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The Great Lost Civilization Debate: Graham Hancock vs Flint Dibble on the Joe Rogan Experience

Last month, after plenty of build-up and some delays, author Graham Hancock and archaeologist/lost civilization skeptic Flint Dibble finally sat down for a one-on-one debate over Graham’s investigation and theories about a lost civilization having existed in the deep past of humanity.

Despite clocking in at nearly four-and-a-half hours long, the debate – presented and moderated by Joe Rogan on his JRE podcast – has attracted a huge amount of interest, with over 5 million views on YouTube alone (video embedded below for convenience), with that number probably matched again by the numbers of Rogan’s podcast audience on Spotify.

Not everyone can afford 4.5 hours to watch/listen these days (hence why it’s taken me this long to view it and write something up!), so I thought I’d present a short summary of the debate, along with more detailed timestamped highlights for those needing something more comprehensive (but still quicker to digest than the entire debate). If you can afford the time to watch the whole thing though, there’s plenty to learn about history, archaeology and the arguments for a lost civilization.

First, the super-short summary:

  • Flint Dibble provides some excellent, intelligent context of current and past archaeological investigations suggesting that we have not found any evidence of lost civilizations where we might expect to according to Graham’s theories – but have found plenty of evidence supporting the mainstream view (bolstered by studies of things like the timeline of agriculture and lithic remains).
  • Graham Hancock notes that while the context outlined by Flint may not be totally favourable to a lost civilization, the fact remains that there are vast areas of the world (e.g. the Sahara, the Amazon, now-flooded regions of Ice Age landscapes) that have not yet been explored and could hold evidence of a lost civilization, and that over time some anomalous, history-changing evidence that was rejected and ridiculed by the mainstream turned out to be correct so it could happen again with new discoveries.
  • Both Flint and Graham come across throughout as having excellent knowledge and understanding of the topics they discuss.
  • While for most of the first hour both are very respectful to each other, after that things begin to heat up quite a bit. Both Flint and Graham take issue (rightly IMO) with the hostility in the debate over the years: Flint with Graham’s demonization of archaeologists, and Graham with personal attacks on himself and his theories as being racist/money-grabbing. The end of the debate, however, does see some reconciliation and respect shown by both.
  • Though Joe Rogan would naturally be expected to side with Graham, given he is a self-professed fan of his work, he does (with just a few exceptions, and some cringeworthy comments about how evolution works and how convincing he finds any stone object that looks artificial) stay quite neutral, and challenges both participants at times based on the facts put forward by their opponents.

Here’s the full video of the debate: beneath it you’ll find timestamps from me with more detailed analysis/quotes, noting changes in the debate topics and highlights of interest, in case you want to skip through (though as I said, I recommend a full watch if you can).

0:00 – Introductions

2:00 – Flint begins the debate with a short presentation, wanting to clarify to the audience what archaeology actually is. Uses a fun example of pornographic art from ancient Athens, which was initially misconstrued as giving insights into the culture of ancient Greece, when it turns out the artwork was actually part of a market/trade network aimed at consumers in Italy.

Flint: “The whole point here is that archaeology is not really about an artifact, it’s not about a monument, it’s about our patterns.”

Flint then brings up a map of the Horn of Africa which shows 171,000 surveyed sites: “So in many ways when we think about archaeology today in the 21st century, we’re thinking about big data sets and trying to analyze them statistically and understand the kind of patterns they put together.”

Flint then explains the many ways they can explore evidence at very high resolution, such as the diet of ancient animals from remains in their teeth. He lays out the two points he will concentrate on as “disproofs of a lost, advanced Ice Age civilization”:

1. Ice Age evidence: “We have just so much Ice Age evidence, and Graham usually ignores it.”

Flint: “If you’re going to look at the Ice Age, we need to look at the totality of evidence to understand what’s there. And so for example [Graham] proposes the reason why the Ice Age civilization isn’t there is because it’s underwater – we’ve had 200 ft of sea level rise since the Younger Dryas, and therefore it’s not accessible. And so I really want to focus on evidence from Ice Age coastlines, and excavations, underwater evidence from the Ice Age, things like that – these areas where he says that archaeologists don’t look. But we are looking, and what we find is the ephemeral traces of hunter gatherers, rather than some sort of advanced civilization.”

