The myth that Henry I Sinclair, Earl of Orkney, a vassal of the king of Norway, was mixed up in the European discovery of America a century before Columbus came to us from Johann Reinhold Forster, a German-born scion of a dispossessed Scottish noble family. Forster wrote in 1784 of Henry Sinclair’s involvement with the brothers Zeno (or Zeni, or Zen), whose story was told in the controversial account of their alleged voyage to Greenland and audience with fisherman who had returned from unknown lands beyond published by their descendant Nicolò Zeno the Younger in the 1500s, two centuries after the fact, and from non-existent documents that the younger Zeno claimed to have destroyed and then recreated from memory. Forster decided that the story’s fanciful manic pixie dream prince, Zichmni of Friesland, was none other than Sinclair: “This name of Sinclair appears to me to be expressed by the word Zichmni.” It was, however, a footnote which Forster labeled as “a conjecture” that struck him while contemplating the geography of the northern Atlantic.
This past weekend saw a number of depressingly awful stories about ancient history. The most prominent one revolved around a newspaper report about a man’s claim to have discovered Atlantis yet again. The Daily Mail published the report on Sept. 29 and was picked up by the Russian propaganda site Sputnik a few hours later and spread around the world. Heretofore largely unknown Ancient Architects blogger Matt Sibson alleges in an interview and accompanying video essay that Atlantis was actually the phantom island of Frisland seen on a number of old maps. If that name sounds familiar… well, it connects to another old fringe history chestnut.
Charles Berlitz's "Mysteries of Forgotten Worlds": An Uncanny Echo of Graham Hancock Decades Earlier
It’s been a very long time since I opened one of Charles Berlitz’s books. His musty old paperbacks were neither the most famous nor the most extreme of the imitators of Chariots of the Gods to hit bookstores in the 1970s, and his fantasies about the Bermuda Triangle and Atlantis have long overshadowed some of his less important books. But yesterday I had to open his Mysteries from Forgotten Worlds in order to check references that David Childress had made to it, and I was rather surprised to see that Berlitz’s book is a fairly straightforward precursor to Graham Hancock’s Fingerprints of the Gods and Magicians of the Gods.
The Radioactive Skeleton of Mohenjo Daro: How Soviet Propaganda Spiraled into a Extreme Fringe History Claim
Today I wanted to share with you the fascinating work of Philippe Hernandez, who has posted an interesting exploration of the origins of the myth that Mohenjo Daro contains the remains of a nuclear massacre of that civilization’s people. As Hernandez discovered, the original source was Russian, and later authors’ lack of facility with the language allowed a modern myth to prosper.
I should probably spend a few minutes marking the passing of Brad Steiger, a longtime writer of fringe books, but to be entirely honest, it’s hard for me to say kind words about the written work of a man who steadfastly refused to learn from his mistakes for half a century. Between the 1960s and today, Steiger continued to repeat the same false claims borrowed from other writers, failed to check sources, and generally never let facts get in the way of a sensational story. That might have made him a great storyteller, but it made him a lousy researcher.
Today I thought I would share a gross and morbid thing I discovered in researching the Grave Creek Stone for my book on the history of the lost white race of Mound Builders. The Grave Creek Stone has a weird and checkered history. It was allegedly uncovered in an Adena mound on the Ohio River in 1839, but it was really a hoax created, in all probability, by a Dr. James W. Clemens, a local physician who had hoped to get rich quick by selling shares in the dig on the promise of finding the Mound Builders’ treasure. When no treasure emerged, he used an old Spanish book and scratched copies of Celtic-Iberian runes into a small stone and arranged for it to be found. Clemens wrote to the greatest scientific racist of his day, Samuel Morton, in the hopes that Morton would popularize the stone as the work of a lost white race. Morton, however, ignored Clemens, to the latter’s deep chagrin
In working on my book about the myth of the Mound Builders, I encountered a bizarre historical sideshow that is probably worth mentioning, if only because it gives the lie to the idea that some sort of conspiracy has forever kept the “textbooks” clean of fringe ideas.
Graham Hancock's Ideas about Ancient North America Were Proposed 200 Years Ago, by a Plagiarist and Fraud
If you’ve been reading fringe media or even the mainstream news this week, you likely saw one of dozens of articles claiming that a new scientific paper evaluated the evidence for an advanced civilization millions of years ago. They were lying. The paper isn’t about proving such a civilization existed. It was a thought experiment asking us to consider the impact of civilization on the planet and how permanent our footprint will be in the long term. There is no evidence of an ancient lost civilization millions of years ago and the authors even wrote in the Atlantic that they don’t believe there ever was such a civilization, though they suggest that it might be worth looking for any geological traces of one, if only for the accidental discoveries it might produce. It’s about as much proof of prehistoric Old Ones as At the Mountains of Madness.
As many readers already know, actress Roseanne Barr became an internet laughingstock recently when she praised Donald Trump for his heroic role in an imaginary effort to free thousands of children from a Democrat-run pedophilia network. This bizarre counterfactual belief is part of the so-called QAnon conspiracy, an internet-driven conspiracy theory which holds that Trump and Special Counsel Robert Muller are working together to take down Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton, who are the masterminds of a global child abuse network and terrorism syndicate. Barr removed her tweets referencing QAnon but did not apologize for her belief in the conspiracy.
I have always found it interesting that the people who claim that academics are hidebound dogmatists willing to die to prevent the truth from escaping nevertheless try to cloak themselves in the borrowed authority of academia. To an extent, this must be a way of trying to give spurious grandeur to incomplete or incorrect claims, but I read with concern the latest Author of the Month Author of the Month posting on Graham Hancock’s website because it starts off with a laundry list of credentialed scholars who have held unusual or incorrect beliefs about the peopling of the Americas. The purpose of such a list can only be to make author Gary A. David appear more serious than his oddball ideas would otherwise come across. Regular readers will remember David as the writer who wrongly asserted that Hopi settlements were laid out in the shape of the constellation Orion, a claim belied by geography and chronology.
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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