Forbidden Archeology's Impact: How A Controversial New Book Shocked the Scientific Community and Became An Underground Classic

by Michael A. Cremo

592 pages ISBN: 0-89213-283-3
$35.00 Hardcover  Publication Date: May 1998
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The following review of Forbidden Archeology’s Impact appeared in the March 2000 issue  (vol. 52, no. 1, pp. 63-64) of Perspectives on Science and Christian Faith, the journal of the American Scientific Affiliation, an established organization of Christian scientists.

History of Science (section heading):

Forbidden Archeology’s Impact by Michael A. Cremo. Los Angeles: Bhaktivedanta Book Trust, 1998. 569 pages, bibliography, index. Hardcover: $35.00.

This is an unusual book, possibly an inaugral work of this kind. Cremo’s Forbidden Archeology’s Impact is a compilation of reports, letters, challenging papers, internet messages, and correspondence the author has had with scientists, and his written responses to the multitude of criticisms, which he claims professional journals have refused to print. This book is based on the response to his 1993 work titled Forbidden Archeology, a controversial extremist view of human antiquity that literally stunned the scientific community. The book crossed many intellectual and cultural boundaries with the premise that the scientific community has been suppressing knowledge about a full array of beliefs to include creationist ideas and a plentitude of conspiracies.

Criticism of Cremo’s work, both the original volume and this follow-up chronicle, runs the gamut of a “cornucopia of dreck” to the other end of the spectrum where some claimed that the books were “the landmark intellectual achievements of the late 20th century.” Foreword writer, Colin Wilson, claims that Forbidden Archeology “is simply an extremely erudite and extremely amusing account of what might be called the other side of the post Darwinist story.” The vast array of opinions on the original work makes the second book all that more interesting, for Cremo responds to each one in a definitive, albeit somewhat disorganized, manner.

Cremo is an author and researcher specializing in the history and philosophy of science. His persistent investigation during the eight years of writing Forbidden Archeology documented a major scientific cover-up, making him a world authority on archeological anomalies regarding human antiquity. In 1996, an NBC-TV special, The Mysterious Origins of Man, hosted by Charleton Heston, featured Cremo’s original work, which exposed the scientific world to a series of conspiratorial allegations.

By Cremo’s admission, “the problem with the scientific method is that it is driven far too much by theory, and not enough by fact. By which I mean that science moves forward by the development, and subsequent testing, of hypotheses, when at times formation of hypotheses should be strenuously avoided because they grow into filters which taint otherwise vital and compelling data.” What this book does is document the explosive reactions to Cremo’s assertions. It also continues to ignore conventional archeological wisdom by claiming that “science is not comfortable with unknowns.” So rather than leave a question unanswered (e.g. “How old is humankind?”), Cremo attempts to tackle head on what many scientists refuse to ponder. In both books, there is no doubt that Cremo has the courage not to ignore data which “flies in the face of accepted scientific wisdom.”

To offer an opinion of this book requires exploring the intent of the original work. However, since both books are separate in construct, Cremo’s newest book is nothing short of a menagerie of disjointed letters and reports. The author obviously had no intention of intertwining these textual elements into a cohesive woof, so readers should not expect the book to develop any central argument.

The curious reader may find Forbidden Archeology’s Impact worthwhile, if for no other reason than to see how an author may defend a fairly unpopular thesis. While the book is long and laborious, it provides enough information to stimulate further study of his original work.

Reviewed by Major Dominic J. Caraccilo, 1212 Whisperwood Drive, Columbus, GA 31907.

Van Riper, A. Bowdoin (1999) “Michael A. Cremo. Forbidden Archeology’s Impact: How a Controversial Book Shocked the Scientific Community and Became an Underground Classic” ISIS Vol. 90(3) September 1999.

