The Talk.Origins Archive: Exploring the Creation/Evolution Controversy

The Mysterious Origins of Man:
Atlantis, Mammoths, and Crustal Shift

Copyright © 1996 by Paul Heinrich
[Last Update: June 3, 1996]

The last segment of The Mysterious Origins of Man (MOM) concerns the claims of Rand Flem-Ath and Graham Hancock that an unknown advanced civilization existed on the Antarctica continent and was destroyed by cataclysmic shifting of the crust of the Earth. Rand and Rose Flem-Ath in their book When the Sky Fell claim that the lost advanced civilization of Graham Hancock was Atlantis based upon a very liberal, loose, and speculative interpretation of the myth of Atlantis as told by Plato. Regardless of whatever a person chooses to call it, the main claim is that the remains of advanced, lost technological civilization lie buried beneath Antarctica.

As asked by Charlton Heston, if such a civilization existed, why have the ruined cities, infrastructure, and other artifacts of a lost advanced civilization that made the source maps for the Piri Reis, Oronteus Finaeus, and Buache maps and inspired megalithic architecture not been found? According to MOM, Graham Hancock (Fingerprints of the Gods) and Rand Flem-Ath, the solution is that the remains of this civilization lie buried beneath the Antarctic ice cap where it was destroyed and buried by earth crustal displacement.

In MOM, Graham Hancock notes that currently Antarctica is a virtually uninhabitable frozen wasteland. He then asks;

How could any civilization have survived there only 12,000 years ago?

The Mammoth Myths of MOM

Then Mr. Hancock claims that the discovery of a small woolly mammoth frozen in ice in Russia in 1977 by a bulldozer operator is a clue to the answer of the above question. Concerning this topic, Mr. Hancock made this claim and Mr. Heston provides the details.

Almost immediately, MOM either omits or provides false information concerning this mammoth. The details provided by Mr. Heston and the pictures accompanying his narration clearly identify this find as a baby mammoth, called either Dima or the Kirgilyakh Mammoth (Lister and Bahn 1994, p. 48-49, Uraintseva 1993, p. 44-66). First, MOM fails to mention that Dima was dated at 41,000+/-900 B.P. (Uraintseva 1993). Furthermore, its claim that this mammoth was found in a block of dirty ice is incorrect and misleading. Dima was found partially mired in gravelly loams and buried by a gravelly debris flow. Later, two intersecting ice veins formed within these fluvial (riverine) sediments of Terrace III. Finally, Dima was greatly malnourished at the time of her death and heavily infested by intestinal parasites which explains why she became mired in the sediments (Shilo et al. 1983, Uraintseva 1993). Therefore, Dima is much too old to be any sort of evidence for a cataclysm around 12,000 B.P. In fact, as documented by Shilo et al. (1983) and Uraintseva (1993), the sediments containing Dima are of noncatastrophic fluvial (riverine) origin and contain, as does her gut, pollen from a variety of tundra types and localized larch forests. There is absolutely no evidence of temperate or tropical plants associated with this mammoth.

Referring to the time of an alleged cataclysm, 12,000 B.P., Mr. Hancock in MOM continues:

A kind of zone of death all over the northern hemisphere, northern Siberia, and northern Canada. We find the frozen carcasses of hundreds of thousands of large mammal species.

The "zone of death" mentioned above is a melodramatic exaggeration that has no basis in fact. First, their claim that hundreds of thousands of frozen carcasses have been found is simply incorrect. At most, only a few tens of frozen carcasses have been documented in all of Siberia and Alaska. In Canada, the frozen mammal material found consists of scraps of hide and muscle found attached to bones. All of these "frozen carcasses" that have been carefully examined show evidence of decomposition, scavenging, or both prior to be buried, e.g. Gutherie (1990). Also, the sediments in which these carcasses occur are clearly of noncatastrophic origin (Gutherie 1990, Lister and Bahn 1994, Pewe 1975, Uraintseva 1993). Additional information can be found at:

Woolly Mammoths: Evidence of Catastrophe? by Sue Bishop and P. R. Burns at:

Radiocarbon dates for such carcasses of mammoths, horses, and bison compiled in the above FAQ, Pewe (1975), and Uraintseva (1993) clearly show that the majority of these frozen remains greatly predate 12,000 B.P., the date of the catastrophe alleged by MOM, by a few to tens of thousands of years. Thus, these "frozen carcasses" fail to be credible evidence of any catastrophe around 12,000 B.P.

Then Mr. Hancock in MOM further claimed;

When their stomachs contents are examined, as they have been, they are found to have been grazing on warm weather vegetation. Yet, they are now positioned extremely close to the North Pole.

Numerous studies of the pollen and vegetable remains found in the stomachs clearly prove these claims to be false. Uraintseva (1993) summarizes the results of studies by several Russian geologists and palynologists from the guts or sediments surrounding these carcasses, i.e. Dima (Belya and Kisterova 1978), Berezoka Mammoth (Tikhomirov and Kupriyanova 1954), the Selerikahn Horse (Tikhomirov and Kultina 1973), and many more studies. (See Uraintseva for the references.) In none of these cases were any evidence of "warm weather vegetation" found. On this point, an abundance of evidence clearly proves MOM and Mr. Hancock to be greatly mistaken and unaware of significant data and research concerning the subject about which they are talking.

