Where do we come from? The ultimate question of humanity's true origins and development is fraught with complexity and mystery. There can be no simple answer or explanation. It is not a simple binary choice of saying that either 'God' or 'evolution' started the process. One would only have to ask 'How?' to realise that there are always more questions than answers. And for all of the facts and information that we can be reasonably certain of, there is vastly more that is in the realm of speculation and guesswork.
This book from Visible Ink Press, based in Detroit, is a new addition to their extensive range of "popular reference mega-works that inform and entertain in the areas of science, history, minority studies, and the paranormal." Its author, Jim Willis, has done a great job here of sifting through an immense amount of scientific material from many fields of study and making it not only comprehensible but also highly readable and enjoyable. From first impressions right through to the end it is a great read. The text is beautifully laid out in short paragraphs with good spacing, subheadings, highlighting and an abundance of illustrations that stimulate and hold one's interest.
Willis has a warm and engaging style of writing, with many touches of humour and unfailing honesty. In one paragraph of his first chapter, 'Ancient Ancestors', he says: "By following the so-called objective, scientific method of study by separation, archaeologists can leave questions of origins to the biologists and anthropologists. They in turn, find it convenient to retreat into their specialities and pass the burden of our beginnings on to the philosophers. And so it goes, on down the line. Sometimes it's safer and easier to retreat into specialisation".
The author is rigorous in separating fact from fiction, and assiduous in analysing and weighing what 'facts' may be gleaned from ancient texts and myths. Before launching into these, he frankly says: Where did we come from? We don't know. But what follows is a broad spectrum of theories to consider. In the next few pages we learn about the ancient Sumerian text known as The Epic of Gilgamesh. Discovered in 1853, and translated in 1870, it was of no interest to the popular press or the general public until, as Willis amusingly informs us, it was featured in an episode of Star Trek.
He uses this as his first clear example of the 'Conspiracy of Silence'. The Epic of Gilgamesh told the story of a great worldwide flood that destroyed most of humanity. The only survivors were a god-fearing family led by a patriarch named Utnapishtim, who built a large boat to ride out the deluge. Willis points out that this text was written five thousand years ago, long before the famous biblical story of Noah was written. He cites a quotation from a scholar stating that the text contains little of value for Christians, since it concerns typical polytheistic myths associated with the pagan peoples of the time. In other words, despite clear evidence that it might be a source of the biblical text, it was dismissed and devalued regarding its other revelations.
Perhaps the greatest of these revelations in The Epic of Gilgamesh is described by Willis as a 'hidden time bomb that wouldn't explode until more than 150 years had passed. It told of seven "judges of hell" who set the land aflame in advance of the great flood. They were called the Anunnaki.' In another text, known as Enuma Elish, the Anunnaki were also known as Watchers or Holy Ones, appointed by the god Marduk to oversee his slave race of humans. This would all be academic but for the work of Zecharia Sitchin, whom Willis introduces in the section 'Enter the Aliens'.
Sitchin became famous for locating the home of the Anunnaki as a planet called Nibiru, another name for the god Marduk. He claimed that this planet had a long elliptical orbit around the sun and was rarely seen from Earth. They were having trouble with their planet's atmosphere and needed to seed it with gold to save themselves. There was plenty of gold on Earth, but they needed a slave race to mine it. Sitchin's theory is that they did a little genetic manipulation on existing life forms, tweaking their DNA to make slaves of them. The worrying implication is, of course, that some of this programming might remain in humanoids today.
What adds real interest to this story is that only last year, in 2016, scientists found gravitational evidence of the existence of a massive planet orbiting our sun in the outer reaches of our solar system beyond Pluto. Willis is not saying that the planet Nibiru has been found, only that it might become visible in time. Nobody knows for sure yet. But all of this ties in with the earlier work of Eric von Daniken, who claimed in Chariots of the Gods that we had been visited by 'Ancient Aliens'. This phrase stuck, and, thanks to the internet and cable TV, is now well-known.
Willis is careful not to exaggerate any particular theory. He keeps an open mind and follows the scientific method through the first half of Ancient Gods under four main headings: Ancient Ancestors, Ancient Astronomers, Ancient Catastrophes, and Ancient Civilisations. DNA evidence is useful for determining that various species of humans have been around for over 40,000 years, and possibly as long as 400,000 years. One estimate for the transition from ape to human ancestors is as much as six million years. Another estimate for human ability to make and use fire is 350,000 years.