   Every scientific discipline has fringe theories, but the fringes of archaeology are especially crowded.  Archaeology focuses on human affairs, uses seemingly familiar objects as data, and has a long tradition of amateur participation.  It thus provides abundant opportunities for would-be scientific revolutionaries who reject the ideas of mainstream archaeologists in favor of more colorful ones involving alien visitors, lost continents, and various forms of divine intervention.  Michael Cremo and Richard Thompson’s book Forbidden Archeology (Bhaktivedanta Institute, 1994) fell squarely within that tradition.  It argued that anatomically modern, tool-making humans have walked the earth for tens (perhaps hundreds) of millions of years and that they - not the far younger hominids studied by mainstream paleoanthropologists - are our true ancestors.  The truth has been obscured, Cremo and Thompson argued, by scientists too wedded to existing theories of human origins to give a fair hearing to data that challenged them.
   Forbidden Archaeology’s Impact is Cremo’s effort to document the reception of his earlier book.  It reprints published reviews and Cremo’s (mostly unpublished) responses to them, letters to and from Cremo, transcripts of radio and television interviews, and postings to Internet newsgroups.  Most of this material appears in its entirety, and Cremo’s use of quotations is (judging from his treatment of my own brief correspondence with him) scrupulous.   His responses extend, but do not substantially alter, the positions he staked out in Forbidden Archaeology.
    Forbidden Archaeology’s Impact is not, in itself, a work on the history of science.  The raw data it makes available could, however, inform studies of such topics as disciplinary “boundary work,” fringe science, popularization, and the intersection of science and religious belief (in Cremo’s case, Hinduism).  Cremo’s explicit use of social constructionist ideas to cast doubt on mainstream archaeology conclusions also invites closer analysis - especially in relation to the strict Baconian empiricism that he promotes as proper scientific methodology.

Atlantis Rising review of Forbidden Archeology's Impact
November 1998 (No. 17)
"Academe Lashes Back:
A New Book Traces the Furious Reaction of Archaeological Orthodoxy to a Major Challenge"
 Reprinted with permission of Atlantis Rising magazine.  No part of this may be reporduced without written permission from the publisher.

