seeds of civilization  •  TSUBUTE    •  by R.J. Archer

2005 | 2012



11/5/2005: An Interview with R.J. Archer by Marty Olver (below)

R.J. Archer is the author of the Seeds of Civilization series:
three mystery/adventure novels that follow a retired aerospace engineer and his friends on their journey to uncover the truth behind several recent (and very real) underwater archaeological discoveries. Since much has already been written about the series (see, we thought we’d delve into the fascinating science behind the fiction.

When and why did you start writing?

My “day job” is computer consultant, however Iíve been writing, in one form or

another, for most of my professional life. You know—letters, proposal responses,

documentation—that sort of thing. In March of 2000 I decided to see if I could

augment my consulting work with some work-from-home technical writing and

I was fortunate enough to get picked up by CMP Media, Inc., one of the first

publishers I approached. At the time, they had just converted their former

Windows Magazine publication into an online e-zine called and I was

assigned to evaluate new products and prepare 800- to 2,400-word reviews. When was closed down, I moved to Sandhills Publishingís Smart Computing

magazine, where I wrote mostly “how-to” pieces for new computer users.

But that’s all non-fiction work. How did you get started writing fiction and the novels that make up your series?

Each issue of Smart Computing was focused on a single topic and one month the

topic was one I knew nothing about—so I took the month off and started writing

fiction as an experiment. By the end of the month I had formulated a story line and

knocked out the first three chapters. I discovered that I loved fiction and a year later

Tractrix was finished! Of course I had to continue consulting and technical writing

for Smart Computing, so my fiction work was done evenings and week-ends—

whenever I could find free time.

I understand that your first book, Tractrix, deals with the Maya and their advanced knowledge of science. Have you always been interested in anthropology and early cultures?

Absolutely not! My educational background is in physics and mathematics and

in college I thought I wanted to be an astrophysicist. I was totally focused on

the physical sciences and I stayed as far away from the Social Sciences department

as I could. I had heard of the Maya, of course, but I really knew nothing about them

until I stumbled across an article on the Internet during the preliminary research for

Tractrix. It turns out I could probably have learned more about astronomy from

the Maya than I did in school. What a fascinating—and mysterious—culture!

Over the course of your series, the lead character develops a theory that civilizations existed on earth much earlier than taught by traditional anthropology and that some civilizations, such as the Maya, were influenced by “external forces.” Do you actually believe this premise, or was it created just for your series?

Well, first of all, itís not my idea at all. Many people now believe that sophisticated

civilizations may have thrived on earth long before the Mesopotamians and

Sumerians. Anthropology still teaches that complex societies first developed from

agricultural roots in the mid-east and Asia about 5,000 years ago. However,

archaeology, especially the relatively new branch of underwater archaeology,

has discovered a number of sites that may be at least 10,000 years old. These sites

were obviously built by people who meet all of anthropologyís definitions of

“civilization” and yet anthropologists continue to ignore the evidence.

     The theory developed by the lead character in my series is actually based on

the research and writings of an Englishman named Graham Hancock, who believes

that a civilization, or a group of civilizations, flourished in several lower-latitude

coastal areas about 12,000 years ago. At the end of the last Ice Age, the levels of

the oceans rose more than 300 feet and 15 million square miles of habitable land

were lost. Until recently, we havenít had the ability—or the desire—to explore these

underwater regions for signs of earlier civilizations. My character takes this idea

one step further: if civilization was wiped out once by a cataclysmic change, could it

have happened more than once? And if so, who—or what—jumpstarted us humans

and got us on the road to civilization again?

You say that several sites have been discovered that pre-date Mesopotamia—where are these sites and why aren’t these discoveries front page news?

One of the earliest discoveries was made quite accidentally by a Japanese scuba diver

named Aratake in 1986 or 1987. The Yonagui Monument, as it is called, takes its name

from the tiny island nearby where the bulk of my second book (Tsubute) takes place.

But there are other sites—several more in the waters of southern Japan and off both

coasts of India. Hancock’s 769-page book called Underworld provides a more

comprehensive list of the known sites.

     Iím guessing these discoveries donít make the front page because when the media

goes to the “experts” on the subject (i.e. established anthropologists), they’re told

that the finding must be the work of crack-pots because they dispute the “current

thinking” on the subject.

The places you mentioned are all in the Far East. Are there sites elsewhere, or has the origin of the earliest civilizations just been shifted a few thousand miles to the east?

Coincidently, my third book is based on a very recent discovery—and certainly

the most puzzling site thus far. Itís in much deeper water. Geologists believe that

the land bridge it once occupied probably collapsed between 15,000 and 50,000

years ago. The site was first discovered in the summer of 2000 by a team of Canadian

researchers and itís just off the northwestern tip of Cuba—right in our own back yard!

     Unfortunately, not much research has been done on the site, partly due to its

depth—more than 2,100 feet below the surface—and partly because Castro won’t let

any American teams in to survey the site, which is now being called “Mega”.

Incredible! What do we know about Mega?

Very little scientific or physical information has been released, but the site

covers more than 7 square miles and its structures appear to be made mostly of

granite—which isn’t native to the area. In fact, the closest source of granite is more

than 1,000 miles away! And thatís about all we know, for sure, but it should be noted

that the Mega site was originally on a land bridge that connected the Yucatan of

Mexico to the island of Cuba. In other words, Mega may have some connection to

the Maya! And the characters in Triangle learn a lot more about Mega—and those who

built it—in the upcoming conclusion to my Seeds of Civilization series. Watch for

Triangle (early 2007) and check out the “rest of the story”, as Paul Harvey would say.

Let me close by asking about your personal take on these theories. Since you have a background in science, do you believe anthropology could really be so wrong or are Hancock and the others simply misinterpreting their findings?

I certainly wouldnít characterize myself as a scientist, but as a student of science

it has always bothered me that most of what we call “scientific facts” are nothing

more than today’s accepted theories. Tomorrow, a new discovery might change

the way we view the whole universe. And that’s okay. Science is a work in progress

and that’s the way it should be. What’s not okay is when men and women of science

start taking their work too seriously and begin calling their theories (their hunches and

guesses) “Scientific Facts.” Then they become defensive and stop thinking. New ideas

are rejected without consideration because they donít fit the norm.

     I think this is going on in anthropology right now. The facts are there, or at least

there’s a whole new body of evidence to investigate, but if you pick up any paper or

textbook supported by the scientific “establishment” you’ll find the same old song

about the origin of civilizations—Mesopotamia, approximately 5,000 years ago.

     There’s an old saying that fact is stranger than fiction. I invite you to do a Google

search for “Yonaguni” or “lost city of Cuba” and see what’s out there. You will be

amazed, at the very least, and you may find yourself wondering if the stories about

Atlantis are actually true!


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