In Ancient Apocalypse (see part 1 of my discussion), Graham Hancock takes us to Indonesia, to Gunung Padang, a very large, very impressive hilltop structure, built a very long time ago. He argues that the standard archaeological interpretation of the site is wrong, that it has massive underground chambers, like some of the pyramids of Egypt, and that it is at least twice as old as currently thought, dating back to the end of the last ice age at least.

He argues that the “simple hunter-gatherers” who were living in that region at the time of its construction would have been incapable of such a feat, and concludes that it must have been the result of an intervention by one of the great teachers who escaped the cataclysm that destroyed an advanced ice age civilization. This is a theme to which Hancock comes back again and again in the series.

Let’s first look at the specific claims about Gurung Padang, and then I will discuss the overall idea of the escapee great teachers a bit further on.

The claim

The claim seems to come from a poster (Danny et al 2018) presented at the annual meeting of the American Geophysical Union in Washington DC. The author is featured on the episode, and it looks like many of the graphs and evidence shown in the episode are directly from the poster presentation.

The main data consist of ground penetrating radar, resistivity, and seismic tomography imaging. Very roughly, these data can be interpreted to  show variations in density of underground materials. It can show you where there are big dense masses, metal rich masses, high humidity, loose soil, etc.

From Danny et al 2018

Are there chambers?

Yes and no. It depends what one means by chambers. The data do indicate significant variations in density underground, as the graphs show clearly. Just how dense are the dense areas, and just how empty are the less dense areas would need to be determined by digging.

Gunung Padang is a volcanic hill. It isn’t surprising that there would be tubes, voids, crevices, even chambers. While I am not a geologist, volcanic or otherwise, my first question is whether the low density area labeled “tunnel/chamber” in the graph above is a chimney in a volcanic cone, especially as the volcanic tuff shoulders of the hill are consistent with that interpretation. I would want to rule that out before concluding that there is a secret ice age chamber built by a great teacher who escaped the destruction of Atlantis.

Overall, there are definitely low density areas under Gunung Padang. We need to know whether they really are voids, or whether they are just very loose compared to the surrounding ground (matrix). If they are voids, are they natural? If they are not natural, do they contain anything?

There are many questions to ask and to answer on the basis of the data presented here before concluding that Gunung Padang is a ten thousand year old palace.

Nor is it surprising that hunter-gatherers would have put up an impressive megalithic structure. There are such structures of a similar age and older around the world, put up by the increasingly large and sedentary groups of hunter-gatherers living near and around the agricultural centres of that era, or already experimenting with agriculture themselves, from Arctic Finland to Southeast Asia. 

These are very well known, archaeologically speaking, and they are not a surprise. They are the kind of expressions of community to which humans are prone. We see them all around us today, and we have been building them for a long time. They are associated with the usual ceramics, stone tools, and subsistence remains that we see in the rest of the archaeological record in residential sites of the same ages in the same regions.

A further thought on the great teachers

There are two kinds of people in the world. Those who see change as a good thing, and those who see it as a bad thing. Things either get better over time, which is a progressivist mindset, or they get worse over time, which denotes a degenerationist mindset.

The idea of the lost great civilization, destroyed by a cataclysm, the idea that everything we have today is a pale copy of that civilization, transmitted to us by wise and powerful escapees of the catastrophe, and that our ancestors would have been unable to create anything significant without their help, arises from a fundamentally degenerationist perspective on change.

The more I listen to Hancock’s presentation, the more kinship I see between his ideas and traditional religious accounts of The Fall. In that conception, change is bad unless it is guided by a benevolent external force, in this case the great teachers, in other cases, a divine being. Normal, everyday humans can only make things worse by our actions. We need external help to make things better.

I happen to be the kind of person to whom these degenerationist accounts are inherently appealing. I don’t have much confidence, for example, that we can collectively emerge from the mess in which we’re put ourselves as a global society. But I try not to let that get in the way of my evaluation of hypotheses about the archaeological record.And I see nothing at Gunung Padang that forces me to accept that there is a lost ice age civilization.


Danny, H. N., Bachtiar, A., Endar, B., Daryono, M., & Subandrio, A. (2018). Evidences of Large pyramid-like structure predating 10,000 Year BP at Mount Padang, West Java, Indonesia: Applications of geological-geophysical methods to explore buried large archeological site. American Geophysical Union.

30 thoughts on “Ancient Apocalypse archaeology update 2: Are there underground chambers at Gunung Padang?

  1. I don’t think the ‘standard archaeological dating’ of the site is that is 5000 years old. That is one of the pseudo-datings, the generally accepted dating is much younger than that, at most ca. 2500 years, perhaps even younger.


    1. Honesty and true science denies evolution trillions of times over the point of Probability. Mathematics, or numbers, the only pure and none bias science, completely testifies to it. Too much evidence all over the world, all over the world (just in case you missed it), for a Pre-Flood civilization that was very smart.


