Hapgood’s Pole Shift Hypothesis Revisited

In Before Atlantis I apply Charles Hapgood’s hypothesis that Earth’s poles have shifted several times over the past 100,000 years to understand the alignment of numerous ancient sites across the world and to use the hypothetical alignment of the these sites to ancient poles as a new means of dating the sites. This article presents a revised version of Hapgood’s original pole shift hypothesis.

Milankovitch Cycles

It is widely accepted in the scientific community that climate patterns are driven to a large extent by the amount of solar radiation that reaches the Earth. The amount of radiation depends on a combination of factors including changes in the eccentricity in our orbit around the sun, axial tilt or obliquity, axial and apsidal precession, and orbital inclination. The combination of these effects gives rise to what are called Milankovitch cycles.

Although there is extensive evidence that the variation in solar radiation is an important factor, there are certain problems with Milankovitch’s model related to the timing of the cycles and their correlation with climate events. Perhaps the biggest problem is that the magnitude of climate changes have turned out to be far greater than what is predicted by the model.

Pole Shifts

The idea of pole shifts originates in a talk given in May 1872 by the French ethnographer Charles-Étienne Brasseur de Bourbourg called “Chronologie historique des Mexicains.” He interpreted passages in the lost Codex Chimalpopoca that beginning about 10,500 BCE, four periods of cataclysms had changed the world, each caused by a temporary shifting of Earth’s axis [1]. In the mid 1900s Hugh Auchincloss Brown [2] and Charles Hapgood [3] proposed that shifts of the geographic pole could explain ice ages, mass extinctions, and other worldwide events. Hapgood proposed that an asymmetrical accumulation of polar ice created a force that caused the crust of the Earth to displace, i.e., slide over, the mantle. Albert Einstein later determined that this force was insufficient, leaving Hapgood’s hypothesis without a physical cause.

In the 1990s, a team led by Joseph Kirschvink found paleomagnetic evidence of a massive 90° pole shift 500 million years ago at around the time of the Cambrian explosion [4]. Although there is some indication that the magnetic pole has deviated significantly from the geographic pole over the past 100,000 years, paleomagnetic evidence of a shift in the geographic pole over this period is inconclusive. Perhaps the best independent evidence supporting Hapgood’s pole shift hypothesis is the alignment of over four dozen sites to four previous locations of the North Pole as described in Before Atlantis.

Adjusted Timeline

Rather than interpreting the ice ages as global climate events, Hapgood believed the spatial patterns of climate change were best explained by changes in the geographic location of the North Pole. By examining patterns of climate change, he estimated that three pole shifts had taken place during the past 100,000 years: 1) from Hudson Bay (60˚N 73˚W) to the current pole, 12,000 to 17,000 years ago, 2) from the Atlantic Ocean between Iceland and Norway (72˚N 10˚E) to Hudson Bay, 50,000 to 55,000 years ago, and 3) from the Yukon (63˚N 135˚W) to between Iceland and Norway 75,000 to 80,000 years ago (Figure 1).

Figure 1 Hapgood’s original timeline relating climate change to pole shifts.

Figure 2 shows an adjusted timeline based on currently accepted periods of glacial and interglacial events in Europe and North America. Before 125,000 years ago, during the Illinoian glaciation, we propose that the North Pole was in the Bering Sea north of the Aleutian Islands. At the start of the Sangamon interglacial period it shifted to a location in the Norway Sea. During this period the climate in North America became warmer and Europe became colder. Sometime between 75,000 to 125,000 years ago the pole shifted towards Greenland. About 75,000 years ago the pole moved to a location in Hudson Bay at which time the climate in North America became colder. Finally 12,000-17,000 years ago after the pole shifts to its present location, both North America and Europe become warmer.

Figure 2 Revised timeline based on more recent glacial data

Figure 3 shows our refined pole location model and adjusted timeline. In Before Atlantis it is argued that the pole spent more time in the Norway Sea than it did in Greenland based on a greater number of sites discovered to be aligned to the Greenland pole. As this interpretation may not be correct, the order and timing of these two pole shifts remains an open question.

Figure 3 Hapgood’s original poles (H) and refined pole locations based on site alignments and current climate data. Google Earth


[1] Howard F. Cline and John B. Glass, eds., “Guide to Ethnohistorical Sources, Part Two, ”Handbook of Middle American Indians 13.

[2] Hugh Auchincloss Brown, Cataclysms of the Earth (Twayne Publishers, 1967).

[3] Charles Hutchins Hapgood, Earth’s Shifting Crust: A Key to Some Basic Problems of Earth Science, (1958, foreword by Albert Einstein).

[4] Joseph L. Kirschvink, Robert L. Ripperdan, David A. Evans, “Evidence for a Large-Scale Reorganization of Early Cambrian Continental Masses by Inertial Interchange True Polar Wander,” Science, 􏰉Vol. 277, No. 25, July 1997.

