Columnar basalt does form naturally – the famous Giant’s Causeway in Northern Ireland is an example – but at Gunung Padang it has been used as a building material and is laid out in a form never found in nature.
“The geophysical evidence is unambiguous,” Natawidjaja says. “Gunung Padang is not a natural hill but a man-made pyramid and the origins of construction here go back long before the end of the last Ice Age. Since the work is massive even at the deepest levels, and bears witness to the kinds of sophisticated construction skills that were deployed to build the pyramids of Egypt or the largest megalithic sites of Europe, I can only conclude that we’re looking at the work of a lost civilization and a fairly advanced one.”
“The archaeologists won’t like that,” I point out.
“They don’t!” Natawidjaja agrees with a rueful smile. “I’ve already got myself into a lot of hot water with this. My case is a solid one, based on good scientific evidence, but it’s not an easy one. I’m up against deeply entrenched beliefs.”
The next step will be a full-scale archaeological excavation. “We have to excavate in order to interrogate our remote sensing data and our carbon dating sequences and either to confirm or deny what we believe we’ve found here,” says Natawidjaja, “but unfortunately there’s a lot of obstacles in our way.”
When I ask what he means by obstacles he replies that some senior Indonesian archaeologists are lobbying the government in Jakarta to prevent him from doing any further work at Gunung Padang on the grounds that they “know” the site is less than 5,000 years old and see no justification for disturbing it.
“I don’t deny that the megaliths at the surface are less than 5,000 years old,” Natawidjaja hastens to add, “but I suggest they were put here because Gunung Padang has been recognized as a sacred place since time immemorial. It’s the deepest layers of the structure at between 12,000 and more than 20,000 years old that are the most important. They have potentially revolutionary implications for our understanding of history and I think it’s vital that we be allowed to investigate them properly.”
Gunung Padang is not the only ancient site that raises huge question marks over the story archaeologists tell us about our past. On the other side of the world, in southeastern Turkey, another man-made hill has been excavated during the past decade, this time by Professor Klaus Schmidt of the German Archaeological Institute. The site, called Gobekli Tepe (which means “Potbellied Hill” in the local Kurdish language) consists of a series of immense megalithic stone circles on the scale of Stonehenge and was deliberately buried (creating the appearance of a hill) around 8,000 BC by the mysterious ancient people who made it. The circles themselves date back to 9,600 BC, however, with the oldest work being the best. At least twenty further circles on a similar scale, identified by ground penetrating radar, are still deeply buried. Some of these, Klaus Schmidt told me when I visited Gobekli Tepe in September 2013, are likely to be much older than those already excavated.
At 7,000 or more years older than Stonehenge the megaliths of Gobekli Tepe, like the deeply buried megaliths of Gunung Padang mean that the timeline of history taught in our schools and universities for the best part of the last hundred years can no longer stand. It is beginning to look as though civilization, as I argued in my controversial 1995 bestseller Fingerprints of the Gods, is indeed much older and much more mysterious than we thought.
In essence what I proposed in that book was that an advanced civilization had been wiped out and lost to history in a global cataclysm at the end of the last Ice Age. I suggested there were survivors who settled at various locations around the world and attempted to pass on their superior knowledge, including knowledge of agriculture, to hunter-gatherer peoples who had also survived the cataclysm. Indeed even today we have populations of hunter gatherers, in the Kalahari Desert, for instance, and in the Amazon jungle, who co-exist with our advanced technological culture – so we should not be surprised that equally disparate levels of civilization might have co-existed in the past.
What I could not do when I wrote Fingerprints, because the evidence was not then available, was identify the exact nature of the cataclysm that had wiped out my hypothetical lost civilization, and this absence of a specific “smoking gun” was one of the many aspects of my argument that was heavily criticized by archaeologists. Since 2007, however, masses of scientific evidence have come to light that have identified the smoking gun for me in the form of a comet that broke into multiple fragments now known to have hit the earth 12,980 years ago. The impacts (some on the North American ice cap, some elsewhere) caused floods and tidal waves and threw a vast cloud of dust into the upper atmosphere that enshrouded the entire earth for more than a thousand years, preventing the sun’s rays from reaching the surface, and setting off the Younger Dryas deep freeze.
I believe it is possible that Gobekli Tepe may prove to be the work of the survivors of a great civilization lost during the Younger Dryas (interestingly the so-called “origins of agriculture” have been traced back by archaeologists to the vicinity of Gobekli Tepe and to the exact period in which Gobekli Tepe was created). But it is to Gunung Padang that I now look for a possibly even more stunning confirmation of my theory. Danny Natawidjaja’s geological survey has revealed not only deeply buried massive constructions and very ancient carbon dates at Gunung Padang but also the presence of three hidden chambers, so rectilinear in form that they are most unlikely to be natural. The largest of these lies at a depth of between 70 and 90 feet beneath the summit of the pyramid and measures approximately 18 feet high, 45 feet long and 30 feet wide.
Could it be the fabled “Hall of Records” of Atlantis? If Dr Natawidjaja’s geological excavation is allowed to proceed, despite strenuous attempts by local archaeologists to prevent it, then we should know the answer to that question, one way or another, by the end of 2014.
Note: GRAHAM HANCOCK is working on a sequel to Fingerprints of the Gods, provisionally titled Magicians of the Gods, to be published in October 2015 by Coronet in the UK, by Saint Martin’s Press in the US, by Kadokokawa Shoten in Japan and by Corbaccio in Italy.
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