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Underworld: The Mysterious Origins of Civilization Paperback – October 28, 2003

3.8 out of 5 stars 90 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Already a huge success in England, this lengthy and at times quite academic study extends the basic argument of Hancock's 1994 Fingerprints of the Gods, a wild combination of astronomy, archeology, geology and folk myth whose worldwide success made Hancock perhaps the most popular proponent of "alternative history" as well as a publishing phenomenon. Hancock's basic thesis is simple: although mainstream scholars refuse to believe it, there once was "a lost civilization destroyed in the cataclysmic global floods that brought the last Ice Age to an end," and the survivors passed on their knowledge to the newer ancient civilizations with which we are more familiar. The search for an "Indian Atlantis" is the basis for this book, which is structured around Hancock's exploration of underwater sites near India, Japan, Taiwan and China, and in the Arabian and Mediterranean Seas. As usual, Hancock wonderfully introduces the general reader to Indian and Japanese subcultures; however, his reliance primarily on works by local alternative historians many of whose views have been clearly refuted by other scientists while ignoring almost anything that refutes his own thesis undercuts his credibility. In his effort to present his step-by-step discoveries in the style of a "whodunit," Hancock remains an entertaining writer and an interesting cultural journalist. But while the exploration of undersea prehistoric sites is a fascinating and ongoing research area, and Hancock's main contribution to the subject his theories continues to make him a successful writer, his works have been relegated to marginalia.
Copyright 2002 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.

From Booklist

Hancock has reportedly sold several million copies of his books touting earlier origins to civilization than is the general consensus. He believes that civilization rose about 17,000 years ago (rather than about 6,000) and vanished beneath a rising sea level, leaving its traces in flood myths in Sumerian and Vedic texts, in early maps of the Age of Discovery, and more plausibly, in submerged ruins. Hancock throws up a fantastic amount of data on these points in this work, ranging from his personal textual interpretations to his dives at coastal sites in Malta, India, Japan, and the Bahamas. Perhaps Hancock's what-if, adventuring style will again prove commercially successful, if not intellectually persuasive to archaeologists, but the poor organization of this work may daunt the otherwise enthusiastic. Discursive and speculative, it expands the meaning of open-minded and could have been pruned without harm (Hancock prints scads of his correspondence and interviews verbatim). However, rebels always attract attention--and Hancock has already proven that he can. Gilbert Taylor
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.
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Product Details

  • Paperback: 784 pages
  • Publisher: Three Rivers Press (October 28, 2003)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1400049512
  • ISBN-13: 978-1400049516
  • Product Dimensions: 6.1 x 1.6 x 9.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 2.2 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 3.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (90 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #49,961 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

I am the author of Magicians of the Gods, published on 10 November 2015, and of the major international bestsellers The Sign and the Seal, Fingerprints of the Gods, Heaven's Mirror, Underworld, and Supernatural.

I share below the story of the journey that led me to these books

In the early 1980's, when I was East Africa correspondent of The Economist, writing about wars, politics, economics and aid programmes, I had no idea where fate was going to lead me or what strange seas of thought I would find myself sailing on. But in 1983 I made my first visit to Axum in northern Ethiopia, then in the midst of a war zone, and found myself in the presence of an ancient monk outside a little chapel in the grounds of the cathedral of Saint Mary of Zion. The monk told me that the chapel was the sanctuary of the Ark of the Covenant and that he was the guardian of the Ark, the most sacred relic of the Bible, supposedly lost since Old Testament times. What he said seemed ludicrous but for some reason it intrigued me. I began to look into the Ethiopian claim and found much surprising and neglected evidence that supported it, not least the faint traces of a mission to Ethiopia undertaken by the Knights Templar in the twelfth century. I kept adding to that dossier of evidence while also continuing to pursue my current affairs interests (including Lords of Poverty, my controversial book about foreign aid, published in 1989), and finally, in 1992, I published The Sign and the Seal: A Quest for the Lost Ark of the Covenant, my first full-fledged investigation of a historical mystery.

