Nic Flemming, Senior Scientist at the Southampton Oceanography Centre, has reviewed the second episode of my TV series Underworld: Flooded Kingdoms of the Ice Age. This extremely hostile review, which purports to have been “provided in the public interest and to promote archaeology” appears on the website Ma’at. I have mentioned before that Dr Flemming was invited to appear in Flooded Kingdoms of the Ice Age. He initially welcomed the idea and was keen to offer his data and input to the producers; however on learning that a certain Graham Hancock would be presenting the series Dr Flemming withdrew his cooperation entirely.
This suggests to me – how can it do otherwise? – that Dr Flemming made up his mind about Flooded Kingdoms, and formed a negative attitude towards it, from the moment that he heard of my involvement. Since Ma’at, though “sceptical”, prides itself on balance, I question the choice of a reviewer whose mind had been so demonstrably made up against the series – even before a single frame of film had been shot.
I will respond to Flemming’s review section by section. In each case, for reasons of clarity, I set out Flemming’s own words first, followed by my responses.
SECTION 1: INTRODUCTION
Nic Flemming wrote:
It was very refreshing to start with genuine underwater footage of real ruins. I felt at home, and could have done with many more pictures of the underwater city of Dvaraka.
Unfortunately, most of this second programme was spent walking about inland.
We saw visits to a wide range of villages, temples, inland archaeological sites, various experts and even a yoga school to discuss the general theory of the archaeological sequence in India. I cannot imagine that a single person enquiring over the course of a few months could produce a credible revision of the entire archaeological corpus of data on the sub-continent of India, yet that seemed to be Graham Hancock's objective.
The dating of Dvaraka is published as 3700 years (S. R. Rao). Hancock disputes this, and suggests Dvaraka is only 1200 years old. By comparison with Bronze Age coastal cities in the Mediterranean, the earlier date would be perfectly acceptable. Hancock seeks to advantage his Flooded Kingdom theory by questioning the earlier date and thus make Dvaraka seem very recent so that subsequent footage of much less credible underwater "ruins" would seem to compare favourably with Dvaraka.
I was puzzled that a programme purporting to be about ruins under the sea only had a few minutes in total of undersea footage. I had expected at least 20-30 minutes of underwater pictures, with extensive presentation of acoustic side-scan images. Instead, we only got a quick flash of the same pictures which have appeared on the Graham Hancock web site.
I’m glad Nic Flemming liked the underwater shots of Dwarka. Some day someone should make a documentary entirely about the Dwarka enigma. I might even do it myself.
I had hoped when I first started investigating Dwarka that the submerged ruins might be very ancient; this was theoretically possible since no datable artefacts that are definitely contemporary with them have ever been found. However, after a ten-year acquaintance with Dwarka and two difficult seasons of diving there with my friends from India’s National Institute of Oceanography, I had to abandon any hypothesis connecting the ruins with the end of the Ice Age. Moreover it became clear that the NIO archaeologists themselves were in the process of abandoning the orthodox hypothesis promulgated by S.R. Rao that the Dwarka ruins date back to the period of 1500 BC to 1700 BC -- i.e around 3700 years ago. For the reasons given in my film, and many other sound archaeological reasons, the new generation of marine archaeologists at the NIO do not believe that Rao’s dating is correct and are persuaded that the underwater ruins at Dwarka date roughly between AD 800 and AD 1400 (i.e. not “1200 years old” as Dr Flemming incorrectly cites, but to between just 1200 and 600 years ago).
This conclusion was presented clear as daylight on Flooded Kingdoms in an interview with NIO archaeologists Sri Sundaresh and Dr A.S. Gaur. I don’t understand how Flemming missed it. And I’m surprised that someone who can take such a confident tone in support of the orthodox dating of Dwarka to 3700 years ago has so obviously failed to avail himself of the findings of the archaeologists like Sundaresh, Gaur and Silla Tripati who have studied the site very intensively over the last decade. Flemming even seems unaware of the fact that S.R. Rao’s dating of the site to 3700 years ago rests on flimsy foundations and is not supported by any objective test (for example carbon-dating of organic materials securely established as contemporary with the construction of the site, or thermoluminescence dating of pottery etc, etc). On the contrary it is a purely conjectural date of Rao’s. I find it quite incredible that it could have been allowed to establish itself as the archaeological orthodoxy without ever having been put to the test.
I have the highest possible respect for S.R. Rao who I have met and interviewed (the interview is reproduced in Underworld). He is one of the most brilliant, intuitive and creative minds in Indian archaeology. But it must be understood that he has been retired, and not in good health, for several years and that work has continued apace at Dwarka since his departure. Moreover although it is true that he founded marine archaeology in India, most of those who know him are aware that S.R. Rao himself is not a diver and has never dived on the Dwarka ruins – all the physical marine archaeology there has been done by Sundaresh, Gaur and others (originally working under Rao’s direction). A paper by Sundaresh, Gaur et.al which makes the case that Dwarka is much more recent than the established date of 3700 years ago has been submitted to the journal Antiquity.
Frankly, I’m disappointed in Flemming for being ignorant of the latest research at Dwarka while yet feeling free to use his incomplete knowledge of the subject to spin a weird conspiracy theory about me, viz: ‘Hancock seeks to advantage his Flooded Kingdom theory by questioning the earlier date and thus make Dvaraka seem very recent so that subsequent footage of much less credible underwater "ruins" would seem to compare favourably with Dvaraka.’
This is complete hogwash. What actually happened at Dwarka, over my ten year involvement with the site was that ruins which I had once hoped might be a “Flooded Kingdom of the Ice Age” turned out not even to be as old as the established date of 3700 years ago and were more likely in fact to be somewhere between 1200 and just 600 years old. I reported this objectively and honestly in my film and allowed the archaeological experts at the site to tell us the results of their latest work there. For this I am castigated by Flemming with trying to “advantage” my Flooded Kingdom theory.
I’m sorry, but I don’t get it.
A response to Section 2 (Methodology) of Flemming’s review will follow in due course.