In your new book Denisovan Origins: Hybrid Humans,
Göbekli Tepe, and the Genesis of the Giants of Ancient America,
you quite aptly begin with the paradigm-shattering findings at
Can you explain Göbekli Tepe and how it changes
our understanding of human history?
ANDREW COLLINS (AC):
Göbekli Tepe is arguably one of the
most important archaeological discoveries of the twenty-first
It is a series of stone enclosures with rings of carved
T-shaped pillars facing two large monoliths standing at their
centers, like twin gateways into some invisible liminal realm.
Located on a mountain top in SE Turkey, Göbekli Tepe was built
enclosure by enclosure between 11,600-10,000 years ago.
Thereafter the site was abandoned, its inhabitants spreading out
across Anatolia and the Near East, and eventually into Europe,
creating what is known as the Neolithic revolution.
Göbekli Tepe's importance is its immense sophistication and the
fact that it constitutes the world's earliest known monumental
Of even greater importance is that it shows us
that, even by this age, modern humans had tiered hierarchical
societies able to pull off incredible feats of engineering.
question then becomes:
Who built it and why...?
For me, it existed as part of a response to the cataclysmic
events surrounding the
Younger Dryas comet impact event of
approximately 10,800 BCE, caused most likely by multiple
Comet Encke entering the upper atmosphere, air
blasts triggered unimaginable wildfires across the Northern
The ash, smoke and debris rising into the air
brought about a nuclear winter that instigated a 1,200-year long
mini-ice age that gripped both the American and Eurasian
continents and did not end until 9600 BCE, the very time frame
of the construction of Göbekli Tepe.
Göbekli Tepe's Pillar 18
showing its three-tailed comet motif as
a belt buckle,
next to which is a comet with three tails.
(Copyright: Andrew Collins)
There is very clear comet imagery on one of the standing
monoliths at Göbekli Tepe which tells us that its purpose was to
create a place of easy access to the sky world, which was
thought to lie in the northern part of the heavens.
supernatural creatures thought to be responsible for such
cataclysms were seen to roam, their arrival in the skies marked
by the appearance of comets.
These were ideas I first proposed in my 2014 book
Göbekli Tepe -
Genesis of the Gods.
I am now pretty sure they are correct as
they have now been adopted by other researchers in this field,
who also see the construction of Göbekli Tepe as a response to
the Younger Dryas comet impact event.
Enclosure D with Enclosure C behind.
The enigmatic Denisovans are the most recently
discovered additions to the Homo genus.
Can you tell us what we
know about these mysterious archaic hominids?
The Denisovans were not even known about before 2010.
in this year that a small fragment of finger bone, found two
years earlier during excavations at the
Denisova Cave in the
Altai Mountains of Siberia, was sequenced.
It was determined the
bone came from a girl of around 13 years old who lived
approximately 50,000 years ago.
The uniqueness of the
individual's genome made it clear she belonged to a previously
unknown hominin group that would thereafter be known as
the Denisovans after the place of their discovery (incidentally, 'Denisovans'
is correctly pronounced dee-niss-o-vans and not denis-o-vans).
The exact status of the Denisovans does, however, remain
undecided since some scholars are convinced they are simply an
early form of Homo sapiens, and not a unique human type, the
reason why they have so far not been given their own species
What the so-called Altai Denisovan genome also made clear was
that this unique human group shared more gene alleles with
Neanderthals than they did with modern humans, leading to the
surmise that the Denisovans must have been a sister group of the
This conclusion was backed up in 2016 with the
discovery during excavations at the Denisova Cave of two
fragments of a Denisovan skull that was particularly robust like
that of Neanderthals and other early hominins.
Even earlier, the
discovery, again at the Denisova Cave, of two enormous molars
had also suggested the Denisovans would be found to be
particularly robust in nature.
