Cover image for Voices of the rocks : a scientist looks at catastrophes and ancient civilizations
Voices of the rocks : a scientist looks at catastrophes and ancient civilizations
Schoch, Robert M.
Personal Author:
First edition.
Publication Information:
New York : Harmony Books, [1999]

Physical Description:
xi, 258 pages, 8 unnumbered pages of plates : illustrations ; 24 cm
Format :


Call Number
Material Type
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Item Holds
QE506 .S36 1999 Adult Non-Fiction Non-Fiction Area

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Could the Egyptian Sphinx have been built many centuries earlier than conventional history would have us believe? Could the great natural disasters that propelled the evolution of life on Earth have played a dominant role as well in the rise and fall of civilizations? Could Earth have been home to civilizations far greater in number -- and far older -- than orthodox researchers have suspected? In Voices of the Rocks, Dr. Robert M. Schoch examines these and other crucial questions about our past and shows how the answers can guide us in the future. In 1990, Robert Schoch, a scientist and tenured university professor, traveled to Egypt and conducted geological testing to evaluate the accepted date for the construction of the Great Sphinx of Giza. His research revealed that the Sphinx is actually thousands of years older than previously supposed, a discovery that upended the standard history of ancient Egypt.        Following the intellectual trail uncovered by his redating of the Sphinx, Schoch became convinced that we are in the midst of a profound scientific paradigm shift. The predominant notion that our species inhabits a slow-changing, steady-state planet is falling by the wayside. Instead, we are coming to see that the history of Earth, all living beings, and human civilizations comprises a series of stops and starts, in which equilibrium abruptly ends during a sudden severe catastrophe, like the extraterrestrial impact that initiated the extinction of the dinosaurs. Meteors, asteroids, and comets are potential sources of such disasters, as are shifts in Earth's axis, movements of the continents, volcanic eruptions, and earthquakes.        According to Dr. Schoch, Earth's long, catastrophic history has obscured and obliterated evidence of lost civilizations. But the traces remain for those who know where to look and what to look for. At its core, Voices of the Rocks is the story of Schoch's own search, his fascinating discoveries, and the warnings we must heed if we wish to survive whatever catastrophes the future has in store for us.

Reviews 3

Publisher's Weekly Review

For ardent readers of current science, little is more appealing than stories of discoveries that change the way people view the world. In this volume, Schoch asserts that he is at the vanguard of a paradigm shift, not in his own field of geology, but rather in anthropology. From his geological analysis of the Sphinx, he draws a conclusion that he admits is controversial: that a technologically advanced civilization rose and faded in Egypt long before the time of the pyramids. Adding speculative science and drawing on myth, he asserts that other similarly advanced civilizations flourished around the world, only to be obliterated by global catastrophes brought on by a century-long rain of asteroid impacts. Similar cosmic storms strike once a millennium, he says, triggering or ending ice ages, causing floods, earthquakes and volcanic eruptions of biblical proportion, precipitating shifts in the earths axis. The 22nd century, Schoch predicts, will be the next era of catastrophe. Our civilization will be especially vulnerable because burning of fossil fuels and other global technological activities may seriously compromise the planets environment. Few readers will be convinced by Shochs web of speculation, although some may find it fascinating nonetheless. Many will dismiss even its most persuasive evidence, because Schoch devotes many pages to pseudoscientific ideas, such as the Face on Mars and the effects of planetary alignments. Although he finally declares them bogus, his readers may wonder why he discussed them at all. 8-page b&w photo insert, not seen by PW. Agents, Sarah Jayne Freymann and Judith Riven. (May) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved

Library Journal Review

Schoch, a geologist who writes primarily on vertebrate evolution, teams up with science writer McNally to apply scientific techniques to such questions as why so many cultures have a story of a "great flood," whether Atlantis existed and where, and what the age of the Sphinx really is. He speculates that natural disasters might have played a major role in the development and destruction of past civilizations. On the plus side, Schoch does a very good job of explaining technical terms in context so that they are comprehensible to the nonscientist. His is certainly not the last word on these topics, but he at least makes an attempt to apply scientific method, whether or not you agree with his conclusions. However, at least one scientist, James A. Harrell in the Journal of Geological Education (1993), has already refuted part of what Schoch presents here. Many of the questions remain controversial, particularly when what Schoch says is contrary to a cultural/religious belief. Recommended for fans of John Anthony West's The Serpent in the Sky (LJ 5/15/93) or Graham Hancock's Fingerprints of the Gods (Crown, 1995).ÄJean E. Crampon, Science & Engineering Lib., Univ. of Southern California, Los Angeles (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.