   If you think the priesthood of scientific orthodoxy will roll over and accept the existence of lost civilizations, extremely ancient man, and other mysteries reported in Atlantis Rising, don't hold your breath.   But if you happen to be a member of that priesthood, or merely adhere to its precepts, don't be surprised to find your sacred tapestries slowly unraveling.
   What's at stake?  The nature of humanity - that means you and me, who we are, where we come from, where we are going.  Who are the main players?  The high priests of science - who say we are an accident of nature, essentially meaningless - are being challenged by a new breed of writers, researchers and scientists who have broken the spell of scientific materialism.  These visionaries seem to know instinctively that the 'priesthood' has not told humanity's true story, that the world's ancient traditions convey essential knowledge about humankind which many experts deliberately ignore.  Often equipped with broad, interdisciplinary backgrounds, these new researchers have been liberated from the myopia of modern science, which, while studying the minutia of nature's tree fail to behold the forest. Atlantis Rising has featured the work of many of these trailbrazers: Graham Hancock, Robert Bauval, D.S. Allan and J.B. Delair, Richard Thompson and Michael Cremo, and others.
   Thompson and Cremo leveled a blow against the orthodox priesthood with Forbidden Archaeology, an exhaustive 900-page tome that makes the case for extremely ancient human origins, a scenario that leaves more than ample time and opportunity for lost civilizations, golden ages, and highly advanced man to have appeared and vanished from the face of the earth.  Forbidden Archaeology's barrage of ignored and suppressed accounts culled from the priesthood's own forgotten annals - records of early and more recent archaeological finds - demonstrated that presumptions about the age of mankind and evolutionary theory simply do not fit the record written in the ground.
   Minus the usual doctrinal biases, though admittedly supporting their own, Thompson and Cremo laid out an overwhelming array of evidence for extremely ancient man: a five-million-year-old skull from Italy; bones found in a 286-million-year-old coal bed in Pennsylvania; an ornate vase from 500-million-year-old deposits; and 10-million-year-old flint tools from Burma - to name just a few.  Few critics take issue with the actual evidence Thompson and Cremo presented.  Instead, some resorted to "infantile name-calling," as Cremo put it in a recent interview, "refusing to confront evidence in a serious way - that was the response from what I would call the fundamentalist, Darwinist element."
   In Cremo's newly released Forbidden Archaeology's Impact, a collection of responses to the original work, anthropologist Richard Leakey admits he did not actually read the book.
   But he had this to say:
   "A quick glance at some pages suggests to me that your book is pure humbug and does not deserve to be taken seriously by any one but a fool."   Leakey went on, personally deriding Cremo while invoking one of scientific materialism's main tenets: "Sadly there are some [fools], but that's part of [natural] selection and there is nothing that can be done."   Yale University's Jonathon Marks responded in a similar vein: "This is a must for anyone interested in keeping up with goofy popular anthropology; at well over 900 pages, it is a veritable cornucopia of dreck."
   So much for objectivity.
  Yet Forbidden Archaeology cannot by its nature be dismissed so carelessly, in that it compiles only evidence already documented by the archaeological community.  And flippant responses to what many recognize as a work of serious scholarship call into question the mindset of certain commentators as much, or more, than the work they are commenting upon.   Thompson and Cremo's book, available in the abridged version, Hidden History of the Human Race, does not betray scientific methodology, as some would have us believe.  It is, in fact, short on speculation and long on fact, relying on archaeological finds recorded mostly before dogma about the age of humanity had taken root in the nascent scientific establishment.
   Even within the mainstream scientific community - somewhat removed from the priesthood, though more open-minded experts in the history of archaeology and anthropology recognize the book as a work of genuine scholarship, and that it contributes to their fields, even if they disagree with its conclusions.  Cremo found this particularly true in Belgium, Holland, and Hungary when speaking to graduate students of archaeology, and in Russia when speaking to a convocation of the country's top scientists.  "There is an element out there that doesn't have this knee jerk, fundamentalist, name-calling reaction....that is willing to give the work what I would regard as a fair hearing."
   Tim Murray, head of the archaeology department at Latrobe University in Melbourne, Australia, and also a historian of archaeology, reviewed Thompson and Cremo's work in the British Journal for the History of Science.  While rejecting the idea that man has been around anywhere nearly as long as Cremo suggests, Murray writes:
   "I have no doubt that there will be some who will read this book and profit from it.  Certainly it provides the historian of archaeology with a useful compendium of case studies in the history and sociology of scientific knowledge...."

The Other Experts

   The Richard Leakeys and Jonathon Marks of the world, like most committed dogmatists, deride those who challenge their take on reality, even when faced with tangible evidence.  The Tim Murrays, those capable of a more tolerant view, agree with Leakey and Marks while allowing dissidents their due.  And while most experts agree with Leakey many do not.
   Forbidden Archaeology's Impact lays out in plain view the reactions of the archaeological establishment to Thompson and Cremo's heretical stance that man has been around almost forever.  That the original book received such widespread attention says a great deal about the impact it had.  Cremo remarked, what's more, that several scientific conferences received and published papers he wrote on the subject of anomalous archaeological evidence.  From within the stale halls of orthodoxy, the reception ran from outright ridicule to bemused disapproval.  But those with less vested in the orthodox line positioned Forbidden Archaeology where it probably belongs, within the realm of serious debate and scholarly fascination.  William Corliss, a publisher of anomalous evidence in various fields of science, said it this way:
   "Forbidden Archaeology has so much to offer anomalists that it is difficult to know where to its systematic collection of data challenging the currently accepted and passionately defended scenario of human evolution....Here are fat chapters on incised bones, eoliths, crude tools, and skeletal remains - all properly documented and detailed, but directly contradicting the textbooks and museum exhibits...the salient theme of this huge book is that human culture is much older than claimed."   Hillel Schwarz in the Journal of Unconventional History waxed spiritual, saying:
   "The authors find modern Homo Sapiens to be continuous contemporaries of the age-like creatures from whom evolutionary biologists usually trace human descent....thus confirming those Vedic sources that presume the nearly illimitable antiquity of the human race....Despite its unhidden religious partisanship, the book deserves a reckoning in this review for its embrace of a global humanity distinct from other primates....Meditating upon our uniqueness...we may come to realize that what can change (awaken) humanity is....a work of the spirit, to touch with (and devoted to) the ancient perfect....unchanging wisdom of the Vedic masters."
   John Davidson, writing in the International Journal of Alternative and Complimentary Medicine, also weighed in:
    "If only one human fossil or artifact of the 50 or so meticulously documented and discussed from the Miocene or early Pliocene is correctly dated, then everything concerning the theories of human origins must return to the melting pot.  And the evidence is that a large proportion of them are entirely credible.....Why then have they not been previously considered?"  And Dr. K.N. Prasad, a vertebrate paleontologist and former director of the Geological Survey of India offered some corroborative information of his own:
   "The entire gamut of human origins and prehistory has been brought out in one single, comprehensible volume, a task few people can achieve....Several human episodes have originated in the Himalayan region for the past 10-15 million years.   Valuable data on human origins in the form of dentition, skull and post cranial skeletons have been lost or buried in the sediments, due to several tectonic episodes...."

