Cover image for Heaven's mirror : quest for the lost civilization
Heaven's mirror : quest for the lost civilization
Hancock, Graham.
Personal Author:
First American edition.
Publication Information:
New York : Crown Publishers, [1998]

Physical Description:
xvi, 336 pages : illustrations (some color), maps ; 27 cm
Mexico -- Egypt -- Cambodia -- Pacific -- Peru and Bolivia.
Added Author:
Format :


Call Number
Material Type
Home Location
Item Holds
GN751 .H295 1998 Adult Non-Fiction Non-Fiction Area
GN751 .H295 1998 Adult Non-Fiction Central Closed Stacks

On Order



In a book that is the culmination of his life's work, the author of The Message of the Sphinx and Fingerprints of the Gods reveals the secrets that connect monuments of ancient civilizations throughout the world. 250 color illustrations. 5 maps. 50 diagrams.

Author Notes

Author and journalist Graham Hancock was an East African correspondent for the Economist and covered the Ogaden war between Somalia and Ethiopia for the London Sunday Times.

Hancock has written a number of books, among them African Ark: Peoples of the Horn, Lords of Poverty, (which earned an honorable mention for the H.L. Mencken Award for outstanding book of journalism in 1990), Journey Through Pakistan, and the international bestseller The Sign and the Seal, which documents Hancock's real-life quest for the lost Ark of the Covenant.

Also the author of the top bestseller, Fingerprints of the Gods, Hancock has appeared on television with Michael Palin in his Pole to Pole series. He has also made appearances on the BBC, CNN, and the National Geographic's Explorer series to discuss stories related to his book The Sign and the Seal.

(Bowker Author Biography)

Reviews 1

Library Journal Review

Hancock culminates his life's work‘begun in such best sellers as Fingerprints of the Gods‘by arguing that monuments built worldwide by ancient civilizations are linked by a common human legacy handed down from the heavens. (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.



