[There are significant spoilers for the entire novel in this review.]
Title: Fingerprints of the Gods
Author: Graham Hancock
Publication Date: 1995
Producer: Audible Ltd. (2016)
Narrated by: Graham Hancock
Recording Time: 18 hours, 31 minutes
Fingerprints of the Gods is a non-fiction work of research by writer Graham Hancock, wherein he makes the case for the existence of an advanced civilization, now lost to history, which far pre-dates by thousands of years the dynastic period of ancient Egypt.
This book is fascinating and I highly recommend it to anyone with an interest in alternative history. It is certainly not without its flaws, but as you read on, the desire to set off on your own exploration of these topics is one that is hard to resist. Hancock – who both wrote the book and provided its audio track – is clearly passionate about this material and you can feel how much of himself he poured into the book. Hancock is a gifted writer and narrator, but his style is replete with flowery descriptions. I enjoyed it as a mood-setter but I suspect a lot of people reading for the argument could find it annoying.
While the book is a product of an immense amount of research, I think it would be a mistake to approach the book as something scholarly or academic. Hancock’s work should be viewed – in my opinion – as a researched framework for an alternative view of the historical record, but not a dissertation effort to disprove the current mainstream views. Fingerprints seems to me to be the culmination of a desire to give readers a different view of world history. The individual and numerous pieces of the argument framework, each documented in the book within individual subheadings, are presented separately but also as a portion of the larger argument. In painting the big picture, Hancock does not debate in great detail the nitty-gritty of the views he is rejecting. It is left to the reader (or perhaps to follow-up books) to examine each issue raised and whether or not Hancock’s criticisms of the mainstream holds up to scrutiny. The end result is that Hancock’s book functions as a first step in an invitation explore his vision further, point by point, but on your own. This likely will frustrate academic readers who want the more thorough debates on individual points of contention (such as his argument that numerous 16th century maps portray the coast of Antarctica without ice.) This book assumes that its reader knows the mainstream view and thus does not often give the current orthodoxy its day in his court.
With the foregoing stated, and a correct expectation in place, I find this novel to be endlessly interesting. Hancock’s novel, from start to finish, points out historical anomalies for which academia has either no answers, or seemingly implausible answers, and he crafts a narrative that proposes solutions. Hancock’s hypothesis also benefits from the fact that it seems to be united by, and originating from, myths and legends from around the world. It might be a surprise to some readers to learn that there are “great flood” accounts from all over the world, and that these accounts – despite distant geographies, religious beliefs, and cultures, share a lot in common well beyond just the fact of there being a flood event in the first place. Hancock views the ancient myths as evidence that perhaps all peoples of the world shared a common and currently unknown ancestor.
Fingerprints of the Gods makes much of the shared Flood myths from around the world, but Hancock diverges from authors like Erich von Däniken, in that Hancock believes the “gods” which accompany these stories were human beings (as opposed to extra-terrestrials.) Hancock argues that some human survivors from a now lost advanced people were incorrectly perceived to be gods, by others, in their effort to re-implement civilization after the cataclysm.
Hancock spends a lot of time discussing examples of seemingly impossible archaeology created by what we believe to be primitive people, and he suggests that the explanation for the unexplainable constructions is that many megaliths and statues from around the world were likely inherited by later people. Hancock argues for the construction sites more than twelve thousand years ago which were attributed to later people. As stone cannot be carbon dated, the inheritance debate becomes a central critique of the orthodox academic view. Hancock cites several examples of ancient people, or indigenous people, who are credited with construction that they did or do not claim as their own. Several sites in the Americas are said, by Native Americans, to have been built in some far remote epoch by gods. Scientists simply do not believe them. Hancock suggests that we should give greater weight to the people who deny their part in these constructions.
The book spends a lot of time with the architecture and myths of Egypt, the Middle East, and the Americas – in particular Central and South America. However, one of its weaknesses, in my opinion, is the almost total exclusion of South Asia, East Asia, and Australia. For example, how do the gods of ancient India, its ancient architecture, and its myths (including flying vimanas) fit within Hancock’s narrative? Can these gods be reimaged as human beings as easily as Hancock recharacterizes the gods of South America, Central America, and ancient Egypt as human beings? Or should we imagine Asia and Australia’s pre-Flood heritage as coming from a wholly separate lost advanced civilization than the one which he thinks influenced Egypt and the Americas?
Hancock opens the book with a focus on ancient maps which seem to know the coastline of Antarctica despite said coast having been both undiscovered at the time, and beneath the ice for thousands of years. This section helps to set the potential timeframe for his lost civilization argument. He returns our focus to Antarctica as he identifies it as a possible location for his lost civilization. Here he draws the reader’s attention to the work of Charles Hapgood and the crustal displacement theory. In his own time, though his work was never accepted in the mainstream, Hapgood attracted the attention of Albert Einstein. Hapgood argued that under certain conditions, the crust of the Earth, as a whole, could shift atop the liquid magma beneath it. He believed crustal displacement could exist alongside the more widely accepted continental drift and plate tectonics view. Einstein believed at the time of the publication of Path of the Pole that the science in this theory holds up – in fact he believed it held up well enough to write the forward for the book. A shift in the earth’s crust could be a potentially neat explanation for some of the cataclysms that science knows of from the end of the most recent ice age. Portions of Antarctica, shifted sufficiently north, could be tropical and capable of hosting a human settlement or civilization. If such a settlement ever did exist on Antarctica, this shift might explain why we have – to date – found nothing more than its subtle fingerprints in the intervening millennia.
This book was originally published in 1995 and some of its underlying claims have since been disproven. In the audio track, recorded in 2016, Hancock even admits to this in the prologue. However, enough of the original work remains in place that Hancock wrote a follow-up called Magicians of the Gods, to both address corrections to Fingerprints and to add new material to arguments which needed bolstering.
This book was a fun listen and it is the sort of narrative that when it hooks you, will have you revisiting each of its numerous topics, reading academic papers, and jumping down conspiracy rabbit holes to better inform yourself. From there, you can choose to let modern opinion have its day in your own court and make a judgment about the overall case he makes. If you have an interest in ancient history, I encourage you to read Fingerprints of the Gods.