BBC Horizon: Atlantis Uncovered and Altantis Reborn, 28 October & 4 November 1999

The BBC recently pulled down the offending script from their Horizon website. However, in our efforts to achieve full transparency in this serious matter and allow people to form their own opinions, we have put the script up on our own site. You can read it below:

Atlantis Reborn
BBC2 9:40pm Thursday 4th November 1999

NARRATOR (DILLY BARLOW): There are many mysteries about the past and how we journeyed from the Stone Age to civilisation. Now there is a controversial new theory. It claims that historians have ignored evidence of a lost civilisation of spectacular sophistication, the key to our past. If true, this forgotten episode would overturn all our ideas about the origins of civilisation.

GRAHAM HANCOCK (Author): If I’m right and our whole conception of prehistory is wrong, then the foundations upon which we have built our idea of what our society is are crumbling.

NARRATOR: Graham Hancock is determined to rewrite history. His books about the ancient past have sold in their millions making him a leading figure in a group of influential and radical authors. Hancock has a huge following who believe passionately in his controversial views that civilisation was invented by a god-like people ignored by orthodox historians.

GRAHAM HANCOCK: It’s possible we may have lost from the record an entire civilisation and I feel that the evidence for this lost episode in human history is mounting.

NARRATOR: Hancock’s theory is a challenge to orthodox archaeology. For over a century archaeologists have been investigating the origins of civilisation. Now they believe they’ve uncovered the true story of the past. According to this orthodox view, Stone Age peoples slowly evolved complex cultures at different times and in different parts of the world. 13,000 years ago groups of hunter/ gatherers began to settle and to farm. Over many thousands of years they developed writing, religions and astronomy. Eventually they built the great monuments of the Ancient World. But not everyone was satisfied with the archaeologists’s explanation. For them there was a tantalising mystery. Ancient people in far-flung parts of the world who seemed to have had no contact with each other were doing very similar things – building pyramids and studying the stars. How could these puzzling resemblances be explained? One explanation for the puzzle was a fabulous and enduring myth about the past: Atlantis. The story goes that Atlantis was the home of an ancient civilisation of astonishing sophistication. When it was destroyed in a flood its survivors travelled the world bringing the gift of civilisation to less developed peoples. If Atlantis was the cradle of all other civilisations, as many believed, then there’s no longer a mystery about all those strange resemblances. But the idea of Atlantis was scorned by historians.

DR KEN FEDER (Archaeologist): If Atlantis were true, if there was one source it would be very easy to test archaeologically and the evidence would be clear. The fact that it’s not clear, the fact that that kind of evidence is not present is indicative of the fact that the cultures developed independently and were not derived from a single source.

NARRATOR: Graham Hancock believes that the idea of Atlantis deserves a second chance. He does not claim to be a scientist, but he has used science to revive an old idea. Ten years ago Hancock set out on a quest. He came back with a radical vision, one that he hoped would overturn established ideas about the past.

GRAHAM HANCOCK: What we’re looking at here is, is an accumulation of discordant evidence and information which doesn’t quite fit in with the orthodox picture. Bits and pieces of a jigsaw puzzle that seem to have been just scattered and thrown all around the world and yet the feeling that if we can put those pieces together slowly, methodically, painstakingly they will show us something that we’ve forgotten about ourselves, a great civilisation lost in prehistory.

NARRATOR: In his research Hancock became intrigued by the ideas of writers who have linked ancient monuments with the stars as they appeared long ago. Since ancient times people have seen shapes in the stars and they’d given these constellations names like Aries the Ram, or Orion the Hunter. Different ancient societies saw different animals and objects in the stars. The patterns of the constellations don’t change, but the precise angle of groups of stars in relation to the horizon alters over time. It’s the result of a process called precession. The earth spins on its axis every 24 hours, but the axis has a very slow wobble which lasts 26,000 years. This is precession and it slowly changes our view of the stars. It means that their position in the sky is unique to different moments in time. Astronomers have calculated the slowly changing position of the stars back in time. Using an astronomical software programme, Hancock made an intriguing discovery. Some of the wonders of the Ancient World appear to mirror the stars at a precise moment in the past: 10,500BC. It was a date that was to assume an extraordinary significance for his theory.

