Initially, many doubted Graham Hancock on hidden history and other matters. But his new Netflix series might just change all that…
This article originally appeared in 2016 and has been updated.
By Chere Di Boscio
British writer and historian Graham Hancock likes to shake things up. After a career as a writer for the likes of the Sunday Times, The Independent and The Guardian newspapers, he started to become interested in ancient myths, megaliths and astrological data when he served as the East Africa correspondent of The Economist in the 1980s.
After decades of extensive investigations, he posited global connection with a very ancient, highly sophisticated “mother culture” that goes tens or even hundreds of thousands of years back further than most archeologists will admit, and which was wiped out by a major catastrophe. It is from this most ancient civilisation that he believes all subsequent ancient historical civilisations sprang.
This theory, which has only recently gained credence by some mainstream scholars, is the bedrock for many of his books. His output is prolific indeed, and includes:
- Lords of Poverty
- The Sign and the Seal
- Fingerprints of the Gods
- Keeper of Genesis (released in the US as Message of the Sphinx)
- The Mars Mystery
- Heaven’s Mirror (written with his wife Santha Faiia)
- Underworld: The Mysterious Origins of Civilization
A Maverick Thinker
Although considered a maverick by some, Hancock’s doubt about established archeological thinking (such as the ‘fact’ that the Great Pyramids of Giza were tombs for Pharaohs) resonates with many. That’s probably why his books have sold more than five million copies worldwide and have been translated to 27 languages.
And today, Netflix is featuring his work in the series Ancient Apocalypse. It’s a fascinating exploration of ancient, mysterious archeological sites around the world. Hancock raises serious doubts about these having been built by our ‘more primitive’ ancestors, and postulates that an unknown, advanced civilization had a hand in their construction, which came after a global cataclysm.
We were very privileged to probe the mind of this modern-day heretic in this exclusive interview.
Graham Hancock On Hidden History & Ayahuasca
From Journalist To Historian
Eluxe: Ok, so it’s on. So first question: From economist, to journalist, to historian – what initially made you make such a dramatic shift of interest?
Graham Hancock: It was a process rather than a single event. But what really happened was that I was the East African correspondent for The Economist.My beat very much included Ethiopia.
In the early 1980s Ethiopia was a big news story, with famine and war and all kinds of things going on, so I was there regularly. On one of those trips, I ended up in the city of Aksum in northern Ethiopia, having got there rather dramatically from Asmara, in Eritrea, which was then part of Ethiopia.
In Aksum, I encountered, actually for the first time, the Ethiopian claim to possess the Lost Ark of the Covenant. This was shortly after I had seen The Raiders of the Lost Ark, and so my nose for a journalistic story, you know, started to twitch. I wanted to know more!
They claimed the whole of the Covenant is in Aksum, and it’s in a particular chapel, in Aksum, which is in the grounds of a huge, ancient cathedral complex called Saint Mary of Zion.
I got my interpreter to take me in there and I had my first encounter with the Guardian of the Ark, who is a monk. It was he who sunk the hook of mystery into me, because he complained of the cataracts in his eyes, and in fact he asked me the next time I came back would I please bring him ointment for the cataracts. I said “Why? What’s causing this problem?” and he said, “The Ark is doing it to me,” and I said “Why?” and he said “The Ark is a thing of fire.”
That’s the moment when I began to realize that my calling is not current affairs; my calling was to investigate the mysteries of the past.
Eluxe: Wow! Were you able to look into that deeper?
Graham Hancock: I had to put it on the back burner. I had to carry on with a lot of journalistic and current affairs for some years after that, but I began to investigate that story. Scholars were telling me it was all rubbish, and yet I am seeing how central it is to Ethiopian tradition. Every single church in Ethiopia has either a replica of the Ark of the Covenant or a replica of the tablets of stone in the holiest of holies of that church. How could this just be bullshit? There has to be something more to it.
Then I find out that there are Ethiopian Jews who call themselves the Beta Israel who are practicing an Old Testament form of Judaism. Nothing to do with modern Judaism at all. I began to realize that this is a story that could be stood up, and I got drawn deeper and deeper into it. That led me to write my first book of historical mystery, which is called The Sign and the Seal.
At the same time, in order to research that book, I made my first journey to Egypt, because you can’t tell the story of the Ark of the Covenant without getting into the issue of Moses.
