In Civilization One: The World is Not as You Thought It Was Christopher Knight and Alan Butler go on an intellectual journey of discovery in this shady backwater. The first concept that they put forth is one of "framing", calling it the "Great Wall Of History", which is traced out by the invention of writing in around 3,200 BCE and the "dawn of civilization" in places like Egypt and Sumer. However, modern humans go back at least 100,000 years, leaving a very, very long gap. The homo sapiens living 10,000 or 50,000 years ago were not much different from us today, yet because they are "on the other side of the wall" we (as a culture) dismiss them as "primitives".
There is a much bandied-about quote (frequently mis-attributed to various real-life personages, but actually coming from the pen of Ian Fleming via the Bond arch-villain Auric Goldfinger) which goes: “Once is happenstance. Twice is coincidence. Three times is enemy action.” ... which keeps coming to mind while reading this book. Time and time again, the authors find situations where not only did "primitive" man seem to have measuring standards that were not only remarkably accurate, but are found again and again in cultures across the planet.
Much of this work starts with Prof. Alexander Thom's discovery of the "megalithic yard", a measure that figures repeatedly in the ancient stoneworks of the British Isles. A cube that is 1/10th of this yard will hold a pint of liquid, or a pound of grain ... remarkably preserved through folk custom in the UK (no wonder the English-speaking world has fought so much against the metric system and the Euro!). In fact, a whole spectrum of weights and measures relate to this one basic "yard".
This also relates to the Sumerian system of weights and measures, units of which fit remarkably with measurements of the size and weight of the Earth, and even of the speed of light(!). Now, I've not delved into this to check the math, but from what's presented in the book, there is "enemy action" all over the place, as "coincidence" hardly covers the fine-grained correspondences between what the ancients used for measure, and things that we currently know only from modern science.
The British Isles, Sumer, Egypt, Minoan Crete, ancient Japan, the same figures keep appearing, all which relate to the size of the Earth, the dynamics of the solar system, etc. ... it is fantastic stuff, but presented here as an unfolding of the authors' own search for answers. Frankly, they express constant disbelief in what they're finding, but again and again the numbers play out the same story.
Unlike theorists such as John Anthony West, the authors of Civilization One do not necessarily posit a global antediluvian civilization, the stunned remnants of which crawled out of the ruins of a shattered world to re-boot culture along the banks of the Nile, the Tigris/Euphrates, and the Indus. Rather, in the closing chapters of this book, they drift towards the zone occupied by Zechariah Sitchin, taking the most ancient records at their word about super-humans that came from elsewhere ... teachers that brought knowledge to the scattered groups of humanity, and then left ... i.e. the "space alien" hypothesis. Given the deliberate pace and general caution exhibited through the course of the book, this must have been a very difficult conclusion to write!
Anyway, this is a fascinating read, and the level of "coincidence" of how the numbers work out on these widely-spread systems points to there being something well beyond that at the root of these traces. It's still in print if you want to check it out at your local brick-and-mortar book vendor, but the Amazon new/used vendors currently have it in "like new" condition for as little as $3.48 (plus shipping).