This response was originally posted in five separate sections on the
Mysteries message board. Links to the original posts are provided at page bottom.
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.
Graham Hancock replies:
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.
SECTION 2: METHODOLOGY
Nic Flemming wrote:
It is reasonable in scientific work to develop a series of stages of experiment, data, and deduction which can be demonstrably proven as true, and then to conclude the presentation with some suggestions as to the next stage of work which might be useful. These may be based on logical projections of the argument, or on hunches or speculation. This is accepted at the end of an argument, because it indicates logical possibilities that should be checked out for future research
For example, when I speculated on the basis of the connection between Malta-Sicily and Italy that Palaeolithic tribes had hunted on the continental shelf, and that this proposition could be checked, this was a reasonable proposition on the basis of the previous established evidence.
But this line of logic does not work in reverse.
You cannot make a legitimate chain of arguments which goes “A may have happened and it is possible that B happened and what if C happened and therefore I conclude definitely that there were Flooded Kingdoms in the Ice Age”. In the social sciences there are usually dozens of plausible alternative possibilities.
Thus, each time that Hancock says “A” may have happened he must also concede that multiple other things are equally likely to be the explanation. For instance, after three such steps for which a chain of five alternatives has been suggested three times, 125 different possible outcomes or explanations are possible.
Yet only one of these chains might – conservatively – be supported by and be consistent with the Flooded Kingdom proposition.
The normal scientific procedure when confronted with 125 possible explanations for events is to first weed out the non-starters, and reduce the field before spending time and money on expensive research. A quick check on the Flooded Kingdoms proposition would show masses of evidence against it from the hundred or more known stone-age sites on the continental shelf, and evidence of contemporaneous cultures on land and that would be the end of the argument. To waste any more time on the Flooded Kingdoms proposal would be a blunder.
Instead, after listing multiple chains of “possibly, what-if and could-it-be” Hancock concludes that his one and only proposal, the Flooded Kingdoms hypotheses, is strongly substantiated.
It is not.
Another technique used by Hancock is frequent references such as “I have now discovered…” or “Now I know that…” as if points presented were his original discoveries. In most cases the “discovery” has been known to students of archaeology and oceanography for decades, and could have been summarized in a few minutes, leaving time for some really original footage of underwater ruins, if they exist.
One general example of this is presentation of computer generated maps showing the seas. We returned again and again to different versions of this, and sometimes the same version more than once. The technique developed by Dr Milne is undoubtedly useful, and could have been used once or twice. However, any modern atlas, such as the Times Concise Atlas shows approximately the depth of the sea on the continental shelf. My atlas at home (not a research document) shows the depth contours at 25 metres, 50 metres, and 200metres with a change of blue tint at each contour, for every country with a sea coast. Anyone with such a common atlas can see immediately the light blue area out to the 200m contour, the limit of the continental shelf. If you know that the Ice Age sea level was at -25 metres about 8000 years ago, and -50 metres about 10,000 years ago, the two intermediate colours tell you where the coastline was at these two dates. That is not rocket science. You can do it at home.
My concern is that much of this presentation seemed designed to baffle and impress the viewer, to mystify rather than to explain matters which are fundamentally very simple, and fun. There are probably stone-age human occupation sites off every coast in the world, and any scuba diver could find artifacts with a bit of luck, and with the correct information of what to look for. It is not a mystery.
Graham Hancock replies:
Dr Flemming modestly describes his own hypothesis about Palaeolithic hunters on the Siculo-Maltese continental shelf as “a reasonable proposition on the basis of the previous established evidence”. By contrast he reprimands my thinking as illogical and unscientific, and caricatures my argument as follows: “A may have happened and it is possible that B happened and what if C happened and therefore I conclude definitely that there were Flooded Kingdoms in the Ice Age”.
This is not my argument, nor my logic, and Flemming misrepresents me here. What I’m trying to do in Underworld, and in the TV series is to mount an active and focussed investigation into the neglected possibility that the descriptions in ancient myths of former civilisations destroyed by global floods could be actual records of real events at the end of the Ice Age. I made use of the science of inundation mapping to aid the search – and this science shows that 25 million square kilometres of land were lost to rising sea-levels at the end of the Ice Age. I am therefore not much impressed by Flemming’s assertion that: “A quick check on the Flooded Kingdoms proposition would show masses of evidence against it from the hundred or more known stone-age sites on the continental shelf, and evidence of contemporaneous cultures on land and that would be the end of the argument. To waste any more time on the Flooded Kingdoms proposal would be a blunder.”