However, this is now known to be
only part of the story, for a recent examination of the finger
bone of the 13-year-old Denisovan girl who lived 50,000 years
ago makes it clear that the Denisovans had long, gracile fingers
like those of modern humans.
This means there is every chance
they looked more like us, and also perhaps thought more like
modern humans that they did Neanderthals.
The Denisova Cave in southern Siberia
with inset, left, one of
the large Denisovan molars found there
and, right, the so-called Denisovan bracelet
found in the same occupational layer.
What is more, evidence of a sophisticated mindset existing in
connection with the Denisova Cave's Denisovan layer had already
This stems from the discovery of the beautiful choritolite (chlorite) arm bangle dubbed the Denisovan bracelet,
which shows evidence of sophisticated drilling, sawing and
polishing, along with the earliest known bone needles used to
make tailored clothing.
In addition to this, fragments of a bone
whistle or flute were found in the cave's Denisovan layer,
telling us that the Denisovans must have had an understanding of
music, while more recently archaeologists working at the cave
found an ochre "pencil" with evidence of usage.
that the Denisovans were able to write and draw.
of horse bone fragments and equine DNA suggested to some
scholars that the Denisovans might even have domesticated and
All this implies that certainly by 45,000 years, and arguably
earlier, the Denisovans displayed immense technological
capability and advanced human behavior. It is also now thought
they developed what is known as blade tool technology, which is
the product of a complicated process known as pressure flaking.
This is where a handle-like instrument, usually made of bone,
antler or wood, is applied to a prepared stone core to literally
prize off long, slim blades or bladelets.
This blade tool technology, which started its life in southern
Siberia and northern Mongolia, was then carried westwards across
the Ural Mountains into Europe, as well as into southwestern
Asia, where it was introduced to the Pre-Pottery Neolithic world
of southeastern Anatolia around the same time that Göbekli Tepe
came into existence.
This recorded path of blade tool production
suggests that the ancestors of those who built
not just from the north, beyond the Caucasus Mountains on the
Russian steppe, but from much farther east - beyond the Ural
Mountains in western Siberia somewhere.
It is even possible they
came from as far away as the Altai Mountains of southern
Siberia, where the Denisova Cave is located, or even northern
Mongolia, close to the great inland sea called Lake Baikal.
Map of Siberia and Mongolia
showing the location of the Denisova
and other sites mentioned in this article.
Archaeologists now believe our earliest ancestors first
encountered Denisovans and Denisovan-Neanderthal hybrids
somewhere in northern Mongolia around 45,000 years ago.
this region such as
Tolbor-16 show evidence of modern human
occupation, and yet they also have the same high culture
associated with the Denisovan layer in southern Siberia's
This, then, is where our own slow rise to
civilization began at the beginning of the Upper Palaeolithic
DNA evidence reveals that ancient modern humans interbred
with not only the Denisovans but the Neanderthals and as yet
unidentified archaic hominids.
Can you explain this complex web
of interactions and how modern humans have benefitted from this
What becomes clear is that both the Denisovans and modern
humans must have gained their gracile fingers from the same
source, a common ancestor of both populations from whom we split
around 700,000 years ago.
If correct, then it means that the
stubby, blunt-ended fingers displayed by Neanderthals only
developed after they split from the Denisovans some 400,000
years ago (and arguably earlier still).
All this gave every branch of hominin - Denisovans, Neanderthals
and modern humans - the chance to develop their own unique
genome, which helped engineer their physical appearance,
capabilities, and material culture.
By around 45,000 years ago,
the Denisovans were out in front with an acute level of human
development, suggesting that as we encountered them in places
like northern Mongolia, we not only interbred with them but also
at the same time gained their technologies and understanding of
our relationship to the cosmos.
This, then, would have been the
legacy passed down through their hybrid descendants to the
founders of human civilization.
Girl from Papua New Guinea.
It has been found that six per cent
of the Papuan population
contains Denisovan DNA.
categorized under the Australo-Melanesian genome,
also have higher amounts of Denisovan
After this time the Denisovans disappear from the scene, in
Siberia and Mongolia at least.