The Myth of Materialism

   Delving into historical accounts of how doctrines come into being can be an eye opener.   The prevailing rigidity about human origins can be likened to Constantine's Christianity, after the emperor compelled grassroots beliefs about Christ into official conformity to maintain and preserve political power.  But the Christ of history , and that of early traditions, does not neatly resemble the Christ of religious orthodoxy.
   Likewise, a close examination of human origins, as detailed by Thompson and Cremo, does not resemble the human origins of the ruling Darwinists.
   Religious thinking and opposition to that thinking have always had much to do with the debate over human origins.   Even Darwin had religion in mind when he laid the foundation of what was to become modern evolutionary theory.  With a review of Darwin's personal letters, certain tenets of modern science can be traced to one man's attempt to refute the bible, a predisposition that, so many years later, necessitates that those tenets come under fire.  Most notable are the notions of gradualism and uniformitarianism, both of which state that geological and biological evolution happened in extremely slow, linear, and uniform increments over billions of years. Catastrophism, Darwin sneered while writing to a friend, smacks of the biblical, the Great Flood, the supernatural.  And the supernatural, Darwin and his adherents realized, renders impotent evolution's most basic premise, pure materialism.
   The battle of supernatural versus material origins continues with Forbidden Archaeology's Impact, for Cremo admittedly adheres to the Vedic understanding of prehistory, to the teachings of A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada, founder of the International Society for Krishna Consciousness.  Swami Prabhupada himself once urged, in fact, that a study such as Thompson and Cremo's be conducted, an examination of the scientific record which he apparently believed would support the Vedic stance on antiquity.
   The Vedas of ancient India, and the Puranas more specifically, say that man has been on Earth for far longer than western science allows.  Western scholarship, though, has historically devalued the importance of Vedic knowledge and civilization, giving both fairly recent dates in antiquity and dismissing them as the results of an Aryan invasion of the Indus Valley, rather than the products of an extremely ancient culture that tells us much about humanity's origins.
   Absent their ability to conceive of a more ancient and advanced man, as discussed in the Puranas, western intellectuals dismissed Indian texts (along with the world's other myths) as having little historical value, and along with them profound traditions regarding human origins, the nature of man, and the nature of reality contained in those texts - notions more sublime than anything the intellectuals had even imagined.
   David Frawley, a Vedic scholar with the American Institute of Vedic Studies in Santa Fe, New Mexico, roundly dismisses the idea of an Aryan invasion of India as a contrivance, as does James Schaeffer, another expert in Indian archaeology.  And the Aryan Invasion idea typifies the manner in which the West's orthodox scientific thinking has presumptuously - some would say arrogantly - devalued traditions of antiquity and the record of prehistory those traditions offer.
    The Vedas and Puranas tell us of a mankind that has and will continue to reincarnate through vast cycles of time, called yugas, knowledge transmitted from the rishis, the enlightened adepts of prehistory referenced in numerous world myths.  Human evolution through these cycles generates spiritual advancement as humanity slowly integrates in consciousness with Brahman, the infinite, all prevading essence within and behind appearances of the sensual realm.  Man's nature, every cell, his very identity, is rooted in this sublime invisible essence, the Vedas teach.  It is of this essence that material creation is composed, through which it evolves, and from which it emerges.  What's more, this magical essence can be consciously experienced by spiritualized man as the fulfillment of life, a version of reality distinctly at odds with the purely materialistic Darwinian model - though one now supported, in its essence, by the avant garde of modern physics.