The very fact that only about 100 stone-age sites are known worldwide on 25 million square kilometres of land inundated at the end of the Ice Age underlines for me why the Flooded Kingdoms proposal is not a waste of time at all and why pursuing it further is not a blunder but a justified and rational strategy. As I state in the introduction to this website the reason that so few sites have been found on the inundated lands is not that such sites do not exist but that the search for them by marine archaeologists has so far been extremely limited and small-scale. The plain fact, as Dr Flemming can hardly deny, is that only a tiny fraction of the submerged lands have been properly surveyed and studied and that the greatest part has never been looked at at all. It therefore may not be good logic to conclude from the unsurprising nature of the 100-plus stone-age sites so far known to marine archaeologists that everything that awaits us on the flooded continental shelves must necessarily be equally unsurprising.
This perhaps explains why it is necessary for Dr Flemming to go to such extreme lengths later in his review to try to discredit the finds that have been made underwater off south-east and northwest India and that are reported in Underworld. Because if I and the Indian oceanographers and marine archaeologists are right about the age of those finds then they represent proof that Flemming’s view is wrong and that the 100 submerged stone-age sites to which he refers are indeed not representative of everything that remains to be found underwater.
We’ll come back to this when I address the relevant section of Flemming’s review. Meanwhile, continuing his critique of my methodology he writes: ‘after listing multiple chains of “possibly, what-if and could-it-be” Hancock concludes that his one and only proposal, the Flooded Kingdoms hypotheses, is strongly substantiated’.
But I do not conclude that that only the Flooded Kingdoms hypothesis is strongly substantiated. What I do conclude both in the TV series and in the book is that on the basis of the small amount that I as a self-funded author and diver have been able to do it looks as though there could after all be some merit to the Flooded Kingdoms hypothesis and that it is certainly worth taking the investigation further. Dr Flemming has the right to disagree with me about that but not to attribute to me a conclusion that I nowhere force either on the viewer or on the reader.
I’m saddened also by Flemming’s objection to my use in the films of terms like “I have discovered” and “now I know that”. The films describe my personal journey of discovery through the evidence and information surrounding the sites that I investigate so what other terms should I use? It seems to me petty-minded and not a proper part of serious debate to try to score semantic debating points with cheap shots like this.
Last but not least while reviewing my methodology, Flemming objects to what he sees as the overuse in the film of Dr Glenn Milne’s inundation maps. With what could almost be mistaken for an attitude of indifference to the huge amount of work that Dr Milne has put into his maps, Dr Flemming effectively suggests that they are of little more use to those studying post-glacial sea-level rise than “any modern atlas, such as the Times Concise Atlas.” Flemming adds that his atlas at home “shows the depth contours at 25 metres, 50 metres, and 200 metres with a change of blue tint at each contour, for every country with a sea coast. Anyone with such a common atlas can see immediately the light blue area out to the 200m contour, the limit of the continental shelf. If you know that the Ice Age sea level was at -25 metres about 8000 years ago, and -50 metres about 10,000 years ago, the two intermediate colours tell you where the coastline was at these two dates. That is not rocket science. You can do it at home.”
Although I cannot believe this to be the case Flemming seems to show no appreciation of the phenomenon of glacial isostacy in which Milne is an expert and which his maps take into the account (eg land formerly depressed under kilometres-thick ice sheets rebounds over periods of millennia with sometimes significant effects on local sea-levels; similarly the sea-bed rises up when the water burden on it is reduced, as it was at the Last Glacial Maximum, and then subsides again as the water burden increases – as it did when the ice-caps melted down).
I’m therefore fully satisfied that we did the right thing in creating graphics based on Milne’s maps to give our viewers the best-informed picture of how coastlines changed during the meltdown of the Ice Age. I’m completely baffled as to why Flemming should object to the use of these accurate graphics since, as far as I know, this is the first time such images have ever been shown on television.
SECTION 3: MYTHOLOGY
Nic Flemming wrote:
Graham Hancock is correct in this assessment of the last Ice Age:
- The global sea level was about 150 metres lower during the peak of the last Ice Age, about 20,000 years ago.
- Human beings, and all the normal vegetation and fauna of the neighbouring land-mass, extended out onto the continental [shelf] during the Ice Age period from roughly 100,000 years ago to 5,000 years ago.
