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Fingerprints of the Gods Exhibits 1 to 3 – Reefs and coal beds

This review of Exhibits 1 to 3 of Fingerprints of the Gods (FOG) was originally posted to sci.archaeology and alt.archaeology on April 17, 1996 as “Part 1 – Fingerprints of the Gods – Its 15 Exhibits Reviewed.” I have edited the original post for spelling and conversion to HTML format. Also, note that are only 14 exhibits.

Introduction – The Problem

A central thesis of Fingerprints of the Gods (FOG) by Mr. Graham Hancock, its explanation of why artifacts and remains of his hypothetical lost civilization are lacking, is that it occupied Antarctica when it was warm and temperate prior to 14,500 BC. FOG claims that this civilization was buried beneath a couple of miles of ice when an abrupt crustal movement moved Antarctica into the Antarctic circle. Talking about this idea as also advocated by Rand and Rose Flem-Ath in their book When the Sky Fell, FOG claims:

In brief, what it suggests is a complete slippage of our planet’s thirty-mile-thick lithosphere over its nearly 8000-mile-thick central core, forcing large parts of the western hemisphere southward towards the equator and thence towards the Antarctic Circle.

…text omitted……

In the southern hemisphere, Hapgood’s model shows the landmass that we now call Antarctica, much of which was previously at temperate or even warm latitudes, being shifted in its entirety inside the Antarctic Circle. The overall movement is seen as having been in the region of 30 degrees (approximately 2000 miles) and as having been concentrated, in the main, between the years 14,500 BC and 12,500 BC – but with massive aftershocks on a planetary scale continuing at widely-separated intervals down to 9,500 BC (450).

In Chapter 51, Fingerprints of the Gods (FOG) presents a series of 15 exhibits which FOG claims to demonstrate that Antarctica was not always located in the Antarctic Circle, had enjoyed temperate climates in past, and was abruptly shifted by Earth crustal displacement into the polar climates from geologically recent temperate climates. These exhibits summarize both the geological evidence and reasoning used by FOG to prove it claims. The validity of these exhibits demonstrate how good, bad, or ugly the ways that geology and other Earth sciences are used by FOG. Thus, in this and other posts, the science behind the Exhibits in FOG is reviewed.

Exhibit 1

Exhibit 1 is entirely concerned with the fossil tree trunks of a 260 million year old forest of Glossopteris described in Anonymous (1993) and Taylor et al. (1992). The fossil forest lies at an altitude of 7,000 ft. on the side of Mt. Achernar about 500 miles north of the South Pole. When alluvial deposits buried these trunks, the area was an alluvial plain near sea level. Over the last 260 million years the rocks have lithified and been uplifted some 7000 ft. These are facts that As FOG fails to note.

Exhibit 1 is a geological non sequitur. Taylor et al. (1992) and many other geologists would agree that the Earth’s climate was much different 260 million years ago than during the Holocene. As any modern textbook on historical geology would prove, the Earth has gone through so many changes in world-wide climate and geologic changes during this time that the fact that Antarctica was both warm enough to support trees and lying *below* 60 degrees latitude has absolutely no bearing on whether Antarctica was ice-free about 18,000 years ago. If anything, it proves that factors other than Earth crustal displacement can drastically change the climatic of Antarctica.

Exhibit 2

With the proper credit, the material in Exhibit 2 is taken directly from Hapgood (1970) without any additional research. However, Exhibit 2 ignores over 25 years of innumerable studies that have been conducted in Antarctica since the publication of Hapgood (1970).

Both Fingerprints of the Gods (FOG) and Hapgood (1970) make three main points.

1. FOG on page 475 (503) states:

Geologists have found no evidence of any glaciation having been present anywhere on the Antarctic continent prior to the Eocene (about 60 million years ago.) (fn. 4).

Fn. 4 refers to Hapgood (1970), p. 61.

The above statement is so incorrect that a person has to almost conclude that the literature review for FOG was very superficial and sloppy. A summary of the available evidence by Hambrey and Harland (1982) shows that there is overwhelming proof, as documented by scores of published papers, that Antarctica was glaciated at various times prior to the Eocene.

A listing of these glacial deposits and their ages are:

Late Paleozoic

Gale Mudstone, pp. 227-229, Hambrey and Harland (1982)
Pagoda Formation, pp. 230-232, Hambrey and Harland (1982)
Whiteout Conglomerate, pp. 241-244, Hambrey and Harland (1982)


Metschel Tillite, pp. 233-236, Hambrey and Harland (1982)
Unnamed Tillite, pp. 237-239, Hambrey and Harland (1982)

2. FOG and Hapgood (1970) note that during the Cambrian about 550 million years ago, thick limestones containing abundant reef-building “Archaeocyathidae” accumulated in warm seas covering Antarctica.