9:00 – Joe interjects with some questions on the evidence found, and how much area has been surveyed so far.

10:50 – Flint resumes to make his second point:

2. Food: His own field of expertise. “We now at this point have millions of archaeobotanical remains, of seeds from ancient civilizations and ancient societies all over the world. And I want to sort of show you how we understand domestication as a process, and we can see where it happened in real time, in real space – the evolution from a wild plant to a domestic plant, because that counters Graham’s idea that the civilization introduced agriculture.”

11:45 – Joe interjects again with some combative points, somewhat trying to refute Flint/defend Graham. A little bit of bias perhaps showing here.

17:00 – Flint: “I think Graham’s TV show is is fun and interesting TV, but I think it misrepresents what we think of as the birth of civilization.” Goes on to discuss lack of evidence of metallurgy and shipwrecks from a lost civilization in the Ice Age, noting that underwater environments are great for preservation of ancient artifacts.

23:40 – Graham gets his first chance to respond, and begins by noting his appreciation for Flint taking part in the debate. Then clarifies what his idea of what this ‘lost civilization’ might have been, rather than Flint’s suggested worldwide empire of sorts.

25:30 – Graham begins his response proper by challenging Flint’s statements about archaeology being open to new ideas, using the ‘Clovis first’ theory of the peopling of Americas that was defended vigorously by mainstream archaeology before eventually being found to be wrong.

28:20 – Graham, to Flint: “I do love your picture of this free and open and generous archaeology, but actually archaeologists can be very, very, very mean to other archaeologists who disagree with them. And the example of this is Jacques Cinq-Mars, who investigated Bluefish Caves in the Yukon and found evidence of of human beings there more than 20,000 years ago. Now if that evidence were correct it would blow the Clovis-first model out of the water, people are suddenly in America more than 7,000 years before Clovis. The reaction to that was not welcoming, the reaction to that was fury at Jacques Cinq-Mars…it was a brutal experience for [him], he likened it to the Spanish Inquisition.”

The fact is that Jacques Cinq-Mars was ruined by the archaeological reaction to his discovery – his career was wrecked, his research funding was withdrawn, he was ignored by colleagues in the halls of academia, he was insulted and humiliated…it destroyed his life. But he was right. 

 Graham then also plays some video of archaeologist Tom Dillehay describing the hostile reaction he received from North American archaeologists.

34:30 – Graham then outlines how the Society for American Archaeology attacked him and his show Ancient Apocalypse, via an open letter directly to Netflix.

37:00 – Graham discusses how the Sahara has barely been excavated, possibility of evidence of a lost civilization there, and also mentions the Amazon as a similar example. “95% of the Amazon has simply not been investigated at all and those bits that have been investigated are minuscule by comparison, yet where investigation is taking place in the Amazon astonishing finds are being made “.

Graham goes on to expand on new Amazon finds for next few minutes, including new finds he and archaeologists have made using LIDAR. “We found new geoglyphs that had not been found before… still covered by canopy rainforest, and [archaeologists] Marti Parsinen and Alceu Ranzi are of the view that if we were to really investigate the whole of the Amazon from this point of view we would have to revolutionize our whole view of human history… Archaeology has hardly touched this incredibly important region and therefore I do not believe that archaeology can tell us that it can rule out any possibility of a lost civilization while it has so failed to serve the Amazon, and is only now beginning to do so and those who are doing that work are convinced that there’s much, much, much more to be found.”

42:40 – Graham moves on to the topic of underwater sites of interest, takes listeners on a tour of the ones that he thinks are manmade, with many photos from his partner Santha from their dives on those locations.

