon layer from the bottom (oldest) levels of a site to the upper (most recent) strata. The strata are carefully recorded and, gradually, the stratigraphy of the site is mapped. Often the stratigraphy is determined by smallish excavation trenches (in some cases supplemented by numerous core samples) made at various points in a site, to be sure you are not getting an imbalanced or unrepresentative picture by focusing only on one small area.
This standard procedure, by the way, renders irrelevant your argument -- stated twice in the BBC interview and so an important point for you -- that since only 2% of Tiwanaku has been excavated all conclusions about its date are moot; at Tiwanaku, the 2% of excavation is dotted around numerous locations all over the site: there is no reason, therefore, to expect that this pattern of digs, carefully selected for the greatest revelatory potential, is unrepresentative of the site’s overall stratigraphy. It also makes nonsense of your Westminster Abby analogy: archaeologists try to avoid dating entire sites from one small sample of C-14 material taken from one small area of a large site. And, in any case, C-14 is just one weapon in the archaeologists’ dating arsenal (more below). You claim that it is “irreponsible” for archaeologists to draw conclusions from this 2% sample of the site. In fact, it would have been “irreponsible” for the BBC to air such a claim without you substantiating it. As usual, you don’t. You just make it. Presumably, if 10% or 20% or even 50% of the site were excavated, you could still claim that a large portion of the site was not yet properly understood. Into that unexcavated portion you can then shovel anything you like (the lost civilization, ET landing sites, Israelite tribes, the Welsh -- why not?). But the burden of proof is on you to prove your claims, not on archaeologists to excavate 100% of a site to show that your claims are false.
If you presented EVIDENCE that the C-14 sample at Tiwanaku was unrepresentative, that would be a different matter. But you don’t. Rather like a defence lawyer combatting evidence damning his client, you just plant an alternative claim in the mind, without substantiation. But history deals in rational analysis of hard evidence, not semantic argumentation over unsubstantiated possibilities.
In fact, when the conditions are right (as they are Tiwanaku) C-14 datable material emerges from many levels of occupation at a site, not just one. Your argument that C-14 cannot date the full picture of human occupation is therefore, quite simply, wrong. It can. And it does (when the local conditions allow for survival of organic material). What would indeed be surprising would be to find that C-14 dated the earliest human occupation of a monumental site like Tiwanaku to 1500 BC, but showed no evidence of the proposed occupation for the alternative date of 15,000 BC or for any period between then and 1500 BC. This would be surprising, since that earlier human occupation had left NOT A SINGLE VESTIGE of its presence, while the later occupation of 1500 BC and all subsequent occupations were so readily identifiable in the archaeological and C-14 record. To build huge monuments, this earlier proposed population would presusmably have been numerous and well organized, whereas the initial occupants of 1500 BC were not numerous or well organized. Why should paltry occupations be so easily tracaeable but the supposed earlier and more major inhabitation remain invisible to us? Maybe the earlier population was just excessively clean or had mastered the art of levitation, so they did not leave any traces of their existence on or in the ground. To use your mode of argument: well, it’s possible, isn’t it?
There is, of course, an alternative scenario that explains the evidence: there was no earlier occupation. That is what the close-minded “orthodox” scholars conclude, drawing from the evidence at hand. Please explain why their reasoning is wrong. And if there is a 12,000 year old occupation layer, show it to us and we'd delighted to investigate it.
On a side note, C-14 is not infallible - what human process is? -- but as many correctives as possible are employed to limit the impact of error: samples, typically, are sent to several laboratories who date them “blind” (without any indication of where they came from) and C-14 is just one element in a chronological assessment of a site (supplementing pottery analysis, artisitic development of monuments, stratigraphic analysis, and so forth). In this overall analytical context, C-14 is about as reliable and trustworthy a method of arriving at dates as one can find, but it is not infallible. Samples can be corrupted and throw the dates off, mistakes can be made. In the case of Tiwanaku, however, 29 C-14 dates were arrived at, from archaeologically verified contexts. Those dates were internally consistent (i.e. material from lower strata dated earlier than material from upper strata, as you’d expect). All this, in conjunction with pottery analysis, strongly suggests that the chronology derived from the C-14 dates for Tiwanaku is reliable and there is no reason to suppose that all 29 C-14 samples have been corrupted or are misleading us. Please explain, in detail, why they are wrong.
