Thursday, April 21, 2011

Colin Wilson on a Hundred Thousand Year Old Civilization

These are some of Colin Wilson’s recent ideas and I can speak to some of his material.

First off, let us deal with the easy one.  I have done quite a bit of work on ancient measures and this earned a chapter in my manuscript titled ‘Paradigms Shift’.  I also concur that the ancient foot derived measures are linked to the circumference of the Earth.  However, it also appears that each culture applied the same method to establish a standard and this caused several variations based on latitude.

On top of that I also unraveled how the actual mathematica worked.  This led me to conclude that it was all constructed within a Bronze Age framework as one might expect.  Thus the British foot and the Egyptian and the Greek measures are all linked using methods available to savants of the time and place, who built things like Stonehenge and the Pyramids.

The existence of a seaborne carry trade during the Bronze Age makes quick work of the task of dispersion of ideas and of methods and of course of measure.  It all lasted at least most of two thousand years and could have strands leading far back in time.

The Neanderthals maintained a hunter gatherer lifeway in Europe as did Cro-Magnon and most others because the only possible agriculture was herding.  However, that leaves completely open the coastal plains of Europe whose climate would be moderated by the adjacent seas.

Neanderthal could well have prospered there and surely did.  The end of the Ice Age wiped out any such society and threw survivors back into the hills and a return to hunting.  Our present understanding of time frames does not yet support any of this but if I have learned anything, it is never to rule such a scenario out because of that.  An organized Neanderthal society could have easily concentrated on the sea plains because of strength and have long left the hills to the more primitive Cro-Magnon.  Thus the Pleistocene Nonconformity would have simply wiped them out as a major factor.

In point of fact, the traces of the Neanderthals conform well to normal expectations of human development if you accept the rise of civilizations taking place when they first could around fifty to seventy thousand years ago.  On top[ of that, I am sure someone did and it may as well be them.

Thus Neanderthals did not die out forty thousand years ago but simply gave up the old lifestyle for a better one, to be caught out 13,000 years ago.

The upshot is that a prior advanced civilization could have existed for much of that 100,000 years and I suspect it certainly existed throughout the tropics for other human groups.

However that conjecture is unrelated to humanities’ recent knowledge of measure which I am quite able to cover through Bronze Age methods. 

A 100,000-Year-Old Civilisation?

Why it's time to embrace our Neanderthal cousins
By Colin Wilson
February 2011

My friend Stan Gooch spent his last years living on an old age pension on a caravan site in Wales. For a long time, his letters to me had revealed increasing cynicism and weari­ness, and friends who went to visit him – deeply impressed by the visionary scope of his books – were shocked to find him in an obvious state of indifference and discouragement. When tired of exchanging letters by ‘snail mail’, I offered to provide him with a computer; his reply was that he would never use it. It seems astonishing that this brilliant writer, author of more than a dozen books (some of them, like The Para­normal, classics in their field), should have been allowed to sink into the con­dition that the saints used to call accidia, but I suppose it has been the fate of many men of genius.

Now he has gone, perhaps Stan’s highly original work will one day be given the credit it deserves. Certainly, it seems that the safe, academic world he turned his back on is catching up with him, as recent findings appear to confirm some of his long-held theories about the sophistication of Neanderthal man.


In 1999, I was engaged in pursuing an intriguing little problem. Charles Hapgood, best known as the author of Maps of the Ancient Sea Kings, had died as the result of a car accident that happened in December 1982. Two months earlier, he had written to a librarian named Rand Flem-Ath telling him that he had made “recent exciting discoveries” that had convinced him that there had once been a 100,000-year-old civilization with “advanced levels of science”. And since I had agreed to collaborate with Flem-Ath on a book about Atlantis, I set out to pursue Hapgood’s contacts to see if I could find out what he meant.

Finally, through a tip-off from one of Hapgood’s acquaintances, I found myself in touch with an archæologist and science writer from New England, who staggered me when he declared that it was he who had given Hapgood this information. What he had told him, he said, was (a) that the Greek measure of distances proved that they knew the exact size of the Earth a millennium or so before Eratos­thenes discovered it (around 250 BC), and (b) that Neanderthal man had a remarkable degree of culture, and was studying the stars by 100,000 BC or earlier.

Now, I had already stumbled on the information about the Greeks in a book called Historical Metrology by AE Berriman (1953), to which the historical researcher Henry Lincoln had introduced me. And the second assertion had been made by Stan Gooch in 1989, in a book called Cities of Dreams.