Based on these claims, MOM proposes that Earth crustal displacement is the only theory which really explains the mystery of why the land that they were on was shoved very suddenly into a much colder climate. This proposal of MOM is incorrect because it is based upon false claims and a nonexistent mystery. There is absolutely no evidence that Siberia, northern Canada, and northern Alaska suddenly became colder about 12,000 B.P., much less shifted. The mystery to which MOM claims Earth crustal displacement to be the solution, is a mystery fabricated by presenting misinformation and mythology as fact and ignoring any scientific research and data that contradicts this claim. There is no evidence that these areas were shoved suddenly into a much colder climate. Permafrost containing the remains of frozen mammoths, bison, and other mammals 32,000 to over 50,000 years old clearly indicates that northern Siberia and Alaska have been either as cold as present or colder for a long time before 12,000 B.P. As a result, there is no mystery for Earth crustal displacement to explain.

Professor Charles Hapgood

MOM then talks about how Professor Charles Hapgood was fascinated by the claim, which MOM incorrectly calls a "fact", that thousands of animals being completely frozen in a brief moment in geologic time and ancient maps that he considered to be maps of Antarctica when it was ice-free. Dr. Hapgood considered these claims to be evidence that Antarctica was frozen over very quickly which he explained by Earth crustal displacement.

As previously noted, the "frozen animals" themselves and the pollen and plant remains found by and in them all argue against them being frozen in a geologic moment. Furthermore, Dr. Hapgood is incorrect in his claims that ancient maps show either a partially or completely ice-free Antarctica. For example when the Buache map of 1873 is compared to maps of the subglacial topography of Antarctica, e.g. Drewry (1983), it shows absolutely no similarity to it, even when the subglacial topography is corrected for isostatic rebound. Thus, when Mr. Hancock on MOM claims:

About 12,000 years ago, there was a displacement of the Earth's crust. The entire outer shell of the Earth moved something like 2,000 miles.
MOM fails to present any evidence to back up this claim.

Furthermore in MOM, Mr. Hancock then claims:

And, ah, when the Earth's crust shifted, all of Antarctica is encapsulated by the polar zone and at the same time North America is released from the Arctic Circle and becomes temperate. So we have ice melting in North America and ice forming in Antarctica.

This statement is grossly incorrect. Summaries of the glacial geology of North America, the Northern Hemisphere, and Antarctica, e.g. Sibrava et al. (1986) and Denton et al. (1991) clearly demonstrate the maximum extent of the ice sheets in both North America and Antarctica occurred at the same time about 21,000 to 18,000 B.P. The studies cited in both Sibrava et al. (1986) and Denton et al. (1991) contain numerous papers that contradict the above claims with hard evidence. The glacial and interglacial periods are worldwide, not regional in extent. Curiously, MOM neither acknowledges the existence nor refutes the validity of any of these papers.

In addition, the above claim contradicts earlier claims about Canada and Alaska moving into the frozen climate that is alleged to have created the so-called "zone of death". It is a contradiction to claim that the Laurentide ice sheet covering North America (centered in and fed from Canada) started melting at the same time that mammoths, bison, and other animals at the same latitude in Alaska and Canada are quick frozen in a mythical zone of death.

Dr. Albert Einstein

MOM then quotes a letter dated May 8, 1953 and published in The Path of the Pole by Dr. Charles Hapgood (1970) in which Dr. Albert Einstein wrote:

I find your arguments very impressive and have the impression that your hypothesis is correct. One can hardly doubt that significant shifts of the crust of the Earth have taken place repeatedly and within a short period of time.

When reading this quote, a person has to remember that it was made in 1953 long before much of what is now known about plate tectonics; the structure of the mantle and crust of the Earth; the Quaternary geology of Antarctica, Alaska, and Siberia; the creation of the "frozen" mammoths and other animals; and many other things had been discovered. No matter how brilliant a person might be, his conclusions can be only as good as the data that is available to them. In the case of Dr. Einstein, his conclusions are erroneous because they are built on data which research over the last 43 years have shown to be incorrect and obsolete.

Earth Crustal Displacement

After the statement by Dr. Albert Einstein, MOM makes claims that the concept of Earth crustal displacement is based upon the well accepted theory of plate tectonics which proposes that individual continents have been dragged around by the underlying mantle for million of years. MOM claims that continental drifts occurs because the outer crust of the Earth floats on a semi-fluid layer. It suggests that the theory of crustal displacement takes this principle one step further by proposing that the entire crust can shift in one piece like the loose skin of an orange.