A recent database for the Andean region comprises 2,800 radiocarbon dates (see M. S. Ziolkowski et al., “Andes: Radiocarbon Database for Bolivia, Ecuador and Peru” Warsaw: Andean Archaeological Mission of the Institute of Archaeology, Warsaw University ; Gliwice : Gliwice Radiocarbon Laboratory of the Institute of Physics, Silesian Technical University, 1994). Are all of these dates misleading? Is everyone involved (from archaelogists to analyzing physicists) mistaken? Are the C-14 molecules themselves part of the grand CSICOP conspiracy?
In reality, this is all very basic stuff. The appropriate procedures are laid out in any standard handbook on archhaeology. I really don’t know what makes you think your “well worked out” counterposition, which shows no knowledge of these procedures, is in the least bit convincing: it seems to stem primarily from an almost total ignorance of standard archaeological practice.
Is it close-minded to suggest, Mr Hancock, that before you set out to revolutionize a field of knowledge you first gain at least a passing acquaintance with the basic procedures of that field?
c). “The stones could have been moved.” I’ve read this several times and I still fail to see your point without sliding into absurdities. Let’s take an example. If we find Stone A in a C-14 dated context of, say, AD 200 you seem to be saying “it could have been put up earlier and moved about before coming to this spot.” So what? Since we’re interested in when the stone got to be where it is now and to date that action, it makes no difference if Stone A went backpacking in Europe before settling into its C-14 dated location of AD 200. To all intents and purposes, that IS when it was set up. It would, indeed, be interesting to chart the travel histories of stones, but we have no way of doing so, without evidence. Unless you can point to where Stone A stood previously, unless you can identify the now-empty socket-pits that once held it, we can speculate ad nauseam about Stone A’s fascinating pre-AD 200 peregrinations. But what’s the point? Once more, your “argument” is merely an empty possibility raised without substantiation for the sole purpose of extracting you from a difficult position.
You argue that the temples at Tiwanaku could have been built and rebuilt numerous times over the centuries. Why? What evidence do you have for this contention? Why did the ancients keep laboring on the same site, with the same stones, on the same groundplans? To be sure, we do have pagan sites in Europe re-used or torn down and rebuilt (usually somewhere else) as churches. We also have Egyptian temples, as you say in the interview, that were built and rebuilt over centuries. And Maya pyramids. And Mesopotamian palaces and ziggurats. But the very fact we know all this shows that such actions are readily recognizable to a trained archaeologist. And there are no indications at Tiwanaku of any such obsessive rebuilding activity. What we DON"T get are temples torn down again and again and rebuilt with the same materials, on the same site, and on the same plan in a way that makes this process impossible to detect. It is also entirely illogical. Why would people waste their time doing this? Were they a nation of interior decorators? So why raise this possibility at all, without any evidence that it applies? It wouldn’t be because it happens to suit your case to do so? This is just more legalistic argumentation from Graham Hancock, QC.
Another important point here is that if, as you argue, the stones of Tiwanaku were on the move over the centuries before settling into the locations they occupy today, that surely delivers the final killing blow to all your arguments about star-alignments helping to date the site to 15,000 BC. By your own argument here, the stones weren’t necessarily always in the same place. This is another typical mode of argument for you: you argue a specific point to the hilt without any concern for overall consistency.
Finally you argue that “[Since C-14 is] applied to organic materials, we have to make an assumption that the organic artefact that we have found arrived at the site at the same date as the site was made - and that assumption may not be correct.” There are only two conceivable alternatives here:
1) The organic material was there when the stone was set up over it. In that case, it does date the EARLIEST possible date when the stone was set up in that spot. To be sure, the stone could have been set up long after the C-14 date (the organic material lying in the ground for some time before the stone was put over it), but it cannot be any earlier. Since you are arguing for earlier dates, this scenario in no way helps your case. (Archaeologists, by the way, correct for this possibility by looking at the overall cultural record of the site: large stone construction usually comes with large populations living in houses and using pottery and so on.)