However, one recent genetic study
suggests that some Denisovan groups might have survived in
Island Southeast Asia and Melanesia through till as late as
15,000 years ago.
This tells us that the sophisticated Denisovan
mindset might well have been behind the spread of Australo-Melanesian
ancestry from Island Southeast Asia all the way across South
America, where both Australo-Melanesian and Denisovan DNA has
been found among certain tribes of the Amazon.
A key theme of Denisovan Origins is how cultural and
technological exchange - the interaction and hybridizing of
archaic hominids such as the Denisovans - influenced modern
humans. In your opinion, how did this flower human civilization?
What the evidence is beginning to tell us is that the
Denisovans were truly sophisticated in many ways - they created
beautiful jewellery, almost certainly wore tailored clothing,
used musical instruments, and may even have ridden horses.
top of this, there is every possibility that they were sea
voyagers, and might well have travelled between Island Southeast
Asia and the Americas, South America especially.
All of these
technologies were thereafter passed on to their hybrid
descendants, who carried them out to the farthest reaches of the
Eurasian continent. Yet it is the Denisovans' apparent invention
of blade tool technology that becomes crucial in telling us
exactly how far their legacy reached and which cultures
benefitted from it.
The westward pulses of Denisovan technology would eventually
flower among the Eastern
Gravettians of central-western Russia
at key sites such as Kostenki and Sungir.
From these sites, as
well other settlement areas in places like the Czech Republic,
the Denisovan legacy was carried westward in western Europe by
Proto-Solutrean groups, from whom emerged the
Also benefitting from the Denisovans' blade
tool technology were the much later
Swiderian and Post-Swiderian
groups, who thrived just before, during and immediately after
the Younger Dryas impact event of circa 10,800 BCE.
The 11,600-year-old Shigir idol
found in a peat bog in the
Middle Urals in 1894,
which has been linked to the contemporary
Pre-Pottery Neolithic culture of Göbekli Tepe
It is the Swiderians who I believe came to bear on the
Pre-Pottery Neolithic peoples of southeastern Anatolia,
resulting in the rapid emergence of Göbekli Tepe circa 9600 BCE.
You can see clear similarities between the carved art of Göbekli
Tepe and that being produced around the same time by Mesolithic
peoples of the Ural Mountains.
best exemplifies this connection.
This is a carved wooden totem
pole that was found alongside other fragments of similar idols
in a peat bog in the Middle Urals in 1894. It is fashioned from
an enormous tree trunk and was originally around 5.3 meters in
The style of carving, particularly of the human heads it
displays, bears striking similarities to some of the carved
human heads unearthed at Göbekli Tepe.
It is surely no
coincidence then that the same blade tool technology found at
Mesolithic sites in the Ural Mountains is also found at
Pre-Pottery Neolithic sites like Göbekli Tepe.
There was clearly
a connection between these two very distant worlds as early as
To this day, legends such as the destruction
floods of astonishing proportions and of the very sky itself
falling, persist all over the world about a cataclysm on a scale
we can barely imagine, which you date to around 10,800 BCE.
you explain what happened and the evidence to support this?
The Younger Dryas comet impact event occurred around 10,800
BCE. It was a devastating cataclysm that ignited as much as 10
percent of the world's biomass.
However, the cosmic events just
kept coming, with further fragments hitting the Northern
Hemisphere periodically for around 11 years, with some estimates
suggesting they continued through until around 11,340 BCE; this
being at least 500 years after the initial impact event.
What we can say is that the termination of the Younger Dryas
around 9600 BCE coincides almost perfectly with Plato's proposed
date for the destruction of Atlantis, and also the emergence of Göbekli Tepe in southeastern Anatolia.
After the Earth-shattering events of the Younger Dryas
impact, the way humans think - our social organization and how
we interact with the environment - was forever altered in many
parts of the world.