  2. It was pretty apparent from the get go, but this part especially: ” The idea of the lost great civilization, destroyed by a cataclysm, the idea that everything we have today is a pale copy of that civilization,….. , arises from a fundamentally degenerationist perspective on change.” Proved to me that this entire blog post was written with a bias in mind. You are not trying to get to the truth here, you have your own preset notion of what a lost great civilization would have been like and are using that idea as a way to judge if such ever existed, and because you assume our modern civilization is ”a pale copy of it”, you think the entire concept of a lost civilization is impossible. Anyone who is able to think should already see the flawed logic here; the writer assumes something without 0 proof and uses those assumptions as his foundation to dismiss any other possibility. Besides the close mindedness, there wouldn’t be an issue if the title of the post was ”Here is just an opinion of an amateur”, but he is trying to give his points off as absolute facts, and that’s just sad.


    1. I felt much the same way. I’m extremely skeptical of Hancock’s theory, but it’s not nearly so fanciful as some of those passages make it seem.


  3. You say that you are not a geology expert to answer exactky, but in the documentary there is a geology expert confirming his theory. Why you ignore that specialist. Why only some specialists are bot ok, but just your oppinion is?


    1. Danny Hilman Natawidjaja, the expert featured on the show is definitely a legit geologist. That doesn’t mean he can’t be wrong about something. It’s important in science to evaluate claims, even if they are from a source like that. In the AGU poster, which is the only publication I have found on the subject, the author doesn’t come close to answering my questions, and so I have to reserve judgement on that one and wait for further information.


      1. To clarify, the graphs do show voids, or at least low density areas, but since I expect to see voids in that volcanic hill context, I would need a reason to conclude that these are not natural. The authors don’t provide that reason.


  4. I did read through your piece here, and am trying to understand the gist of it. I will say, off the bat, is that I am a bit disappointed that there are so many articles like yours surrounding so many similar things, that seem to be simply pre-casting doubt on possibilities – why is it so strange to ask questions and be excited about possibilities for something more? Whether the answers move toward new possibilities or not, they will eventually tell us what we have to say. How come the spirit of actual inquiry is so sadly absent in so many opinions. At any rate, I do think your questions are fair ones, and should absolutely be taken into account, which I am sure they are. As for your take on Mr Hancock, that is a pretty strange way of looking at it. Pretty dismal honestly. I think personally it would be wonderful if there was more mystery and depth to our past, more of the story – it does not make us a pale copy – what a strange thing to say, these would be our past families and kin, we would have a much richer and realized set of knowledge to draw from moving forward – one that could compliment our own and perhaps more. It’s certainly fair for you to have your own opinion, and you should – but I would ask why you seem to prefer this to be less interesting than it could be?


    1. Thanks for reading. I do think possibility is interesting, and I don’t want to limit it. I want to evaluate claims and see which possibilities are more probable in the current state of our knowledge. The goal is definitely not to make things less interesting than they could be. In fact, I would say the most likely possibilities, the ones supported by archaeological evidence, are very interesting in themselves.


  5. I stumbled on this post trying to figure out what made this show so controversial. I’d never heard of it, until seeing posts about it on Twitter.

    So, I watched the first episode myself. I don’t get the ‘danger’ or controversy. At all.

    Sure, there’s always woo-woo stuff to build excitement about a usually dull study like archaeology.

    However, so what? Ignoring the assertions about teachers and what not, why _aren’t_ we digging? If one geologist could be wrong, why aren’t a few going and looking? What’s to lose of actually _seeing_ if this is just a volcanic vent, or if there _are_ chambers?

    That’s what I don’t get about all the naysaying, when it seems this is entirely falsifyable. Is it that there isn’t funding to pay a bunch of people to just dig up the hill? Since no ‘serious’ researcher thinks there’s anything there, anyway, what’s the harm of it?

    There’s just such a level of arrogance with the assumption that we already know all there is to know.


    1. Digging there to test the hypothesis that there are artificial chambers would be very interesting. First, archaeologists would have to work with local communities to see whether that’s what they want. In fact, personally, I would wait to be invited. I wouldn’t take the first step on something like this.

      Once, there’s been a decision to excavate, then it becomes a question of resources. In archaeology as in many other fields, resources are always scarce. Fieldwork is expensive, and grants are small and few.


    2. Would you spent your time, carier, or resources on looking for Yeti or an unicorn in some local wood? Because that is how average archeologic perceives those revelations.


      1. > Would you spent your time, carier, or resources on looking for Yeti or an unicorn in some local wood? Because that is how average archeologic perceives those revelations.

        That’s an interesting perspective. The knee-jerk reaction is “no”, but, if James Randi said there’s a pink elephant in my barn, I’d at least go look. I acknowledge reputation matters.

        However, if someone says there’s a sasquatch in the woods, is it that hard to look? Chances are, it’s just me walking about in the buff: I’m one hairy ape, and I’m constantly fearful I’ll end up mounted on someone’s wall. 😉

        Seriously, though, loch ness monster? Take a boat, do some sonar; stranger things have happened. While we’re pretty sure there aren’t unicorns, aren’t we still discovering actual new species, every _day_? Sure, they’re mostly frogs and plants and fungi and realizing that there are actually different species where we thought there was only one, especially with insects, but still… how much skepticism do you have that there’s a worm that has an enzyme that breaks down plastic?

