Poking about through an assortment of grand earthly mysteries, Hancock (The Sign and the Seal, 1992) cobbles together a fascinating theory that proposes a lost civilization lying behind the conundrums. Why is it that the ruins of central America appear to show such a profound knowledge of spherical trigonometry millennia before that branch of mathematics was to find currency in the West? How is it that the great temples in Peru and Egypt show a clear understanding of the precession of the equinoxes way prior to its ""discovery"" by Hipparchus? All of these ancient monuments depict bearded Caucasian men in their sculpture. Pourquoi? Drawing on an amazing wealth of materials -- from a close reading of mythology to geological texts, from archaeo-astronomy to rarefied mathematics -- Hancock devises a theory that posits a highly evolved civilization that was wiped clear off the face of the earth during the cataclysmic happenings that attended the retreat of the last ice sheet. A resulting massive crustal displacement in turn might have buried the evidence of this advanced culture, leaving only a few survivors to pass on their knowledge to succeeding generations. Egyptian, Olmec, Mayan, and Aztec civilizations all speak of men -- Viracocha, Quetzalcoatl, the bearded men -- who brought great wisdom into their midst (though why they didn't pass along the principle of the wheel to the Maya is an equal mystery). Where did these learned men come from? Hancock has evidence to suggest Antarctica, explained via a combination of crust movement and the odd fact that the topography of Queen Maud Land appears on a map dated 1513, when it was -- and had for millennia been -- under ice. He also has evidence that the next apocalypse may be just around the corner. A fancy piece of historical sleuthing -- breathless, but intriguing and entertaining and sturdy enough to give a long pause for thought.