50:00 – Graham sums up after discussing the lack of exploration of places like the Sahara, the Amazon and now-flooded Ice Age locations:

[Therefore] I think it’s premature for archaeology to say that they can rule out any possibility of a lost civilization while there’s so much of the Earth that remains to be studied.

Flint replies with a rejoinder to Graham’s statement:

In no way am I trying to say that archaelogy has perfect coverage, but we do have quite a bit of coverage that people are unfamiliar with, and we do have quite a bit of coverage of this late Ice Age period where we have many many thousands of sites from ephemeral hunter gatherers underwater, above water, and elsewhere.

53:30 – Graham notes that a Japanese geologist has said he thinks Yonaguni is man-made. Flint counters, asking about (geologist and ‘Age of the Sphinx’ theorist) Robert Schoch’s opinion that it is natural. Graham provides some clarification, and is a little dismissive of Schoch’s conclusions: “Yeah I took Robert there – his initial impression was that it was man-made; later he changed his view. That’s fine, he did three dives there.” Discussion continues for a few more minutes about Yonaguni and underwater sites.

1:02:00 – After a very cordial start to the debate, things get a bit more spicy when talking about the construction of Sacsayhuaman, with Flint taking exception to Graham: “I don’t understand how being there lets you talk about it better than me – you’ve been there as a tourist to see how archaeologists have conserved it and preserved it and presented it for people coming by. That is not the same thing as excavating a site, that is not the same thing with understanding archaeological literature.” Graham responds: “You’re ignorant of the site Flint.”

1:06:00 – Flint hammers on one of his best points regarding a lack of evidence for a lost civilization – the timeline of the birth and evolution of agriculture: “I still think we’d want to find some sort of evidence of things like agriculture right? We can look at the development of agriculture in South America and in meso-America, and we can actually see the transition from wild to domestic in real space and time.”

Flint then pivots back to mass of other accumulated Ice Age evidence, in context, that suggests there was no lost civilization, e.g. lithics found at the underwater Ice Age sites that have been excavated so far that are the same as other Ice Age lithics found on land.

1:13:45 – Flint’s discussion of underwater cave sites, such as the amazing Cosquer Cave, precipitates another spicy back and forth between him and Graham: 

Flint: “We have radiocarbon dates from a large number of these caves, very clearly locked in time, and what do we see? They’re only a couple miles from the Ice Age coast, so these are very, very close – there’s not room for some sort of empire there or civilization.

Graham: “I claim no Empire, that’s just another way you misrepresent my work.”

Flint (sarcastically): “Okay I’m sorry for misrepresenting your work Graham”

1:15:00 – Graham responds to Flint’s points about underwater evidence so far: “I’m not disputing that we’re going to find hunter gatherer sites underwater. I’m simply saying – and you seem to keep evading this issue – that not enough has been done to rule out the possibility of a lost civilization.” This ‘absence of evidence so far not being evidence of absence’ point recurs throughout the debate: Flint saying ‘no evidence from what has been excavated so far’, Graham responding along the lines of ‘but so much remains unexcavated that the evidence could still be waiting to be found’. After this response the debate gets heated again, with voices being raised at each other.

1:22:00 – Discussion turns to the topic of how archaeology treats disruptive findings from within. Joe Rogan asks Flint about how he feels about archaeologists with anomalous evidence being shot down.

Joe: “How did you feel when Tom Dillehay…was describing what was ultimately true, but was being dismissed and he was being shut off, and people weren’t willing to look at the data. How do you feel as an archaeologist?”

Flint: “Oh I think that’s complete bullshit…I don’t mean that what Graham is saying is bullshit… I think it’s complete bullshit for any colleagues of mine that try to shoot down actual evidence. That is ridiculous…archaeology is like any community of people, there includes some assholes, I have worked with some assholes before, right? I would say though that to represent that as all of archaeology is kind of silly because most archaeologists don’t focus on the peopling of America.”