- As the sea rose again vegetation was gradually killed off by salination and inundated and animals and people who had been on the continental shelf moved inland where they joined the people who had already been living there.
- Flood myths which occur all over the world are the “folk memory” of the experience of suffering 10,000 years of rising sea level.
The thesis that the late-glacial rise of sea level was the cause of widespread flood myths was presented in great detail in a book published by F.J. North in 1957. (see refs below). I read this a few years later, and expanded the logic in Chapter One of my book “Cities in the Sea”, published in 1970 in the USA, 1971 in UK, and a few years later in Japan. This model is widely accepted, and has been developed independently by several researchers.
This second programme criss-crossed between three general mythologies – the “Flood Myth”, the Myth of the “Golden Age”, and the Myth of “The Fall of Man”. Certainly these do interact on each other, as is evident from the Old Testament, and other religious texts. Life is, and always has been, a rather frustrating and puzzling experience. There are good times, but still, most of us also experience some pretty nasty things. When this happens we long to know why. Was life always so unjust? Did people always suffer? Do the gods really care nothing about us? Thus many belief systems produce ideas or concepts relating to a period when things were better in the past, or, in some religions, when they will be better after death. The change from that idyllic past to the reality of the present is portrayed either as simply loss of the perfect state – “Golden Age” – or a moral punishment for sin – “Fall of Man”.
The myths as referred to by Hancock are somewhat wrapped round each other, and imply that the Indians (and other peoples) believe in a wonderful period in the past when people had been richer and happier and that they also believe in Flood Myths. Both events are in the past! By Hancock’s logic, the cultures that existed at the time of the sea level rise were the rich and technically developed cultures of the Golden Age.
The confusion or merging of the myths is very convenient for the “Flooded Kingdoms” proposition but it does not work.
The Fall and the Golden Age have no reference to place and time. They are purely spiritual or psychological concepts, even though they are sometimes fitted into a theological chronology.
The Flood is very much time and site specific.
The Flood Myth becomes embedded in stone age culture during the period 20,000 to 5,000 years Before Present (BP) because of the intensive way which pre-literate peoples relate to the land and nature in general.
If you live by hunting and finding wild plants and roots and insects which are good to eat, and rely on finding regular supplies of freshwater in the ground, you develop an encyclopaedic knowledge of the terrain. Aboriginal peoples in Australia, and probably other hunting cultures such as African Bushmen, memorise voluminous path or track narratives, describing every rock, shelter, shrub, and spring, shade, and danger along hundreds, if not thousands, of miles of track. These memorised records have to be handed down from generation to generation, along with all the additional data about seasons, migration of animals, geographical variation in climate, and so on.
One can see the impact that a continuously rising sea level would have on coastal pre-literate hunting or migratory cultures. Even if the vertical change within a few decades might seem small, the horizontal incursion was observable, and hunting tracks that were functional during one generation could be flooded and useless two or three generations later. Rising sea level became one of the things a young hunter had to know about, along with the danger of storms, dangerous animals, poisonous plants, and so on. It was obvious. The late Rhys Jones reported Australian tribal track records which had loops that extended offshore from the present coastline and tracked back again, because the “mental tape record” had not been altered. In some cases it was easier to keep the “tape” intact and add footnotes in daily life, rather than to alter the “master tape in the mind”.
When I was researching in 1982 on the Aborigine crossing routes from Timor to North Australia the Aborigine Council Leaders in Bathurst Island were perfectly aware that their ancestors had crossed the sea walking on the sea floor when the sea was lower. They had not learnt this from modern scientists. They saw us as the novice beginners studying an obvious fact, and they encouraged our research using divers.
By about 10,000 years BP we find Neolithic villages in many parts of Europe, Africa, and Asia. (See Mellart, the Neolithic of the Middle East) Several such villages have been found under the sea. (See Galili, Efstratiou, Flemming, and others). Towns such as Catal Huyuk in Turkey were founded in this period. The Neolithic people had settled down, started building villages and small towns, and began to practice agriculture and, on the coast, more advanced methods of fishing.
When the sea level rose over a Neolithic village the occupants were forced to abandon a significant investment in capital structures. That hurt. In practice, a rise of one metre per 100 years would force the occupants to abandon houses on the waterfront, and build on the landward side of the settlement, until, due to the topography of the site, the whole settlement might have to be deserted. This process seems to have occurred at Aghios Petros (Efstratiou, Flemming) and at Atlit (Galili).