Choice Review

This book was written by a paleontologist who failed to win acceptance in the scientific and archaeological communities for his heterodox ideas about Egyptian history. Schoch decided instead to write a "popular" book to appeal his case above the heads of his peers. Schoch believes that the rocks of the Great Sphinx suffered deep water erosion from sustained rains during a wet climatic interval in Egypt before 5000 BCE. Egyptologists, however, have substantial evidence that the Sphinx was built in 2500 BCE, and geologists do not support Schoch's erosional analysis. Schoch nevertheless insists that the Sphinx is a remnant of a sophisticated, lost civilization that must be revealed, hence the book. Curiously, the physical evidence for the supposed great age of the Sphinx is discussed only briefly, and the "lost" civilization that produced it even less. Most of the book erects an enormous straw man to represent a monolithic, uniformitarian, gradualistic scientific establishment, and then sets it alight with stories about past global catastrophes and the potential for more. The connection to the Sphinx is unclear. This book does not add significantly to the geological, archaeological, or general scientific literature, and may be safely ignored. M. A. Wilson; College of Wooster



The Changing of the Paradigm Science isn't what your high-school chemistry teacher told you it is. Neither is it the old movie cliché of men in white coats, disheveled Einsteinian hair, and wild eyes, in a laboratory full of bubbling retorts and flashing electric coils, performing earthshaking experiments that reveal some long-hidden reality; nor is it a matter of blindly voyaging into uncharted realms, like Captain Kirk and the starship Enterprise, to discover something no one has ever seen before. The truth is a good deal more subtle and interesting--and it is critical to understanding the workings of our Earth, the significance of the changes in scientific thinking we are now undergoing, and the implications of that change for our future. What Science Is, and How It Really Works Science is no monolith. There isn't a single science from which all the various disciplines--e.g., biochemistry, physics, astronomy, and zoology--derive. I have friends, for example, who are devoting their research careers to the laboratory task of characterizing groups of related proteins. This empirical, highly specialized pursuit is definitely science, but it's not anything like what I do as a geologist and paleontologist who is a generalist by choice. I find myself closer to the nineteenth-century naturalists like Charles Darwin and Alexander von Humboldt. These thinkers were drawn to collecting and analyzing facts and making sense of them in a way that, by allowing us to comprehend, experience, and appreciate the order inherent in nature, provides an understanding at once intellectually useful and esthetically satisfying. My work is both empirical and philosophical. Still, despite the obvious differences between Charles Darwin, myself, and my protein chemist friends, all scientists agree on certain points. It is these agreements that make science an enterprise as distinct and definite as writing poetry, designing a skyscraper, or deriving a mathematical proof. All scientists share a fundamental agreement on the primacy of natural law. Fundamentally, everything we observe in the natural world depends on relationships between matter and energy governed by the fundamental physical-chemical forces and constants, such as gravity, relativity, and thermodynamics, that make up natural law. Science doesn't allow for divine intervention or miracles as explanations for natural phenomena. This doesn't mean that scientists cannot be spiritually inclined or religious--in fact, many are--but divine intervention lies outside the bounds of scientific analysis. Science requires its practitioners to be rigorous, consistent, and logical in a natural world without supernatural apparitions or divine interference. Likewise, all branches of science share a commitment to testing their ideas against the real world. A proposed scientific theory may boast a delightful elegance, but if it does not stand up when tested against reality, then it has no value as science. To me, this is the most important aspect of science: theoretical explanations of natural phenomena that can be tested against the real world. Without such testable explanations, we don't really know which facts to look for, yet it is the facts themselves, whether derived from laboratory experiment or from observations in the natural world, that ultimately determine the worth and validity of the ideas. As we proceed more deeply into this exploration of time, catastrophe, and history, we shall see again and again how fact and explanation are interwoven and in some ways mutually dependent. A further aspect of scientific thinking, particularly near and dear to my heart as a working scientist, is parsimony, also known as Occam's razor or the principle of economy. William of Occam (also spelled Ockham), a fourteenth-century scholastic philosopher, wrote, "Never is multiplicity to be postulated without necessity," and "It is vain to do with more what can be done with fewer." Occam's devotion to simplicity still holds. There's no reason for a scientific explanation to be more complicated than it has to be. If more than one solution or explanation is posed to resolve a given problem, the simplest explanation is the best. Parsimony does not mean that an idea must adhere to scientific status quo. The history of science is full of examples of new, parsimonious explanations that ran counter to the scientific orthodoxy of the day. The new look at the Earth explored here is appealing in part because it offers a superior, simpler explanation than the formerly accepted view. Science stands out, too, for being progressive. We can't say that poetry or painting gets better over time. There is no clear arc of improvement reaching from Dante to William Butler Yeats or from Michelangelo to Andy Warhol. You or I may prefer one poet or painter to another, but preference isn't the same thing as progress. Science, unlike art, does progress. We know more now than we did five years ago, and our knowledge is vastly larger today than it was five centuries in the past. This is not to say, however, that knowledge in general can't backslide or even be lost. During the European Dark Ages of the early medieval period, practically the entire body of learning and literature from classical Greece and Rome was lost to the Western world and reintroduced through Arab scholars centuries later. Likewise, it appears that important knowledge from ancient civilizations is only now being rediscovered, a point we will develop in detail later. Still, it remains true that over the past five hundred years science has built on itself. It has constantly changed as new ideas have replaced old, outmoded notions and we have moved toward better, more profound explanations of nature. Excerpted from Voices of the Rocks: A Scientist Looks at Catastrophes and Ancient Civilizations by Robert A. McNally, Robert M. Schoch 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.