Can you explain these drastic changes and
how they still impact us today?
Understanding why Göbekli Tepe was built so soon after the
Younger Dryas episode can be shown to relate to the state of
mind prevailing among indigenous populations in the wake of this
terrible human tragedy.
Those that did survive would have feared
it would happen again, and next time the world really would come
to an end. Paranoia of this kind would have been widespread.
Barbara Hand Clow has aptly termed this fragile
state of mind catastrophobia, the fear of further catastrophes.
I think she is entirely right in not only predicting the
existence of catastrophobia, but also in the way it would have
affected generations of humanity for many thousands of years
How could you prevent catastrophobia from eating at the heart of
a community every time a comet appeared in the skies?
no psychoanalysts or counsellors back then who could offer
advice on how best to overcome this problem. There were,
however, go-to people who would have been considered able to
allay the fear of further catastrophes.
These were the complex
known as Shamans.
They can act as human interfaces
between the world of the living and a perceived otherworld
existing beyond the normal senses, and accessible only through
dreams, visions, and the achievement of altered states of
Shamans are able to induce trance-like states to propitiate,
appease or negotiate deals with, among other things, the
supernatural creatures seen as responsible for malefic
intrusions into the physical world.
This includes the appearance
in our skies of comets, which in many ancient societies were
seen as harbingers of death and destruction.
creatures of this type were generally considered animistic in
form, most obviously monstrous canines (dogs), lupines (wolves),
and vulpines (foxes).
Comets were also associated with snakes,
which in myth and legend are occasionally seen as responsible
for natural catastrophes associated with impact events.
Of particular interest to our more esoterically minded
readers is the belief system, cosmology and spiritual practices
of the "shamanic elite" that are central to your theories - the
enigmatic bird shamans?
From the Upper Paleolithic age through till Neolithic times,
there appear to have been certain universal principles in
cosmology that were reflected not only in shamanic beliefs and
practices but also in ideas regarding both the origin of the
soul and its destination in death.
They featured the Milky Way
as a kind of road or river along which the souls both of the
deceased and those of shamans would take to reach an afterlife
among the stars.
Such beliefs were universal in both the
Eurasian continent and in North America.
For these beliefs to
have existed simultaneously on both continents means they must
be at least 12,000 years old, and arguably much older still, for
it was shortly after this time that the
Beringia land bridge
linking the Russian Far East with North America was drowned
beneath the waters of the Beringia Sea.
After this time there
would have been no widespread contact between the two
Orion as a double hand symbol
as seen on a ceramic platter
the museum at Moundville, Alabama.
The "eye" in the centre of
the hand is almost certainly
the M42 nebula in the sword of
This was seen as an "ogee"
or portal onto the Milky Way.
(Copyright: Andrew Collins)
As many as 30 to 40 Native American tribes of North America
share a belief in what can only be described as the Path of
Souls death journey.
This involved a leap of faith at the
of death (either for the deceased or the shaman in a death
trance) towards a 'portal' located where the ecliptic, the sun's
path, crosses the Milky Way on one side of the sky.
was located generally in
the Orion constellation, with the
Messier object named
M42 in the 'sword' of Orion being singled
out for this purpose, or in
the Pleiades star cluster located in
the constellation of Taurus, the bull.
The first appearance of
the Pleiades following a period of absence each year signaled
the beginning of a new year or season on both the American and
It was a perfect timekeeper, and so must
have become important to ancient peoples at a very early date.
From here the soul was thought to travel along the Milky Way
sometimes going to the south, and even directly beneath the
earth until it would eventually turn northward and reach a point
where the starry stream split into two separate branches.
branch symbolized one of two possible outcomes for the soul:
A supernatural figure standing at the
fork in the Milky Way would pass judgment on the soul.
be male or female, although most usually it was a supernatural
bird or birdman, which went by the appealing name of Brain
Smasher or Skull Crusher.