In this case, the claims of MOM are built upon a simplistic and greatly erroneous concept of plate tectonics. It is incorrect to claim that the crust is floating on a liquid, even semi-fluid, mantle. The crust of the earth is firmly attached to the upper mantle such that there is no possibility that the crust can slide around independently. It is a layer between 100-150 km deep, a low velocity layer called the asthenosphere, that is believed to be plastic, i.e. highly viscous. It is more viscous than lava and certainly not semi-fluid as MOM would like us to believe. The asthenosphere is certainly not fluid enough to allow the rapid movement that MOM claims has happened. The rate at which it deforms is measurable from how fast isostatic rebound and depression occurs as a result of deglaciation and glaciation. Isostatic depression has also been documented as occurring under the weight of newly created reservoirs. Any good beginning geology textbook, e.g. Plummer and McGeary (1995), explains the true nature of the crust and mantle which MOM ignores. (Note: some of this material has been paraphrased from a post by Jim Loftus.)

Towards the end, Mr. Rand Flem-Ath claims that Hapgood documented three Earth-crustal displacements in the last hundred thousand years. Both he and Hapgood (1970) claim that they occur every 41,000 years. There are many problems with these claims including that contradictory data and studies are ignored, the difference between the magnetic pole and geographic pole is ignored, and that almost innumerable studies of the Quaternary geology, paleoclimatology, palynology, and paleomagnetism within North America, Antarctica, Europe, and other places universally fail to indicate that any such displacements took place. Many of these studies were conducted after Hapgood (1970) was published.

Finally, MOM states that "cataclysmic" Earth crust displacement / shift is caused by an imbalance of ice at the polar caps as ice builds up over time at the poles. Eventually MOM claims that the weight of the ice drags the crust over as the result an imbalance that drags the outer crust and continents into new positions. Besides ignoring the fact that the crust is firmly welded to the mantle, the Earth crust displacement theories ignores the fact that isostatic depression of the crust by the weight of the ice sheets completely compensates for any imbalance. Also, the ice does not continue to build up indefinitely as MOM and other crustal displacers would imply. At a certain thickness, the ice starts flowing from where it is building up to edges of the ice sheet where it either melts, sublimates, or breaks off into the sea as bergs. Thus, there is a limit to how much ice can accumulate in one place. As a result of these processes, it is impossible for enough ice to accumulate such that an ice cap will create an imbalance at the poles large enough to cause crustal displacement, even if it was physically possible for the crust to shift as a single unit. Finally, Both Mr. Hancock and MOM ignore the fact that the mass of the one to two kilometer thick Antarctic ice cap is negligible relative to the mass of the crust that is alleged to have moved. The ice cap is insufficient in weight to impart enough force to set the crust in motion.


In the final segment of MOM, Mr. Hancock concludes:
If Hapgood's theory is possible and land masses can suddenly shift 2,000 miles, it might explain how an entire continent and its people could have been lost to history.
The problem is that the Earth crustal displacement theory is falsified by what has been currently documented concerning the Quaternary geology of North America and Antarctica and the structure of the crust and mantle that it can be considered scientifically bankrupt and incapable of explaining anything. In addition, there is a lack of any credible evidence for Antarctica having been ice-free enough to support a civilization for the last 3 to 15 million years.

[Return to the MOM page]


Denton, G. H., Prentice, M. L., Burkle, L. H., 1991, Cainozoic history of the Antarctic ice sheet. in R. J. Tingey (ed.), The Geology of Antarctica, Clarendon Press, Oxford, England, pp. 365-433.

Drewry, D. J., editor, 1983, Antarctica: Glaciological and Geophysical Folio. Scott Polar Research Institute, Cambridge.

Gutherie, R. Dale. 1990. Frozen Fauna of the Mammoth Steppes: The Story of Blue Babe. University of Chicago Press, Chicago, Illinois. 323 pp.

Hapgood, C. H., 1970, The Path of Pole, Chilton Book Company, Philadelphia.

Lister, A., and Bahn, P., 1994, Mammoths. MacMillion, New York, 168 pp.

Pewe, T. L., 1975, Quaternary Geology of Alaska. U.S. Geological Survey Professional Paper no. 835, U.S. Geological Survey, Reston, Virginia, 145 pp.

Plummer, C. C., and McGeary, D., 1995, Physical Geology, 7th edition, William C. Brown, New York, 539 pp.

Shilo, N. A., Lozhkin, A. A., Titov, E. E., and Shumilov, Yu. V., 1983, Kirgilyakh Mammoth. Nauka, Moscow, 433 pp. (Russian)

Sibrava, V., Bowen, D. Q., and Richmond, G. M., 1986, Quaternary Glaciations in the Northern Hemisphere. Quaternary Science Reviews, vol. 5, Pergamon Press, New York, 507 pp.

Uraintseva, V. V., 1993, Vegetation Cover and Environment of the 3Mammoth Epoch2 in Siberia. The Mammoth Site of Hot Springs, South Dakota, Inc., Hot Springs, South Dakota, 308 pp.

Zimmerman, M. R., and R. H. Tedford. 1976. Histologic Structures Preserved for 21,300 Years. Science, vol. 194, no. 426, pp. 183-184.

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