Friday, 29 May 2015

Fingerprints of The Gods (by Graham Hancock)

My rating: 10/10

The cover says that it's a new edition of the book, but in fact the “40,000 word update” is contained just in a new introduction and three appendixes to the book. The main book remained totally unchanged, which was a very wise decision by Hancock.

My review is for the main book, so it suits the first edition of the book too. From the new content it's worth to read the new introduction first, but it's not really crucial.

Fingerprints of The Gods is a fascinating book. Utterly fascinating.

The book is VERY long – 534 pages of rather big format, so it's impossible to even mention all the things Graham Hancock writes about. I will point out the most interesting things and characteristics of the book.

1. Real mysteries.
There are maaany mysteries hidden behind physically existing stone structures scattered all around the world. The sheer existence of these HUGE structures is a mystery on its own. And Hancock describes most of such structures in one book!

2. Very old tales.
Graham Hancock cites the most intriguing parts from many very old tales (mostly from South America, Central America, Egypt and Middle East) that describe history that was considered “ancient” even when they were written down (or re-written from even older texts). At this point I have to point out that I am a religious person (Latin/Roman Catholic) and to me it was really interesting to read about tales from other continents that describe a world-spanning deluge in a very similar way to the way it is described in The Holy Bible.

3. Very old maps.
I've heard about one very old map of ice-free Antarctica, but it was hotly debated. It turns out that there are numerous other such maps AND there are also some VERY old maps of different parts of the world that are VERY accurate.

4. Ancient history CANNOT “be proven”!
What pisses me off in any person (scientific or not) is when he (or she) claims that somebody “proved” that ancient history looked “this and this”. Morons. Ancient history by definition can't be proven and it can be described only in a form of a theory – we don't have time machines to go back and see ourselves how the world looked in the very distant past. It's all speculation. More or less probable, but still just speculation.
In this regard Hancock is waaay above some renowned historians or palaeontologists. He doesn't claim that theories preferred by him are 100% correct just because he agrees with them, even if there is some evidence backing them up. He doesn't claim that other theories are wrong, but he says that some of them MAY be wrong. I think that this is the right way to handle ancient history and that such an approach should be used by ALL historians and palaeontologists. Because of that I have a great respect for Hancock.

5. Insane amount of references to other works.
This book is NOT about Hancock's theories and this is the reason I wrote “theories preferred by him” and not “his theories”. It's more about many theories of different people that are joined together by Hancock. And Hancock pays respect to all those people. Moreover, many references concern not theories, but facts or legends that Hancock found in other books. The amount of work that was done by Hancock is HUGE.

6. Radiocarbon dating CANNOT be used to determine the age of STONES!
This topic is covered in detail in the new content and to lesser extent in the book itself, but I have to point it out. Radiocarbon dating can be used to determine the age of ORGANIC material. The fact that some organic material was found on a stone structure doesn't mean that the stone structure itself was of the same age. In reality the stone structure MAY be immensely older then the organic material.

Fingerprints of The Gods is a real treasure, believe me.

Here are some quotes (without in-quote references) that I find very interesting. They are only the tip of an iceberg of interesting things to be found in this book. The first part connects to some very old maps that contain surprisingly precise latitudes AND longitudes. The rest is mostly about ancient South and Central America with some references to ancient Egypt. Enjoy!

    Latitude north or south of the equator did not pose such a problem: it could be worked out by means of angular measurements of the sun and stars taken with relatively simple instruments. But to find longitude equipment of an altogether different and superior calibre was needed, which could combine position measurements with time measurements. Throughout the span of known history the invention of such equipment had remained beyond the capacities of scientists, but by the beginning of the eighteenth century, with rapidly increasing sea traffic, a mood of impatience and urgency had set in. In the words of an authority on the period, ‘The search for longitude overshadowed the life of every man afloat, and the safety of every ship and cargo. Accurate measurement seemed an impossible dream and “discovering the longitude” had become a stock phrase in the press like “pigs might fly”.’
    What was needed, above all else, was an instrument that would keep the time (at the place of departure) with perfect accuracy during long sea journeys despite the motion of the ship and despite the adverse conditions of alternating heat and cold, wet and dry. ‘Such a Watch’, as Isaac Newton told the members of the British government’s official Board of Longitude in 1714, ‘hath not yet been made’.
    Indeed not. The timepieces of the seventeenth and early eighteenth centuries were crude devices which typically lost or gained as much as a quarter of an hour per day. By contrast, an effective marine chronometer could afford to lose or gain that much only over several years.
    It was not until the 1720s that the talented English clockmaker John Harrison began work on the first of a series of designs which resulted in the manufacture of such a chronometer. His objective was to win the prize of £20,000 offered by the Board of Longitude ‘for the inventor of any means of determining a ship’s longitude within 30 nautical miles at the end of a six weeks’ voyage’. A chronometer capable of fulfilling this condition would have to keep time to within three seconds per day. It took almost forty years, during which several prototypes were completed and tested, before Harrison was able to meet these standards. Finally, in 1761, his elegant Chronometer No. 4 left Britain on board HMS Deptford bound for Jamaica, accompanied by Harrison’s son William. Nine days into the voyage, on the basis of longitude calculations made possible by the chronometer, William advised the captain that they would sight the Madeira Islands the following morning. The captain offered five to one that he was wrong but agreed to hold the course. William won the bet. Two months later, at Jamaica, the instrument was found to have lost just five seconds.