Its purpose was, we believe, to
liberate the spirit of the person trapped inside the soul in its
form as a skull or head.
This enabled the freed spirit to enter
the afterlife proper.
As Graham Hancock points out in his new
America Before, a very similar skull crushing figure stood
at the same position in the soul's journey in ancient Egyptian
These ideas are connected with the age-old belief that the seat
of the soul was located in the head, the reason why the skulls
of deceased peoples were revered during the prehistoric age as
points of contact, not just with its former owner, but also with
any ancestor associated with the person's familial line.
Mississippian era shaman
dressed as a birdman
character Brain Smasher
encountered on the Path of Souls cosmic
In the sky, Brain Smasher is identified with
constellation of Cygnus,
the celestial bird.
Brain Smasher in Native American tradition was almost certainly
the Cygnus constellation, which is positioned
exactly where the Milky Way splits into two separate branches.
Almost universally, Cygnus is seen as a sky bird.
it takes varies from country to country.
Across most of the
Eurasian continent it is usually seen as a swan or goose flying
down the Milky Way. In southwestern Asia (Armenia and ancient
Greece in particular) it was the vulture, while in North America
it was very often a large raptor or vulture.
Algonquian-speaking peoples of the Great Lakes-St Lawrence River
region, it was a crane, goose, as well as the Thunderbird.
The one thing these birds have in common is that they were all
considered soul birds - vehicles for the soul to travel from
this world to the next, and then, when required, back again to
the world of the living.
It is most likely for this reason that
bird-related paraphernalia, such as bones, skulls, feathers and
talons have been incorporated into the ritual clothes of shamans
since the age of
A large part of Denisovan Origins focuses on the peopling of
the Americas, where you and your co-writer Gregory L. Little
propose a radical re-thinking of the established paradigm.
both archaeological and DNA evidence, you both skilfully paint
an entirely new and far more interesting picture of America's
ancient past, even explaining the mysterious finds of giants
that the mainstream continually ignores.
Can you give us a brief
outline of this radical reinterpretation?
Until recently North American anthropologists,
palaeo-geneticists and archaeologists all perpetuated the view
that the First Americans came across from the Russian Far East
some 15,000 years ago.
They created what are known as Pre-Clovis
bi-points, which with the emergence of the Clovis culture around
13,200 years ago would evolve eventually into the highly
distinguishable Clovis Point.
This view has now changed.
Firstly, a large number of Pre-Clovis
sites have yielded types of stone tools and projectile points
that have nothing to do with the later
these sites are in the American Southwest suggesting a point of
foundation in this region and not in the American Northwest,
close to the former Beringia land bridge.
Secondly, there is now
overwhelming evidence from various genetic studies telling us
that the picture is even more complicated, with migrations
across the Beringia land bridge taking place as early as 24,000
years ago, while the presence of Australo-Melanesian DNA in
South American tribes suggests further migrations to South
America no later than 10,000 years ago.
Palaeo-geneticists and archaeologists are unwilling to accept
that peoples carrying Australo-Melanesian ancestry arrived in
South America directly from Island Southeast Asia and Melanesia.
Instead, they propose that Australo-Melanesian peoples must have
embarked on an extremely arduous coast-hopping journey all
around the rim of the Pacific until they reached the Aleutian
Islands off Alaska, where Australo-Melanesian DNA has also been
found among the indigenous Aleuts.
From here they would have
travelled down the Pacific coast of North America, finally
entering South America.
showing the ocean currents and prevailing winds
well have determined transpacific journeys
bringing both Denisovan and Australo-Melanesian ancestry
to the Americas.