All this time we are talking about pre-literate cultures. In particular it is inconceivable that they could have had a system of counting time which was fixed to an absolute reference point over thousands of years. By the time the sea level settled down at its present level 5000 years ago, the demonised and threatening rise of the sea was something which had occurred in the far off past. It had become a legend: “In the time of the gods”, “Before the great king who founded our city”, (eg.Gilgamesh), or whatever was the local myth system.
The cultural specification of the date of the Flood could only be fixed when a culture had advanced to the point of possessing a writing system and a dating system, and the technology for preservation of records. When this was occured, the regional or local Flood Myth became fixed at a defined time, and was not dragged forward by the oral transmission of the story from one generation to the next. This fixing of the Flood Myth happened at different times in different cultures, with the earliest ones we know of in the Epic of Gilgamesh, the story of Noah, and some Indian legends. The story in each case becomes embellished with details of the culture at the time it was written down and not when the sea was rising. This is also true of the Welsh legends recorded by F. J. North, which only trace back one or two thousand years to the date of being written down.
The important point to note is that this sequence leads to Flood Myths which were written down and known now as always being written by people who have invented writing (obviously) , and who are therefore already living in cities. They describe the Flood as if it inundated a culture like their own, with buildings and roads.
Additionally they compressed the timescale, because no one could have enumerated a timescale of thousands of years until considerably later (as, for example, Plato did).
All scientists and archaeologists who have studied this problem have concluded that the Flood Myth does refer to the cumulative memory of the post-glacial sea level rise, but that the reference to great cities and catastrophic floods is inadvertently attached from the culture and technology of the time when the stories are written down. They should be separate.
The mistake Graham Hancock makes in this programme is to move the Flood Myth and the big cities and the writing back together into the Paleolithic at 10-20,000 years ago.
Graham Hancock replies:
In this section of his review Dr Flemming presents his own unproven theory of flood myths as though it were an established and universally accepted fact and compares my Flooded Kingdoms theory unfavourably with it.
Also presented as uncontested fact is Dr Flemming’s attempt to explain certain other categories of myth in terms of his own idiosyncratic understanding of human nature and postulated psychological needs. For example this passage:
‘Life is, and always has been, a rather frustrating and puzzling experience. There are good times, but still, most of us also experience some pretty nasty things. When this happens we long to know why. Was life always so unjust? Did people always suffer? Do the gods really care nothing about us? Thus many belief systems produce ideas or concepts relating to a period when things were better in the past, or, in some religions, when they will be better after death. The change from that idyllic past to the reality of the present is portrayed either as simply loss of the perfect state – “Golden Age” – or a moral punishment for sin – “Fall of Man”.’
I feel that Dr Flemming is not justified in sounding so adamant and matter of fact about such myths. His explanation for them may be correct but is by no means certainly so.
The same goes for his demeaning judgement of preliterate cultures. He tells us it “is inconceivable that they could have had a system of counting time which was fixed to an absolute reference point over thousands of years.”
On this matter I refer Dr Flemming to the works of Alexander Marshack where he will find much that contradicts his extremely rigid and unevidenced view. Nearer to hand is Richard Rudgley’s excellent “Lost Civilisations of the Stone Age” which might also change his mind about what is and is not “inconceivable” amongst preliterate cultures.
Finally in this section of his review Dr Flemming repeats the suggestion (made in his earlier review of programme one of Flooded Kingdoms) that sea-level rise at the end of the Ice Age took place at the rate of 1 metre ever 100 years. This is close to the average rate over the 10,000 years of the meltdown but it does not tell us anything useful about the rate of the metdown at particular periods. Indeed most authorities would now agree that roughly half of the post-glacial meltdown was compressed into just three episodes of very rapid melting and sea-level rise – at roughly 14,000, 11,000 and 8000 years ago. Some such as Professor Shaw at the University of Alberta speak of rises “of several metres in sea-level over a matter of weeks”. Dr Flemming seems to be entirely unaware of this work.
SECTION 4: SONAR
Nic Flemming wrote:
The programme got back in the water off southeast India, at Poompuhar. Fishermen had been losing nets snagged on underwater outcrops. Unfortunately the film crew could not dive on the outcrop that was suspected most surely of being archaeological, so they dived on another one. The underwater photography was quite genuine, and was not computer enhanced. Bedding planes in the rock were pointed to with a knife, and presumed to be the boundaries of man-made blocks.
