America Before: The Key to Earth’s Lost Civilization (2019)
by Graham Hancock
Was an advanced civilization lost to history in the global cataclysm that ended the last Ice Age? Graham Hancock, the internationally bestselling author, has made it his life’s work to find out — and in America Before he draws on the latest archaeological and DNA evidence to bring his quest to a stunning conclusion.
Hancock’s research takes us on a series of journeys and encounters with the scientific rebels responsible for the recent extraordinary breakthroughs. In the process, from the Mississippi Valley to the Amazon rainforest, he reveals that ancient ‘New World’ cultures share a legacy of advanced scientific knowledge and sophisticated spiritual beliefs with supposedly unconnected ‘Old World’ cultures.
Have archaeologists focussed for too long only on the ‘Old World’ in their search for the origins of civilization while failing to consider the revolutionary possibility that those origins might in fact be found in the ‘New World’?
America Before: The Key to Earth’s Lost Civilisation is the culmination of everything that millions of readers have loved in Hancock’s body of work over the past decades, namely a mind-dilating exploration of the mysteries of the past, amazing archaeological discoveries and profound implications for how we lead our lives today.
A few of the revelations from the book:
We were taught in school that the Americas were the last of the great landmasses of the Earth to be inhabited by humans – who were thought to have arrived exclusively on foot from northeast Asia around 13,000 years ago by crossing the Bering Straits which formed a land-bridge to Alaska during the lowered sea-levels of the Ice Age. By contrast, anatomically modern humans, originating in Africa, are believed to have reached Europe, Asia, and even Australia, as far back as 60,000 years ago.
Since the recent publication in Nature of landmark research in southern California scientists have begun to realise that something of immense importance is missing from this long-established picture. Though the general public have not been kept well informed, it now appears that the Americas were first peopled at least 130,000 years ago – many tens of thousands of years before human settlements became established elsewhere. Yet because of the dominance of the former – and now entirely discredited – theory of the late peopling of the Americas, and of mental blocks associated with that theory, archaeologists continue to focus only on the ‘Old World’ in their search for the origins of civilization and have not considered the revolutionary possibility that those origins might in fact be found in the ‘New World’.
Certain tribes of the Amazon rainforest are closely related to Australian Aborigines and to Melanesians from Papua New Guinea. This extraordinary, unexpected and extremely ancient DNA signal is only present in South America and is completely absent in North America and Mesoamerica. It bears witness to something that archaeologists hitherto believed to be impossible – that the technology and skills needed to cross the Pacific Ocean, and successfully resettle a reproductively-viable population, existed more than 13,000 years ago.
Such secrets of human prehistory, now revealed by cutting-edge science, call for a complete rethink of our understanding of our own remote past and hint at the existence of a lost civilization of the Ice Age.
Astonishing similarities exist between the spiritual beliefs of the ancient Egyptians, as manifested in their Books of the Dead, and the spiritual beliefs of the mound-builder cultures of the Mississippi Valley – as manifested, for example, at Moundville in Alabama, Cahokia in Illinois and Watson Brake in Louisiana. Hitherto written off as ‘coincidental’ by archaeologists, the new investigation presented in America Before confirms that the parallels are very real. The deep and explicit details, imagery and beliefs, shared by these two supposedly unconnected religious systems can no longer be dismissed as coincidence. Nor are they the result of direct ‘diffusion’ of culture from ancient Egypt to ancient North America, or vice versa. Challenging our entire understanding of prehistory, what the evidence points to instead is a shared legacy of sophisticated ideas concerning the mystery of life and death inherited more than 13,000 years ago, in both the ‘Old’ World and the ‘New’, from an advanced predecessor civilization as yet unidentified by archaeologists.
South America’s Amazon rainforest has long been regarded as pristine jungle, unpeopled until less than a thousand years ago and thereafter inhabited only by ‘primitive’ tribes of hunter gatherers.
America Before, comprehensively refutes this picture with a thorough investigation of the latest scientific evidence.
Far from an untouched wilderness, the book reveals the Amazon to be a vast ‘garden’, very precisely shaped and moulded by humans for more than 13,000 years. It’s early inhabitants possessed advanced scientific knowledge concerning the molecular properties of plants – evident in concoctions such as the visionary brew ayahuasca and the nerve poison curare. Those first peoples of the Amazon were also the creators of a ‘miracle earth’ – terra preta –still capable of rejuvenating much younger infertile soils when it is added to them today.
Thanks to scanning technologies such as LIDAR, and because of the tragic ongoing clearances of old-growth rainforest to make way for cattle ranches, we now know that great cities once existed in the Amazon, their populations supported by the immense agricultural productivity of terra preta.
We know, too, that in ancient times there were people here who possessed and deployed sophisticated geometrical and astronomical skills to create immense earthworks, many with footprints larger than that of the Great Pyramid of Egypt.
America Before reveals the true extent and significance of these vast, newly-discovered Amazonian ‘geoglyphs’, their stunning resemblance to the equally grand and mysterious earthworks of Ohio, such as Serpent Mound, and the Newark and High Bank works, and connections to other geometrical and astronomical monuments as far afield as Stonehenge in England and Angkor in Cambodia.
Again, what the evidence points to is a shared legacy of knowledge inherited from a much earlier civilization that has been lost to history.
For some decades it has been generally accepted that a global cataclysm occurred around 12,800 years ago at the onset of a mysterious period of earth changes and climate instability known to geologists as the Younger Dryas. Since 2007 a group of more than 60 scientists, publishing in leading peer-reviewed journals, have presented evidence linking the cataclysm to a disintegrating comet that crossed the orbit of the earth 12,800 years ago and bombarded our planet with a ‘swarm’ of fragments, some more than a kilometre in diameter.
Though compelling, with new corroborative studies published every year, the comet hypothesis remains controversial and a number scientists favour other explanations. What all are agreed on, however, is that a global cataclysm did indeed occur.
America Before reveals that the epicentre of the cataclysm lay in North America, then still in the grip of the Ice Age with much of the northern half of the continent covered in ice a mile deep. An immense flood was unleashed as large sectors of the ice cap suddenly melted. From the Channelled Scablands of the state of Washington, via the gigantic pot-holes lining the Saint Croix River in Minnesota, to the Finger Lakes of upstate New York, a huge swathe of North America was swept clean by this deluge. At the same time global sea-level rose, the Gulf Stream was stopped in its tracks and the world was plunged into a deep-freeze that lasted 1,200 years.
It was the end of the former age of the earth, the Pleistocene, and the beginning of our own epoch, the Holocene. In the transition, America Before reveals that an advanced civilization, hitherto the stuff of myth and legend, was lost to history.