This is a correct statement. However, the fact the warm oceans covered Antarctica about 550 million years ago is another geological “nonsequitur” which is irrelevant to what was occurring only 18,000 to 10,000 years ago in terms of climate. According to paleomagnetic studies, Antarctica lay between the equator and 30 degrees north latitude (Wicander and Monroe 1989, Figure 10-3). Thus, there is nothing anomalous about warm seas containing tropical reefs covering Antarctica during the Cambrian (505 to 570 million years ago).

3. FOG finally notes that Sir Ernest Shackleton found coal beds within 200 miles of the South Pole. Also, it notes that the Byrd expedition of 1935 found plant fossils on Mount Weaver at a latitude of 86 degrees and 58 minutes south and 200 miles from the Pole at an elevation of above two miles above sea level. Again, no mention is made of the fact that the strata containing these fossils has been uplifted to their present position. According to FOG, Dr. L. H. Dougherty, Carnegie Institution of Washington in 1952 identified these fossils as species of “Glossopteris” and a giant fern tree.

These are the Late Paleozoic Glossopteris flora and coals. As previously noted, even current undergraduate textbooks on Historical Geology, i.e. Wicander and Monroe (1989) explain in plain English that the Glossopteris fossils and their associated coal beds date back to the late Paleozoic. In the intervening 260 million years since these fossils and coals were buried, changes in ocean currents and basins, the distribution of mountain ranges, in the distribution, elevation, and shape of continents, and in the distribution, shape, and depth of ocean basins has changed the climate of the Earth has so much that the fact that Antarctica was both warm enough to support trees and straddling or lying south of 60 degrees south latitude has absolutely no bearing on whether Antarctica was ice-free prior to 16,500 BP (14,500 BC).

It is important to note the Glossopteris flora and coals were not associated with tropical climates. Rather, they are associated with temperate climates, even cool temperate climates, at high paleolatitudes as demonstrated by Habicht (1979).

Exhibit 3

In this exhibit, FOG comments on a statement by Admiral Byrd based upon the Glossopteris fossil plants from Mount Weaver finds. In his statement, Admiral Byrd claims that these fossils are conclusive evidence that Antarctica once had either temperate or even sub-tropical climate. Again, this is information taken directly from Hapgood (1970).

As noted twice already, the presence of 260 million year old temperate plant fossils in Antarctica proves nothing about what the climate was 18,000 to 12,000 years ago. In addition, Admiral Byrd is incorrect about the Glossopteris fossil plants possibly being evidence of a sub-tropical climate as world-wide data collected and analyzed by Habicht (1979) demonstrate. Furthermore, Hapgood (1970) fails to present any of the data on which Admiral Byrd based his opinion.


In conclusion, the first three Exhibits of the Fingerprints of the Gods (FOG) lack any information or data bearing on the claims made by it concerning either the validity of earth crustal displacement or the existence of an ice-free Antarctica before 12,000 to 15,000 BP. FOG even repeats a incorrect claim by Hapgood (1970) that evidence of glaciations older than Eocene Epoch is completely lacking. Although this was a true statement when Hapgood (1970) was written, numerous papers written in the middle 1970s and 1980s clearly disproved this statement long before 1995 when FOG was published. These are several scores of papers that FOG missed for some reason.


Anonymous, 1993, South of the Tree Line. Discover. vol. 12, no. 2, pp. 17.

Habicht, J. K. A., 1979, Paleoclimate, paleomagnetism, and continental drift. American Association of Petroleum Geologists Studies in Geology. vol. 9, pp. 1-31.

Hambrey, M. J., and Harland, W. B., eds., 1982, Earth’s pre-Pleistocene glacial record. Cambridge University Press, London.

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

Taylor, Edith L., Taylor, T. N., and Cuneo, N. R., 1992, The Present is Not the Key to Past: A Polar Forest from the Permian of Antarctica. Science. vol. 257, no. 5077, pp. 1675-1677.

Wicander, R., and Monroe, J. S., 1989, Historical Geology: Evolution of the earth and Life Through Time. West Publishing Company, New York.

Version 4.0
Dec 18, 2001

Copyright © 1996-2002 Paul V. Heinrich All rights reserved.