Before we begin today, I want to share something I learned. Remember how Graham Hancock dates the Sphinx based on the precession of the equinoxes, claiming that it goes back to around 10,500 BCE because that is when it faced Leo? I learned from Mark Fraser Pettigrew’s dissertation on The Wonders of the Ancients that a medieval scholar made a similar argument about dating Egyptian ruins. Apparently medieval writer Abu Jafar al-Idrisi, in his treatise on the pyramids, records that Abu ‘l-Mushrif ‘Alawi al-Hafafi (c. 1226) believed that the sun-disk hieroglyph represented the entrance of Altair into Cancer, so by calculating when that occurred by counting backward at a rate of movement of the stars of one degree per 100 years (Hipparchus’s estimate), he believed that Egyptian ruins dated back 20,000 years before his time, or to around 18,800 BCE. Using modern precession rates (one degree per 71.6 years), the figure would come out to 13,146 BCE.
This isn’t really any different than saying the Sphinx is a lion, so let’s calculate Leo’s position. It’s just amazing that in the Middle Ages an early Graham Hancock was already using the stars to create pseudo-history.
Smithsonian Channel Claims Babylonian Tablet Preserves "Exactly What the Tower of Babel Looked Like"
Sometime in the last couple of weeks the Smithsonian Channel launched the fourth season of its Secrets TV series, and the season premiere focused on the Tower of Babel. Over the past few days both Christian groups and fringe archaeology types have embraced a clip of the program in which a Babylonian tablet is discussed because they believe that the tablet “proves” that the Biblical story is literally true. I was intrigued enough by the tablet to try to find out why the tinfoil hat brigade would think that the tablet demonstrates the reality of a Biblical legend.
After Pres. Donald Trump called the rules of U.S. Congress “archaic” this week and said that they are a “bad thing for the country,” his chief of staff said that the Administration has “looked at” ways to limit or repeal the First Amendment. Fortunately, presidents can’t amend the Constitution, but it’s clear that Trump doesn’t know anything about history or the law. In an interview on Sirius XM radio yesterday, Trump praised Andrew Jackson, a slave-owning former president who oversaw the Trail of Tears and thought Native Americans killed off a lost white race, claiming that Jackson would have prevented the Civil War had he been in office when it broke out. Trump wrongly stated that Jackson was angered by the war when it broke out (he died 16 years before it started) and claimed that few investigate why the war erupted. “People don’t realize, you know, the Civil War, you think about it, why? People don’t ask that question,” Trump said. “But why was there the Civil War. Why would that one not have been worked out?” Trump’s startling historical ignorance—not to mention failure to grapple with 150 years of scholarly research into the war’s origins—is matched only by his implication that the president he most likens to himself, Jackson, could have “worked out” a deal to compromise on whether black people should be considered full human beings. We already knew that Trump gets his news from Fox News, but apparently he gets his history from the History Channel—paranoia, conspiracy, and racist dog-whistles.
Speaking of which…
In October of 2015, the History Channel broadcast a documentary in which Jim and Bill Vieira, who came to prominence on the channel in a series documenting their fruitless search for Nephilim-giants, evaluated whether the so-called Dare Stones were genuine artifacts of the Roanoke colonists’ dramatic flight from a bloodthirsty tribe of Native Americans as they escaped into the heart of Georgia. In that show, the brothers concluded that the Dare Stones were forgeries, though they held out hope that the first stone uncovered near Edenton, NC in 1937 was the one and only genuine Dare Stone, carved by the hand of Eleanor Dare herself. That was eighteen months ago.
Last night the History Channel—which, for those of you keeping score, plans to begin a new season of Ancient Aliens on April 28—devoted three hours of prime time to a new installment of the giant-hunting Vieira Brothers’ ongoing quest, first broadcast in 2015, to investigate the “mystery” of the Dare Stones, a Depression-era hoax meant to explain where the colonists of the abandoned English settlement at Roanoke had gone to. While we have pretty good evidence today that they joined up with Native Americans on Hatteras Island, believers in the Dare Stones maintain that these rocks prove that they ventured into Georgia. Unfortunately, History did not make a screener of the show available (all A+E Networks properties are stingy that way), and I had better things to do than spend three (!) hours watching Return to Roanoke: Search for the Seven, a sequel to 2015’s dull outing, Roanoke: Search for the Lost Colony. As I understand it, the first hour was a condensed rerun of the 2015 escapade, with further developments occurring in the two-hour sequel. I will try to watch and review it for tomorrow.