As well as to Ethiopia and to Israel, my research for The Sign and the Seal had taken me to Egypt and opened my eyes to the incredible enigma of the Great Pyramid of Giza, while the "technological" aspects of the Ark (shooting out bolts of fire, striking people dead, etc) had alerted me to the existence of out of place technologies in antiquity. The stage was now set for my next project - a worldwide investigation into the possibility of a lost, prehistoric civilisation that resulted, in 1995, in the publication of Fingerprints of the Gods, undoubtedly my best known book. The Message of the Sphinx (co-authored with Robert Bauval) followed in 1996, looking specifically into the mysteries of the Great Sphinx of Giza, and then in 1998 Heaven's Mirror, photographed by my wife Santha Faiia, which shows why many ancient sites in all parts of the globe replicate the patterns of constellations on the ground and are aligned to important celestial events such as the rising points of the sun on the equinoxes and the solstices. In 2002, I published Underworld, the result of five years of scuba diving across all the world's oceans to find ancient ruins submerged by rising sea levels at the end of the Ice Age.

After Underworld, I decided to step away from lost civilisation mysteries for a while and my next non-fiction book, Supernatural: Meetings with the Ancient Teachers of Mankind, published in 2005, focussed on shamanism, altered states of consciousness and the astonishing universal themes that appear in rock and cave art from deepest antiquity right through to the paintings done by shamans in the Amazon rainforest today.

From my years as a journalist I've always distrusted armchair theorising and believed I have a responsibility to seek out direct personal, "boots on the ground" experience of what I'm writing about. That was why I did five years of often difficult and dangerous scuba diving for Underworld. And it's also why, as part of my research for Supernatural I travelled to the Amazon to drink the visionary brew Ayahuasca with shamans there. As well as better equipping me to write Supernatural, my experiences in the Amazon changed my life and brought out a new side of my own creativity. I've continued working with Ayahuasca ever since and in 2006, during a series of sessions in Brazil, in a ceremonial space overlooked by images of a blue goddess, my visions gave me the basic characters, dilemmas and plot of the book that would become my first novel, Entangled, published in 2010. Entangled tells the story of two young women, one living 24,000 years ago in the Stone Age, and the other in modern Los Angeles, who are brought together by a supernatural being to do battle with a demon who travels through time.

Since the publication of Entangled I have also written the first two volumes of a series of three epic novels about the Spanish conquest of Mexico - the War God trilogy. The first volume, War God: Nights of the Witch, was published in 2013, and the second volume, War God: Return of the Plumed Serpent, was published in 2014. The third volume, War God: Apocalypse, is already more than half written and will be completed in 2016 and in the meantime my new non-fiction book, Magicians of the Gods, was published on 10 November 2015. Magicians is the sequel to Fingerprints of the Gods, and presents all the new evidence that has emerged since 1995 for a great lost civilisation of prehistoric antiquity and for the global cataclysm that destroyed that civilisation almost 13,000 years ago - a cataclysm on such a scale that it forced mankind, as Plato put it, "to begin again like children with no memory of what went before."

My ideas on prehistory and on the mysterious nature of reality have made me something of a controversial figure. In 1999, for example BBC Horizon made a documentary ("Atlantis Reborn") attacking my position on the lost civilisation. But part of that documentary was found by the UK's Broadcasting Standards Commission to be unfair - the first time ever that the flagship Horizon series had been judged guilty of unfairness. The BBC took the problem seriously enough to put out a revised re-edited version of the programme a year later. More recently, in 2013, my TED talk "The War on Consciousness" was deleted from the TED Youtube channel on grounds that TED itself later admitted to be spurious by striking out every one of the objections it had originally raised to my talk. TED, however, refused to restore the talk to its Youtube channel resulting in dozens of pirate uploads all over the internet that have now registered well over a million views.

I make mistakes like everyone else, but ever since my time with The Economist I've felt it is important to strive for rigour and accuracy, to check facts, to set out my sources clearly and openly for all to see and to admit my mistakes when I make them. As I continue to explore extraordinary ideas in my works of non-fiction, and in my novels, I'll also continue to do that.

