Most helpful critical review
217 of 239 people found the following review helpful
The Black of Sheep of Hancock's Works
on September 3, 2005
I have to admit, in general, I enjoy Hancock's books. I've read all of them with the exception of Talisman, and every single one has been enjoyable on some level. I have a hard time buying into some of his arguments and central themes at times, but on the whole, he makes an entertaining and educational read.
That said, I found Fingerprints of the Gods, probably his most popular work by a wide margin, to be something of a letdown. I didn't find it as abhorrent as your average academic, but it's still not nearly as good as your typical reader would have you think.
The Pros: If you're not already immerssed in the world of ancient history, Fingerprints of the Gods is a fine place to start. Entertaining and thought-provoking, its best trait is pinning down some of the questions that the "orthodox establishment" has been unable to answer, and introducing its readers to three incredible ancient cultures. If this book had simply been written as a food-for-thought myriad of information with no central argument, I would have found it exceptionally good.
The Cons: The argumentative side of this book pretty much constitutes all the letdowns. Having read his later works, I can tell you write now that Hancock himself had retracted many of his central arguments.
If one must name a central theme to the book, it would probably be attempting to prove the validity of Hapgood's Crustal Displacement Theory. In short, Hancock claims that a rapid sliding of our planet's crust over the lower layers may have brought utter ruin to civilization at least once in human history. Assuming this, he claims Antarctica was located in the middle of the Atlantic Ocean as Atlatis (though for credibility's sake, Hancock himself does not use that name) up until around 15000 BC.
I am not a geologist by any stretch of the imagination, but to my knowledge, there is a good body of evidence to suggest that a crustal displacement did indeed occur on Earth...in 527,000,000 BC. Even within Hancock's books, I have NEVER seen good evidence for a crustal displacement occurring within human history. A quick glance at his bibliography for the relevant sections will tell you that virtually none of his sources on crustal displacement were published after the 1970s. The supposed geological evidence he provides for it in the book is either deliberately misleading, or shows a contemporary critical lack of geological understanding on the author's part. Having read Underworld, where a Hancock's improved understanding of geology is quite apparent, I'm going with the latter.
In Fingerprints of the Gods, Hancock addresses some of the mysteries in the history of three different parts of the world: Peru, Mexico, and Egypt. Let's start with Peru, as Hancock did in the book.
In his section of Peru, most of what is not simply wild speculation is centered around Tiwanaku (Tiahuanaco). Hancock argues that Tiwanaku was actually constructed circa 15000 BC, when it would have served as an excellent portside metropolis along Lake Titicaca. His central piece of evidence for this is a solar alignment placed in the stone fortress of the Kalasasaya that supposedly matches up to the date of 15000 BC (a more accurate redating of this aligment performed after the publication of FotG actually suggests is matches a date some five thousand years later). However, I do not understand why an alignment of 10000 BC suggests a construction date of 10000 BC. Can we be certain that 10000 BC was not some important date in local mythology that was singled out in this alignment in say, AD 1? Or AD 300? In later books, Hancock himself argues that the Egyptians did the same thing with star alignments to Orion's belt that were made in 2500 BC, but single out a date in 10500 BC, so why shouldn't this also be possible in Tiwanaku?
In his section on Mexico, there is no clear-cut central argument, just some interesting facts and speculation, so let's move on to Egypt. Here, Hancock claims that the three great pyramids and the Great Sphinx of the Giza Plateau are not 4500 years old, but rather, 12500 years old. The best evidence for the Sphinx's redating is the work of Dr. Robert Schoch, who claims that the erosion marks on the Sphinx could not possibly have occurred in the dry climate of the Sahara Desert now, and that the Sphinx must have in fact been constructed between 7000 BC and 5000 BC, as opposed to circa 2500 BC. This argument was thoroughly refuted in an article by Dr. James Harrell in the Egyptology journal, KMT, in 1992. I have never been able to find any rebution of Harrell's arguments by Schoch, and, put simply, Harrell makes pretty quick work of all of Schoch's supposed findings.
Hancock claims that, due to various star aligments around the Giza Plateau, the Sphinx must be 12500 years old, rather than 7000 or 9000, pushing the date even further back than Schoch. Again, Hancock himself later points out that such alignments may not suggest any actual construction date.
I have seen both sides of the issue on the pyramids star aligments, and really have no opinion on the matter. Perhaps it is coincidence, perhaps it is not. The best solid argument for the Great Pyramid's antiquity that is presented in FotG is the number of individual blocks, and the speed that would have been required to place each one with such precision in just twenty to one hundred years. He is absolutely correct here, and frankly, it puzzles me as well. But I will say that the Lighthouse of Alexandria (Pharos) had 20% (up to 33%, by some more modern estimates) as many blocks as the Great Pyramid, and even with the same seemingly impossible block/minute ratios, it was constructed in just a decade. The architectural capabilities of the Egyptian Old Kingdom were superior to that of Hellenistic Alexandria, so it dates like twenty or one hundred years for the full construction time should come as no surprise at all. I'm no engineer, so I don't know how it was done, but later, seemingly equally impossible construction times were met, so there's no reason this could not also have happened with the Great Pyramid.
Finally, the thing that most confused me: if crustal displacements DO happen as frequently as the author suggests, then, do to latitude change of certain locations, any star aligments to dates like 10500 BC or 15000 BC are completely invalid. If crustal displacement theory is correct, then these star aligments are not. Two of Hancock's longest-running central themes are mutually incompatible right from the start.
In conclusion, if you're new to ancient history, and you intend to read this book, PLEASE do some independent research on the various assertions made within it afterward. I was sixteen years old when I first combed through this tome, and I found all sorts of errors after a few days of reading some "orthodox establishment" publications and online academic review of FotG. It's a good introduction to ancient cultures, but don't give the author your unwavering trust. Remember, even Hancock abandons the Palaeolithic construction dates for the pyramids and crustal displacement theory in his later books.