Television Review

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The Independent Culture
BEWARE OF PEOPLE making large claims. Graham Hancock's claim is larger than most: that civilisation is about 5,000 years older than we thought it was. In Quest for the Lost Civilisation (C4), he hares around the globe, noticing how the pyramids at Giza are in the same configuration as the stars of Orion's Belt, how the temples of Angkor Wat do the same for the constellation Draco, if you push it a bit, and yesterday, he assured us that the neolithic White Horse at Uffington is a representation of Taurus. He didn't superimpose a picture of the Horse on the constellation, as he did with the others, but you assume he's got that right, too. He also roped in Stonehenge, the 3,000 standing stones at Carnac, the stone circle at Callanish in the outer Hebrides, the Nazca drawings in Mexico, and the pyramid at Chichen Itza.

At which point, alarm bells should start faintly ringing. Hancock may be a very long way from being a nutcase, but he has ticked off most of the elements on the nutcase's itinerary. Footage of modern- day "druids" celebrating some solstice or other didn't do him any favours. "I don't think today's Druids can provide the hard evidence I'm looking for," he said, which is putting it mildly.

He noticed how the motif of the plumed serpent arises in Ancient Egyptian, Olmec and Mayan art. (The Egyptian plumed serpent looks more like a plumed newt to me, but we'll let that pass.) So they must have a common root, yes? Well, maybe. The Mayans may have built temples which were able to predict a solar eclipse in 1991 (he doesn't say how), but these temples also predict the end of the world on 23 December, 2012. The Mayans thought they could stave this off by taking a bloke up to the top of a pyramid, slicing open his chest with a flint knife and waving the still-beating heart around. I have always wondered why New Agers, happy to pick 'n' mix with ancient beliefs, have never openly recommended ritual human sacrifice. I can think of dozens of good candidates right now.

Anyway, next week he'll deal with his big discovery: the sunken pyramid off the coast of Japan, on ground last above sea-level 10,000 years ago. And the Easter Island statues. I wondered when he'd get round to them.

In the distant future, anthropologists will posit a connection between Ancient Egypt and Andrew Lloyd Webber, because both of them had a thing about cats. Omnibus (BBC1) took an entertaining look at the hold cats have on our imagination. "A cat makes you think," said Hemingway, who couldn't write without one in the room. "The visible soul of the home," said Jean Cocteau. "Cat lovers are loopy," said my wife. But at home, not on the telly.

The programme was tough enough to remind us that it is quite all right to visit appalling violence on cats in cartoons, but never on dogs. Add to that the link between cats and female sexuality (Eartha Kitt is not called Eartha Pupp, and Emma Peel didn't dress up in a dogsuit), and you have a sinister mixture. Marianne Faithfull is a cat lover; and it was clever of the makers to end with her singing "I'll be your mirror", which, in the end is what cats really are for us. I wonder what LIoyd Webber's cat looks like.

Thomas Sutcliffe is away