The title of this article is in the form of a question. I hope that leads to discussion. It will contain references for those interested in a discussion of alternative histories or, perhaps better put, our basic assumptions about history. The basic theme derives from a question raised by, among others, Gore Vidal in his book Genesis, "Is history linear or cyclical?" It appears the creators of the Mayan Calendar and many followers of more Eastern" religions and philosophies believe in cyclical history. In the West, especially among followers of the Abrahamic religions, history is thought of as linear: birth; death; resurrection.
The story of The Flood is almost universal. Is it possible these stories are attempts to explain events that actually happened? Immanuel Velikovsky, who taught at Princeton and was a friend of Einstein, suggests this is the case, most notably in his Earth in Upheaval and Worlds in Collision. Through archaeological evidence found at such sites as Cumberland Cavern , Rancho La Brea, Agate Springs Quarry, and many other sites around the world, it appears a natural disaster(s) of great magnitude happened in relatively recent times. Animal bones from many different locations are found shattered and mixed together, in some sites human bones are also found along with stone tools. Veilkovsky argues that great geological upheavals ended the Minoan civilization on Crete, The Old Kingdom in Egypt, and that country's Middle Kingdom. A part of his work is based on the studies of many calendars, including the Maya Calendar but also ones from israel, Iran, Peru, et al.
In hermetic literature frequently discussed civilizations before The Flood. Said of Toledo writing about 1069, noted, "Sages affirm that all antediluvian sciences originate with the first Hermes who lived in Said in Upper Egypt. The Jews call him Enoch and the Muslims Idres....He warned of a catastrophe of fire and water before The Flood." Empedocles of Argentium, a follower of Pythagoras, argued that the gods of this cycle of history were the heroes of the last cycle. Among those in modern times who have suggested this type of history are James Baily, The God Kings and the Titans: The New World Ascendancy in Ancient Times and Charles Hapgood, Maps of the Ancient Sea Kings: Evidence of Advanced Civilization in the Ice Age. Much of Jung's theory of arch types and collective subconscious are also based upon such a belief and from his readings of the Nag Hammadi Library.
Velikovskyalso challenges the concept that evolution is always gragual. He suggests, among other things, that the great catastrophesthat affected our history were caused by meteor or even asteroid strikes on Earth. He suggests that radiation from these events could have speed up the evolutionary process at different times.
We tend to each read our "holy" books as fact or pure fiction. We have our theology. Others have myths and legends. Are we missing, because of our "blindness" what ancient writers were attempting to explain the best they knew how. Is a clinging to faith rather than belief causing believers of all faiths from seeing or even attempting to understand ancient writings and have the scientifically minded become so enamored with their own scientific orthodoxy that they will not see alternatives or see beyond the religious or philosophical nature of past writings.? Troy was once a city of myth and legend until it was found using those myths and legends.
Notes: For those interested in reading criticisms of Velikovsky, I suggest Velikovsky Reconsidered by the Editors of Pensee.
On the difficulty of understand ancient texts, I strongly recommend Vincent Harper, Medieval Number Symbolism: Its Sources, Meaning, and Influence on Thought and Expression.