Subsequently computer graphics were used to re-create the shape of the structure that Hancock thought had been discovered and which he said could be a ritual enclosure. This reviewer, and Dr Neil Kenyon, a scientist at SOC specialising for decades in acoustic surveying of sedimentary and sea bed geological structures, concluded that the outcrop was completely natural.
In the last few minutes the programme moved back to the subject of Cambay.
I had expected this site to be treated in detail, with lengthy viewing of many sections of the side-scan sonar record over many miles of ship-track, indicating the vast area of rectangular structures that constituted the city.
But this was not given to us. The same tiny images which have been on Graham Hancock’s web-site for many weeks were flashed onto the screen, discussed very briefly, and then removed. Of the “nine-miles” of presumed city only one or two images each a few hundred metres across have been shown to us.
Yet these scratchy side-scan images were suddenly morphed into a magnificent city with multi-storey buildings in a drama worthy of Toy Story or Monsters Inc.
Experts on acoustics, sidescan sonar, and sub-bottom profiling at the Southampton Oceanography Centre, UK, have examined the images on the official Graham Hancock website. Their opinions are not identical, but can be combined and summarised as follows:
Any resemblance of the images to a rectangular structure on the seabed is a coincidence. Sonar images are not black-and-white photographs. The non-expert viewer interprets them as a perspective snapshot of an area viewed from a particular point. In fact the side-scan image is built up line by line below a ship, which is always looking straight down and to each side along each line. Thus the apparent shape of “objects” in the image depends upon the ship’s speed, the lateral range of the sonar beam on each side, and the speed of the paper in the printer. Since none of those data can be deduced from the images displayed on the web site, the shapes shown on the screen of the side-scans are largely a coincidental illusion. No further information on the missing data was provided in the programme.
The “diamond” pattern with the proportions shown presents a strong illusion of being a rectangle with vertical relief, illuminated from the upper left. The human eye is strongly conditioned to make this deduction from our experience of photography and perspective drawings. Side-scan Plate No. 3 is labeled 97m x 24m, in a ratio of 4:1 (approx). But the picture is at best 2:1, and so the image should be compressed top-to-bottom by a factor of two (or, less probably, compressed left-to-right by much more). The most probable correction results in a pattern of lineation intersecting at 10-15 degrees. It is interesting that Hancock himself reports in the book Underworld (p.675) that neither the Indian National Institute of Oceanography, nor the Archaeological Survey believed that the findings were of human origin, and the NIO experts considered that the illusion in the side-scan images was synthesised by the acoustic process and had no significance. NIO is a world-class institution, and I would trust their judgement.
Side-scan systems either print strong echo = black, or strong echo= white. It is not clear which convention is being used. This again emphasises that the illusion is arbitrary, like those trick games: 6 cubes or 7? A duck or an old woman?
In Plate No. 3 there are regions of the picture at top left and bottom right which do not show the linear-intersecting pattern. In both cases there is a simple lineation from upper right to lower left, just striations. Because of the strong currents in the area these features are probably linear dune-like ribbons sculpted in sand or other loose sediments. These blend in the centre of the picture into the intersecting pattern. This transition is perfectly natural in geomorphological features, but is very odd in a human structure. The same transition is apparent in Plate 4, at the upper left.
There is no evidence in the sidescan image to confirm precisely the origin of the reported outcrops, My first impression , before I had even seen the pictures, was that the “underwater city 9 km long” would turn out to be natural fossil beach rock. Further scrutiny, combined with the so-called artifacts (see below) suggests that the hard ridges are outcrops of shale or mudstone. Beach rock is a natural cementation of beach sands rich in siliceous sands and carbonates which react with sunlight and salt water at the water’s edge on tropical beaches. The result is a strip of rock a few metres wide that can extend horizontally for many miles. If more sand is transported onto the beach successive layers of rock accumulate to seawards, absolutely flat and straight along the beach, but with a very slight tilt towards the sea, which was the original beach gradient. Such features can be many tens of metres wide, even a hundred metres or more.