Where did the self come from?

   After reviewing the book, William W. Howells, one of the more gracious architects of the current evolutionary paradigm, wrote Cremo saying: Thank you for sending me a copy of Forbidden Archaeology, which represents much careful effort in critically assembling published materials.  I have given it a good examination....To have modern human a time when even simple primates did not exist as possible ancestors....would be devastating to the whole theory of evolution, which has been pretty robust up to now.....The suggested hypothesis would demand a kind of process which could not possibly be accommodated to the evolutionary theory as we know it, and I should think it requires an explanation of that aspect."
    In other words, if modern science were to take seriously the evidence presented in Forbidden Archaeology, then not only would current beliefs about human origins be thrown into question, but so would beliefs about the origins of life on the planet.
   "The implication of the that we need a new explanation [of human origins],"  Cremo said, "Before we try to understand where human beings came from, we might have to reevaluate our whole conception of what a human being is.  If we think that a human being is just a bunch of atoms combined together in a certain way, then you're confined to a purely materialistic explanation.  You have to take into account the existence of consciousness - different vital or subtle energies connected with a human being that aren't describable by ordinary biology, physics or chemistry.  That opens up a whole new level of explanation.  Then you not only have to account for the matter and how it organized, you have to account for these subtle energies - you have to account for the existence of the conscious Self.
    Clearly, those who position themselves as the ruling priests of science have much to contend with.  Just as certain priesthoods of old feared the introduction of ideas that could undermine the dominant paradigm of the day, so does the modern priesthood of scientific materialism, which attempts to dictate who we are, where we come from, and where we are going.  The once fortified gate to their sanctum now stands ajar.  And the support given to heretical views by competent, reasonable people gives us all permission to imagine with fascination what might have taken place in prehistory, throughout all those years of mystery - when, if we believe the Vedas, great adepts, virtual deities walked the earth as men, and when great civilizations flourished, the remnants of which we now behold in the megalithic architecture of a distant mystic past - dated, the new visionaries say, not by Darwinist time models, but by the solstices, equinoxes, and zodiacal constellations with which they were once aligned.


Review by David Lewis

The Internet Bookwatch review of Forbidden Archeology's Impact
August 1998
The Archaeology Shelf
Forbidden Archeology's Impact
Michael Cremo

Since 1993, when the controversial book Forbidden Archeology was first published, it has shocked the scientific world with its extensive evidence for extreme human antiquity.   Forbidden Archeology documented hundreds of anomalies in the archaeological record that contradicted the prevailing theory and showed how this massive amount of evidence was systematically "filtered" out of archaeological discourse. Forbidden Archeology's Impact documents the explosive reactions to this underground classic.  In a provocative compilation of reviews, correspondence and media interviews, readers get a stunning inside look at how Forbidden Archeology itself almost became a victim of the "knowledge filter."  Forbidden Archeology's Impact is recommended reading for mainstream archaeologists, maverick scientists, creationists, UFO researchers, conspiracy theorists, parapsychologists, and the non-specialist general reader interested in the question of human origins and the traditional scientific community's suppression of contrary evidence.

