4 years ago
Graham Hancock is a researcher, journalist, and author of over a dozen books including "Fingerprints of the Gods" and "America Before: The Key to Earth's Lost Civilization." Check out his new Netflix series, "Ancient Apocalypse," on November 11. www.grahamhancock.com
Do you have anything in this book about the Olmecs? No, not really. I mentioned them briefly. I explored the Olmec mystery in considerable depth. Can you explain that to people that maybe they've never heard? In Fingerprints of the Gods. Yes, so it's considered to be the earliest high culture of Central America. Everybody's heard about the Aztecs. Everybody's heard about the Maya. But before the Aztecs and before the Maya, there were a culture who are referred to as the Olmecs. Again, we don't know what they called themselves. That's what the Aztecs called them. They called them the Olmecs. It means the rubber people because they're a rubber producing area of Mexico. They worked in giant megalithic constructions. What they're most famous for is these huge carved human heads, which can be on a scale of up to 20 to 25 tons in weight, and which have curious features, which have been interpreted variously as Polynesian, African, don't look like classic Native American features. But one of the things I've realized is that there is no classic Native American feature, that Native Americans have a very complex genetic story with very many different elements brought into it. And we shouldn't be necessarily surprised by the supposedly non-Native American look of these Olmec heads. What do we think those helmets were that they were wearing? Nobody knows because no physical example of such a helmet has ever been found, just like no physical example of an Egyptian pharaoh's crown has ever been found. All we see is the stone reproductions of them. Do they universally wear these helmets in these stone reproductions? They pretty much all wear these helmets in the Olmec stonework. There's another fascinating figure from La Venta, one of the Olmec sites, which is the earliest ever image of a plumed or feathered serpent. The feathered serpent is a famous icon in Central America. Quetzalcoatl, who's the god of peace, the bringer of civilization, who is associated, for example, with the famous pyramid of Kukulkan, which is just another name for Quetzalcoatl at Chichen Itza, where on the spring equinox a shadow effect creates the image of a serpent coiling down the stairway and joining with the carved head of the serpent. There's the image from La Venta. That's the earliest image of a plumed serpent in the Americas. And sitting in the middle of it, and I made a big deal out of this because I think it is a big deal in Magicians of the Gods, sitting in the middle of it is this human figure who's holding this strange bag in his hand. It's just a fact that those identical bags are found in ancient Sumer in the hands of individuals who were considered to be civilization bringers, and they also show up on Pillar 43 at Gobekli Tepe. I call them manbags. And in that case, at Gobekli Tepe, we know they're at least 11,600 years old. So I wonder if we're looking at a sort of badge of office of a group of civilizers who traveled around the world trying to bring back to life a lot. When I interrupted you to talk about Quetzalcoatl, what were you about to say? I can't remember. I'm in California, I've been smoking lots of dope, you know. We were talking about different things in the Amazon. Should we rewind and figure out what we said? The serpent guy you were talking about. Before Quetzalcoatl, before that. I have another question. The Olmecs, you were talking about the genetics of these people that live in Native Americans, they vary widely. But the Olmecs seem to have very similar features, the thick lips, the wide noses. Why do we think that is? Well, this is part of a curious mystery that is not unconnected to the genetic mystery. It's been known by archaeologists for quite a long time that there are anomalous skulls in parts of Brazil, which appear to show very strongly Polynesian or African features, very much like the features that we see on the Olmec heads. And a number of archaeologists who got into trouble with their colleagues for this have used that to argue many years ago, 30, 40 years ago, that the settlement story of the Americas is much more complicated than we've realized. And what the DNA is doing is it's telling us that there was something really weird happened with settlement. You see, what happened with those African or Polynesian looking skulls was that they were tested for DNA when DNA technology was not as advanced as it is today. And what that DNA showed was that they were more closely related to modern Native Americans than they are to any other people in the world. So the notion that there was some connection with Polynesia or Africa was dismissed. But now that we have very firm evidence of an Australasian genetic signal, Australian Aborigines, Papua New Guinea, Melanesians, with those kind of features, now that we have the genetic evidence that is found in the Amazon, we have to go back to that old evidence and reconsider it. Wow. Yeah, I would love to find out what that is. They've always fascinated me. The Olmecs, it's always been such a strange image, the large heads with the helmets on them and how – do they universally look like that? I mean, all of the features are very similar. Wow. Very similar. Always with the helmets. And almost always – I won't claim that every single Olmec head has a helmet on it because I think I've seen one that didn't. It's quite a while ago since I explored the Olmec area. What's fascinating about them is they are supposedly the first high civilization of Central America, that they create structures on a massive scale that you can see connections between them and the later Maya. That whole mystery of the Mayan calendar was clearly inherited from the Olmecs. It wasn't something the Maya made up. The Olmecs used that same symbolism. So the Mayan calendar is actually an Olmec calendar. And if we then consider the possibility that the Olmecs may just be the latest – the earliest surviving manifestation of that calendar, it could go back much further than that.