2) The organic material was inserted under the stone AFTER it was set up, thus dating the stone to a later date than its actual erection. This is a more useful scenario for your overall argument. But how likely is this? How did the material get there? Do you envisage a band of C-14 saboteurs running about inserting pre-dated organic material under ancient stones to throw off archaeological dates? Do you have any evidence for such sabotage? Wouldn’t the trained eye of the archaeologists identify a secondary dig pattern, the hole dug to insert the material? And who is behind this sabotage? CSICOP, probably.
So much, then, for your “well worked out position” on C-14 dating. Despite it being one of the most useful methods of dating in archaeology for the past half century, Graham Hancock has, for the pathetic reasons listed above, determined that it is, in fact, crap. It seems that it can lead archaeologists astray by as much 13,000 years. Better ditch it. Let’s rely instead on Graham’s feelings.
In your BBC interview you reveal much about your mode of argument that, in closing, it may be useful to document here. Basically, when faced with hard evidence (here C-14 data that make rubbish or your proposed dates for Tiwanaku) you resort to raising possibilities. The only merit of these possibilities, the only reason they exist at all, is to support your case. There is no independent evidence to support any of them, and none is offered. In many cases they run contrary to the observable evidence. They are just possibilities that have the commendable quality of digging you out of a hole.
I have highlighted pertinent examples above. But to illustrate just how absurd such a method of “argument” is, let me illustrate with an non-archaeological hypothetical.
Q: Did you eat that last piece of chocolate cake?
Q: But there are chocolate crumbs on your lap and chocolate smears on your lips. The evidence would suggest that you did.
A: Perhaps. But a third party could have come in there and eaten the cake and then smeared my lips and sprinkled my lap.
Q: Do you have any evidence for that reconstruction?
A: No. But it’s a possibility.
Q: OK, so why didn’t you resist this third party?
A: I could have been incapacitated somehow.
Q: Can you show any evidence of incapacitation?
A: No. But it’s a possibility.
With such a mode of argument, are we in the world of reason or a Monty Python sketch?
Your appeal to the opinions of Bolivian archaeologist Oswaldo Rivera is the height of disingenuousness. It seems that the opinions of archaeologists can be thrown wholesale into the garbage – unless they agree with you.
You should be thankful the BBC did NOT show you making these farcical points on air. In my opinion they speak volumes as to your ignorance of even basic archaeological procedures and your tendentious mode of argument from conceivable possibilities rather than evidence when faced with crushing data that demolishes your case.
In accordance with your challenge, I shall write to the BBC immediately and urge them to include your points in the re-airing of Dec. 14th, since they reflect so fully on your methods of “research.”
As it is, they aired two essential statements from the interview:
“I’m not required to encyclopaedic” Indeed not (see my posting under “Hancock’s Methods: Tiwanaku”). It seems you aren’t even required to read introductory texts in the field you are proposing to turn on its head.
“In Heaven's Mirror there is no representation whatsoever of recent carbon dates for Tiahuanaco. I simply didn't discuss it in there.” That you chose to ignore this vital information – which your readers may have found compelling – speaks volumes about your methods. That you did not even set out your laughable “well worked-out” position on C-14 in Heaven’s Mirror is also significant: apparently, you feel that having raised nonsensical objections in “Fingerprints” you are now at liberty to dismiss all C-14 material in blanket fashion. No need even to mention it. This, as Ken Feder accurately stated, is not science.
Finally, where in “Fingerprints” do you deal in detail with the “problems” of C-14 dating? I’ve looked for this passage and cannot find it. There is no index entry for “carbon” or “radiocarbon” or “dating.” All I found was reference (p.66 of US hardback version) to the “safe orthodox” date for Tiwanaku of AD 500 (and what makes a date “safe”?) and a cross reference to that spot on p.79. Please post the relevant page numbers to this site.
I conclude that the BBC’s presentation of your C-14 argument was not only fair, it was clement. They could have aired your nonsensical position in detail and demolished it with embarrassing ease. You and, I suspect, the filmmakers would have looked foolish. Regular Horizon viewers could justifiably have asked what this otherwise excellent show was doing wasting its time on a joker who was not in control of even basic material in his supposed area of expertise.
Count yourself lucky.
I’ll post my letter to the BBC to this website when I have completed it.