Gooch was arguing that Neanderthal man had possessed a complex civilisation, but that it was not a civilisation of bricks and mortar, but of ‘dreams’. That hardly seemed to make sense. Surely civilisation is our defence against nature? Dreams are not much use against a hurricane or a sabre tooth tiger.

Gooch launches his argument by comparing Neanderthal man with Native Americans, pointing out that in spite of their complex culture, the latter had no written language and built no houses. What would have happened, Gooch asks, if they had been exterminated by disease or some catastrophe, and had simply vanished? Archæologists would find their skeletons and dismiss them as ‘primitives’, just as we dismiss Neanderthals.

Speaking of the Seven Sisters, Gooch remarks: “The Pleiades are the only [star grouping] noted and named by every culture on Earth, past and present, from the most advanced to the most primitive”. He points out the similarity of the legends of Australian aborigines, Wyom­ing Indians and the ancient Greeks. In the Greek legend, Orion the Hunter pursues the six maidens and their mother through the forest, until Zeus takes pity on them, and changes them all (including Orion) into stars. In the Australian legend, the hunter is called Wurunna, and he captures two of the seven maidens; but these escape up trees that suddenly grow until they reach the sky, where all the maidens live forever. According to the Wyoming Indians, the seven sisters are pursued by a bear, and climb up a high rock, which grows until it reaches the sky.

Gooch goes on to mention that the Seven Sisters play an equally important role in the legends of the Aztecs, the Incas, the Poly­nesians, the Chinese, the Masai, the Kikuyu, the Hindus and the ancient Egyptians. This worldwide interest in the Pleiades, he argues, surely indicates that it originated in some very early and once central culture. 

In Gooch’s view, that culture was Neanderthal. We may doubt this, and prefer to believe that it was our own ancestor, Cro-Magnon. But Gooch certainly had accum­ulated some impressive evidence of the intellectual sophistication of Neanderthal man. He speaks, for example, of a find made at Drachenloch in the Swiss Alps, where a 75,000-year-old bear altar was discovered in a cave. In a rectangular stone chest, whose lid was a massive stone slab, archæologists found seven bear skulls, with their muzzles pointing towards the cave entrance. At the back of the cave, there were niches in the wall with six more bear skulls.

Now seven is, of course, a number associated with shamanism. The Drachenloch cave was clearly a place of ritual – in effect, a church. Moreover, as historian of religion Mircea Eliade tells us, there is a worldwide connection between the bear and the Moon. And this might have been guessed from the fact that the number of skulls in the cave was 13 – the number of lunar months in the year. This, and many other clues, led Gooch to infer that the religion of Neanderthal man was based on Moon worship, and Neanderthals were the first ‘star gazers’. He argues that, among much else, the knowledge of precession of the equinoxes, noted by Giorgio de Santillana and Herta von Dechend inHamlet’s Mill, probably originated with Neanderthal man. 

A ‘church’ implies a priest or shaman, so Neanderthal man must have had his sham­ans, ‘magicians’ who played an important part in the hunting rituals, as shamans do worldwide. Is it chance that the Moon godd­ess is Diana the Huntress? Is she perhaps also a legacy from Neanderthal man?


Since Gooch’s book came out in 1989, new evidence has accumulated indicating that Neanderthal man also possessed his own technology. In 1996, it was announced that scientists from Tarragona’s Roviri i Virgili University had unearthed 15 furnaces near Capellades, north of Barcelona. Professor Eudald Carbonell stated that they prove that Neanderthal man possessed a skill level far more advanced than anyone had supposed. Homo sapiens, he said, was not an “evolutionary leap” beyond Cro-Magnon man, but only a gentle step from Neanderthal. Each of the furnaces served a different function according to its size: some ovens, some hearths, some even blast furnaces. The team also discovered an “astonishing variety” of stone and bone tools, as well as the most extensive traces of wooden utensils. (Times, 3 Sept 1996.)

One of Gooch’s most amazing statements is that in South Africa, Neanderthal man was digging deep mines to obtain red ochre 100,000 years ago. “One of the largest sites evidenced the removal of a million kilos of ore.” Other mines were discovered dated to 45,000, 40,000 and 35,000 years ago. In all cases, the site had been painstakingly filled in again, presumably because the Earth was regarded as sacred. Neanderthal man seems to have used the red ochre for ritual­istic purposes, including burial.

In 1950, Dr Ralph Solecki of the Smithsonian Institution had excavated the Shanidar cave in Iraqi Kurdistan and discovered evidence of ritualistic burial by Neanderthals, in which the dead had been covered with a quilt of woven wild flowers. His book Shanidar (1971) is subtitledThe Humanity of Neanderthal Man. He was the first of many anthropologists to conclude that Neanderthal man was far more than an ape.

