I watched all eight episodes of the Netflix 'docuseries' Ancient Apocalypse, so you don't have to. The series is hosted by Graham Hancock, who's been on a mission for decades to disrupt "big archaeology" (as someone with a master's degree in archaeology and who worked in the field for a few years, the idea of "big archaeology" makes me literally laugh out loud) and their supposed power, which he posits has been used to suppress his important findings about the existence of some kind of lost, ancient advanced civilization of the Ice Age that was nearly wiped out by a cataclysmic cosmic (meteor) event 12,000 years ago and whose few survivors worked their way around the world to teach later communities their wise ways. It's a frustrating watch, that's for sure–each episode hints at some big revelation, and you have wait until the last episode to see the full spectacle that's on display. Spoiler alert: the big, final reveal is that the Ice Age ancients didn't just get almost wiped out and then come back to teach their ways to folks thousands of years ago – they're also issuing a warning to US – that we're all about to be destroyed by meteor particles. Cool.
Needless to say, most actual archaeologists think this is all pretty much bunk. I knew this going in, but wanted to see the series for myself. I knew I was in for a wild ride when within the first minute of the first episode, we see clips of Graham Hancock being interviewed by Brian Rose and Joe Rogan (who shows up again in the last episode).
In the beginning sequences of the first episode, Hancock sets the stage:
I don't claim to be an archaeologist or a scientist. I am a journalist, and the subject that I'm investigating is human prehistory. My suspicion is, humans are a species with amnesia. We have forgotten something incredibly important in our own past. And I think that that incredibly important forgotten thing is a lost, advanced civilization of the Ice Age. I've spent decades searching for proof of this long lost civilization at sites around the globe. Now, my aim is to piece together these clues to show you evidence that challenges the traditional view of human history: Ancient structures built with surprising sophistication, revealing the fingerprints of an advanced prehistoric civilization. The possibility of civilization emerging earlier than we think gets much stronger. Of course, this idea is upsetting to the so-called experts who insist that the only humans who existed during the Ice Age were simple hunter-gatherers. That automatically makes me enemy number one to archaeologists. Perhaps there's been a forgotten episode in human history. But perhaps the extremely defensive, arrogant, and patronizing attitude of mainstream academia is stopping us from considering that possibility. I'm trying to overthrow the paradigm of history.
Later in the series, upon pointing out that prehistoric structures all over the world share elements such as terraces, inner chambers, and astronomical (as in, the planets and stars) orientations, he asks, "Could we be witnessing the unfolding of some extraordinary master plan? A shared legacy from a lost global civilization that provided the seeds and the spark of inspiration from which many later civilizations grew?"
Sure, the series is entertaining, I guess, and it's cool to see many of the ancient structures he visits. If it were just a wacky tale of Atlantis or aliens or such, it might be easy to laugh off. But the whole theory is steeped in racism and white supremacy, so it's not just harmless entertainment. Rebecca Onion, writing for Slate, interviews an actual archaeologist, John Hoopes, who teaches at the University of Kansas. Dr. Hoopes explains:
Here's something else that happens in the second episode. The first person he talks to is Geoff, on this tour of Cholula, but the second person who he talks to, who takes him to a couple of different sites? This is a guy named Marco Vigato, who last year published a book on the lost continent of Atlantis called The Empires of Atlantis, which is one of the most white supremacist, racist books that I have ever seen. He's not an archaeologist; he's not a historian. He's sort of an entrepreneur who has been able to get some permits to work at archaeological sites in Mexico. You could not have a more stark contrast between Geoff McCafferty, who is a highly respected qualified archaeologist, and Marco Vigato, who is basically a hack who writes very bizarre things, including this Atlantis book.
He goes on to reveal more about Graham Hancock's troubling engagement with white supremacy:
If you research Graham Hancock and look at his books over time, as I have, one of the things that you discover about him is that he self-edits. He doesn't use the word Atlantis now except very sparingly. He has also edited himself since 1995, when, in Fingerprints of the Gods, he came out and said that it was an ancient white civilization. He no longer says the "white" part in the series. If you pay careful attention, he does talk about "heavily bearded Quetzalcoatl" who arrives, according to myth, to give the gift of knowledge, but he doesn't mention the other part of that trope, which all of us know about, which is that this visitor supposedly had white skin.
It's similar to the way that Donald Trump operates. He will get to the edge of something, but he won't say it, because he knows that his followers already know it. He can say, "I didn't say that," and he didn't say it, but everyone knew what he said because it was already known, right?
So why is this on Netflix? Lots of people are asking that question. Stuart Heritage, writing for the Guardian, provides one possible explanation:
If you don't like Hancock's story about the super-intelligent advanced civilisation being wiped off the face of the planet, here's another that might explain how Netflix gave the greenlight to Ancient Apocalypse: the platform's senior manager of unscripted originals happens to be Hancock's son. Honestly, what are the chances?
Correction: Brian Rose, not Jordan Petserson