It felt like Flint was being a bit deflective here – Graham has many times pointed out clear examples of archaeological heirarchy ganging up on ‘rebel’ theorists, but Flint is ignoring this real problem (that to be fair, can be found in all organisations with a hierarchy). Archaeologists could just simply say “Graham Hancock is absolutely right, archaeology has many times before acted poorly in the face of new evidence, and on this basis we should be careful when addressing future anomalous evidence”, but they never want to straight up acknowledge that Graham Hancock is absolutely correct on this point.

1:25:00 – Two statements from Flint and Graham at this tage that pretty much summarise most of the debate:

Flint: “It strikes me as unbelievable that we have so many thousands of sites that show coastal interactions at the end of the Ice Age from these hunter gatherers, but we have no evidence of a lost advanced civilization. That strikes me as ‘maybe this doesn’t disprove it, but it makes it very very hard to swallow’, if you see what I mean, because nobody really understands how much archaeology we have – we have a lot these days, it is a study of big data.” 

Graham rejoinder: “We’re looking at less than 5% of the continental shelves that have been studied at all by archaeology. I’m not surprised that we find hunter gatherer traces underwater – I’m very glad that we do, I would be very surprised if we didn’t, but what I’m saying is that not enough of that 27 million square kilometers has been investigated. Only a tiny fraction has been investigated, and that fraction is not enough to draw the conclusion that we can absolutely say there was no lost civilization. Same goes for the Amazon rainforest, same goes for the Sahara desert.“

1:28:00 – Discussion of the ‘Bimini Road’ and Graham’s exploration of it.

1:41:30 – Graham moves on to confronting Flint about the manner in which he has publicly critiqued Graham’s work – it seems like this is something that has really personally bothered Graham and he’s quite angry about it. “I want to address, Flint, the way that you dealt with the media about my work”, using the framework of the recent controversy about Gunung Padang and the now-retracted scientific paper by Danny Hilman Natawidjaja.

1:50:00 – Joe Rogan tries to pull Graham’s criticisms back into line by returning to a debate about “the issue of whether or not this site has any evidence” 

Graham, still visibly angry, responds: “I’m moving on from G Padang 

Joe: “I think that’s kind of important though for the people listening.”

(Sidenote: Joe in this section is fascinated by an alleged ancient ‘dagger’ found at the site. Even Graham gets frustrated at him concentrating on the ‘dagger’ rather than the overall findings of the retracted article, and tries to steer conversation back to the main points. It’s one of a few times during the debate when Rogan slightly derails the conversation by being amazed by weird looking rocks/megaliths and largely convinced that their weird shape proves that they are manmade.)

2:00:00 – Rogan seems to side here with Flint’s points about Gunung Padang somewhat (while endorsing the Bimini Road as manmade) , saying “so when we talk about all the conflict involved in something that is clear as day like the Bimini Road right…this is less evidence than that, right, because we’re not seeing the actual stone structures, we’re not seeing the actual work. We’re interpreting this ground penetrating  radar,  like what evidence is there?”

2:02:00 – Graham returns to his issue with Flint’s influence on media views of Graham, bringing up an instance of an article quoting Flint that ties Graham to ‘ancient alien’ and racist ideas. The discussion feels like it’s getting quite personal and heated at this point.

Flint: “It’s editing me out of context Graham, I’ve never called you a white supremacist or a racist.”

Graham: “That’s because you’re very – if I may say so – very slippery in the way that you deal with it, because you know perfectly well that saying that my work encourages white supremacism and encourages racism is going to end up with me being tarred as a racist.”

There’s a bit of a pile-on on Flint here, with both Graham and Joe taking him to task (the latter being known for being hostile to ‘woke criticisms’), though it has to be said their criticisms are largely justified. Flint tries to argue that he was misquoted, but Graham brings up one of Flint’s own articles on The Conversation and quotes Flint’s own words directly: “this sort of race science is outdated and long since debunked, especially given the strong links between Atlantis and Aryans proposed by several Nazi archaeologists”. 

Graham: “You are associating me with this and you are attempting to get me.”

Flint tries to deflect by bringing up the horrible things that Graham’s fans have said about him online, but Joe is having none of it.