As for the origin of life itself in a 'young universe of unimaginable chaos and violence' there are many theories:
'Panspermia', the concept of life being seeded by comets and other bodies throughout space by micro-organisms or bacteria that begin to thrive where conditions are suitable;
'Spontaneous Generation', although this theory has virtually died as it has never been demonstrated that life can come from non-life;
'Quantum Theory' and the weird relation between observing and manifesting - which hardly explains life itself;
'Many Worlds Theory', related to Quantum Theory in the idea that anything, including the creation of life itself, is possible in an infinite multiverse.
No stone is left unturned, figuratively and literally, as Willis surveys ancient cultures and the stone monuments they have left behind as clues for the possibility of an advanced civilisation on Earth that was wiped out suddenly by a great catastrophe. The Great Pyramid and Stonehenge are the most famous ancient monuments in the world today, many thousands of years old and seemingly too advanced to have been constructed by the 'primitive' peoples of their time. Willis mocks the experts who explain away the Great Pyramid as the work of thousands of labourers dragging massive stones up ramps. As to how it was done, he prefers an advanced technology that we do not yet have in the modern world. It could have been done by sound vibrations and resonance, for example, as a kind of anti-gravity, or levitation, effect. We simply don't know, as Willis often admits to some of these truly baffling questions.
There is another stone monument, discovered only as recently as 1995, that may be even more important than the Great Pyramid and Stonehenge as evidence of a lost civilisation: Gobekli Tepe is a temple built of immense stone pillars arranged in sets of rings. The tallest are eighteen feet high and weigh sixteen tons. Carved into their surfaces are bas-relief totemic animals of prey - a whole menagerie. But what makes the discovery so fantastic is this: Gobekli Tepe was built 11,600 years ago!
This discovery has proved to be a game-changer in the world of archaeology and the orthodox view of humanity's development of civilisation. Willis puts it like this: How did a hunter-gatherer culture supply the manpower to carve and move sixteen-ton rocks? It must have taken thousands of labourers. What motivated them? Religious temples supposedly didn't come into play until generations after the Agricultural Revolution, but here was a huge religious temple found springing up from the landscape thousands of years before religion was thought to have been organised enough to even attempt such a thing!
Another mysterious fact is that the most advanced parts of Gobekli Tepe are the oldest. The most sophisticated building happened first, at the bottom of the dig. It appears that later generations built on top of it. But their work exhibits less and less skill with each succeeding layer. This discovery defies and overturns all previous expectations of what humans were capable of in that time period. Gobekli Tepe was not built near a water source and there is no evidence of towns or villages because these had not yet been developed. What are the implications of this? It was built as a 'religious' temple, therefore it may indicate that religion came before agriculture.
Two more recent discoveries, both as it happens found in Indonesia in the year 2014, have added to the mystery and the need to re-assess what we know about human development. On the island of Sulawesi sophisticated cave paintings were found that date back around 40,000 years. And on Java remains of human bones were discovered, surrounded by shells decorated with geometric engravings, generally interpreted as indicative of modern cognition and behaviour, dated to 500,000 years ago - at least 300,000 years before modern humans were supposed to have evolved.
What to make of all of this? Willis gathers a compendium of indicators before 'joining the dots'. Everything from legends of Atlantis and Mu to the Nazca lines of Peru, Olmec heads, pyramids built in disparate places around the planet, ley lines, alignment of shafts in the Great pyramid to specific stars at particular times, evidence from the Sphinx, and so on. It all points to the existence on earth, many millennia ago, of highly advanced beings in human form with an equally advanced civilisation. They lived alongside primitive 'Stone Age' type humans.
At about 11,600 years ago the 'Younger Dryas Ice Age' ended as rapidly and mysteriously as it began. This resulted in worldwide flooding as the ice caps suddenly melted, releasing unimaginable amounts of fresh water into the world's oceans. Willis quotes from Graham Hancock's groundbreaking work Magicians of the Gods: The notion of global disaster more than 11,000 years ago, and particularly the heretical idea that it could have wiped out a high civilisation of that epoch, is strenuously resisted and indeed ridiculed by the archaeological establishment because, of course, archaeologists claim to 'know' that there was not, and never under any circumstances could have been, a high civilization at that time.
The 'Ancient Gods', as Willis convincingly argues, were the advanced humans who built those awesome monuments that still stand today. In some cases, recent discoveries, such as Gobekli Tepe, have served as 'time capsules', possibly even planted deliberately to be found in our present day of global crisis. He cites evidence, thoroughly explained in Graham Hancock's book, that pillar 43 at the Gobekli Tepe Temple has a carved relief showing exactly the night sky at the winter solstice 11,600 years from then - i.e. our present time. The plot thickens. For more details, read the book! -- Kevin Murphy