I’m not sure what to make of a claim circulating this week of a Chinese connection to the prehistoric lands of what is now the U.S. state of Georgia. According to an article published on Ancient Origins, written by Jon R. Haskill of the Indigenous Peoples Research Association, a nonprofit organization dedicated to exploring Old World contact with pre-Columbian North America, a Chinese votive sword was discovered in Georgia last year. The object, measuring about 30 cm (12 inches) in length, was allegedly uncovered in a creek bed, and it is now being promoted by Siu-Leung Lee, the Chinese man who appeared on America Unearthed to argue for a Chinese presence in prehistoric North America based on another Chinese artifact allegedly found in America under mysterious circumstances, as well as a misreading of an old map. Lee now claims that he knows of several Chinese objects from Georgia, which he is keeping secret until he can publish the details, though he does not say where.
I’d like to start today with a few words about MTV’s new series Scream. I had low expectations, and the show failed to meet even these. I was 15 when the first Scream movie was in theaters, and I love it. But it was very much a product of its time, a clever and ironic love letter to the slasher films of the 1970s and the 1980s. Scream the TV series is more of a plagiarized high school essay on the first Scream movie, borrowing incidents and archetypes without originality, wit, or soul. It’s a faded copy of a movie that was itself a recreation of a dying original. The new series lacks a tone; it is not horror, or even, as it tries to assert, Gothic. Instead, it is a hodgepodge of homages to 1990s relics--Scream, I Know What You Did Last Summer, Dawson’s Creek (all by Scream movie writer and show “story” creator Kevin Williamson, no less!)—but reanimated incompletely, and with no new energy propelling the shambling mess. I can’t blame Williamson here since he isn’t actively involved in the series, but his works tend to have purpose behind the horror: Scream (the movie) was a twisted murder-mystery beneath the genre trappings. I Know was, beneath the slasher trappings, a suspense thriller and roman a clef. The pilot for the Scream series lacks the extra layer that would make it watchable.
Well, enough of that.
I’m sure many of you are probably bored with the medieval pyramid myth, but I have been reading Kevin Van Bladel’s book The Arabic Hermes: From Pagan Sage to Prophet of Science (Oxford, 2009), and part of it clarified a problem that explains a good amount of how the pyramid myth developed. The short form is that it wasn’t originally a pyramid myth. The oldest version of the story that we know of was told by Abu Maʿshar, a ninth century scholar, in his now-lost Book of Thousands. I knew his text from a quotation preserved in Al-Maqrizi, taken from Saʿid al-Andalusi, Al‐tarif bi-tabaqat al-umm 39.7-16 (1068 CE), quoting Abu Maʿshar speaking of Hermes Trismegistus:
In the current (June 2015) issue of Edge Science magazine, Chris Aubeck and Martin Shough published an excerpt from their forthcoming book, Return to Magonia (Anomalist Books). In the article, the authors attempt to determine the cause of a prodigy reported in German leaflets in 1665 and in various books thereafter. That year, according to these reports, a plate-like round form, dark in color, hovered in the sky over Stralsund, a militarized Hanseatic city that had recently become part of Swedish Pomerania as a result of the Peace of Westphalia at the end of the Thirty Years’ War, but remained subject to ongoing tensions between Sweden and Brandenburg, the future Prussia.
Ancient astronaut theorists never miss a chance to make money. If you have a spare $1200 to $1650 and are free in September 2016, you can join Scotty Roberts, Micah Hanks, and Jason Martell for the second “ancient alien cruise,” which manages to have the unique honor of featuring two non-ancient-astronaut theorists among its three ancient astronaut theory celebrities. (Hanks, David Childress, and Robert Schoch participated in the first ancient alien cruise.) Micah Hanks pretends he’s simply a journalist asking questions, while Scotty Roberts has played down his ancient astronaut connections in anticipation of his potential TV career as a “History Tripper.” So, the next time you see these guys claiming they don’t advocate the ancient astronaut theory, be sure to ask them why they’re taking money to promote it as the featured ancient astronaut theorists on a cruise literally called the Ancient Alien Cruise. (Also: A+E Networks owns the Ancient Aliens name. How is it I’m the only one they’ve accused of sowing “confusion” over their intellectual property?)
And now on to the main event.
Bad history abounds. It’s a truism that history is written by the victors, but it’s truer to say that history’s polemical purpose is to justify the present. In his dissenting opinion in Obergefell vs. Hodges, the case that legalized same-sex marriage across the United States, Chief Justice John Roberts wrote that marriage is “a social institution that has formed the basis of human society for millennia, for the Kalahari Bushmen and the Han Chinese, the Carthaginians and the Aztecs.”
In the latest edition of Edge Science magazine (June 2015), Anthony Mugan claims that it is time to reappraise the Sirius Mystery and that there is evidence that the skeptics are wrong about the lack of evidence that the Dogon had secret knowledge of the Sirius star system. This gets a little complicated due to the amount of backstory needed to understand it, so I will try to keep this as simple as I can.
Today I’d like to follow up on two earlier posts. First, I’d like to discuss a bit more about the Westford Knight and the question of who carved the Massachusetts oddity and when. You will remember that in discussing the question of whether the carving of the sword handle was a modern one, I noted that Peabody Museum specialist David Schafer had indicated that he knew of documents in the Westford Historical Society that showed that the handle had been carved by some boys in the late 1800s. At the time I wasn’t able to confirm this, and I wondered if this were different than the claim reported in David Goudsward’s book on the Westford Knight that a woman had said her brother had carved a “peace pipe” on the rock ledge in the late 1800s.
At this point I know better than to take anything Nick Redfern writes at face value, but I was quite shocked at his apparent lack of reading comprehension, as well as his descent into David Childress-style recycling of his own earlier work. In a new article posted at Mysterious Universe, Redfern recapitulates, often point for point, portions of a 2013 chapter he published in Lost Cities and Forgotten Civilizations by Michael Pye and Kirsten Dalley (Rosen Publishing) in 2013. Anyway, I read the piece because it promised a wacky theory about the pyramids, but instead it merely revealed the sad case of an apparently paranoid man who imagined he unlocked the aliens’ master plan. The man in question was Bruce Cathie, who died in 2013, and who believed that “harmonic mathematics” proved the existence of a world energy grid that powered flying saucers (which he speculated came from the Venus of Theosophy) and allowed the construction of the pyramids.
Earlier this spring Destination America, one of the Discovery Networks’ cable stations aimed at a “hillbilly” audience (according to wording used in their own programming), refreshed their graphic design as part of their move to give the channel a more distinct identity. According to Ferroconcrete, the design firm behind the change, their guiding motivation in developing the new look was the channel’s “homespun lineup of all things good: fun, food and phantoms.” Yes, being stalked, attacked, or raped by a ghost—as Destination America programming claims happens every day—is “homespun” and “good.” But take a look at the icons Ferroconcrete created to represent “America.”
I'm an author and editor who has published on a range of topics, including archaeology, science, and horror fiction. There's more about me in the About Jason tab.
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