Eluxe: I know loads about Jesus, but so little about Moses…
Graham Hancock: Moses was reared in the household of Pharaoh in Egypt, so I had to go to Egypt. I found myself in front of the Great Pyramid, and I’m hearing the same bullshit from the academics that I was hearing about Ethiopia. That this is just a tomb of some megalomaniac Pharaoh.
I’m looking at this thing and it’s 481 feet high and it weighs 6 million tonnes and it’s almost perfectly aligned to true North and I’m not buying what the academics are telling me.
That took me down the path that eventually led to what is probably my best book: Fingerprints of the Gods. Ever since then, I have not been interested in current affairs at all. I think the real mysteries are in the past.
Eluxe: Ah, we’re so glad that that transition happened. It’s such a beautiful one, thank you! Next question: You’ve worked in major mainstream newspapers in the past, but obviously you don’t trust mainstream sources any longer…
Graham Hancock: I don’t.
Eluxe: So where do get your news from today?
Graham Hancock: Actually, to be honest, I try and avoid news as much as possible, especially mainstream news. It’s all about 24-hour rolling gloom and misery, 24-hour rolling hatred, fear and suspicion. It’s projecting a very negative energy into the world, and I try to avoid it as much as I can.
I suppose going back to my journalistic days, I do want to have a little bit of a handle of what’s going on in the world. I might sometimes tune into CNN for five minutes, and of course the Internet is a quick instant source.
But, what I try to protect myself from and try to stay away from, is the terrible energy that the news media are projecting into the world. It is dividing us from one another and filling is with fear and suspicion.
Eluxe: A very wise choice. I’m doing the same. My editor is into all these alternative news sources. Which other alternate info sources do you admire most?
Graham Hancock: Amongst my colleagues in the field who I have the greatest admiration for are Robert Bauval, the author of The Orion Mystery, and John Anthony West, who’s best known for his film series Magical Egypt. He’s also written many books; an amazing book called Serpent in the Sky: the High Wisdom of Ancient Egypt.
It was John Anthony West who first spotted the problem with the Sphinx. The weathering patterns on the Sphinx speak to exposure to a lot of water at some point. It was he who brought professor Robert Schoch from Boston University and this has resulted in the geological re-dating of the Sphinx from 4,500 years ago to 12,500 years ago. So I would add also Robert Schoch as an important and admirable colleague in this field.
My work has branched into a number of directions. I became very interested in altered states of consciousness as an explanation for the specific characteristics of cave art.
That led me to write a book called Supernatural: Meetings with the Ancient Teachers of Mankind. There, I would site amongst my principle influences Jeremy Narby, who is the author of the amazing book called The Cosmic Serpent, and Professor Rick Strassman from the University of New Mexico, who did the first legal research with human volunteers on DMT, which is the active ingredient of ayahuasca, back in the 1990s. He produced an astonishing book, which everybody should read, called DMT: The Spirit Molecule.
Eluxe: I’ve actually watched the documentary on it, I absolutely love it…
Graham Hancock: Yeah.
Eluxe: Such a good one. And I think that one awakens quite a few people…
Graham Hancock: Yeah!
Eluxe: Because it’s on Netflix and it’s so readily available…
Graham Hancock: Exactly.
Eluxe: And I find it quite funny that these things are actually so readily available with the “powers that be” you’d think they’d want to shut that down?
Graham Hancock: Well, yes, but I think what the “powers that be” are learning is that the more they try and shut something down in this world, with the Internet, the more they pop back up again.
Eluxe: Right! Like your TedTalk, for example.
Graham Hancock: Right.
Graham Hancock On Ayahuasca
Eluxe: Ok, you’re a big advocator of ayahuasca. But besides plant medicines, how do you think the average person can best shift their focus of attention from left-brain to higher states of consciousness?
Graham Hancock: Nature has taken what I call a belt and braces approach to making sure that we do have access to altered states of consciousness. Plant medicines are not the only way. It’s the altered state of consciousness that really matters, more than the vehicle that gets us to it, although, there is incredible wisdom in the plant medicines.
I personally regard Ayahuasca, the spirit behind ayahuasca, Mother Ayahuasca, as a divine entity. But, we can access those altered states and the realms they open up to us in other ways. Fasting for 40 days will definitely do it.
Eluxe: Have you ever done that?
Graham Hancock: Nope, I haven’t. I don’t intend to.
Dancing around a fire, as the Kalahari bushmen do for 24 hours, puts them into a deeply altered state. Interestingly afterwards, they, particularly their predecessors, the San, who were unfortunately wiped out in South Africa itself, but they left us a great deal of rock art. And that rock art is so close and so similar to the art done by ayahuasca shamans today. We know they were getting into those altered states not by using ayahuasca but using a dance.
