Graham Hancock is going to give a lecture to the Royal Geographic Soc. in
Hong Kong, about his views on great civilisations 10 000 yrs ago that were
drowned when sea-levels rose at the end of the Pleistocene. We are asked
"What does Britarch think I should ask him?"
I was approached by one of the researchers for the Hancock TV documentary
series, though I didn't realize the connection until some time into the
email correspondence. Hancock's name only came up when I complained that
certain pseudo-scientific popularisers prefer to ignore inconvenient facts
and focus attention instead on non-questions that are useful for their own
purposes. What puzzles me about the Hancock theory is that the people in
his supposed 10000 year old civilizations only built whatever they built
in low-lying land that has been drowned by sea-level rise. For the Near
East, which is the bit that I know something about, the environmental
evidence is that the best endowed landscapes at the end of the Pleistocene
included a corridor of Mediterranean woodland stretching from inland
Syria, behind the Lebanon mountains, down through inland Israel, the West
Bank, the Jordan valley and some way south of the Dead Sea. The
environmentalists hold that the land west of that strip, in what is now
the Mediterranean coastal zone, was less well endowed.
The researcher asked me if there could have been a civilization building
monumental buildings around the east Mediterranean. My answer was that, if
there was such a civilization, I would expect to find some traces of it
surviving on land that is still above sea-level, land that was at least as
productive and attractive as the drowned coastal strip. The exciting
epi-palaeolithic and early neolithic cultures and sites of southwest Asia
don't interest Hancock. He wants something altogether more like a
conventional urban civilization, but it has to have existed only on land
that was exposed at the time of the Last Glacial Maximum (-120 metres?)
and was drowned by the beginning of the Holocene.
University of Edinburgh,
School of Arts, Culture and Environment.