GRAHAM HANCOCK: Groups of monuments in Egypt and another large group of monuments far away in Cambodia are copying constellations in the sky as they looked, not at the time when those monuments were constructed, but in a much earlier epoch, the epoch of, of 10,500BC.

NARRATOR: In other words, if looked at from above, groups of monuments mirrored the unique position of the stars as they looked at that crucial moment in the past. For Hancock, the implications were stunning.

GRAHAM HANCOCK: We are looking at the vestiges of an ancient world-wide religious system, a sky ground religion. The essential thing that it had to do was to build architectural copies of groups of stars in the sky and we’re looking at the vestiges of that system spread out around the world.

NARRATOR: Hancock argued that there had indeed been an ancient lost super-civilisation destroyed 12,000 years ago. Its survivors brought civilisation to a Stone Age world and a map of the sky as it looked in 10,500BC. It became a blueprint for future generations around the world who built monuments to mirror these ancient patterns of stars. Hancock could revive the old idea of Atlantis with a difference.

GRAHAM HANCOCK: I avoid using the word Atlantis in my books because most people when they hear the word Atlantis immediately think that they’re dealing with the lunatic fringe. I don’t feel that I belong to a lunatic fringe.

NARRATOR: When Hancock published his theory in 1995 it caused a sensation. Five million copies were sold around the world. The impact of his book rivalled the spectacular success of Erich von Däniken’s Chariots of the Gods published in the 1970s. Von Däniken explained the birth of civilisation as the result of visits from alien astronauts. Other books by Hancock followed, every one a best-seller. His success has been crowned by a major television series which reached 10 million viewers. Hancock is now part of a growing movement of radical, alternative historians. These writers have become hugely influential. No mainstream archaeologist ever reaches such a wide audience, but for academics their ideas are heresy.

KEN FEDER: Certainly one thing that they’re doing is selling a lot of books. There’s a long and ignoble history of this sort of thing and I view it as merely the latest incarnation of somebody obviously quite fascinated by the past, a populariser of the past, but someone who doesn’t want to adhere to the scientific method.

GRAHAM HANCOCK: It is inevitable that, that this is a threat to orthodox views of the past. It, it can’t simply be accepted by, by, by a historian that the whole burden of his work over many, many years is wrong.

NARRATOR: If Hancock and his fellow authors are right, we will have to rewrite history. The only way to find out if they are is to test the theory. It is Ancient Egypt that provides most of these writers with their key evidence. In particular the pyramids built 4,500 years ago on the Giza plateau near modern Cairo.

GRAHAM HANCOCK: According to Egyptologists those pyramids are tombs and tombs only. They have no other function whatsoever and they were built to serve as the tombs of 3 Pharaohs of the 4th dynasty – Khufu, Khefren and Menkaure – and that’s the end of the story really as far as orthodox Egyptologists are concerned. I think there’s room for a reconsideration of what the pyramids might be and in order to reconsider that information I think it’s very important that we take astronomy into account.

NARRATOR: There’s always been a mystery about the 3 Giza pyramids. Looked at from above they form a perfect diagonal, but with the third, smaller pyramid that is offset. Many have been baffled by this curious imperfection, but now there is a new explanation. Robert Bauval is a former engineer. He has developed a controversial theory about the Giza pyramids and it has a crucial role in the evolution of Hancock’s theories about a lost civilisation. In 1982, on his way to Cairo airport, Bauval flew over these mysterious wonders of the Ancient World. There was something about the puzzling layout of the pyramids that began to obsess him.

ROBERT BAUVAL (Author): Now if you can see you have two large pyramids which are of almost equal size and a long diagonal line whereas the third pyramid, the smaller one, of Menkaure, is offset to the east of this diagonal.

NARRATOR: Bauval had an inspiration. The plan of the 3 pyramids reminded him of a constellation – Orion the Hunter. In the middle of the constellation are the 3 belt stars. They, too, form a diagonal line with one star offset. It seemed to be a perfect match for the pyramids.

ROBERT BAUVAL: I observed that the stars had exactly the same pattern as the pyramids on the ground. You have two bright stars, or two large stars if you like, and the third one on the top dimmer and offset to the east in exactly the same pattern.