On Friday, conspiracy theory Alex Jones, whose InfoWars website is reportedly under investigation for ties to Russian propaganda, apologized to the owner and staff of the pizzeria he fingered as the centerpiece of the fictitious “Pizzagate” anti-Hillary Clinton conspiracy. The man who fired a gun inside the pizzeria while “investigating” Jones’s claims cited Jones as the reason for his actions. Jones did not admit to being wrong about Democratic politicians operating a child sex slave ring out of the non-existent basement of Comet Ping Pong pizzeria, but instead apologized only insofar as “our commentaries could be construed as negative statements” about the pizzeria, its owner, or its employees. Jones encouraged those who repeated his false claims to apologize as well, but as of this writing ancient astronaut theorist David Wilcock, who made Pizzagate the centerpiece of his ramshackle cosmology and the promise of the anti-liberal, anti-alien liberation to come, has not retracted his extremist views about the pizzeria. Meanwhile, according to The Hill editor Will Sommer, a small Pizzagate activist rally in Washington this weekend descended into mutual recriminations as participants argued over Christian angelology, clashed over whether Jews are behind the pseudo-scandal, and could not decide how many other right-wing conspiracy theories to endorse.
Would You Believe Yoga Can Prove the Olmec Came from Vedic India? This Man Does, and Graham Hancock Wants You to Meet Him
After a week of heavy political material, I imagine we can all use a break with a case of classic ridiculousness. No, I’m not talking about Scott Wolter’s bizarre tweet in which he speculated that the light fixtures around the U.S. Capitol are secret copies of the Ark of the Covenant, or the one later in which he imagined that the Lincoln Memorial, modeled on a Doric temple, is also the Ark. Instead, I am talking about the special guest article by Bibhu Dev Misra on Graham Hancock’s website in which the Hindu nationalist speculates that the Olmec are in fact secret descendants of Vedic Indians because of yoga!
Stephen K. Bannon Believes We Are Heading Toward a Global Cataclysm Because of a Pseudo-Historical 1990s Book about Cyclical History
From the world of alternative facts, a fake news story going viral on social media claims Giorgio Tsoukalos of Ancient Aliens appeared on L. A. Tonight, a local Los Angeles talk show, and alleged that space aliens used a brainwashing device that deploys sound waves to reprogram human brains in order to elect Donald Trump president. The program doesn’t exist, the screenshots of his appearance are actually from his guest spot on a 2011 episode of The Mo’Nique Show (with Mo’Nique misidentified as “Latifa Johnson”), and Tsoukalos had to take to Twitter on Saturday to deny that he claimed an alien space ray reprograms voters’ minds with pro-Trump propaganda.
If only every intersection between Trump and fringe history were so humorous.
Newsweek Profiles Man Who Believes an Ancient European Ship Is Buried in California. Big Surprise: Two Cable Channels Are Doing Shows About It
Newsweek has a fascinating piece about the people who believe that there is a lost Viking or Spanish ship in the deserts of California, somewhere between Coachella and Baja. It’s a modern myth, one born of some tall tales spun in the 1800s and especially after the 1930s, but it is a story that continues to fascinate believers, often treasure hunters, down the present. The most popular version of the story, from 1939, is a secondhand account of a man who claimed to see a stereotyped Viking vessel in the desert, complete with round shields attached to the sides, just like in the picture books. The present Newsweek article takes the form of a profile of the adventures of former mattress salesman John Grasson, a man born in 1957 and currently living on disability, who is both a treasure hunter and a believer in the UFO crash at Roswell.
Did Henry Sinclair Inspire the Creation of Ice Hockey During His Fictitious Voyage to America in 1398? These Self-Described Hockey Historians Say Yes!
The CIA has released online some 13 million declassified files, most of which were declassified a decade or more ago but which were previously unavailable in digital form. One document stood out as potentially interesting, but sadly there wasn’t enough information in the file to do more than tantalize. A memorandum for the Office of Special Activities from February 12, 1963 is entitled simply “Egyptian Pyramids” and indicates only that a set of “duplicate positives” had been forwarded. It looks like it was a request to forward some photos of the pyramids, possibly aerial photos like those referenced in 1952 CIA documents, but wouldn’t it be fun if it were something else? The Special Activities Division is the CIA’s covert operations division.
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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