(Copyright: Andrew Collins)
Such a theory can certainly explain the presence of at least
some Australo-Melanesian ancestry in the Americas, although it
makes far more sense to assume direct transpacific journeys as
well, perhaps using the ocean currents and prevailing winds that
would take a vessel from the northern coast of Sahul, the former
continent embracing Papua New Guinea, Australia and Tasmania,
past New Zealand and down to the Antarctic continent.
the ocean currents would have carried a vessel toward the
southern tip of South America, from where it would have been an
easy journey northwards along the continent's west coast, making
landfall in what is today Chile, or along the continent's east
coast, making landfall in Argentina, Uruguay, or Brazil.
Navigable rivers would then have permitted a vessel entry into
the interior of South America, accounting perhaps for the
presence of Australo-Melanesian ancestry among certain tribes of
With all these journeys Denisovans or, more likely,
Denisovan hybrids, would no doubt have been present, explaining
the presence of Denisovan DNA in some South American tribes and
Solutrean points and Pre-Clovis points side-by-side.
a) Upper Solutrean laurel leaf point from Fourneau-du-Diable, Dordogne,
b) Solutrean laurel leaf point from Les Jean-Blancs,
c) Cinmar point found on the Outer Continental
Shelf off Chesapeake Bay, Virginia, in 1970,
d) the point,
fashioned from a stone type only found in France, discovered on Eppes Island, Virginia, in 1971.
(Copyright: Andrew Collins)
Then there is the likelihood also of Solutrean peoples from
southwestern Europe crossing the ice flows that spanned the
entire Atlantic Ocean from northern Spain across to the area of
the Chesapeake Bay on the Atlantic coast of the United States at
the height of the last ice age circa 22,000-20,000 years ago.
This might explain why a large number of Pre-Clovis bi-points
have been found in the Chesapeake Bay area that closely resemble
very similar so-called leaf points manufactured by the Solutreans of southwestern Europe between 22,000-17,000 years
One particular example of a Pre-Clovis projectile point
found in the Chesapeake Bay area is even made of a type of stone
only available in France.
The presence of Solutreans in North America is backed up by
genetic evidence, particularly in the fact that a particular
mutation of mitochondrial DNA (mtDNA) found extensively among
the Algonquian-speaking peoples of the Great Lakes-St Lawrence
River and known as haplogroup X is found also among the
indigenous peoples of southwestern Europe, this being the former
territories of the Solutreans.
It is not found anywhere in the
eastern half of the Eurasian continent, telling us that it did
not enter North America from the Russian Far East.
In the book, I show that the Proto-Solutrean ancestors of the
Solutreans came originally from as far east as Siberia and
Mongolia and were most likely North Asian in origin.
important since there is every reason to suspect they were
carrying at least some Denisovan ancestry, as well as
Such a surmise makes perfect sense of the fact that the
Algonquian-speaking peoples with the highest incidence of haplogroup X, the Ojibwa and Cree, also have the highest
incidence in North America of Denisovan DNA, something that
surely cannot be coincidence.
In Denisovan Origins, you explain how the minds of the
Denisovan and the Neanderthal hominids likely worked differently
to that of our own.
How do you think these hominids differed
from us mentally and what advantages did this give them?
There is good reason to suspect that the Denisovans had a
completely different mindset to that of modern humans - one that
acted almost like that of someone who would today form part of
the autistic spectrum.
If so, then some of their number might
well have displayed what is known as savant syndrome, enabling
them to advance quicker than their western counterparts, the
This is suggested by the fact that the Denisovans
are known to have possessed two genes - ADSL and CNTNAP2 - that
have been linked to autism in modern human populations.
possible that autism, and the savant-like qualities that often
accompany autism, were responsible for the rise of the shamanic
civilization at the start of the Upper Palaeolithic age?
the theory outlined in both Denisovan Origins and my previous
The Cygnus Key.
Finally, I have no doubt you are already working on your
next book following the truly outstanding Denisovan Origins and
the central themes that make up so much of your work.
we expect to see from you in your next work?
We shall have to wait and see! At the moment I can think of
nothing more beyond promoting Denisovan Origins, something that
will continue for a good few months yet!
However, people can
keep up with my adventures on social media and also via my