NARRATOR: There are, of course, many other stars in Orion, but it was the 3 belt stars that led Bauval to make another discovery, one that linked the pyramids uncannily with that date long in the past. As a result of precession, the angle of the 3 stars changes over time and Bauval found the best fit on one particular date.

ROBERT BAUVAL: So we have a moving sky over a fixed land, the pyramids on the ground, and when you move that sky in time to fit the patterns of Orion you get that lock in 10,500BC.

NARRATOR: Hancock was impressed by Bauval’s theory and the way it linked Ancient Egypt with an even more ancient date.

ROBERT BAUVAL: The whole arrangement freezes the time of 10,500BC.

NARRATOR: In his television series Hancock showed how Bauval’s idea works. The pyramids form a precise 45 degree angle with a line running north/ south and the 3 stars form the same exact angle in the sky on only one date: 10,500BC. For Hancock Bauval’s findings seemed like compelling evidence for a lost civilisation.

GRAHAM HANCOCK: I accept Egyptological opinion the great pyramids were built in 2,500BC. I am not saying that the pyramids were built earlier than that. What I’m saying is that they were built in 2,500BC but designed to commemorate architecturally, symbolically and astronomically an earlier epoch.

NARRATOR: If Bauval and Hancock are right the implications are astounding. It means that Ancient Egyptian civilisation was inherited from a lost people, unknown to any mainstream historian. One astronomer took a keen interest in Bauval’s theory – Ed Krupp. He quickly became troubled by Bauval’s claims.

DR. ED KRUPP (Griffith Observatory, Los Angeles): When The Orion Mystery came out my curiosity was naturally aroused. Anybody comes up with a good idea about ancient astronomy I want to know about it and in going through the book there was something nagging. In The Orion Mystery there’s a, a nice double page spread and anybody looking at this would say ah, Giza pyramids, belt of Orion, one kind of looks like the other, you know you’ve got 3 in a row, 3 in a row, slanted, slanted, we’ve got a map and what I was bothered by turned out to be really pretty obvious. In the back of my head I knew that something was wrong with these pictures and what’s wrong with these pictures in their presentation is that north for the constellation of Orion is here at the top of the page. North for the Giza pyramids is down here. Now they’re not marked, but I knew which way north was at Giza and I knew which way north was in Orion. To make the map of the pyramids on the ground match the stars of Orion in the sky you have to turn Egypt upside down and if you don’t want to do that then you’ve got to turn the sky upside down.

GRAHAM HANCOCK: Ed Krupp’s argument that the, that the pyramids are somehow upside down in relation to the, to the patterns of the, of the stars in the sky to, to my mind is, is a very pedantic and nit-picking and ungenerous attitude. I think that what we’re proposing that the Ancient Egyptians were making a pleasing, symbolic resemblance to what they saw in the sky on the ground is a very reasonable argument.

NARRATOR: According to Hancock and Bauval the Ancient Egyptians were simply building symbolic patterns with their magnificent pyramids and yet it is clear that these same Egyptians were obsessively accurate in every aspect of building pyramids. The 4 sides of every pyramid at Giza face precisely north, south, east and west and ironically one direction was of special significance – north. Every pyramid has an entrance that faces north and inside the great pyramid are narrow shafts which many think had symbolic significance and they point at stars directly north and south.

ED KRUPP: That locks the pyramids north side and south side to the north side of the sky and the south side of the sky. That means the Egyptians in building and laying out the pyramids said we know where north is and we care about it because we’ve incorporated it into the architecture. The Egyptians were perfectly capable of drawing the pyramids right if they wanted to. If they wanted Orion’s belt to look like Orion’s belt on the ground and match up with the north and south sides of the pyramid they could have done that.

NARRATOR: Even if the pyramids are merely a symbolic impression of the sky, there are other problems. There are more than 16 stars in Orion. Robert Bauval originally argued that two other pyramids also matched stars, but a simple test shows that there is no fit. There are more than 80 pyramids in Egypt and 29 within a 30-mile radius of Giza. Among all of these there are no convincing matches between stars and pyramids. But Hancock and Bauval still stand by their theory.

GRAHAM HANCOCK: I don’t need every pyramid in Egypt to map a star in the sky. The people who built these monuments were making a grand symbolic statement that was supposed to be understood on an intuitive and spiritual level.