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#55 in Books > History

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Graham Hancock has been producing various books speculating that an ancient and previously unknown civilization existed in the Paleolithic era for about ten years now. Periodically he changes the proposed location of the civilization, originally thought to be Antarctica in Fingerprints of the Gods and now under the sea in Underworld. Regardless of where Hancock thinks this civilization was to be found, he tells an entertaining story with much that bears thinking about.
All of Hancock's books are part history, part travel guide. One of the more enjoyable aspects of Underworld are all the stories about his various travels and travails as he examines different areas of the world for evidence of ancient cities and buildings. He is always eager and excited to find out more, and lets nothing, not even the ubiquitousness of bureaucracy ( his stories of the red tape involved in getting permission to dive in places like the Persian Gulf are worthy of the old Yes Minister show ) get him down.
Besides the travel stories, Hancock is worth reading because he has come up with an amazing amount of material which at least brings into question the accepted theories about the human past. I hope that his journalistic, rather than academic, credentials will not lead many to dismiss his theories, because they do deserve more study.
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Format: Hardcover
Archaeologists have been pushing back the date of humanity's first attempts at agriculture and the civilization that follows it. An inexplicable commonality is seen in agriculture emerging in distant places at nearly the same time. Self-confessed - sorry, self-adulatory - Graham Hancock thinks there's an answer for that chronological similarity. He contends agriculture, and civilization reach even further back in time than evidence found in places like Iran or Turkey suggests. He thinks the legends and mythologies of India, Malta and South America point to a multitude of "Atlantis-like" urbanised cultures that have disappeared from view - under water.
"Underworld" is a collation of ancient legends, old maps, submerged evidence and innovative thinking that gives humanity much deeper roots than previously thought. Hancock dives into the world's offshore depths, trolls through a wealth of mythologies, views unusual and unexplained artefacts and comes up with a challenge to consensus archaeology. Was there a global sprinking of advanced civilizations at the end of the last Ice Age? Did the melting ice caps drown more than the various land bridges that connected the British Isles with Europe, Sri Lanka with India and Alaska with Siberia? If Hancock is correct, and he is not to be dismissed lightly, humanity achieved far greater social complexity during the glacial advances than just living in caves wrapped in bear skins. What appears to be a near simultaneous emergence of agriculture, he argues, is in reality what we see left over from much older societies.
Hancock has made dives in many of the sites revealed by fishermen, archaeologists and others, recording finds on video and still camera and maps. The images are impressive, as are the numbers of potential sites.
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Format: Hardcover
Author and explorer Graham Hancock continues his pursuit of uncovering clues to the past, this time under the sea. Underworld is the narrative of a journey through the Mediterranean, the Arabian Sea, Persian Gulf, Bay of Bengal and the Pacific Ocean around Indonesia, Japan and Taiwan in which underwater structures of possible human origin are explored. The government of India has recently authenticated two of Hancock's discoveries off the coast of that country. In both cases, these structures are dated between 9000 and 11 000 years before the current era, which supports the theory of a great flood that submerged vast areas of land at that time. What I really like about Hancock is that he provides the orthodox view at the same time as his own theories. I cannot but agree with his statement, "There's something wrong with the underpinning of history." Hancock has indicated the most likely places for pre-flood civilizations with the help of Dr. Glen Milne of Durham University who is an expert on glaciation-induced changes in the sea level, and taking into account the plethora of flood-myths found amongst all cultures on all continents. Underworld is lavishly illustrated and well served by a thorough index and extensive bibliography. This gripping text will amply reward the reader who enjoyed Hancock's earlier titles like Keepers of Genesis and Fingerprints of the Gods. Hancock deserves credit for stimulating interest in history and archaeology. He was the writer that created interest in those little doors in the light shaft of the great pyramid that was recently in the news. Let's hope something will be revealed behind the second door! In the mean time, I thoroughly enjoy Hancock's speculations.
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Format: Hardcover
Graham Hancock continues his pursuit of uncovering lost civilizations, this time under the sea. He takes us on a journey through the Mediterranean, the Arabian Sea, Persian Gulf, Bay of Bengal and the Pacific Ocean around Indonesia, Japan and Taiwan by looking at underwater structures that might be of human origin. I'm pleased to note that the government of India has recently authenticated two of his discoveries off the coast of India. In both cases, these structures are dated between 9000 and 11 000 years before the current era, which supports the hypothesis of a great flood that submerged vast areas of up-to-then habitable land. What I really like about Hancock as author is that he also provides the orthodox view at the same time as his own theories. I cannot but agree with his statement, "There's something wrong with the underpinning of history." Hancock has indicated the most likely places for pre-flood civilizations with the help of Dr. Glen Milne of Durham University who is an expert on glaciation-induced changes in the sea level, and taking into account the plethora of flood-myths found amongst all cultures on all continents. Underworld is lavishly illustrated and well served by a thorough index and extensive bibliography. This gripping text will amply reward the reader who enjoyed Hancock's earlier titles like Keepers of Genesis and Fingerprints of the Gods.
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