        When you say “the average archeologic[sic] perceives”, that just screams to me of gate keeping. It’s like instantly dismissing someone who says “I think that South America and Africa may have once been part of the same continent, because look at these shapes…”. You do Science(tm) to see.

        The reason I commented is because, truly, I’m baffled by the controversy here. This seems so simple to me; and ignoring the zoophilia analogy, the hypothesis seems to be “There are these voids under this hill, and we think they’re actually man made chambers.”

        – Does the evidence presented indicate there actually _are_ empty spaces, or could that data mean something else? (Perhaps rock formations give the same “display”)
        – IF there are voids, THEN what would it take to access the most promising to be a chamber, and see? How far down would it require digging? What would the cost be? Because this is a “sacred” place, would the locals be on board? If not, is there any other way of testing this theory?

        We live in a world where we’ve discovered crude bathroom graffiti Romans scrawled in their outhouses; it’s a strange and wonderful place, full of surprises. The resistance to “just looking” rings to me of a passage I once read in Asimov’s “Foundation”, where an “archaeologist” was deeply offended at the meer thought he’d actually go out in the field and “do research”, instead stating that he could perfectly draw his own conclusions by reading what had already been written about it.

        This really comes across as similar.

        (And while I’m on this long tome, if someone says “This house is haunted”, doing the science means going in and showing there are low frequency harmonics that have a physical affect, rather than laughing at them for their stupidity. Actually, I think a good all around principle is to not just haughtily dismiss people, even ones who think they’ll ride a comet if they drink special koolaid… though that gets into _dangerous_ woowoo beliefs…)


      2. I don’t disagree with Dex at all. If someone makes a claim, I want to evaluate it. If that involves going to the woods looking for bigfoot, I do it. But some of it I do on my own time, not on company time. We are after all publicly funded, so I have to invest my time wisely, and spend most of it on stuff that is likely to pay off. I do reserve some of it for higher risk ventures, like in any good portfolio.


  6. Dear Mr Costopoulos,

    Mr Hancock’s views directly contradict the Mosaic account of the fall of man. According to the Biblical account, the construction of the first city is undertaken by Cain subsequent to the fall. Cain undertakes this project in view of the fact that the land, in protest at his murder of his brother, will no longer provide for him. Since he can no longer provide for himself and is too proud to beg, he opts to enslave others instead. In contrast, the faithful followers of the Hebrew God are, for much of their history, described as a tent-dwelling nomadic people.

    The Biblical authors frame what we often refer to as “civilisation”, namely the building of cities, as a retrograde step in the course of human affairs. The worst of all manifestations of this mockery of civilisation is “the empire”, exemplified by Babylon, Assyria, Egypt, the Seleucids, Rome and so on. Jerusalem, when God is present in the Temple, is the one exception to this rule.

    The Bible does of course speak of an ancient ‘civilisation’, but in far from glowing terms. It paints a picture of a gradual moral decline from the time of Cain’s fall until the time of the flood, when the thoughts of every man are constantly turned to evil. This is a clear contradiction of Hancock’s fantastic account of an almost utopian antediluvian age. Hancock’s ancients weren’t fallen – he imagines them as spiritually enlightened beings, cruelly extinguished by the course of natural events. No Jew, Muslim, or Christian would share such a view. All would agree that the antediluvian world got what was coming to it…

    You note that archaeologists no longer speak in terms of a linear progression when it comes to civilisational complexity. If true, then archaeology may finally be catching up with the Biblical account of history. The Bible speaks neither of linear progression or regression in terms of civilisational complexity, sophistication, or maturity. The Bible describes a very simple historical pattern; when man walks in the ways of God, he becomes civilised and rational, and the ‘city of God’ is safeguarded from all enemies. When man turns his back on God, he is beset by barbarians on all sides, and the ‘waters’ of chaos eventually engulf him. This cycle repeats itself throughout the Old Testament: Israel is enslaved, then delivered, then enslaved, then delivered, and so on. The pattern is alluded to by other ancient Semitic and non-Semetic cultures (take the Curse of Agade, for example) – lawlessness eventually leads to the downfall of all civilisations.


    1. I do not think we can look to the Bible or Quran for a full account of advancements and history of mankind. Many stories from the Bible, including the ones you mentioned of Cain and Abel and Noahs fload, have been found in other much older civilizations. For example, the story of Cain and Abel is known as the myth of Dumuzid and Enkimdu, Noahs flood – epic of Gilgamesh, Story of Creation- Enuma Elis in ancient Sumeria, the Aztecs had a creation myth that described the world as having been destroyed by flood and a few survivors, ETC. In other words, apart from faith, looking at this from a historian point of view, how reliable is using the Bible as a reference for our history?
      It is important to have an open mind and digest information without bias.


  7. Here’s a thought, requiring no major excavation and greatly reduced cost: drill a hole that’s an inch or two in diameter, down to the depth of the chamber of your choice. Drop a camera down the hole. See what’s down there. Mystery solved.


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