Chapter 1 The Feathered Serpent and the Flayed Man Travellers in Central America who have attempted to explore its monuments and its past have come away haunted by the intuition of a great and terrible mystery. A dark sorrow overhangs the whole land like a pall, and what is known of its history is filled with inexplicable contradictions. On the one hand there is tantalizing evidence of lofty spiritual ideas, of a deep philosophical tradition, and of astonishing artistic, scientific and cultural achievements. On the other hand we know that repulsive acts of psychopathic evil had become institutionalized in the Valley of Mexico by the beginning of the sixteenth century and that every year, amidst scenes of nightmarish cruelty, the Aztec empire offered up more than 100,000 people as human sacrifices. Two wrongs do not make a right, and the Spanish Conquistadores who arrived in February 1519 were pirates and cold-blooded killers. Nevertheless, their intervention, motivated exclusively by material greed, did have the happy side-effect of bringing the demonic sacrificial rituals of the Aztecs to an end. Before the Spanish had completely established their rule a number of the Conquistadores, and of the Roman Catholic priests who came after them, witnessed these rituals. Amongst the witnesses was the conqueror himself, Hernán Cortés, the veteran soldier and swordsman Bernal Diaz de Castillo, and Father Bernadino de Sahagun (1499-1590), an extremely wise Franciscan whose History of the Things of New Spain is an unrivalled source of information on pre-Conquest Mexico. Their accounts reveal the dark side of a schizophrenic culture, addicted to murder, which also, with apparently quite staggering hypocrisy, claimed to venerate ancient teachings concerning the immortality of the human soul teachings that urged initiates to seek wisdom and to be virtuous, humble, peace-loving ... and compassionate towards others. The Aztecs reported that the source of this doctrine of non-violence and cosmic gnosis was a god-king known as Quetzalcoatl the plumed serpent (quetzal means, literally, feathered or plumed, coatl means serpent). He had ruled, they said, in a remote golden age, having come to Mexico from a far-off land with a group of companions. He had taught, quite specifically, that living things were not to be harmed and that human beings were never to be sacrificed, but only fruits and flowers of the season.+++ His cult was absorbed with the mysteries of life beyond death and he was said to have made a journey to the underworld and to have returned to tell the tale. God of the pyramids Could there have been a real historical figure behind the Quetzalcoatl story? During the two or three hundred years before the Aztecs rise to prominence in the thirteenth and fourteenth centuries ad a number of kings, particularly amongst the Toltecs of the Valley of Mexico, are known to have called themselves Quetzalcoatl. However, they did not claim to be the Quetzalcoatl, but rather to be his successors, and used his name in the manner of a title or honorific. Far earlier than the Toltecs, as we shall see in the next chapter, the distinctive symbolism of Quetzalcoatl was known to the Olmecs of the Gulf of Mexico. Their culture flourished 3500 years ago. Later, although still more than 2000 years ago, work began at Cholula in central Mexico on a gigantic monument, named in honour of the same god, which continued to be extended and increased in size by all subsequent cultures occupying the site until finally being halted for ever by the firestorm of the Conquest. The result of this amazingly sustained project of engineering and sacred architecture is the pyramid-mountain of Quetzalcoatl. Today spiritually capped-off by a Roman Catholic chapel, its base area of 18 hectares and height of almost 70 metres make it three times more massive than the Great Pyramid of Egypt. Also around 2000 years ago the mysterious culture of Teotihuacan, 35 kilometres to the north-east of modern Mexico City, was strong in its veneration of Quetzalcoatl, constructing pyramids and other monuments in his honour. And from at least 1500 years ago until the time of the Conquest, the Maya of the Yucatan, Chiapas and Guatemala worshipped him under the names Kukulkan and Gucumatz (both of which, in different dialects, mean feathered serpent).* Between ad 900 and ad 1200, a nine-tiered pyramid of Quetzalcoatl/Kukulkan was completed at Chichen Itza. Like many of the monuments dedicated to this deity it was constructed on top of an earlier sacred mound that had occupied the same site. So the Aztecs, who only declared their empire in the 1320s ad, were merely passing on an ancient tradition picked up from their predecessors when they spoke of the feathered serpent and described him, most unambiguously, as: a fair and ruddy-complexioned man with a long beard ... A mysterious person ... a white man with strong formation of body, broad forehead, large eyes, and a flowing beard, who came from across the sea in a boat that moved by itself without paddles. He condemned sacrifices, except of fruits and flowers, and was known as the god of peace. It is one of the great unexplained puzzles of Central American history that the murderous Aztecs worshipped and honoured this benign figure in all manner of rituals, and always spoke with awe of his peaceful and life-giving ways. They believed that he and his followers had been driven out of Mexico long ages previously, but that they would one day return, coming from the west, by boat. They also believed that Quetzalcoatl would punish them for having reverted to human sacrifice, that he would put an end to evil and fear, and that he would restore the golden age of peace and plenty over which he had presided in the mythical past. As is well known this tradition of the white-skinned, bearded god-king worked greatly to the advantage of the Spaniards when they arrived in Mexico in 1519, in boats that moved by themselves without paddles, suffering from that disease of the heart for which looted gold was the only specific remedy. Broken flutes The Conquistador Bernal Diaz de Castillo was a hard man and no stranger to violence. Nevertheless, he was badly shaken by his first experience of an Aztec temple: In that small space there were many diabolical things to be seen, bugles and trumpets and knives, and many hearts of Indians that they had burned in fumigating their idols, and everything was so clotted with blood, and there was so much of it, that I curse the whole of it, and as it stank like a slaughterhouse we hastened to clear out of such a bad stench and worse sight. The physical destruction of sacrificial victims, most of whom had been seized in battle, usually involved ripping out their hearts, and was frequently followed by ceremonies in which the celebrants flayed and dismembered the captives. Sometimes victims would be sacrificed immediately after they had been captured and sometimes much later after long-drawn-out and excruciating anticipation. For example, Sahagun tells us of a feast in the Aztec capital of Tenochtitlan at which: they killed a youth of very docile temperament, whom they had kept for the space of a year in pleasurable activities ... When this youth who had been cherished for one year was killed, they immediately put another in his place to be regaled throughout the next year ... From among all the captives they chose the noblest men ... they took pains that they should be the ablest and best-mannered they could find, and with no bodily blemish. Sahagun further reports that the youth who was reared in order to be killed at this feast [was] taught very diligently how to sound the flute well. When his year was up: they took him to a small and ill-furnished temple that was beside the road and away from any settlement ... Having reached the temple steps, he climbed them himself, and on the first step he broke one of the flutes he had played in the time of his prosperity, on the second he broke another, on the third another, and so he broke them all as he climbed the steps. When he had come to the top, to the highest part of the temple, there were the priests who were to kill him, standing in pairs, and they took him and bound his hands and head, lying him on his back upon the block; he that had the stone knife plunged it into his breast with a great thrust, and drawing it forth, put his hand into the incision the knife had made, and pulled out the heart and offered it at once to the sun. When the priests were questioned by the bemused Spaniards about the reasons for this horrible annual ritual, they are reported to have replied, as though they thought it should have been obvious to all, that the tragic story of the prisoner was the type of human destiny. Excerpted from Heaven's Mirror: Quest for the Lost Civilization by Graham Hancock All rights reserved by the original copyright owners. Excerpts are provided for display purposes only and may not be reproduced, reprinted or distributed without the written permission of the publisher.