Personally, I am not a great fan of conspiracy theories, and I tend to disagree in general with Graham Hancock, particularly with his claim that there had to be one Lost Civilization (why not more than one?) and his general tendency to dismiss the role of chance or randomness in our lives and culture. However, that has not prevented me from enjoying many of his volumes: Fingerprints of the Gods, The Message of the Sphinx, Heaven’s Mirror.
This book, however, sounded completely different. In America Before, Mr. Hancock spends a great deal of time (some might say an inordinate amount of time) establishing his bona fides by painstakingly detailing the massive amount of research that has happened over the past 20 years on the archaeology of various sites in North America, some of which are now thought to be from 130,000 years ago. In other words, truly ancient.
Before this volume, Mr. Hancock would cheerfully lay out his various theories about what might have happened in the ancient past (his favorite date is 11,600 years ago when the last Ice Age came to an end), weaving together speculation and facts in his usual entertaining style. Now, in more sober vein, he refers to himself as a “pseudoscientist” (half tongue-in-cheek) and is much more careful to qualify what he says and to make very clear when he is speculating and when he is not.
The fact that Mr. Hancock is a very talented writer is particularly evident in this volume as the reader is obliged to trudge through some very dry stuff while waiting for the punch line. But when the punch line eventually blows in, it is truly magnificent. Even better, it is based upon that mountain of research that he forced you through in this 640-page volume. Four stars.