The sub-bottom profiler images look much more complex than necessary. The exaggerated features at the bottom of the picture are simply the double echoes which result in a second version of the true echo at the top of the picture, but with twice the amplitude. These can be ignored. From the web site it is not possible to read the scales, either vertical or horizontal, but the features are probably a few metres high, and tens of metres across. This is in the range of the dimension one would expect from beach rock strips, and reasonable for one limb of an eroded anticlynal bedrock structure.
Since the position of the track of the sub-bottom profiler is not known in relation to the sidescan images, it is not possible to correlate them accurately. The discussion on the TV programme that the sub-bottom profiler showed “deep foundations” was absurd. Acoustic profiling images always show deep lines of greyish scattering within soft sediments, and a hard echo with pure white paper underneath from rocky surfaces. The contrast between the two looks like “deep foundations”. It always does.
Graham Hancock replies:
At no point anywhere in the above does Dr Flemming acknowledge the expertise and judgement of the scientists from India’s National Institute of Ocean Technology (NIOT) concerning the sonar images of geometrical structures on the bottom of the Gulf of Cambay. It is as though those scientists, who worked on the spot and were directly involved with the acquisition and interpretation of the sonar images, simply do not exist – or at any rate as though their scientific judgement of the images is believed by Fleming to be worthless by comparison with the judgement of the great experts from the Southampton Oceanography Centre, UK!
For the record I do not regard the opinions of the NIOT scientists as worthless. I know them to be conscientious and highly experienced people and I trust their informed first-hand judgement of the data far more than I trust the judgement of the chaps at Southampton — who have got no nearer to the original material than seeing only a tiny fraction of it second-hand in my film and on my website. I do not get the impression from Flemming’s review that he has even bothered to talk to the people at the NIOT. He just ignores their input to this whole debate. Yet it is their input and expert judgement that was the source of the Indian government’s announcement that cities 9500 years old had been discovered in the Gulf of Cambay.
Does Flemming have some information about the NIOT that casts their scientific judgement into doubt?
If not then how does he justify brushing aside their findings in such an arrogant and dismissive way?
I note, however, that he exempts another Indian institution from this blanket dismissal. This is the NIO (National Institute of Oceanography) of which he states: “NIO is a world-class institution, and I would trust their judgement.”
Now this raises a rather interesting point with the regard to the U-shaped structure at Poompuhar of which Flemming confidently writes:
“Bedding planes in the rock were pointed to with a knife, and presumed to be the boundaries of man-made blocks. Subsequently computer graphics were used to re-create the shape of the structure that Hancock thought had been discovered and which he said could be a ritual enclosure. This reviewer, and Dr Neil Kenyon, a scientist at SOC specialising for decades in acoustic surveying of sedimentary and sea bed geological structures, concluded that the outcrop was completely natural.”
Since Flemming assures us that the NIO is a world-class institution and that he would “trust their judgement” I can only assume that he must be ignorant of the fact that it is the NIO’s judgement, not mine, that the U-shaped structure at Poompuhar is man-made and that it was the NIO first, long before me, who speculated that it might have had a ritual function. Here is the relevant passage from the NIO’s own Journal of Marine Archaeology (Vols 5-6, 1995-6) which describes the early explorations of the structure: “A few stone blocks were found in the one-metre wide arm. The distance between the two arms is 20 metres. Whether the object is a shrine or some other man-made structure now at 23 metres depth remains to be examined in the next field season.”
The rest of the story is told in Underworld. Dr Flemming has a copy. Yet there is no hint in his review of my film (a review in which he praises the judgement of the NIO) that the NIO in fact judges the U-shaped structure to be man-made. He simply informs us that he and a colleague of his at Southampton, on the basis of my film alone, are confident that it is “completely natural”.
To reach such a level of confidence on the basis of a few seconds of film (especially when than film was shot in poor visibility) seems to me hardly to be good science. And while Dr Flemming is not required to read my book he is out of line to pronounce the U-shaped structure natural so quickly when he has clearly not even bothered to read the NIO’s own published findings about the structure.
I take the opportunity to note at this point that I have been instrumental, in conjunction with the NIO and with the Scientific Exploration Society in Britain, in setting up a three-week marine archaeological expedition at Poompuhar starting on 18 March. I and my wife Santha will be participating in this expedition, the purpose of which is thoroughly to explore and (if possible) classify the U-shaped structure and up to 27 other major sonar anomalies that are known to be located in its immediate vicinity about 5 kilometres off shore of Poompuhar. I am, in other words, submitting my “Flooded Kingdoms” hypothesis about Poompuhar to rigorous on the spot testing – and potential disproof if I am wrong.
