In search of Atlantis

Graham Hancock on his way to Atlantis. The British author is seeking — and finding? — proof of the myth that is handed down in many cultures: there was once a ‘super culture’ that may well have equalled that of modern man. Hancock’s quest shines a different light on the gradual progress of humans throughout history. ‘We think we are the pinnacle of civilisation and we simply cannot imagine that a superior culture existed before us.’

Tijn Touber | March 2004 issue

We really should have met up at the foot of the Sphinx on the Gizeh plateau in Egypt. After all, that’s where Graham Hancock started his quest, which led to a number of spectacular books about lost civilisations. But instead of meeting under the burning desert sun, we meet one rainy morning in London on the steps of the British Museum. A worthy second choice. Here lies one of the largest collections of Egyptian art treasures – remnants of what may have been the most mysterious civilisation in our history books. According to Hancock, the civilisation that points to the existence of a ‘prehistoric’ super culture. The quest of this British investigative reporter must lead him to nothing less than the proof of the myth of Atlantis, the heavenly island in the Atlantic Ocean described in Plato’s works.

It began with the question asked by nearly every visitor to the pyramids: how could people have constructed these gigantic structures thousands of years ago without the help of modern resources? Don’t forget: modern man is still incapable of a similar feat. For starters, there are only two cranes in the world capable of moving slabs of rock weighing several tons. For just one such boulder, we would need six weeks’ preparation and twenty workers. The pyramids were built using such rock slabs – over two million of them. But using what force?

Then consider the precision. The Great Pyramid is a nearly perfect quadrangle, off less than one centimetre length-wise. And the sides of the pyramid run exactly along the North-South and East-West axes. Here too, the deviation from perfection is minuscule: 0.015 percent. When the British recently tried to position their much smaller Meridian Building exactly along the prime meridian passing through Greenwich England, the deviation was substantially greater. Moreover, the corners of the average modern office building are not as perfectly straight as they are in the pyramids. What master builders achieved that accomplishment, and how?

Hancock: ‘We are so accustomed to thinking in evolutionary and linear terms that we assume we are the pinnacle of civilisation. Before we came along things were increasingly primitive. If that’s true, then explain to me how a couple of thousand years before Christ – when we were making cave paintings using primitive tools and dragging our women into hollows by their hair – people were able to construct gigantic monuments using incredibly heavy slabs of rock that fit together seamlessly. We’re talking about lifting 2.3 million boulders, stones that varied in weight between 1.5 and 15 to 17 tons up an “impossible” 52-degree incline. This type of feat doesn’t simply come out of nowhere, as common theory tells us.’

After all, according to the official history, the first civilisations developed some 3,000 years ago in Mesopotamia and Egypt. The science of archaeology tells us that the pyramids date to around 2,500 B.C., while the Sphinx is probably somewhat older. That means the Egyptians would have only had a couple of hundred years to develop the knowledge and skills necessary to build their masterpieces. Hancock: ‘It is not logical that the greatest single free standing building that was ever constructed by humans, was also pretty much the first one. It is much more logical that the pyramids reflect the peak of a civilisation.’

Hancock is convinced that the prevailing explanations for the ancient Egyptian miracles don’t measure up and he is – increasingly – finding clues pointing to other explanations. According to the prevailing view, the pyramids mark the graves of the Faros, with the Sphinx as a symbolic guardian. Hancock: ‘A lot of graves of the Faros have been found but never under the pyramids. That assertion has since become highly unlikely. Where are the graves? Moreover, the Sphinx has been incorrectly dated. That monument exhibits unmistakable traces of erosion due to heavy rainfall. But Egypt hasn’t seen persistent rainfall that resulted in erosion since the last Ice Age.’ In that Ice Age – between 17,000 and 7,000 B.C. – what is now the Sahara was a verdant plain. In his book The Message of the Sphinx, Hancock refers to research by the American geologist Robert Schoch based on the signs of erosion, which estimates that the Sphinx is at least 5,000 years older than is now generally assumed.’

This scientific debate over a couple of thousand years is more relevant than it seems. If the Great Sphinx was indeed built thousands of years earlier, it may have been in a period before the famous civilisation of Atlantis was lost. Hence, before – according to the myth – Atlantis was swallowed up by an enormous tidal wave at the end of the last Ice Age. And that would mean that the Egyptians could have drawn the extraordinary knowledge upon which the construction of the pyramids is based, from this lost civilisation. Did the ‘gods’, referred to in Egyptian tradition, who ostensibly gave them their knowledge of architecture, astronomy and the laws of nature, come from Atlantis?

The positioning of the pyramids and the Sphinx also appears to contain a message. Together with his Belgian colleague Robert Bauval, Hancock scrupulously studied the Gizeh plateau. They looked at everything they were allowed to see and – at times with the help of a little ‘financial persuasion’ – even at what they were not allowed to see. The major breakthrough in their research came when Bauval looked at the plateau from the air. He could not imagine that the way in which the pyramids were positioned was purely haphazard. From up above Bauval thought the configuration of pyramids looked like the zodiac constellation of Orion. Further research revealed that the positioning of the pyramids is an exceptionally exact replica of the three stars of Orion. Not by chance, you might say, as the Egyptians associated their supreme deity Osiris with that zodiac constellation.

