Stephen Moss interviewed British author Graham Hancock recently in The Guardian newspaper. Graham Hancock has spent the past 10 years writing books saying that everything we know about ancient history is wrong: civilization didn?t start in Sumeria and Egypt around 3,500 BC — it began 10,000 years before that in great cities which were destroyed by a cataclysm.

?We have 600 flood myths around the world,? he says. ?Archeologists tell us these are meaningless; all they represent are psychological archetypes — memories of birth, in the case of the flood — or exaggerations of local river floods. I thought, OK, we can say that, but suppose they are true — that they are our memory of what happened at the end of the Ice Age?

?The other thing that almost always goes with these myths is the notion of an antediluvian civilization — something which existed before the flood and was destroyed by it. I couldn?t see any good reason why these universal myths shouldn?t be a memory of that event, yet I found that this idea hadn?t been explored.? Hancock has modified his earlier concept of a global civilization that sank without trace and now thinks there were a number of maritime cultures, many of them interlinked, which were destroyed when the ice caps melted.

Hancock is now researching former coastal settlements in India, south-east Asia and the Mediterranean that were submerged when sea levels rose dramatically at the end of the Ice Age, between 17,000 and 7,000 years ago. He believes these were sites of lost civilizations. He learned to dive in order to do the research and has spent much of the past five years exploring submerged ruins that his detractors argue are only natural features.

?We cannot claim to know the entire human story when an area of 10,000 square miles — an area the size of South America and the U.S. — was flooded at the end of the Ice Age,? he says. ?It?s important to understand how different the world was during the Ice Age — enormous ice caps across northern Europe, extremely dry and cold and inhospitable in the interior. The places where people would naturally go to live through an episode like that would be the coast. A classic example is the Persian Gulf, which was completely dry until 12,000 years ago. It was a wonderful refuge from the Ice Age world.?

Hancock complains that marine archeologists have concentrated on shipwrecks rather than settlements. ?Archeologists argue that there is nothing to find underwater except more of the same,? he says. ?I understand the logic which says [these civilizations] should have left traces inland, but you can?t deduce from that that it isn?t worth looking underwater.?

Last month, more evidence of Hancock?s theories was discovered when India?s National Institute of Ocean Technology announced that it had found ruins of an ancient city 25 miles off the coast of Gujarat. ?Now that we have a clear probability of large cities at the bottom of the Gulf of Cambay and other structures in south-east India that are 9,000 to 10,000 years old, the logic goes away,? he says. ?Logic, which has dissuaded academics from pursuing marine archaeology, could be confounded by fact.?

So far, divers have not been able to investigate the Cambay site. But skeptics now accept that if this is a 7,000-year-old city (the area was flooded at least 7,000 years ago), they will have to rethink their beliefs. ?If the case is made, then it means that the foundations are out of the bottom of archaeology,? says Hancock. To read more about the ancient Indian city,click here.

He doesn?t believe in Von Daniken?s intergalactic missionaries, but doesn?t make fun of them either. ?It?s odd that invoking the possibility of alien influences should itself be a sign of madness,? he says. ?I don?t see the need for it to explain history on earth, but I can?t see any reason why the universe shouldn’t be full of life.

To read about the many ancient civilizations that have been discovered around the world, look at the ?Lost Worlds? section of the bookstore, click here.

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