Gooch points out that red ochre has been in use since at least 100,000 years ago until today, when it is still used by Australian Aborig­ines. He quotes one authority who calls it “the most spiritually rich and magical of all substances”.

Now, red ochre is the oxidised form of a mineral called magnetite, which, as the name suggests, is magnetic. If a small sliver of magnetite is floated on the surface tension of water, it swings around and points to magnetic north. And in 1000 BC, the Olmecs were using it as a compass needle, floating on cork, a millennium before the Chinese invented the compass. 

Gooch points out that many creatures, including pigeons, have a cluster of magnetite in the brain, which is used for homing, and asks if it is not conceivable that Neanderthal man also had a magnetite cluster in the brain, which may have enabled him to detect hæmatite under the ground. This, of course, would be simply a variant of the power dowsers have to detect underground water. 

For whatever reason Neanderthal man sought red ochre, it seems clear that he must be credited with some kind of civilisation. 

In January 2002, it emerged that Neanderthal man made use of a variety of superglue. It was a kind of blackish-brown pitch discovered at a lignite-mining pit in the Harz Mountains, estimated to be 80,000 years old. One of the pieces bore the imprint of fingers and impressions of a flint tool and wood, suggesting that the pitch had served as a sort of glue to secure the wooden shaft to a flint blade. The pitch, from a birch tree, can only be produced at a temperature of 300–400ºC. Prof. Dietrich Mania of the Friedrich-Schiller University in Jena said: “This implies that Neanderthals did not come across these pitches by accident, but must have produced them with intent”. 

Now clearly, all this is revolutionary. We take it for granted that human culture began with Cro-Magnon man, Homo sapiens. Our Cro-Magnon ancestors began making drawings in caves about 30,000 years ago and so, we had always assumed, our civilis­ation had its beginnings. But if the Pleiades were recognised 40,000 years ago, then Neanderthal man could have got there first.

Again, an 82,000-year-old bone flute, discovered by Dr Ivan Turk of the Slovenia Academy of Sciences in 1995, demonstrates that Neanderthal man had his own music. It begins to look more and more as if Gooch’s comparison of Neanderthal man to Native Americans is valid. A 26,000-year-old bone sewing needle, complete with a hole for thread, was discovered at another Neanderthal site. 

But perhaps the most staggering piece of evidence so far is the small, carved statue known as the Berekhat Ram figur­ine, discovered on the Golan Heights in 1980 by the Israeli archæologist Professor Naama Goren-Inbar. Its age was established because it was found – along with 7,500 scrapers – between two layers of basalt, known as tuff, that could be dated. And the date was between 250,000 and 280,000 years ago. It resembles the famous Venus of Willen­dorf, but is far cruder. And examination under an electron microscope revealed that it was not just some odd-shaped stone, but that it had been carved – by Neanderthal man. His flint tool had left powder in the grooves. 

So Neanderthal man was carving a tiny female figure, probably the Moon goddess, more than a quarter of a million years ago. The implication is that he had already developed the religion to which the bear skulls in the Drachenloch cave bear witness – but 200,000 years earlier. 

In Uriel’s Machine, Robert Lomas and Christopher Knight also turn their attention to Neanderthals, and point out that they had larger brains than modern man, adding the startling information that they were around for 230,000 years before they vanished. Neanderthals thus had plenty of time to acquire a high level of sophistic­ation. They clearly believed in an afterlife, for they buried their dead with every sign of religious ritual, and with tools and meat to supply their needs in the beyond. They buried them in cloaks covered with ornate beads (with buttonholes), decor­ated caps, carved bracelets and pendants. They manufactured at least one perfectly circular chalk disc, which is almost certainly a Moon disc.

And if Neanderthal man conducted relig­ious rituals, played the flute, studied the heavens, and built blast furnaces, he must have had some form of language other than grunts.

So Stan Gooch’s insights, which struck most people as crazy in 1989 (they certainly struck me as crazy when I first read Cities of Dreams), are slowly being justified. 


But to return to my New England academic, who claimed to have been the source of Hapgood’s statement that civilisation was 100,000 years old… 

I shall not give his real name, for reasons that will become clear, but shall call him Carl.

During that first conversation, it was soon apparent that there was an unforeseen problem. Although our talk lasted two hours, I couldn’t understand more than one sentence in 10. Like certain brilliant people, whose heads are crammed with knowledge, Carl was unable – or unwilling – to express himself clearly and to the point. It was obvious that when I asked him a question, he wanted to say 30 things at once, and it was like a crowd trying to push through a narrow doorway. Nevertheless, I had no doubt that I had solved the problem of Hapgood’s “100,000 years”. I could hardly wait to tele­phone my collaborator.