ED KRUPP: It is hard to invest a lot of intellectual effort into 3 stars in a row and 3 pyramids on the ground. That’s like a simple configuration and it’s very easy to find 3 things in a row and if, if you know there are roughly 81 or so pyramids in Egypt well yeah if all 81 of ’em mapped the sky perfectly I’d be impressed, but if 3 of them mapped the sky sort of I’m not impressed.

NARRATOR: In June 1999 astronomer Anthony Fairall made another discovery. He re-examined that precise 45 degree angle that seemed to link the pyramids with the belt stars. Fairall found that the match was not as precise as originally claimed. The angle of the pyramids is 38 degrees, and that of the belt stars is 50 degrees. Asked about this discrepancy Hancock and Bauval argued that it’s the symbolism not the precise calculations that matter.

GRAHAM HANCOCK: No they’re not absolutely correct and I don’t care. I, I have to stress that in my view the Ancient Egyptian priesthood was not staffed by anal-retentive bureaucrats. The Ancient Egyptian priesthood was, was a group of, of creative and imaginative thinkers who were exploring the mystery of life and death and who believed that there was a connection between ground and sky. They wanted to make a resemblance on the ground of a particular moment in time.

NARRATOR: There is a simple explanation for the way the pyramids were laid out along that diagonal line 4,500 years ago and it has nothing to do with Orion. Kate Spence is an Egyptologist. She’s studied the historical sequence of quarrying and construction on the Giza plateau in 2,500BC. The interior blocks of the pyramids were extracted from quarries on the plateau itself. The bases of the blocks can still be seen today. It turns out that the choices of the pyramid builders were severely limited by the site they had chosen to build on.

KATE SPENCE (University of Cambridge): It’s entirely possible to explain the position of the pyramids relative to each other just through the geology of the site and the nature of the pyramids themselves. If we look at a map of the pyramids which shows the contour lines you can actually see it quite clearly. These are the pyramids, the Khufu pyramid, Khefren and Menkaure and they’re built on a ridge which runs diagonally. The reason they’re set obliquely to the ridge is because they’re aligned so carefully towards north, so this is the first pyramid to be built, the Khufu pyramid and when Khefren came along to build his he couldn’t build it in a straight line because there’s a quarry here and it’s very steeply sloping so he had to set the pyramid back, for two reasons, both so that it was on a reasonably high level and also so that he could get a clear view of north for the alignment and exactly the same thing happened when Menkaure came to build his. It’s actually set back from the line of the Khefren pyramid because if you see here the contours are very close so it’s quite steep, so it’s set on a level plateau at about the same height as the Khefren pyramid and with a clear view towards north.

NARRATOR: It seems clear that as the Egyptian kings built their monuments across the Giza plateau the decisions they made about the position of the pyramids were not inspired by a pattern of stars but were the result of the limitations of the site they chose to build on. But Graham Hancock’s radical theory about the past does not depend on the Orion theory alone. He claims to have discovered a global network of ancient monuments, either mapping constellations on the ground or linked in other ways to the stars. He believes that they’re all based on a 12,00-year-old blueprint of the night sky. Far from Egypt Hancock has discovered other crucial evidence in Cambodia, at one of the most extraordinary archaeological sites in the world: the temples of Angkor Wat. The temples were built by the Khmer people 3,000 years after the Giza pyramids were built, but Hancock claims to have found evidence of a more ancient master plan.

GRAHAM HANCOCK: There’s a similarity, a very strong similarity between the pattern of the temples on the ground and the pattern of the stars in the constellation of Draco, one of the great northern constellations. Quite simply if you take a map of the temples of Angkor and join the dots to connect up the different temples you find that you have drawn out on that map the pattern of the constellation of Draco.

NARRATOR: As Hancock shows in his television series, it does seem as if the temples at Angkor are a genuine mirror of the stars mapped out by the lost civilisation, and that wasn’t all. The temples of Angkor also seemed to be connected with that momentous date: 10,500BC as a result of precession.

GRAHAM HANCOCK: I found extraordinarily that the, that the correlation becomes as close as possible to perfect only at one date, and that is 10,500BC.