Evidence of Great Antiquity at Machu Picchu

Before Atlantis introduces the idea that many ancient sites throughout the world might be far older than previously thought based on the alignment of these sites to previous locations of the North Pole. This article discusses one of the sites, Machu Picchu, in greater detail.


Unlike so many other places that were destroyed by the Spanish, Machu Picchu remained unknown to the outside world until its rediscovery by Hiram Bingham in 1911. Most archaeologists believe Machu Picchu was built by the Incas for their emperor Pachacuti in the fifteenth century; however, no one has been able to adequately explain all of the structures at the site in terms of technology that is thought to have been available to the Incas at that time.

Figure 1 Machu Picchu divided up into four sectors (from Magli).

For the purpose of understanding the layout and orientation of the site, Giulio Magli divides Machu Picchu into four sectors (Figure 1). Sectors I and II occupy the southeast and northeast portions of the site consisting of numerous compounds called kanchas.  The kanchas at Machu Picchu contain structures constructed from coarsely fitted stones that conform to the terrain and are oriented in generally eastern facing directions. Magli sites evidence that the Incas could have conducted accurate celestial observations related to the solstices within these two sectors.

Skipping Sector III for the moment, Sector IV contains the enigmatic Temple of the Three Windows and the Intihuatana. In contrast with the kanchas, the structures in Sector IV consist of much more massive and precisely cut and fitted stones. Archaeologists believe that the structures in Sector IV were constructed last and left unfinished by the Incas. Another possibility is that the structures in this part of the site are the ruins of something that is much older, constructed by an earlier pre-Inca civilization. Is there any evidence of an earlier civilization at Machu Picchu?

Temple of the Three Windows

Sector III is an open northwest facing area that Magli associates with a range of directions between 135° to 155° (or -55° to -25°) that are thought to have been important to the Incas. Too far south of east to be aligned to the Sun or Moon, Magli suggests that this range of orientations might reference certain celestial features such as the Milky Way – the celestial counterpart of the Vilcanota river, which could have been used to determine the timing of the equinox based on its relation to the Sun. This direction also turns out to point to a possible pole in the Bering Sea 80,000 to 85,000 years ago or more. Could this direction have been important to the Incas simply because it was once north?

Figure 2 Temple of the Three Windows. Photo credit: mckaysavage

That this direction once pointed north seems consistent with the alignment of the Temple of the Three Windows (Figure 2). The orientation of the eastern wall, -34° (or 34° west of north) is aligned to within a few degrees of the Bering Sea pole. This means that if the North Pole were in the Bering Sea, the three windows would have faced due east and the Sun would have risen in line with the temple on the equinox (Figure 3).

Figure 3 Alignment of the Temple of the Three Windows to the Bering Sea pole.


It has been suggested that the Intihuatana (Figure 4) or “hitching post of the Sun,” a name attributed to Bingham, was designed to mark dates when the Sun would be directly above the Intihuatana and so would cast no shadow. A simple gnomon with a vertical shaft casts no shadow at noon on the equinox only if it is at the equator (Figure 5) Since Machu Picchu is about 13° south of the equator the device must be tilted in the direction of the Sun for it to disappear on a given date (Figure 6). For example, if it is intended to mark the date of the summer solstice, it must be tilted in the direction of the sun on that date by approximately 11°; if it is intended to mark the date of the equinox, it must be tilted due east by approximately 13°.

Figure 5 Solar path at the equator. The middle line is the path on the equinox.
Figure 6 Solar path at Machu Picchu. The southern path is that of the sun on the summer solstice.

If the function of the Intihuatana is just to mark the days when the shadow of the sun disappears why is its shape so complex?

Figure 7 3D model of the Intihuatana with alignments to the Bering Sea pole (solid line) and to the solstice directions (dotted lines).

Before the Bering Sea to Norway Sea pole shift, Machu Picchu would have been rotated approximately 34° counterclockwise (i.e., west of north) relative to its current orientation and shifted about 6° further south in latitude. Figure 7 is a 3D model of the Intrihuatana with alignments relative to the Bering Sea pole. Being even further south than it is now, the surface would have to have been tilted even further toward the east for the Sun to disappear on the equinox. Although some sides and edges of the Intihuatana stone appear to be somewhat aligned to the pole and the winter solstice sunrise directions, its shape seems inconsistent with that of a device designed to mark either solstices or the equinox at this time.

Figure 8 3D model of the Intihuatana with alignments relative to the Norway Sea pole (yellow lines) and possible sides and edges corresponding to these directions.

After the pole shift, the Temple of the Three Windows would no longer face east. A new way might have been required to mark the cardinal or other important directions at Machu Picchu.  It is hypothesized that several versions of the Intihuatana were constructed over time. The original device could have been constructed after the Bering Sea to Norway Sea pole shift (Figure 8) at which time the gnomon and several sides appear to closely reference the directions of the pole and the summer solstice. Was the original Intihuatana created at the time when the North Pole was in the Norway Sea to mark the summer solstice?

