Ancient Apocalypse: Summary of the series from a professional POV

Image via Wikicommons

After watching all eight episodes, I offer a summary of this series in general.

Originally, this summary was found at the end of the review for episodes 7 & 8, but @FlintDibble recommended that I break it out into its own post and offer links to the other 5 reviews. It was, of course, a good idea, so I took his advice.

The Reviews

Episode One – Review of episode 1-Gunung Padang in Indonesia

Episode Two – Review of episode 2-Cholula in Mexico

Episodes Three and Four – Review of episodes 3 and 4-Malta

Episodes Five and Six – Fitting the Sky to the Ground-a review of Ancient Apocalypse 5 and 6

Episodes Seven and Eight – Down with Derinkuyu and the Scablands Scuttle-a review of Ancient Apocalypse 7 and 8

I found it fascinating to watch Hancock pick and choose which data to present to his viewer and which data to either conceal or omit. He only ever really interviewed a relevant expert–a professional in the field of either archaeology or geology–a handful of times. Maybe 3 or 4. The rest of the people he interviewed were either completely irrelevant or professionals from unrelated fields: a marine biologist instead of a geologist; an chemical engineer in lieu of an archaeologist; then the two seemingly un-credentialed gentlemen in the final episode right before a reality show host-turned podcaster.

I suppose this is completely consistent with Hancock’s insistence that science has it wrong and archaeologists are not to be trusted, etc. Though the majority of Hancock’s criticisms of archaeology and archaeologists were completely fabricated. Out-right straw man arguments. He accused archaeologists of things they don’t do or say over and over.

Here are a few of his straw man accusations:

  • They refuse to consider the possibility [of a lost, advanced civilization].
    Actually, he couldn’t be more wrong. Not a single archaeologist I know wouldn’t jump at the chance to be the one to discover a civilization no one every heard of. Advanced or not.
  • Could those farmers, who archaeologists tell us never built anything bigger than a shack, really have achieved all this? First, archaeologists never said the people who lived there could not build monumental architecture–in fact, they’re saying they did build the monumental architecture of Malta. Second, to accuse the ancestors of people indigenous to Malta of being incapable in this manner is extremely bigoted.
  • The notion of a lost advanced civilization of the Ice Age is extremely threatening to mainstream archaeology because it rips the ground out from under that entire discipline. This is a lot like the first straw man above, but I would add that there is no “mainstream archaeology.” Saying so implies there must be some “alternative archaeology” and there isn’t. One is either doing archaeology scientifically or one isn’t.
  • And what more effective way for archaeologists to censor and restrain and crush opposing views than to deny access to archaeological sites? This was Hancock arguing that archaeologists are out to get him and censor him. Real Conspiracy Theory stuff! The reality is the park didn’t issue a Special Use Permit for his crew. But he and his crew were still welcome to be any other visitor–they just didn’t have permission to film and set up all their equipment and drones, etc.
  • one of its most stunning attributes, one that mainstream archaeologists don’t like to acknowledge. Because again, it involves the sky. This was Hancock saying that archaeologists ignore the fact that there may be alignments like solstices at places like Serpent Mound. But since his crew couldn’t film there, and he was probably proud to walk around like a regular visitor, he must have missed all the interpretive signage about alignments.

As a Netflix series, the show was low on fact and high on fiction, but they still carry it as a “docuseries.”

This isn’t so surprising since Netflix hemorrhaged about 1 million customers this year as other media outlets are beginning to cash in on the streaming biz. Some have made note that Graham Hancock’s son has some pull as an executive at Netflix. I see no reason to think that was how Hancock got the gig, but I’m sure having his son there didn’t hurt his chances.

Overall, Netflix was probably pleased with the bit of controversy Ancient Apocalypse garnered from archaeologists and skeptics who object to pseudoscience and conspiracy theories like Hancock’s being portrayed as genuine science and a genuine documentary series.

It’s definitely played into Hancock’s hands and Hancock is good at being the charismatic leader with an almost cult following. The average consumer of media like his series who are also interested in archaeology and the human past have no reason to think he’s being disingenuous as he approaches the subject as “one of our own” and as a “truth seeker” holding the establishment accountable.

They have no reason to disbelieve Hancock when he say’s things like there are, “no reliable carbon dates […] telling us when Ggantija was built.” They also have no reason to know that there are reliable radiocarbon dates for Ggantija as well as reliable OSL dates.

Time to rip off the band aid

Another thing the average consumer of Hancock’s work doesn’t get is the racism involved. And it isn’t their fault.

Most people aren’t familiar with how Ignatius Donnelly promoted the story of Atlantis and how it was the origin for all Indo-European people (a.k.a. the Aryans). And that these “Atlanteans” were mostly wiped out by a catastrophe that included a massive flood from which only a handful survived to share their culture and advanced knowledge with the world.

And how Graham Hancock is just one of a many authors to write versions of this that included white saviors (e.g. Fingerprints of the Gods, chapter 14) who came along and taught natives of the lands they arrived at how to build monumental architecture and how to farm the land. Denying indigenous peoples of their own accomplishments in history has led to their displacement. Concluding the Native Americans were not responsible for all the mounds in the eastern United States helped pave the way for the Indian Removal Act of 1830 and ultimately the Trail of Tears.

I don’t believe Graham Hancock is a racist. Certainly not intentionally. And he is careful not to use any description of race or ethnicity in the Ancient Apocalypse series. But he did in his books. Books he has yet to update or retract.

Hancock’s conclusions, for which there is no evidence, deny indigenous peoples their own accomplishments in places all over the world since he asserts that the survivors of a “lost, advanced civilization” arrived and taught them agriculture, architecture, and perhaps other grand accomplishments that their descendants would otherwise be proud of.

The obvious question is does Graham Hancock actually believe what he’s selling?

Hancock seems to be about the money. He has over a dozen books most of them still in print that tell one fantastic tale after another. From our Martian origins now to “lost, advanced civilizations” that leave no trace. Nearly all of the claims he’s made in these books were debunked and many of them he no longer insists are still true. Yet the books remain in print, without any correction, edition updates, or retraction.

And it occurs to me that Hancock never really defines what he means by either “advanced” or “civilization.”

Ah well… a grifter’s gonna grift.

About Carl Feagans 396 Articles
Professional archaeologist that currently works for the United States Forest Service at the Land Between the Lakes Recreation Area in Kentucky and Tennessee. I'm also a 12-year veteran of the U.S. Army and spent another 10 years doing adventure programming with at-risk teens before earning my master's degree at the University of Texas at Arlington.


  1. “They refuse to consider the possibility [of a lost, advanced civilization]”

    That’s why there have been no archeological discoveries since 1750/

    Seriously, who does Hancock think discovered all the real archeological sites he piles his baseless speculations atop?

  2. Hancock’s shows are beautifully produced, and you have to pay close attention to notice that there is a huge disconnect between the hypothesis he proposes, and the evidence he presents to support it. If there was a global cataclysm today, it would be astonishing if the only evidence for humans left was that of hunter-gatherers, with no a single scrap of out technological achievements remaining, which is basically what we are asked to believe. Why didn’t a single piece of “advanced” technology survive? Why did those advanced humans only teach people to chip and grind away to bits of rock, or to pile stones and earth up? Why did they only teach astronomy that could be learned by careful observation of the night sky with the naked eye? The only advanced astronomical knowledge I’m aware of is that of Sirius B the Dogon supposedly had, but that was probably gleaned from 20th century anthropologists. Perhaps by “advanced” he means “capable of constructing Gobekli Tepe”.
    As with so many of these “alternative” archaeology claims, the question “is it possible?” is best answered with, “no, not really”.

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