    The same appeared to be true of the highly developed system of roads connecting the far-flung parts of the Inca empire. The reader will recall that these roads took the form of parallel highways running north to south, one along the coast and the other through the Andes. All in all more than 15,000 miles of surfaced tracks had been in regular and efficient use before the time of the Spanish conquest, and I had assumed that the Incas had been responsible for all of them. I now learned that it was much more likely that they had inherited the system. Their role had been to restore, maintain and unify a pre-existing network. Indeed, though it was not often admitted, no expert could safely estimate how old these incredible highways were or who had built them.
    The mystery was deepened by local traditions which stated not only that the road system and the sophisticated architecture had been ‘ancient in the time of the Incas’, but that both ‘were the work of white, auburn haired men’ who had lived thousands of years earlier.
    One legend described Viracocha as being accompanied by ‘messengers’ of two kinds, ‘faithful soldiers’ (huaminca) and ‘shining ones’ (hayhuaypanti). Their role was to carry their lord’s message ‘to every part of the world’.

    Garcilaso also reported something else interesting. In his Royal Commentaries of the Incas he gave an account of how, in historical times, an Inca king had tried to emulate the achievements of his predecessors who had built Sacsayhuaman. The attempt had involved bringing just one immense boulder from several miles away to add to the existing fortifications: ‘This boulder was hauled across the mountain by more than 20,000 Indians, going up and down very steep hills ... At a certain spot, it fell from their hands over a precipice crushing more than 3000 men.’ In all the histories I surveyed, this was the only report which described the Incas actually building, or trying to build, with huge blocks like those employed at Sacsayhuaman. The report suggested that they possessed no experience of the techniques involved and that their attempt had ended in disaster.
    This, of course, proved nothing in itself. But Garcilaso’s story did intensify my doubts about the great fortifications which towered above me. As I looked at them I felt that they could, indeed, have been erected before the age of the Incas and by some infinitely older and more technically advanced race.
    Not for the first time I was reminded of how difficult archaeologists found it to provide accurate dates for engineering works like roads and drystone walls which contained no organic compounds. Radiocarbon was redundant in such circumstances; thermo-luminescence, too, was useless. And while promising new tests such as Chlorine-36 rock-exposure dating were now being developed their implementation was still some way off. Pending further advances in the latter field, therefore, ‘expert’ chronology was still largely the result of guesswork and subjective assumptions. Since it was known that the Incas had made intensive use of Sacsayhuaman I could easily understand why it had been assumed that they had built it. But there was no obvious or necessary connection between these two propositions. The Incas could just as well have found the structures already in place and moved into them.
    If so, who had the original builders been?
    The Viracochas, said the ancient myths, the bearded, white-skinned strangers, the ‘shining ones’, the ‘faithful soldiers.’
    As we travelled I continued to study the accounts of the Spanish adventurers and ethnographers of the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries who had faithfully recorded the ancient, pre-contact traditions of the Peruvian Indians. What was particularly noticeable about these traditions was the repeated emphasis that the coming of the Viracochas had been associated with a terrible deluge which had overwhelmed the earth and destroyed the greater part of humanity.

    There are curious parallels here to the story of Osiris, the ancient Egyptian high god of death and resurrection. The fullest account of the original myth defining this mysterious figure is given by Plutarch and says that, after bringing the gifts of civilization to his people, teaching them all manner of useful skills, abolishing cannibalism and human sacrifice, and providing them with their first legal code, Osiris left Egypt and travelled about the world to spread the benefits of civilization to other nations as well. He never forced the barbarians he encountered to accept his laws, preferring instead to argue with them and to appeal to their reason. It is also recorded that he passed on his teachings to them by means of hymns and songs accompanied by musical instruments.