NARRATOR: In his television series, Hancock refers to the work of one of the world’s leading experts on Angkor, Eleanor Mannikka. She has spent 20 years surveying and mapping the temples and now she’s examined Hancock’s theory in detail.

ELEANOR MANNIKA (University of Michigan): This hypothesis is based on the fact that certain temples are placed in their position because they have to follow a pattern that evokes the constellation Draco, so if we look at this we see the beginning apparently is the head right here at Angkor Wat and the pattern goes from there up to Phnom Bakheng which is this enormous central mountain. Then it travels up here to Prah Bantei Thom and then it goes over here to (Preah) Pithu and from Ta Keo it goes to Preah Khan. Then it goes to Ta Prohm, then it goes to Pre Rup out here to Bantei Samre built in the 12th-century. I see a vague resemblance of course because it goes up and down and off, but actually the tail of Draco goes way up like this, it doesn’t just go off like that.

NARRATOR: When examined closely the actual match between the temples and the constellation is not at all precise. Does Hancock have an answer?

GRAHAM HANCOCK: There’s a rather good correspondence. By no means you know absolutely spot-on accurate, but a rather good correspondence between the stars in the sky and the temples on the ground and when you bear in mind that these temples were constructed across hundreds of square miles of really very dense jungle, something like 1,000 years ago when there was no ability for the builders to get above their subject and check that they were achieving a perfect design I think they did a very good job.

NARRATOR: But surveying has never depended on viewing from above. It’s all done by measuring distances and angles on the ground. Mannikka’s investigations show that the Khmers must have been expert surveyors. Such is the precision of their work that she is convinced that they could have accurately laid out and built any pattern they wanted, and there is good evidence which reveals why the Khmers placed the temples where they did.

ELEANOR MANNIKKA: Certain of these temples within this so-called constellation here are where they are for very clear-cut historical reasons referred to in inscriptions, very obvious reasons. For example, Phnom Bakheng which is located here on top of the central hill at Angkor, had to be the place where the king put his royal temple because nothing else was so prominent at the site. Up here at Preah Khan there was a very bloody battle around 1190. That’s why Preah Khan is here. It couldn’t be anywhere else. It had to be here because the battle was here.

NARRATOR: Mannikka discovered that the position of every one of the temples included by Hancock can be explained in similarly well documented ways. Hancock includes only 10 temples in the shape of the constellation Draco, but investigation of the Angkor region has revealed that there are more than 60 temples. It seems arbitrary to use so few out of so many. the correlation he has found begins to look more like coincidence than planning.

GRAHAM HANCOCK: I, I’m sure that, that there are academics who can find a dozen reasons why the resemblance of the temples of Angkor to the pattern of the constellation of Draco is accidental and a coincidence and can be explained in all sorts of other ways, but I’ve put forward my case in as much detail as I can in my work. I think there is a striking resemblance between the basic pattern on the ground and the pattern of the constellation in the sky.

NARRATOR: And there is a final problem. Draco is supposed to resemble a dragon, but only in some cultures. There is no evidence that the Khmer people recognised a dragon in the stars.

ELEANOR MANNIKKA: Draco had nothing to do with the culture whatsoever. I mean there’s no reference to the constellation in any inscription, the Cambodians don’t have dragons in their folklore, not at all, it’s a foreign concept. There’s no reference to it whatsoever in any way. No Draco.

NARRATOR: Unfortunately Ancient Egypt and Cambodia are Hancock’s most important pieces of evidence, that monuments mirror an ancient blueprint of the stars. His claim seems flawed and Horizon has made a discovery which further questions his basic theory. It links a group of unique monuments with a pattern of stars. Here are the monuments on the ground looking north. The pattern matches one of the great constellations: Leo the Lion. These are the monuments. Grand Central Station, the New York public library, Maceys, Madison Square Gardens, the Central Post Office, a Theatre, a University, Times Square, the Rockefeller Centre and a police station. The monuments are, of course, in Manhattan. The Leo master plan doesn’t account for every Manhattan landmark, but using Hancock’s criteria it doesn’t have to. As long as you have enough points and you don’t need to make every point fit, you can find virtually any pattern you want. But Hancock does offer other kinds of evidence for his theory.