And of course there’s meditation, yoga, there’s a whole range of techniques that we can do. But it just happens that the plant medicines, the plant allies as I like to think of them, are incredibly effective for getting into a deeply altered state of consciousness. And this is not the case, necessarily, with fasting or dancing around a fire, for getting right into direct contact with the intelligence of the plants themselves, or the intelligence that manifests through them.
I’ve heard people say: “why do you need to take this brew? It’s not natural.” What could be more natural than a plant? Quite a lot of meditators are very snobbish about this, they’re really snobbish. And they put down people who use the plant medicines, because they’re saying, “we’re doing it the natural way; you need some crutch.”
That is absolute bullshit. That is absolute bullshit. Plant medicines are actually very hard work. And the work really begins after the ceremony, when we try to integrate into our lives the experiences that we have had in the ceremony, and the lessons that we have been taught.
They’re not a shortcut, it’s not an easy route, but they are a quick and efficient way to get into the altered state of consciousness that you need in order to start rethinking the patterns of your life. And for that reason, amongst others, I value them highly.
Eluxe: Me too. Here [at Rythmia], we offer breathwork as well, and we find that people have profound shifts in their consciousness just through breathing.
Graham Hancock: Yeah, yes. This exactly happened to me in my first breathwork session yesterday.
Eluxe: Really? It’s powerful.
Graham Hancock: Yes, extremely powerful. I went in with no such expectations. I had, of course, done a bit of reading about breathwork, and I had heard of people who’ve had transformations. But somehow I didn’t think it was going to happen to me. But it did! And pretty fast. It was very trippy, and then it was very deep. I was confronted with many issues from my life that still remain to be dealt with. And I was confronted with some important realizations, which I am going to put into practice in the coming weeks. I won’t go into detail, but just to tell you…
Eluxe: That’s amazing.
Graham Hancock: …I had realizations of certain things I need to do, and I need to do them fast. And I’ve got to get onto that. After the hour, when I stood up, I could hardly stand. I was wobbly, I was just dizzy. It really had a profound effect on me. I think it was a true, true deep altered state of consciousness journey.
Eluxe: Wow, so powerful
Graham Hancock: Yes. Really powerful. And the great thing about it is that you can pretty much do it any place, any time.
Eluxe: Right! And it’s so simple…
Graham Hancock: So simple.
Eluxe: And we have that tool and we just don’t use it.
Graham Hancock: There it is. It’s very easy to use. If you need to access an altered state, it’s very quick, very straightforward to do breathwork.
The Power Of The Internet
Eluxe: Brilliant. So next question: You claim you have always been an outsider. Do you feel there has ever been any shift in awareness and acceptance of outside points of view in the population, thanks to greater dissemination of alternative information via the internet?
Graham Hancock: The short answer is yes, absolutely, massively. We are living in a time of transformation and a time of change. This is, so far as we know, thank you to the internet, the first time that a global human conversation has become available.
We as human beings, all over the world, are able to find our soul family, are able to connect with those who may be in any nation, of any ethnic background, of any religious heritage that share with us at the level of ideas and deep connection and we can find them, and connect with them through the internet.
I’m not saying that the internet is all a good thing; it’s a powerful force.
Eluxe: In what sense?
Graham Hancock: There are many aspects of the internet that are extremely negative and extremely dark and extremely unpleasant, but the positive aspect of it is that it has allowed this global human conversation to begin, which encourages us to realize the fundamental truth that we are all brothers and sisters.
We are artificially divided by nation and by bullshit like patriotism and all that utter crap that is preached at us. Another important matter is that it has broken the power of the gatekeepers.
So it used to be big media that decided what we heard about others and who decided what would be transmitted and what would not be transmitted. If you wanted to get any kind of message across, you would have to go hand-in-hand with them. Fuck them!
Eluxe: Heh heh!
Graham Hancock: Now, we don’t need to go to them at all. We don’t have to have anything to do with them at all. They are not important, they’re absolutely insignificant. They’re been reduced to nothing by this new form of direct communication and that is allowing the rebirth of consciousness that is already underway to be accelerated and to speed up and I’m optimistic about the future.
It seems that we live in a very dark time, and we do. The human race has been on a very destructive path for quite a while, and we have these hideous weapons and hideous powers that can turn that destructive path into true cataclysm. But at the same time, an awakening is occurring and that awakening is being leveraged through the internet.
