Humanity's "Lost Civilizations"

By I. M. Oderberg

Several remarkable books have been published recently dealing with the evidence of lost civilizations and their astonishing knowledge of cycles of time. These books describe and assess remains that have either been misinterpreted or disregarded altogether as not fitting into the pattern of current theory. Taking a general view of the subject is Fingerprints of the Gods: The Evidence of Earth's Lost Civilization by Graham Hancock, (1) which provides widespread coverage of global evidence for the existence of an ancient civilization, including many informative illustrations.

Perhaps the most conspicuous case of an ancient civilization whose achievements are misinterpreted and ignored is that of Egypt. Most commentators briefly praise the structural perfection of the Great Pyramid of Giza, its two major companions, and the Sphinx, but only a few have the expertise or inclination to assess these achievements in technology or to explore the detailed astronomical orientations or the considerable knowledge of astronomy itself indicated by the early builders. Robert Bauval, a well-known Egyptian-born construction engineer, has co-authored two important books on these subjects. The Orion Mystery: Unlocking the Secrets of the Pyramids, written with Adrian Gilbert, (2) asks why the Pyramids at Giza were built, looks into the significance of the pyramid texts -- largely ignored since their discovery in the 1800s -- and explores the placement of the pyramids in relation to the main stars in the "belt" of Orion. This orientation was linked, moreover, to the precession of the equinoxes: that is, when the sunrise at the vernal equinox entered a new "location" or constellation of the zodiac. The authors cite evidence suggesting that the Great Pyramid may have been planned about 10,500 BC, even if built or completed later (c. 2450 BC), because the alignments are exactly calculated for the time when the constellation Leo rose at the vernal equinox, ushering in the "Age of Leo." (3) The plates and drawings are of the greatest importance in this publication, as is the case with the other books reviewed in this article.


Caption: As above, so below: the celestial configuration at sunrise on the spring equinox about 10,500 BC is reflected in the Giza pyramids and Sphinx. Osiris (the constellation Orion) reaches his southernmost point -- and closest proximity to earth -- marking the beginning of the 26,000-year precessional cycle. The arrangement of the three pyramids mirrors his belt of three stars, which lie directly on the north-south meridian. The constellation Leo rises in the east, where the Sphinx watches, marking the 2,160-year Age of Leo; and the Milky Way (the Egyptians' Celestial Nile) appears to flow into its earthly counterpart. (Diagram reproduced from The Mystery of the Sphinx, p. 219.)

Linked with the Egyptian evidence is a newly understood heritage of the proto-Mayan people of Central America. Both civilizations recorded events affecting Earth's peoples long ago when certain solar, planetary, and stellar interactions had a drastic effect upon our planet. The Maya Prophecies: Unlocking the Secrets of a Lost Civilization by Adrian Gilbert and Maurice M. Cotterell (4) cites these prophecies and their relation to shifting continents, climatic changes, and disasters (including earthquakes, etc.) -- all involving declining sunspot activity and changes in Earth's protective "veil" or Van Allen Belt. The authors discuss the mysterious origins of the Mayan people, and their concept of time. Interestingly, researchers who have investigated Egyptian and Mayan records and interpreted the time frame of these events in our own chronological reckoning have found that both give the period beginning around 11,000 BC as a significant date. The authors particularly discuss how the rise and fall of world ages and civilizations seem to coincide with the sunspot cycle, maintaining that reduced sunspot activity coincided with a decline in Mayan fertility and the sudden end of their civilization. Some of the prophecies deal with future events but, although it is still widely believed that history tends to repeat itself, the repetition can never be an exact replica of what has gone before. Local environments vary among themselves, and the energies involved vary in their expression and impact upon each other.

The evidence in these volumes includes a recognition of the ancient knowledge of the sun's precessional cycle when its rising at the spring equinox occurs in a new place within the zodiacal "houses," needing almost 26,000 years to complete the cycle. The late Professor Livio Stecchini (Ph.D. Harvard), an acknowledged expert in ancient measurement, found evidence of what seems to be the recording of the precessional cycle in the Denderah Zodiac, taken from the ceiling of an Egyptian temple, with the north and south lines of the plane indicated in different locations.

