Graham Hancock's latest foray into the murky uncharted waters of the past is, in this case, exactly that--Underworld
is an exploration of what lies beneath the sea, mainly off the coasts of India, Malta and Japan. Hancock, well known for his disputes with orthodox archaeologists, argues that they ought to be looking underwater for submerged ruins, and that by not doing so they are stubbornly holding on to out-dated and incorrect theories. Hancock doesn't have a lot of time for academics. Most of them, he seems to suggest, having spent their careers safely in their ivory towers, are unwilling even to consider new paradigms which could overturn everything they have learnt and taught. And Hancock's thesis would do just that.
In Underworld--the book of his Channel 4 TV series--he argues that far from springing out of nowhere some 6,000 or 7,000 years ago in Mesopotamia, civilisation has been with mankind for many millennia longer. With the aid of a geologist at Durham University, Hancock examines which coastal areas vanished beneath the sea as the ice melted at the end of the last Ice Age, a catastrophic inundation he finds in the Flood myths of most of the world's traditional religions. And then he goes diving and finds, in some cases, incontrovertible ruins; in other cases the piles of stone might well be natural rock formations, but Hancock argues for their human origins.
Hancock accepts that he is neither a historian, an archaeologist nor a geologist. Some of his arguments tend to be rather speculative, and some of his conclusions may well be wrong--it's not always a good thing to ignore the experts! But in this massive book--well over 700 pages--he does provide sufficient evidence for flooded ruins that ought to be studied by real scholars. And if a few cherished paradigms are overturned in the process, surely this is what science is all about. --David V Barrett
Hancock has virtually cornered the market in this kind of speculative writing, and his reputation as the New Age answer to David Attenborough is well earned. Much of the ancient world inherited by our ancestors now lies under water after melting ice caps flooded vast areas at the end of the last Ice Age. New advances in geology and marine technology mean that the great archaeological finds of this coming century will more than likely be found under the oceans. It now looks likely that large populations of early humans were obliterated from the historical record by this catastrophe over 10,000 years ago. But who were these populations: hunter-gatherers or more sophisticated peoples? Hancock applies his customary imaginative speculation on a quest to find some of the answers.