It’s a consciousness awakening all around the world. And it’s that awakening of consciousness that the best hope for the future of humanity lies.
Eluxe: I totally agree. Yeah, I think there’s definitely some change coming.
A New Era For Knowledge
Eluxe: Initially your work was sneered at by the establishment, but some of your theories have recently been proven. Tell us a bit about your favorite “told you so” moment.
Graham Hancock: Well, I suppose my favorite “told you so” moment concerns a magazine called New Scientist.The fundamental proposition of my 1995 book Fingerprints of the Godsis that civilization is much older and far more mysterious than we ever believed. When I published that book in 1995, the New Scientist was among the many mainstream journals that attacked me, for so-called ‘misleading the public.’
And of course this was not factual, this was not new. We knew archeologists had worked out the whole story of human civilization, and really, how dare someone like Hancock come along and say they’ve got it wrong? They’re the professionals, they’re the experts!
So it was great after the discovery and excavation of in Gobekli Tepe in Turkey, which is a megalithic site which dates back 11,600 years, approximately 7,000 older than any megalithic site is supposed to date, that the very front page cover headline of the New Scientistwas: “Civilization is much older and much more mysterious than we thought.”
Eluxe: Good on you! That’s so great.
Graham Hancock: And there have been many, many examples like that. What I’m finding is that new archeologists, the younger generation of archeologists, those who are graduate students now, are much more open to extraordinary possibilities in our past. I think we’re going to see that change work through in lots of ways. And I have a lot of hope meeting many young archeologists who are quite different from their predecessors.
Eluxe: So, how do you think a lack of knowledge of our past has led to our present predicament?
Graham Hancock: I don’t think that on its own led to our present predicament. I think that is a calculated part of our present predicament.
I think there are forces at work in society that want to disempower us and disenfranchise us, that do not want us to be fully realized human beings, that do not want to allow the divine spark within us grow and shine. That want to basically turn us into meat robots, who are here just to produce and to consume. That is actually a huge project. And part of that huge project are the lies we are told about history.
Those lies encourage us to believe – are designed to make us believe – that our civilization is the apex and the pinnacle of human achievement. That somehow, we are what it was all about. A deep study of the past tells us that that is not so, that our civilization is like this little pimple on the forehead of a giant. That giant is the true story of the human past. How dare that little pimple claim that it is what it’s all about? This is something that is rapidly and radically changing.
The Truths In Myths
Eluxe: Robert Foley once said, “I believe myth is more potent than history.” What truth do you believe lies in myths?
Graham Hancock: Myths are the only memories we have of a time that has otherwise been forgotten. I first used the phrase “a species with amnesia” in Fingerprints of the Godsin 1995. Many others have used that phrase since. I do believe that’s what we are, that the record has been wiped almost completely.
But what has survived are myths. And myths often speak in the language of symbols rather than in direct language. It makes them harder to access and understand. But what’s intriguing is that there are certain categories of myth in which detailed scientific information is encoded, and it can be decoded.
And once you do that, once you realize that these myths are found all around the world. You realize also that they must go back to a remote common origin. It’s not about diffusion of ideas in relatively recent historical times, it’s about distant common origin that filtered down through many different cultures all around the world. And that explains both the differences between the myths and the otherwise inexplicably extraordinary similarities.
So I think they are the root back to recovering our memory. And I think myth should be taken extremely, extremely seriously. It’s not to say that all myth is true fact. But it’s a guide, it’s a guideline to what we need to know.
Eluxe: It’s, in essence, what we shouldn’t ignore. Next question: if you had 10 million dollars to spend on research, which project would you embark on?
Graham Hancock: I think we’d need more than 10 million dollars (laughs). I think the resources of oceanographic institutes are presently being put into fancy searches for shipwrecks. I think those resources all need to be shifted into a detailed survey of the areas of the world that were above water during the last Ice Age, and that are underwater today.
Not many people realize how dramatically different the world has become since the end of last Ice Age. 21,300 years ago at the last glacial maximum, most of Northern Europe was covered with ice sheets more than two miles deep. And that was true also of most of North America, certainly as far south as Minnesota and in some cases further south than that.
All that ice melted down rather dramatically and cataclysmically and what happened when it melted down, at the end of that, about 11,600 years ago, was that sea levels rose by 400 ft all around the world. In that process, 10 million square smiles that were above water during the Ice Age, which would have been prime real estate in those times.