    Like some long-lost twin of Viracocha, the white and bearded Andean deity, Quetzalcoatl was depicted as having brought to Mexico all the skills and sciences necessary to create a civilized life, thus ushering in a golden age. He was believed, for example, to have introduced the knowledge of writing to Central America, to have invented the calendar, and to have been a master builder who taught the people the secrets of masonry and architecture.
    He was the father of mathematics, metallurgy, and astronomy and was said to have ‘measured the earth’. He also founded productive agriculture, and was reported to have discovered and introduced corn – literally the staff of life in these ancient lands. A great doctor and master of medicines, he was the patron of healers and diviners ‘and disclosed to the people the mysteries of the properties of plants’. In addition, he was revered as a lawgiver, as a protector of craftsmen, and as a patron of all the arts.
    As might be expected of such a refined and cultured individual he forbade the grisly practice of human sacrifice during the period of his ascendancy in Mexico. After his departure the blood-spattered rituals were reintroduced with a vengeance. Nevertheless, even the Aztecs, the most vehement sacrificers ever to have existed in the long history of Central America, remembered ‘the time of Quetzalcoatl’ with a kind of nostalgia. ‘He was a teacher,’ recalled one legend, ‘who taught that no living thing was to be harmed and that sacrifices were to be made not of human beings but of birds and butterflies.
    Why did Quetzalcoatl go away? What went wrong?
    Mexican legends provided answers to these questions. They said that the enlightened and benevolent rule of the Plumed Serpent had been brought to an end by Tezcatilpoca, a malevolent god whose name meant ‘Smoking Mirror’ and whose cult demanded human sacrifice. It seemed that a near-cosmic struggle between the forces of light and darkness had taken place in Ancient Mexico, and that the forces of darkness had triumphed ...
    The supposed stage for these events, now known as Tula, was not believed to be particularly old – not much more than 1000 years anyway – but the legends surrounding it linked it to an infinitely more distant epoch. In those times, outside history, it had been known as Tollan. All the traditions agreed that it had been at Tollan that Tezcatilpoca had vanquished Quetzalcoatl and forced him to quit Mexico.

    Thus Central American traditions collected in the sixteenth century by Father Bernardino de Sahagun gave eloquent expression to a widespread belief that Teotihuacan had fulfilled at least one specific and important religious function in ancient times. According to these legends the City of the Gods was so known because ‘the Lords therein buried, after their deaths, did not perish but turned into gods ...’. In other words, it was ‘the place where men became gods’. It was additionally known as ‘the place of those who had the road of the gods’, and ‘the place where gods were made’.
    Was it a coincidence, I wondered, that this seemed to have been the religious purpose of the three pyramids at Giza? The archaic hieroglyphs of the Pyramid Texts, the oldest coherent body of writing in the world, left little room for doubt that the ultimate objective of the rituals carried out within those colossal structures was to bring about the deceased pharaoh’s transfiguration – to ‘throw open the doors of the firmament and to make a road’ so that he might ‘ascend into the company of the gods’.
    The notion of pyramids as devices designed (presumably in some metaphysical sense) ‘to turn men into gods’ was, it seemed to me, too idiosyncratic and peculiar to have been arrived at independently in both Ancient Egypt and Mexico. So, too, was the idea of using the layout of sacred sites to incorporate a celestial plan.

    How far and how widely across the myth memories of mankind do the ripples of the great flood spread?
    Very widely indeed. More than 500 deluge legends are known around the world and, in a survey of 86 of these (20 Asiatic, 3 European, 7 African, 46 American and 10 from Australia and the Pacific), the specialist researcher Dr Richard Andree concluded that 62 were entirely independent of the Mesopotamian and Hebrew accounts.
    For example, early Jesuit scholars who were among the first Europeans to visit China had the opportunity in the Imperial Library to study a vast work, consisting of 4320 volumes, said to have been handed down from ancient times and to contain ‘all knowledge’. This great book included a number of traditions which told of the consequences that followed ‘when mankind rebelled against the high gods and the system of the universe fell into disorder’: ‘The planets altered their courses. The sky sank lower towards the north. The sun, moon and stars changed their motions. The earth fell to pieces and the waters in its bosom rushed upwards with violence and overflowed the earth.’
    In the Malaysian tropical forest the Chewong people believe that every so often their own world, which they call Earth Seven, turns upside down so that everything is flooded and destroyed. However, through the agency of the Creator God Tohan, the flat new surface of what had previously been the underside of Earth Seven is moulded into mountains, valleys and plains. New trees are planted, and new humans born.

(Saturday, 23 January 2016)

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