Here I was in for a surprise. Instead of the congratulations I expected, Rand reacted with deep suspicion. Who was this man, and if he had been Hapgood’s source, why had Rand not come across his name while studying the Hapgood papers at Yale? I pointed out that Hapgood had said: “In certain recent discoveries…” Probably Hapgood had not had time to write about them yet. But Rand made it clear that he felt Carl was some kind of fraud. But why should he be? I asked. What possible motive could he have for lying to me? Rand said he didn’t know, but he intended to find out.

As to the suggestion that Neanderthal man might be more intelligent than we suppose, he was dismissive. And he told me later that he had mentioned it to a girl who taught in a nearby university, and she had burst into screams of laughter.

I had arranged to ring Carl back in two weeks, and to install a recording machine that would play for an hour. But this proved to be quite inadequate. Carl simply talked non-stop for an hour, and when I told him the tape had ended, just went on talking – for another hour. 

But at least he said some fascinating things – basic­ally, that the antiquity of civilisation was proved by its measures. And if these measures could be shown to date back to the La Quina disc, carved by a Neanderthal 100,000 years ago, then the point was proven. I had to agree. He also talked about linguistic evidence in Greek, Hebrew, Sumerian and Sanskrit, and cited the exact words. I had never come across a man of such immense erudition. His theory was incredibly difficult, involving music, planetary distances, archæology and atomic numbers. His articles – of which he sent me several – might range from the Great Pyramid, Ice Age art and Chaco Canyon to alchemical symbolism.

But I soon realised that I could not simply present him to the reader as an unrecognised genius, for some of his views left him wide open to the accusation of being a crank. He not only accepted the reality of the ‘Face on Mars’ (which I am also inclined to do), but believed it had been created by human beings, and that one of the satellites of Mars was some kind of artefact.

Just as I was beginning to wonder if Rand could be right, and Carl might be an extraordinary and plausible fraud, I was confronted with evidence of his genuineness. An old friend, Andy Collins, came past our house on his way to see the eclipse in Cornwall, and when he overheard me telling someone in the pub about Carl, said he knew him. I was fascinated and asked for details. It seemed Andy had met Carl at a London party, and that Carl had quickly monopolised the conversation, until he held the whole room enthralled. Andy agreed that Carl was undoubtedly brilliant.

He mentioned a friend of his who lived in the Midlands, and who had been on an archæo­logical expedition with Carl in Mexico. I rang him up, and as a result received some more interesting first-hand information about Carl. As a travelling companion, he could apparently be exacting, obsessive, and infuriating. In spite of which he was – as I had deduced from those long phone conversations – erudite, a brilliant loner, and certainly no fraud.

Some of his claims, my informant agreed, might be startling – such as his story about meeting Einstein when he was 10 years old and having a conversation about the lost tribes of Israel – but then, he was a child prodigy, and came from a distinguished family who might well have had Einstein to tea.


Unfortunately, Carl learned that Rand had been making enquiries about him, and was understandably infuriated. Although I assured him that I did not share Rand’s suspicions, Carl’s attitude cooled percept­ibly. Then I began to understand what Andy’s friend meant about him being exacting and infuriating. As hard as I tried to shore up our relationship, it quickly went to pieces. And after further exchanges, he ended by telling me that he would prefer to have his name removed from the book. I was unhappy at the idea, for it was obvious to me that he had to be the person who had told Hapgood about the “100,000-year-old civilisation”. 

But Rand remained convinced that Carl was some kind of conman, and our collaboration reached a deadlock. In due course, our book The Atlantis Blueprint was published in a hacked and truncated form. Every reference to Neanderthal man had been excised, and in one paragraph, had been altered to “people like us”, implying that I was talking about Cro-Magnon man. This upset me, not only on my own behalf, but on Stan Gooch’s, for I knew how much he was hoping to see his theories given an airing. All mention of Carl had gone too – although no reviewer seemed to notice that the book therefore failed to fulfil its promise to explain Hapgood’s 100,000-year-old science.

I was much saddened, of course, but then a consoling thought occurred to me. So much of the book had been slashed that I was left with enough material to form the basis of another. In 2006, I published Atlantis and the Kingdom of the Neanderthals; this time, I made sure that the achievements of Neanderthal man formed a central part of its thesis, and Stan Gooch finally received the credit he deserved. 

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