In his Maps of the Ancient Sea Kings: Evidence of Advanced Civilization in the Ice Age (1966), Professor Charles H. Hapgood provided a wealth of material to support his subtitle, in the form of mathematical data, reproductions of old maps, as well as useful appendices of evidence and, perhaps most valuable, a chapter devoted to a "Civilization that Vanished." The four new books mentioned -- Hapgood is cited in two of them -- provide additional pointers to the existence of a former civilization of high technological achievement and considerable intellectual development, called by some "Atlantis." Certainly, advanced civilizations in the distant past point to the cyclic rise and fall of human cultures and races extending much further back into "prehistory" than currently accepted.

We are indebted to Plato for the name Atlantis, much hackneyed nowadays by all sorts of somewhat fanciful assertions. Some have noted the resemblance between Plato's description of the capital of his island of Atlantis and some structures in the Americas. We find in Teotihuacan, Mexico, for example, the remains of a large city dominated by two pyramids, with streets identified by astronomer Gerald Hawkins as oriented to stars: one in the constellation Ursa Minor, another in the Pleiades, a third to Sirius -- important also to the Egyptians because of their understanding of the Sothic cycle of 1,460 years, and so on. The Mayans themselves reported that an alien race (whom they called "gods") came over the seas and taught them symbolic writing and how to build pyramids. Some modern researchers speculate that these people were the Egyptians, or that Atlantis was located in the ancient Americas. It is possible, however, that the Egyptians and ancient Americans shared a common heritage, and that in the Western Hemisphere there are remains of colonies established as parts of a global empire or by survivors of disasters that destroyed the motherland. (5)

The devastating occurrences many thousands of years ago that provided the core of myths and legends among diverse peoples, must have resulted in the annihilation of millions. Survivors migrating to different parts of those lands above the seas could have inspired the stories of visits by "gods." Who were these brilliant individuals who seemed to be gods to those other survivors? Were they not the inheritors of a great civilization who transmitted their own heritage? If we truly appraise even the so-called "cyclopean remains" still existing in a few places, we would better appreciate the marvels of engineering skills and astronomical insights these vestiges suggest. Many such emerge in the books mentioned in this article, well-documented with photographs, diagrams, and statistic tables. Pictures often tell us more than thousands of words.

Plato stated that his Atlantean island sank 9,000 years before his time, about 11,500 years ago, but as it was the last large portion of Atlantis, those fleeing the dying civilization could have come to other lands thousands of years earlier. Orthodox archeologists tend to dismiss out of hand the evidence contained in these books, and downplay the truly remarkable technological ability apparent in ancient monuments: the skill to set up enormous, perfectly cut and dressed stones in accurate alignment with stars in constellations at times when our sun entered a new zodiacal "position" relative to earth. Many of the largest stones -- some 70 to 200 tons each -- could barely be hoisted into place by modern methods. But open-minded researchers not committed to the status quo are finding more and more evidence of prehistoric civilizations of considerable attainments.

  • (From Sunrise magazine, April/May 1997. Copyright © 1997 by Theosophical University Press)

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    1. Crown Publishing Group, New York, 1995; bibliography, index, illustrations, 578 pages, isbn 0-385-25475-x, cloth, $39.75; 1996, ISBN 0-157-88729-0, paper, $17.00. (return to text)

    2. US Editions: Crown Publishing Group, New York, 1994; bibiography, illustrations, photographs, diagrams, 325 pages, ISBN 0-517-59903-1, paper, $24.00. (return to text)

    3. The Message of the Sphinx: A Quest for the Hidden Legacy of Mankind, by Graham Hancock and Robert Bauval, Crown Publishing Group, New York, 1996; maps, appendices, 376 pages, ISBN 0-517-70503-5, cloth $27.50; paper (due May 1997), ISBN 0-614-96817-8, $16.00. (return to text)

    4. Element Books, Rockport, MA, 1995, 337 pages, ISBN 1-85230-692-0, paper, $24.95. (return to text)

    5. According to theosophic traditions it was the power, accredited to the Atlanteans, to control the forces of nature that brought about their ultimate downfall, when selfishness and ambition led to misuse of these energies. (return to text)