Isn’t there some sense at least, no matter the generalised hostility towards me from the academic community, in which this deserves to be recognised as good scientific method?
SECTION 5: SEA BOTTOM SAMPLES
Nic Flemming wrote:
I was astonished by the extremely unconvincing nature of the so-called artifacts shown on the TV screen, and which I have viewed from images obtained via the web. My immediate impression was that these objects are mostly natural rolled pebbles, concretions, and other normal seabed phenomena. If I had found material like this on the sea floor I would not have expected the public to believe that they are artifacts.
Dr Neil Kenyon, a colleague at SOC who has published more than 100 papers on the use of sidescan sonar and sub-bottom profiling to analyse seabed sediments and geological outcrops. He has worked recently in the Arabian Sea and the Gulf of Hormuz and provides the following comments:
“Although only based on the images seen on the TV programme, the materials dredged up from the Cambay site and presented as human artifacts all appear to be well-known natural geological features and fossils, familiar to any sedimentary geologist who has worked in the Indian Ocean, Arabian Sea, or Arabian Gulf region. The flat stones which looked so smooth are natural fragments of shale or mudstone, probably from a natural outcrop known to the Geological Survey of India. Most continental shelves have been surveyed acoustically for military and offshore petroleum purposes. The outcrop would probably be plotted on available marine geological maps. The flat stone fragments have been rolled in the strong currents on the seabed, and blasted with suspended sand particles, which has made them smooth, like beach pebbles.
“Some of them had been perforated by boring molluscs, seashells which eat calcareous rock, and this accounted for the holes in them. The nodular and cylindrical objects are natural concretions and fossils. The object that looked as if it has been turned on a lathe is just a nodule that has been rolled on the sea bed by the current.
“The flat grey object which GH said had got writing on it is a well known fossil from this area, and is popularly known to geologists as a “hieroglyph fossil” because of the patterns on its surface. It is probably several million years old. This fossil is typical of layers of shale and mudstone of this age. Although I had only a glance at them the trace fossils could be Palaeodictyon or Helminthoida.
“Many objects left on the sea floor in these climatic conditions become concreted rapidly with calcareous deposits. The so-called human jawbone is probably an object that has been coated in natural calcareous limestone precipitated on the seabed. Inside the hard white coating there could be a bent piece of wood, or a fish-bone. These possibilities should be checked.
“All the materials displayed on the film were the sort of natural objects which a sedimentary geologist would expect to find anywhere in the tropics on the seabed, dating to millions of years old, but moved, altered, and concreted by modern currents, boring organisms, and natural chemical processes of seawater.”
In short, there is no evidence that these objects are man-made. Any piece of debris or old tree root stuck on the seabed could have, by chance, provided the convenient carbon 14 date.
Graham Hancock replies:
It really bothers me here, as with his comments on the sonar images, that Dr Flemming pays no attention to the skills, knowledge and expertise of the NIOT scientists involved in the marine research in the Gulf of Cambay. For example their geologists clearly do not think that the slab with raised markings is a fossil since they have put into circulation the view that the marks could be a proto-script. They may ultimately be proved right or wrong but I cannot understand why Flemming simply ignores their hypothesis as though it has no weight, while greatly favouring the opinion of a colleague in Southampton based on what the colleague himself admits was “only a glance” at the slab on my film.
Besides this slab, about which we now only know that some geologists think one thing and other geologists think another, is one amongst 2000 artefacts that the NIOT brought up from the site of the cities on the bottom of the Gulf of Cambay.
Flemming and his colleague have not seen or handled any of these artefacts, as I have done and as the NIOT scientists have done. Until they do so, I suggest that it is hasty (to say the least!) for them to so adamantly contest the NIOT’s conclusion that these are indeed man-made artefacts. Flemming seems to be simply ignorant of the fact that the artefacts include pottery and carved stone figurines. Likewise his colleague (Dr Neil Kenyon) asserts that “the object that looked as if it has been turned on a lathe is just a nodule that has been rolled on the sea bed by the current”.
I have handled this so-called “nodule”, which is about four inches long and resembles a human phallus. For what it’s worth I asses it to be ceramic (i.e made of fired clay – pottery in other words). The narrow-diameter hole that runs straight through it from one end to the other was not in my view created by any mollusc but is human workmanship so that the object could be threaded on a string.