Just in time to coincide with Netflix’s release of a new Marco Polo television series, America Unearthed plans to investigate whether the Venetian traveler to China learned of America from his hosts in the Middle Kingdom during his Asian travels from 1271 to 1295. While some mainstream historians have questioned whether Polo ever actually traveled to China (or just collected traveler’s tales), fringe historians have cited Polo in support of a plethora of interesting and unusual ideas.
Usually I start an Ancient Aliens review with some sort of tangentially related thought about this week’s episode topic. This week, however, I am going in cold and have only a vague idea what they’re going to be talking about. As Ancient Aliens S07E12 “Alien Messages” opens, the teaser claims that it will cover the ways in which the aliens are speaking to us through symbols, but as David Childress might say, you have to wonder, if the aliens can beam thoughts directly into our brains (S07E09) and insert their consciousness into baked goods (S07E11), why exactly do they need hidden messages encoded in ancient texts and architecture? A better question, though, is this: What happened to the scheduled episode "The Great Flood" and why was it replaced with what is in essence a slapped together clip show? Promos said that the "Great Flood" would air this week, but it did not, and new promos say that its "network premiere" will be next week instead. Does this mean that it will show up first somewhere else?
If you’ve been following archaeologist Andy White’s blog, you’ll have read some very important pieces this week on giants and their relationship to hoaxes and misidentified mastodon and mammoth bones. I’d like to expand on White’s terrific research by pointing out the way it undercuts a foundational claim made by the gigantologists. In order to do so, we need to make a distinction that gigantologists aren’t often willing to do: We need to establish what we mean by a “giant.” According to gigantologists, this can be anyone six feet tall and up. However, to classify claims for skeletons of six, nine, twelve, and eighteen feet as all part of the same continuum is to close the door to seeking alternative explanations for each group.
I lieu of a blog post today, I present my guest appearance on the Chauncey DeVega Show. The podcast is an hour in length and can be watched below or downloaded at this link. I discussed topics ranging from ancient astronauts and lost giants to Afrocentrism and white supremacist views of North American history. The podcast was recorded in November, but release of the episode was a little delayed, so some of the references refer to events of November as though they had just happened.
It seems that readers weren’t too keen on the question of whether a cache of supposedly medieval maps and documents shows that Marco Polo explored Alaska, but I found that Benjamin Olshin’s book The Mysteries of the Marco Polo Maps, which I reviewed yesterday, raised a number of fascinating questions, albeit questions that had little to do with the question of whether Polo visited Alaska. In the book, Olshin makes reference to an island of women mentioned on the (likely hoax) Marco Polo maps promoted by science fiction author and document hoaxer Marcian Rossi. The text accompanying the maps, in Olshin’s revision of Bagrow’s translation, describes it as follows:
Did Marco Polo Explore Alaska? A Review of Benjamin B. Olshin's "The Mysteries of the Marco Polo Maps" (2014)
Later this week, America Unearthed will be asking whether Marco Polo discovered America. The topic seemed familiar, and I knew that the series was shooting its episodes in September of this year. It took only a few seconds to discover that the writers, who are clearly running on fumes at this point, were adapting a news report that appeared in Smithsonian magazine’s October edition and in British newspapers in late September. (So much for the Smithsonian conspiracy to suppress the truth!) According to the claim, a map drawn by Marco Polo depicting the Bering Strait was found in San Jose, California in the 1930s but not analyzed until this year.
Monday Omnibus: Scott Wolter Is Clueless, L.A. Marzulli Wants an OBGYN, and Andy White Debunks Giants
I’m feeling a bit uninspired today, so I’m going to go over a few odd and ends that I found interesting and amusing over the last couple of days. First and foremost I want to follow up on Saturday’s episode of America Unearthed because Scott Wolter weighed in on it on his blog this morning and revealed that he still isn’t aware that the story of Captain Kidd’s secret numerical code and his treasure falling into the hands of John Jacob Astor is a nineteenth century hoax.
So this week Scott Wolter lets viewers think that he has been taken in by a nineteenth century hoax that he doesn’t recognize is a work of fiction. If his blog post from this past week is any indication, he’ll soon be blaming me for pointing out that his show is, by its own admission in Segment 4, hiding the fact that the producers know (or, at very least, had no excuse not to know) the source of the hoax and therefore appear to have purposely omitted it from the program to make the hoax seem more credible. Consequently, they depict the debunking of the hoax as little more than the assertion of one old man rather than the full weight of history and expert opinion. It lets them have their cake and eat it, too: They tell the truth, of sorts, in a weak way should anyone complain, and that lets them play pretend for those who are unaware.
Charles Baxter: H. P. Lovecraft Trapped in Perpetual Adolescence, Appeals to the Angry and Antisocial
If the promotional spots for America Unearthed are to be believed, tonight Scott Wolter gets taken in by a known nineteenth century hoax and spends the hour assuming it’s true. I can’t believe that the producers of the show are that stupid, but I can’t really put anything past them. I guess I’ll have to wait and see. In the meantime, let’s talk about Lovecraft. The following are some more or less coherent thoughts, but not really a true analysis since I haven’t had the time to develop my ideas more fully.
Graham Hancock: Comet Wiped Out Ice Age Civilization, Egyptians May Have Worshiped Comet's Fragments
After publishing Atlantis: The Antediluvian World in 1882 and claiming that the ancient global civilization of Atlantis had been destroyed in the Biblical Flood, author Ignatius Donnelly needed material for a sequel. In his follow-up book, Ragnarok: The Age of Fire and Gravel (1883), Donnelly tried to explain how the Flood could have occurred. To that end, he argued that ancient mythology captured a memory of the catastrophe that was the result of the impact of a large comet around 12,000 years ago: “the so-called Glacial Age really represents a collision of the earth with one of these wandering luminaries of space.” According to Donnelly, the destructive power of the comet caused massive floods, poisonous gases, and global fires before settling into a long glacial winter.
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.
Enter your email below to subscribe to my newsletter, The Skeptical Xenoarchaeologist, for updates on my latest projects, blog posts, and activities.
Terms & Conditions
Please read all applicable terms and conditions before posting a comment on this blog. Posting a comment constitutes your agreement to abide by the terms and conditions linked herein.