Foreword to Forbidden Archeology's Impact
by Colin Wilson

   It was in the autumn of 1994 that the paranormal researcher Alexander Imich recommended to me a book called Forbidden Archeology.  It sounded to me like just the kind of thing I had been hoping to find.  At the time, I was researching a book arguing that the Sphinx might be thousands of years older than historians believe.  This was an argument that had first been put forward in the 1930s by a maverick Egyptologist called Rene Schwaller de Lubicz, who had noted that. And since there has obviously been very little rain in the Sahara for thousands of years, this would seem to argue that the Sphinx was built long before the reign of the pharoah Cheops, about 2,500 BC - the date usually accepted by Egyptologists.  This in turn suggested that there may have been a technically accomplished civilization at a time when, according to the history books, men were only just beginning to build the first cities of mud brick.
   So a book suggesting that man might be far older than is usually believed sounded exactly like what I was looking for.  I lost no time in ordering it from my American bookshop.
   For some reason, it took a long time to arrive - perhaps they sent it by surface mail instead of airmail - and I forgot all about it.  The following March, 1995, I happened to be in a delightful little town called Marion, in Massachusetts, where I was one of a panel of speakers on the subject of the evolution of human consciousness, organized by the Marion Foundation.  This proved to have an excellent library, and the first volume I saw was the huge work called Forbidden Archeology by Michael Cremo and Richard Thompson.  And since I had a few hours before dinner, I lost no time in finding the librarian and asking if I could borrow it.
   As soon as I settled down in an armchair with a glass of wine - in a house provided for us by Michael Baldwin, the conference organizer - I realized that this would be one of those happy pieces of serendipity that befall authors who are obsessively in search of material.  (I often feel as if I have a staff of invisible helpers who drop books into my lap).   I had no idea of what to expect - for all I knew, Cremo and Thompson might belong to the lunatic fringe.  But the first few pages made me aware that this was not only a work of serious scholarship, but one whose implications were revolutionary....
   ...Now there are plenty of books around, written by born-again Christians, which argue that Darwin was entirely wrong, and that God created man in the Garden of Eden, just as the Bible says.  But Forbidden Archeology was obviously in a completely different category.  I could see, as I read its meticulously researched arguments, that the original reasons for the research were irrelevant.  These reasons, were, quite simply, that one of the historical commentaries on the Vedic hymns, the Bhagavata Purana, states that man has been around on earth for a vast period of time called the day of Brahma, which is composed of a thousand yuga cycles.  Each yuga cycle lasts 12,000 "years of the gods."  Since each year of the gods is 360 solar years long, one yuga cycle amounts to 4,320,000 years and a thousand of them yield a day of Brahma - 4,320,000,000 years.
   According to the cosmological calendars of ancient India, we are now about 2 billion years into the current day of Brahma.  This is roughly the age assigned by paleontologists to the first fossil signs of life on earth - the blue-green algae and other single-celled creatures.  But according to the Bhagavata Purana, there should also have been more advanced life forms present, including, perhaps, humans......
    Now, as readers of Forbidden Archeology's Impact will see, Forbidden Archeology caused a great deal of outrage.  Jonathan Mark's review is typical: the book is dismissed as "fundamentalist" and as "Hinduoid creationist drivel."  This is absurd, since the book contains no religious arguments of any sort, Hindu-oid or otherwise.
   No, Forbidden Archeology is simply an extremely erudite and extremely amusing account of what might be called "the other side of the post-Darwinist story."  And any fair-minded scientist would surely agree that Cremo and Thompson have presented a case that deserves an answer.....
.....Cremo and Thompson have thrown down a perfectly reasonable challenge. If "respectable" scientists choose to ignore it, the rest of us will feel justified in concluding it is one more argument for the formidable case against scientific orthodoxy presented in Forbidden Archeology.
                                                            Colin Wilson
                                                            October 31, 1997
                                                            Gorran Haven, England