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Olmec Stone Head, Mexico. (Photograph by Santha Faiia)

One of my guilty pleasures (actually, sometimes I wonder if all of my pleasures are guilty, but that’s for another post) is gonzo theories of human origins, the kind of theories that might be breathlessly expounded by Agent Mulder on The X-Files. Some of the most enjoyable such theories are currently found in the books of Graham Hancock, a British writer who has hypothesized that a great human civilization, technological in nature, flourished more than fifteen thousand years ago before the most recent Ice Age. This, needless to say, flies in the face of all established anthropological and archaeological theory. The Olmec stone head pictured above is one of many that can be found throughout Central America. What interests Hancock in this case is the stone head’s Negroid features, when there is no evidence at all of any Negroid dispersion from Africa to the Americas (before they were helped along by Caucasian slave-traders). This is just one piece of “evidence” for Hancock’s theories, which can be found in such books as Fingerprints of the Gods, The Message of the Sphinx, and Heaven’s Mirror. An earlier book by Hancock, The Sign and the Seal, proposed an intriguing theory of where the Ark of the Covenant currently rests. The photograph links to Hancock’s official website.

(I am actually very skeptical of theories such as Hancock’s; my recommendation of his books should not be taken as an endorsement of his hypotheses. I will recommend some good books on skepticism in a future post.)

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