Tuesday 22 September 1998
Hancock, who seems to delight in dismissing the archaeological community (and the lack of humility or imagination shown by some archaeologists I've met makes me sympathise with the old stick), believes that conventional wisdom about the origins of "civilisation" is out by, ooh, the odd 5,000 years, and that there was a community with sophisticated astronomical, navigational and architectural skills criss-crossing the Earth around 10,500BC.
Apparently, in the sea off Japan, a temple-like structure has been found in a place which last saw fresh air around then. Furthermore, three major but unrelated civilisations (the Angkor temple builders, the Egyptians and the Aztecs) showed remarkably similar preoccupations: pyramids, king-gods, astronomer priests, snake gods and a tendency to map the heavens in their temples. These people knew as much about the universe as we do, right down to the precession (or wobble, in layman's terms) of the earth on its axis. But here's the thing: the constellations that the temples seem to describe would have been well out of alignment with them at the assumed time of building. By extrapolating on his computer, Hancock proved (well, proved to me, who knew not a blind thing about what he was doing), that the only time they would have been aligned was at the great date.
All great fun, and, because Hancock is obviously as gifted a polemicist as academic, jolly convincing. Then again, archaeology is a science of projection and guesswork: the builders might just as well have been imitating cacti for all we really know. Nevertheless, a visual delight - if you haven't been to Angkor Wat, you would certainly have felt you had after the loving caresses of camera on weathered stone.
Meanwhile , striking a blow for age in Omnibus: Zizi Je T'aime (BBC1) were Roland Petit and Zizi Jeanmaire, a couple who had been together since meeting at the age of nine at ballet school in Paris and still going strong in their seventies. Again, as conventional wisdom would have it, dance is a discipline for the young, and superannuated ballet dancers are condemned to a miserable and arthritic old age.
Not these two. Petit's choreography, both on stage and screen, is totally comfortable with the mores of the eras in which they were produced - one sequence from his 1949 Carmen brought back fond memories of the Hepburn- Astaire avant-garde pastiches in Funny Face, and Zizi's Seventies catsuit wiggles were masterpieces of kitsch. It has earned its place in the annals of "classic" work, and he has just left the Ballet de Marseilles after 26 years to direct in St Petersburg, New York, Geneva and Tokyo. Jeanmaire still appears in high-camp song-and-dance extravaganzas and can get her foot up on a level with her ear. Dance programmes usually bore me. This one didn't. Now, if I were only 10 years younger...
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