This was the coastal land, these would be the places where a maritime culture would be based, this would be where they would have access to the resources of the sea. These were the lands that are now under 400 ft of water.
This is where we should be looking, where big resources of oceanographic institutes should be focused, instead of the frippery of shipwrecks. Because who cares about a shipwreck in the 21st century? It makes a good TV show, but it’s not really that important.
This is where funding needs to be spent. I would put that funding into a thorough investigation of flooded continental shelves, I guess to the extent I’d put my money where my mouth is.
We spent seven years scuba diving all around the world and we discovered underwater cities, and we discovered huge complexes underwater. We put it out there in a book called Underworld: The Mysterious Origins of Civilization, which is a three-part TV series as well.
Eluxe: How was that received?
Graham Hancock: It had very little impact at the time, because it seemed so zany and ‘out there’. But the facts are plain; they speak for themselves and this is where we should be looking. For where else should we be looking? Precisely at places archaeologists aren’t really looking at now.
We should be looking at places that were really different during the Ice Age. Not necessarily above water, but flooded. Places like the Amazon jungle.
Far too little archeology is being done in the Amazon jungle, where the tragic clearances of the Amazon have revealed huge geoglyphs emerging from the jungle. So I would say the Amazon jungle is a very important place to focus on. Science is just now beginning to realize that the Amazon is actually a man-made environment. It isn’t exactly a pristine, natural rainforest; human beings have been interacting with the Amazon for thousands and thousands of years, and cultivating it, and looking after it, and caring for it. So this is a place we should be looking.
Another place we should be looking is the deserts. Again, why would an archeologist would want to go look in a desert? Because the Sahara Desert was not a desert 12,000 years ago. The Sahara Desert was green! It was filled with rivers and lakes. A bit of investment into archeology in those areas, I think, would produce astonishing results.
Eluxe: I really hope they do this now, seriously. We’ll put it out to the Universe so that it transpires. Last but not least: you’ve written several books and made several movies. So what’s coming up for you next?
Graham Hancock: I’m working now on a big book on ancient America. Two main reasons for that; firstly, a lot of new science on the peopling of the Americas has taken a long time. It’s taken about 25 years to break the old paradigm. But the old understanding of the peopling of the Americas, which used to say there were no humans in the Americas before about 13,000 years ago, has now been completely overturned by new discoveries.
Initially, those discoveries were resisted by the establishment very strongly. And many archeological careers were ruined! Those of archaeologists who were willing to acknowledge and older human presence. But lo and behold, they were right.
The information has now reached such a level that it has overwhelmed the old paradigm. The old paradigm cannot stand in the face of new evidence of humans in America 25,000 years ago, 50,000 years ago. And most recently, a big paper published in Nature in April 2017 says: Human Presence in the Americas 130,000 Year Ago. That’s 10 times as old as human beings were supposed to have been, in the Americas! That’s in a site near San Diego in California.
So, not only that, but DNA work is also giving us a new story about the peopling of the Americas.
Eluxe: When we think ‘ancient archeology’ we rarely think of the Americas….
Graham Hancock: We’re now beginning to understand how complicated it is. There are certain fragments of DNA that are associated with a group of humans. Not anatomically modern humans, but humans that have been a bit like the Neanderthals. They bred with modern humans and left their traces in the human DNA, just like the Neanderthals did. That DNA is present very strongly amongst Australian Aboriginal Indians and amongst certain tribes in South America.
It hardly appears at all in North America. So the notion that the whole Americas were peopled across the Bering land bridge once the sea level was lower, now the Bering Strait, and that the migration came all the way through to South America, is just wrecked by that finding. It means that people had to have got to South America by sea directly, not coming through North America at all. That raises huge issues about ancient navigation and ancient skills and ancient abilities.
The second reason I’m very interested in focusing in on the Americas is that they have not played a big part in my work until now. I’m just intrigued and excited by what’s happening. I got activated on this subject when I participated at Standing Rock in 2016 and got to know the Lakota.
I did some interviews there, and really for the first time I think, I understood the terrible genocide that was inflicted upon the Native American peoples. Their culture, their history, their true past was deliberately obliterated by the invaders, and how so many lies were told about them. I’d like it if my new book can help correct those lies.
Eluxe: I am extremely excited about this new book. Thank you so much for taking the time.
Hancock: My pleasure.
Transcription by Paradise Harirchian. Interview conducted by C. Litchfield