2:09:00 – A bit of a funny exchange at this point:  Flint points out that the passage he wrote was in relation to Graham’s suggestion about the Olmec heads in America possibly being African in origin. Joe asks quizically: “but how does it reinforce white supremacist ideas that they were seafaring Africans?”

2:11:00 – Flint tries to flip the argument about antagonistic rhetoric, bringing up how Graham was ginning up hostility against archaeologists in his Netflix series Ancient Apocalypse, by generalizing from the actions of a few in archaeology to the whole of archaeology (I have written at length about my own concerns with this previously.)

Flint: “I’m not saying there were not a few bad actors – there’s assholes everywhere – but what I am trying to say is that it’s not some sort of conspiracy of everybody in archaeology against you.” 

Graham: “Nobody said everybody,  and nobody’s saying conspiracy. I don’t believe there’s a conspiracy against me.”

2:17:00 – Things are getting quite hostile now.

Flint: “I came here to have a respectful conversation – I want to be very clear about this. I have critiqued the sources that you have used and I’ve critiqued the evidence that you used. I have only met you for the first time today, so I do not know how you are as a person, or how you treat other people, and so to be honest I think that you’ve just just tried to go and smear me back for what you see as a smear on yourself. Fair enough, that’s okay, I’m just presenting facts.

Flint then suggests taking a break to cool things down and clear their heads. But Graham is unwilling to move on from the topic so quickly.

Flint puts forward a request to Graham to make clear his opposition to racist interpretations of alternative history theories, though along the way he unwittingly seems to confirm that he does thing Graham is racist: “I would like Graham to to separate himself from that history in a stronger way, because he goes around the world to different cultures and he claims that instead of their ancestors building this stuff it was done by this civilization – they were the ones that taught people around the world how to do that, but does he do that in his own backyard? Does he go to Stonehenge and say that Stonehenge was built by this lost civilization? No, he says it was built by Neolithic British people.”

Graham snaps back: “Because I wouldn’t look for a lost civilization in northern Europe during the Ice Age…a lost civilization would not be choosing to live in northern Europe during the Ice Age, [because] it was a frozen fucking wilderness.”

2:20:40 – Graham recaps what his hypotheses are, going over the Younger Dryas period, a lost civilization that emerged out of shamanism, that was largely destroyed in the Ice Age, with just a small number surviving who exchanged knowledge with hunter gatherer cultures.

Joe then is the one to suggest a break, but Graham continues on with discussion about Olmec heads and statues from other places.

2:26:00 – Discussion turns to the topic of the white, bearded version of civilizing god Quetzalcoatl being an idea of the Spanish invaders, not original to the indigenous people. Joe surprisingly leans with Flint here, noting how colonizers modify and use myths to their advantage (that’s right, Joe Rogan calling out colonizers).

2:34:30 – Joe: “It makes sense to me that that would be something that would also have been done by the Spaniards that entered Mexico.”

2:36:35 – Finally, they all agree to take a break.

On return, Graham returns back to the Quetzalcoatl colonizer myth debate, invoking expert David Carrasco’s view on the myth.

2:45:00 – Graham then turns the discussion to the ancient Turkish site of Gobekli Tepe, and his own recent article on the topic on his website, published just a few days previous.


2:52:00 – Flint makes the point that an apocalypse that destroys a civilization would not necessarily destroy evidence of that civilization – in fact, quite the opposite: “Destruction is an archaeologist’s best friend…when a site is destroyed suddenly from earthquakes, from volcanoes, from warfare, from fire – it actually helps preserve material for us, and so you know if there is this kind of global catastrophe, that should make things more preserved and easier for archaeologists to find.”

2:55:30 – Graham quickly summarises the Younger Dryas Impact Hypothesis and the surrounding debate.

3:02:15 – Flint notes he’s not an expert on this topic, but addresses it from an archaeological point of view, with a smart turn to a presentation on seeds and agriculture and how we can track the domestication of wild plants over time. Discusses difference between wild and domesticated grains, and how there is a change from brittle to tough seed connection on plants over time. Joe is fascinated by it, but largely because he doesn’t seem to understand evolution/selection (“how does the plant figure out how to do that?”)