GRAHAM HANCOCK: I’m already convinced about the existence of an ancient worldwide religious system which must have emanated from a remote, lost source, but I need to convince others and the best way to do that is to produce artefacts and evidence that are 12,000 or so years old and which, therefore, fall outside of the, of the framework of, of orthodox history.

NARRATOR: There are two far-flung monuments that Hancock claims were actually built by the people of the lost civilisation. One is the ancient city of Tiwanaku in Bolivia, the other is the Egyptian Sphinx. The Sphinx was carved out of the limestones of the Giza plateau. Mainstream archaeologists think it was built 4,500 years ago but Hancock believes it is 12,000 years old. Some of his evidence is again astronomical. The constellation Leo rose above the horizon directly east of the Sphinx in 10,500BC, but there is no evidence that this constellation was recognised by the Ancient Egyptians, but Hancock also claims there is geological evidence. Egypt has had a dry climate since the time the pyramids were built, but the Sphinx and its surrounding enclosure are deeply eroded. It has been argued by Hancock and others that the erosion was caused by heavy rainfall and that this means the Sphinx must have been carved many thousands of years earlier than we thought, when the climate was wetter. But the erosion argument has not stood up to the scrutiny of geologists. Erosion on the Giza plateau does not depend on water. The Giza limestones contain salts and these have proved to cause destructive levels of erosion in very short periods of time. There is no hard evidence that the Sphinx is any older than the orthodox date. Hancock has also focused on another monument thousands of miles from Egypt, in South America. High in the Bolivian Andes lies Lake Titicaca. Nine miles to the east is one of the most mysterious ruined cities in the world. It is called Tiwanaku. Archaeologists think that this was the capital of a South American empire that began to flourish nearly 2,000 years ago, but the identity of the people who created Tiwanaku is still debated. Whoever they were, they were superb stonemasons creating temples and monuments using immense but precisely carved blocks of stone. For more than a century Tiwanaku has attracted fabulous explanations. Erich von Däniken thought that the great stone blocks were cut by laser wielding visitors from another planet. Graham Hancock has another suggestion.

GRAHAM HANCOCK: As to who would have built Tiwanaku what we might be talking about is the survivors of the lost civilisation, people who have moved into the mountains to, to create a, a new settlement to try to preserve something of their culture, something of their tradition, something of their religious ideas.

NARRATOR: For evidence Hancock turned to the writings of Arthur Posnansky. He believed Tiwanaku was the ancient cradle of american civilisation. Posnansky stumbled on the ruined ancient city at the turn of the century and became a self-appointed expert on the mysterious site. He claimed Tiwanaku was an ancient astronomical observatory. He believed that particular stone blocks had once been positioned to face the sun as it rose above the horizon at the winter and summer solstices, but like the constellations, the position of the solstices changes very slowly over time and Posnansky found the best match between the stone blocks and the rising sun 12,000 years ago.

GRAHAM HANCOCK: Arthur Posnansky, who is by no means a favourite with orthodox scholars, but did spend 50 years of his life studying Tiwanaku from the early 1900s up until the 1940s, made a very strong case that the alignments, the original alignments of Tiwanaku had been set out at a time when the rising point of the sun was quite different from, from where it is today at the winter and summer solstices and he dated that approximately to about 12,000 years ago.

NARRATOR: But how good is the evidence that Hancock relies on? Has Posnansky’s work stood the test of time? Tiwanaku is in a ruinous state. Its great blocks lie shattered and fallen. That’s because in the 17th-century the Spanish Conquistadors arrived in this region of the Andes. They set about destroying this pagan monument. The Spanish broke up the site, moved hundreds of blocks and built a cathedral with them nearby. No-one knows where many of the remaining blocks were originally positioned. Posnansky could only guess that they might once have been aligned with the rising sun, yet this was his most important evidence. Posnansky died in 1948. That means he missed a revolution in archaeological science, one that might have changed his mind about the age of the site. Carbon dating is a method that has provided increasingly reliable dates for archaeological sites all over the world, including Tiwanaku. The very earlier signs of human habitation, probably a small village, are just 3,500 years old. The great stone monuments were begun only 2,000 years ago, nowhere near 10,500BC. So how does Graham Hancock deal with this information in his recent book?