Figure 9 3D model of the Intihuatana with alignments relative to the Greenland pole (green lines) and possible sides and edges corresponding to these and previous directions.

A later pole shift from the Norway Sea to Greenland would rotate Machu Picchu to within a few degrees of its current orientation and shift its position to within 2° of the equator (Figure 9). At this point, the original device was no longer aligned to the summer solstice, but with a vertically oriented gnomon would have been virtually shadowless at noon on the equinox. Perhaps it is at this point in time that the device serendipitously became the “hitching post” of the Sun.

Figure 10 3D model of the Intihuatana with alignments relative to the Hudson Bay pole (violet lines) and possible sides and edges corresponding to these and previous directions.

After the next pole shift from Greenland to Hudson Bay, Machu Picchu shifted south several degrees and rotated clockwise several degrees. It is possible that the Intihuatana could have been modified to once again be an equinoctial marker by adjusting its inclination slightly to account for its new latitude and alignment to north.

Figure 11 summarizes possible alterations to the shape of the Intihuatana stone based on its past alignment to ancient poles and corresponding solar directions. Could the complex and otherwise inexplicable shape of the Intihuatana be the result of numerous incremental changes that had to be made to the device, originally designed as a solsticial marker, for it to continue to function later as an equinoctial marker?

Figure 11 3D model of the Intihuatana with alignments relative to the current pole (white lines) and possible sides and edges color-coded to previous pole locations.


Application of Charles Hapgood’s hypothesis that the Earth poles have shifted several times over the past 100,000 years provides new insights into many ancient sites that have defied conventional explanation. Our analysis suggests that the Temple of the Three Windows might be one of the oldest structures at Machu Picchu, and that the Intihuatana, constructed sometime later could have functioned first as a solsticial marker and later as an equinoctial marker over most, if not all, of its long history.

Featured photo credit: pululante, Machu Picchu, Peru-21Sept2013 (18), CC BY 2.0

Earth Ancients Radio

On October 27 I spent about an hour talking with Cliff Dunning on his show, “Earth Ancients” about Before AtlantisClick here to get the podcast, which is available on iTunes.

Martian Revelation Radio Show

This past Saturday, October 12, I rolled out my new book Before Atlantis on the “Martian Revelation” radio show hosted by Gary Leggiere. I spoke with Gary about the book, my past involvement in the independent Mars investigation and what I have been working on more recently. I related the idea of pole shifts on Mars to those on Earth and explained the concept of using geometrical alignments of archaeological sites to previous positions of the North Pole to date the sites using Charles Hapgood’s theory of crustal displacement.

Alternative Hypothesis

The popularity of alternative archaeology has grown in recent years due to the inability of conventional theories to explain unexpected discoveries within existing scientific paradigms. When Erich von Däniken published Chariots of the Gods? in 1968, the gap between mainstream archaeological thought and the existence of unexplained structures throughout the world was so great that the “ancient astronaut” theory seemed like the only possible explanation. In a similar way, Zecharia Sitchin’s interpretation of ancient Sumerian myths as prehistoric contacts with extraterrestrials was the only way to make sense of those myths.

The age and distribution of the sites that I discovered suggested another possibility: that the original structures at these sites might have been built by a previous, highly developed technological civilization that existed throughout the world tens of thousands of years ago or more. Instead of an exogenous (i.e., extraterrestrial) influence, perhaps an indigenous technological civilization evolved over the timeline of an earlier human migration out of Africa 200,000 to 300,000 years ago, much like we have during the last 70,000 years. If so, our ancestor’s past encounters with this older civilization could have been the source of ancient myths of powerful gods, lost continents, even Atlantis.

An Unexpected Discovery

Quite unexpectedly, I made an interesting discovery this past year. While using Google Earth to view several archaeological sites in Mexico that I hoped to visit during an upcoming trip, I noticed that most of the structures were not aligned to the cardinal directions – north, south, east, and west. This seemed strange, as most sites, even ancient ones such as the pyramids in Giza, are aligned, often with uncanny precision, to the North Pole.

In the 1950s, a college professor by the name of Charles Hapgood developed a theory to explain patterns of climate change as a result of shifts in the geographic position of the North Pole. Back in the days of my Mars research I remember learning about a site in Mexico that was thought to have once faced a previous location of the pole in Canada, just east of Hudson Bay, at least 15,000 years ago.

Hapgood hypothesized two other prior locations of the North Pole: one in Greenland 50,000 years ago and the other in Alaska around 80,000 years ago. I discovered that, with some relatively minor adjustments to Hapgood’s pole locations, the sites in Mexico, as well as numerous others throughout the world, seemed to line up to past positions of the North Pole. The alignments became even more interesting when I realized that these sites had to be as old as the poles. But how could that be? Humans, or more precisely “modern humans,” could not have built these structures, given that, according to genetic evidence, our ancestors had not yet left Africa.

If modern humans didn’t build these structures, then who did? Aliens? There had to be a better, more scientifically acceptable alternative…