But the mystery deepens. The configuration on the Gizeh plateau does not reflect Orion as it was back in 2,500 B.C. when the pyramids were officially said to have been built. Celestial bodies shift relative to one another over a span of 3,000 years and thus the position of the earth vis-à-vis Orion, for example, also shifts. And guess what? The configuration of the pyramids reflects the constellation of Orion in 10,450 B.C. Hancock: ‘So Gizeh could be a piece of celestial cartography indicating 10,450 B.C. What were the Egyptians – or the civilisation before them – trying to make clear? What do these monuments signify?’

This discovery became even more exciting when Hancock subsequently also found constellations in Tiahuanaco, a city high up in the Bolivian Andes, that point to the 11th millennium before Christ. Apparently the Egyptians were not the only ones who constructed buildings in line with astronomical principles. But the question remains what was so special about 10,450 B.C.? The Sphinx may give us a clue to the answer. Hancock: ‘If the Sphinx is indeed older than we think and dates back to the same period, then we’re talking about the astrological age of Leo, which began 10,500 years before Christ. Is the eastward-pointing Sphinx – a lion after all – testimony to this age? When considered astrologically, the sun at that moment was precisely under the sign of Leo. Are the ancient Egyptians trying to tell us that we need to look under the Sphinx? There is apparently a large underground space underneath it.’

It’s hard to imagine, but there are still parts of the pyramids that have not been explored, partly due to the concern the monuments will collapse. Hancock: ‘There are hidden chambers no one has been in.’ In 1992 the German engineer Rudolf Gantenbrink explored a number of narrow tunnels running through the Great Pyramid. Gantenbrink used a small robot with a camera to study the narrow corridors. After travelling some 65 metres through the southern tunnel the robot came to a door containing two metal handles. Hancock beams: ‘It was a thrill! As far as I’m concerned the most sensational archaeological discovery of the last century. After all, there is every reason to suspect that behind that door is a room.’

In September 2002 the National Geographic Association, in association with the Egyptian Supreme Council for Antiquities, made an attempt to look behind the door. A robot drilled a small hole and before the eyes of many millions of television views, they saw… another door. Hancock: ‘Sometimes I think that the pyramids and the Sphinx were built as a kind of time code: when the future civilisation is ready, another part of the code can be deciphered. This is how the pieces of the puzzle slowly fall into place.’

Meanwhile, one thing appears certain. Almost nothing in the construction of these famous monuments was done haphazardly. For example, the pattern of Gantenbrink’s tunnels appear to contain a message. That pattern looks exactly like the ancient Egyptian drawings of the trip to the realm of the dead – the place where the soul travels after death. The Egyptians charted this ‘realm of the dead’, so that the dead soul would be prepared for the trip. Hancock: ‘To them, the realm of the dead was as alive as the world of the living. To them it was an obvious reality. Just as we, in this era, dedicate our finest minds to solving technological problems – often without much significance – they put their best people to work on unravelling the mystery of life. They were interested in where we are going on earth and what happens when we die. The Egyptian way of thinking was geared towards eternity. So we don’t find ruins of houses or palaces, but temples and graves – monuments linked to life after death. Religion is what they left behind.’

The fascinating quest of Hancock and his associates represents a challenge for established science. Hancock chooses unorthodox approaches, such as the possible connection between astronomy, architecture and astrology, that are far off the beaten path and he is open to the possibility that myths also point to reality. Hancock: ‘How could stories continue to be told for so long, with such persistence and power if they don’t have some basis in reality?’

In Hancock’s view, the unsolved mysteries of the Egyptian pyramids require an open mind and an instinctive approach; the elements that in the past always ensured scientific breakthroughs. ‘The problem is that most scientists simply cannot imagine that a culture existed before ours that may have been just as far or even further than we are. Science is programmed completely differently. And that programming continually stands in the way of breakthroughs.’

Meanwhile, Graham Hancock continues his passionate quest. The day after our meeting in London, he left for the Amazon in search of new ‘fingerprints of the Gods’. At the end of the day it’s about more than a quest for a lost civilisation. In today’s world he sees a conflict in direction between the materialistic viewpoint and a rising vision in ever-broader circles that life is about more than money and posessions. Hancock: ‘There are many indications that our forefathers were capable of combining a highly-developed technological society with an equally highly developed spiritual wisdom. Perhaps the rediscovery of their heritage can help point us towards an even-keeled balance between the spiritual and the material dimensions of life.’

He is silent for a moment and appears to be sunk deep in thought. He then adds, assertively: ‘We have forgotten our own ancestors! We don’t know where we came from. No wonder we are confused and adrift. We have got to figure out who we are!’

For more information:,
Graham Hancock is the author of such publications as The Sign and The Seal; Fingerprints of the Gods; Keeper Of Genesis (The Message of the Sphinx in the United States) with co-author Robert Bauval; Heavens Mirror and Underworld: Flooded Kingdoms of the Ice Age. Hancock also produced a three-part television series: Quest For the Lost Civilisation.

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