3:11:30 – Flint moves on to next adaptation during the domestication process, larger seeds. Joe goes on a bit of a whack rant about (what he sees as) evolution weirdness.

3:14:45 – Flint then moves on to the evolution of stone tools used for agriculture

3:15:00 – Flint comes to the point of his presentation:

This is where we see this transfer of technology, is when agriculturalists spread out and they take a whole package with them – we call it the ‘Neolithic package’, and so that’s one of the key [things], we have parallels for this. And so when we go back to this sort of end of the Stone Age type period, where we’re maybe looking for something like a seed bank or a shelter…it doesn’t look like anything’s introduced…these plants and animals get domesticated in the natural regions where their wild progenitors were growing and living, and so there’s not like an introduction of a new species that was not there.

3:16:30 – Flint also comments on paleo-ecological evidence, where the rise of societies can be tracked via pollen in cores, even from underwater. He cites a paper on this topic saying: “There’s not just an absence of evidence for Pleistocene agriculture, it’s evidence against it existing.” The Ice Age has too little CO2, too little rainfall.

3:20:00 – Graham give a rebuttal to Flint’s presentation, but Joe does not seem convinced by it.

3:28:20 – Joe wants to move discussion to Egypt. Graham begins by discussing the Sphinx.

3:36:00 – Flint gives his rebuttal to Graham’s argument. Joe acts quite protective of Graham’s theories on this topic, offering skeptical comments to Flint’s statements, with Graham chiming in occasionally.

3:44:30 – Flint starts to get frustrated, asks if he can continue, but Graham wants to discuss Edfu and Atlantis. But discussion does continue about pyramids and moving blocks.

3:50:30 – Graham gives his own presentation about Egypt and the changes of ages/constellations and precession and alignments at Giza. Back and forth continues between Graham and Flint on these topics for some time.

4:10:45 – Debate begins to wind up. Flint gives some concluding comments, including a plea for people to support archaeology, which is under threat with funding cuts/closures across the world. On this point, one can understand his frustration/anger with shows like Ancient Apocalypse turning people against archaeologists.

Graham however chimes in with his full support for Flint’s plea: “I couldn’t do any of the work I do without the work that’s been done by archaeologists, and I’ve said that on Joe’s show multiple times. I agree with you.”

After all the heated disagreements for the past 3 hours, it was nice to see this friendly moment of agreement.

Flint finishes by calling on the rich to support all of society, as our current civilization sits on the precipice of its own disasters, using the lessons taught by archaeological investigations of past fallen civilizations: “When we look at scholarship and understanding the collapse of societies, what we usually see is human resilience. It’s not like everybody dies, people survive – it’s the upper crust of society that disappears – it’s the palaces, it’s the political structures, it’s the major temples, it’s the monuments, it’s the art. Normal people survive, [so]if you are wealthy and you’re listening to this and you’re worried about societal collapse, don’t go and try to hide from it. You need to invest in our society…and not think that you can protect yourself, because if you look at history…it is the rich and the elites who get eaten, so we have to invest in everyone if we want to survive this.“

4:17:15 – Graham offers his concluding comments, asking why archaeologists can’t engage more with fringe ideas. He then reveals that he was deeply hurt by the accusations of racism, and of making things up just to make money: “I have knowingly never told a lie.”

Joe mentions the need for communication, a rational kind discussion, on these topics.

Flint offers some reconciliation to Graham: “The tone between your books and in [Ancient Apocalypse] is night and day, you were very combative [in the latter]…. I hope that we change our tones on both ends because like I said the tone you chose in that show was offensive to archaeologists.”

Graham responds: “Yeah that was because I’d been offended by archaeologist for 30 years.”

Flint concludes: “If we want to end this and take the temperature down, yeah we have to think about how we do this, and we need to talk about different aspects of that in a friendlier way.”

Joe offers a final comment on the tone of the debate: “People don’t need to be assholes.”

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