GRAHAM HANCOCK: I’m not required to be encyclopaedic. In Heaven’s Mirror there is no representation whatsoever of recent carbon dates for Tiwanaku. I simply didn’t discuss it in there.

KEN FEDER: When you have the, the, the archaeological record, when you have the radiocarbon dating for places like Tiwanaku it shows how old the site is. When you insist on ignoring that, not even rejecting it, just ignoring it, it shows that what you are doing is not science, can’t be science and that your, your understanding of the past is in fact based on faith. It’s a belief system, it’s not science.

NARRATOR: There is no hard evidence that survivors of a lost civilisation built Tiwanaku or the Sphinx 12,000 years ago. But there is one other way Hancock could change our view of the past and that is to find the home of the lost civilisation. It would be the find of the century, the real Atlantis. Hancock has made an astonishing suggestion about where it could be: Antarctica. In his best-selling book Fingerprints of the Gods Hancock claims Antarctica was once in a warmer region and home to the lost civilisation. He suggests that a massive shift in the earth’s crust, 12000 years ago displaced Antarctica to the South Pole where it became ice-bound. Geologists have studied the history of Antarctica through ice-cores, some as deep as 3½ kilometres. Ice-cores are like tree rings and they can be used to work out the history of the ice-sheets. The scientists’ work shows clearly that the ice has been here for over 400,000 years. It would have been hard to survive here in 10,500BC let alone create a sophisticated civilisation.

GRAHAM HANCOCK: What I’ve come to realise as my research has gone on in a sense is that I don’t need Antarctica and therefore I don’t need to propose a radical revolution of geological ideas in order to explain a lost civilisation.

NARRATOR: Hancock now believes we’ve been looking in the wrong place. The lost civilisation was underwater all along. This is the Yonaguni formation. Discovered in 1987 by a Japanese fisherman it lies under 5 metres of water at the end of the Japanese island chain. It appears to be a series of steps and pyramid-like structures. Could this be the remains of a city lost 12,000 years ago?

GRAHAM HANCOCK: It looks like a monument. It has very curious features. It has a series of steps and terraces cut into its side, it’s oriented to the cardinal directions, it faces due south, it has a deep east/west feature running along in front of it. It bears all the hallmarks of a, of a designed ceremonial, ritual or religious monument.

NARRATOR: Yonaguni looked as if it could be a spectacular discovery and Hancock needed corroboration. He invited the Boston University geologist Robert Schoch to inspect the site. Professor Schoch has taken a keen interest in unorthodox views of the past and he welcomed the chance to examine the underwater discovery. Schoch dived with Hancock several times at Yonaguni.

PROF. ROBERT SCHOCH (Boston University): I went there in this case actually hoping that it was a totally man-made structure that was now submerged underwater, that dated maybe back to 6,000BC or more. When I got there and I got to dive on the structure I have to admit I was very, very disappointed because I was basically convinced after a few dives that this was primarily possibly totally a natural structure.

GRAHAM HANCOCK: I think that what Robert Schoch needs to do is, is a lot more diving. When I took him there in 1997, September of 1997, he did 4 dives at that time and then he went back again in July of 1998 and did a few more dives. I, I really feel that, that before anybody pronounces definitively on this monument they should put in a minimum of 50 dives.

NARRATOR: Professor Schoch has not changed his mind.

ROBERT SCHOCH: Isolated portions of it look like they’re man-made, but when you look at it in context you look at the shore features etc and you see how, in this case, fine sandstones split along horizontal bedding plains that gives you these regular features. I’m convinced it’s a natural structure.

NARRATOR: Graham Hancock is still scouring the oceans of the world for his lost civilisation. He has also investigated pyramids and a giant stone face on the planet Mars, but he has yet to find any firm evidence that there really was a lost civilisation of god-like astronomers 12,000 years ago.

GRAHAM HANCOCK: I believe passionately that the past has been misrepresented and that people today have not been given the full picture and I don’t think that my arguments are ever going to be successfully destroyed by nit-picking.

ED KRUPP: After having invested a lot of time doing what I think very few other people do which is saying OK, you’ve made this, this claim. Let’s see if it holds up and, and so subjecting it to the rules of evidence and then coming to a conclusion. My conclusion is no, I don’t think they’re right and I don’t think they’re right because I don’t think the evidence fits the hypothesis.