I read an interesting article about some bad research published recently in the Journal of Coastal Studies claiming that the ancient Greeks visited North America in the early decades CE, and perhaps as far back as the Bronze Age. It’s a rather textbook example of how cherry picking ancient texts outside of their established context can lead to poor results. I first learned of the claim on Friday in Hakai magazine, but it took me a few days to digest the complex chain of faulty reasoning involved. While the original journal article is locked behind a paywall, the lead researcher posted a copy to Research Gate, so we are fortunate to be able to analyze the actual arguments rather than a media summary of them.
Each month Graham Hancock gives space on his website for a fellow author to present a fringe claim that is of interest to Hancock’s readers. This month the honor fell to P. D. Newman, a Freemason whose book Alchemically Stoned argues that one of Freemasonry’s eighteenth-century rituals is actually a plan for synthesizing DMT, the active ingredient in ayahuasca, from the acacia plant and that Masonry’s dirty secret is that the Masons used to go tripping on hallucinogens. DMT was not synthesized until the 1950s, according to conventional history. I will confess that this is one area where the fringe claim just doesn’t matter very much to me, since the 1700s are far from ancient times, but the subject amused me enough that I thought it was worth calling to the attention of my readers.
Yesterday our old friend Micah Hanks published an article at Ancient Origins in which he attempted to discuss whether ancient people made use of telescopes. He did so without citing any ancient sources to support his claims, nor did he manage to make a strong case for telescopic technology in the ancient world. Instead, he recycled bad sources without understanding their origin and led readers astray.
On Friday, I reviewed the latest episode of Ancient Aliens, and in that review, I noted that new talking head Ashley Cowie, the erstwhile host of Syfy’s Legend Quest, stated that there were “legends” that a golden Inca sun disc had been removed from the Coricancha temple in Cuzco and taken to a “mountaintop village” called Paititi. Many readers likely remember Paititi from when Josh Gates sought it out in Expedition Unknown a few years ago. In most versions of the story, it is a city possessed of fabulous treasure, or even made of gold, but the oldest surviving documents fail to indicate any such connection to lost Inca treasure, though they do speak of having plenty of precious metals, so much that they make pots and pans from “precious metals,” though this probably refers to copper. The legend of the sun-disc being there, so far as I have been able to tell, does not date back before the twentieth century, so I described Cowie as “telling a lie” by implying, in context, that such stories go back to the Conquest. As it happens, my conclusion, while not wrong, is incomplete.
Today I thought I would introduce you to Leon of Pella, a shadowy figure who played an outsized role in spreading the doctrine of euhemerism from the Hellenistic era down to Late Antiquity. For a writer of outsize influence, what is most interesting about him is that we don’t really know anything about Leon at all, and that includes even his name. Nevertheless, whoever Leon was, he helped contribute to a number of controversial views about Egyptian history and the ancient past.
Ancient Aliens has been working hard to find ways to refresh its old formula, and this season the producers have struck upon twin strategies. First, each episode is now framed around a field piece starring one of the show’s most important talking heads, and, second, the show has made its peace with creationists, nationalists, and other unsavory types, gleefully adding their claims to the core ideas of the ancient astronaut theory. We saw this when the show embraced creationist claims about “OOPARTS,” and in “Voices of the Gods” producers embrace the extreme claims of Hindu nationalists, melding together old claims about India from UFO literature with bonkers efforts by the government of Prime Minister Modi to celebrate India’s supposed prehistoric technological past based on dubious readings of Sanskrit texts. The show also leaves aside the vexing problem that so many of these claims originate not among native Indians but rather among white Europeans of the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries who sought to celebrate Aryan heritage by looking for the “oldest” Aryan myths, legends, and sciences among the oldest layers of Indian civilization, a layer then presumed to be a “pure” representation of ancestral Indo-European culture.
Congressman Asks NASA Panel about Ancient Martian Civilization; Plus: Creationists Chide Flat-Earthers for Taking the Wrong Parts of the Bible Literally
In Congress, another depressing scene took place yesterday when Rep. Dana Rohrabacher (R-Calif.) stopped a House Science Committee hearing cold by asking a NASA representative if Mars had an ancient alien civilization. Rohrabacher seemed to think that Mars was capable of supporting humanlike life within the past few thousand years (i.e. during the “ancient astronaut” timeframe) and at one point started to speak of “some people” who believed in a lost Martian civilization, but the NASA representative cut him off before he could offer a complete thought allowing us to judge how deep Rohrabacher’s involvement with the ancient astronaut theory really goes.
Over the past few weeks I’ve talked quite a bit about the Alexandrian chronographers Panodorus and Annianus, and I have discussed some of the sources they used in compiling their influential discussion of world history, one that included the Fallen Angels as a key pivot point in antediluvian events. To that end, it’s interesting to note that the two authors seem to differ from their source material a bit. It is widely assumed, for example, that Panodorus relied on the so-called Book of Sothis, a forgery wrongly assigned to the Egyptian priest Manetho, for his Egyptian chronology, not least because this forgery has distinctly Judeo-Christian elements, identifying various pharaohs with their Biblical counterparts and identifying the first king of Egypt as Mizraim, the son of Ham, son of Noah. This is noteworthy primarily because Eusebius, in his Chronicle, makes that same identification, but does not attribute it to Manetho.
Gwyneth Paltrow's Goop Endorses Robert Schoch's Lost Ice Age Civilization; Plus: A Medieval Account of the Sphinx's Secret Chamber
Note: This post has been edited to correct information about Edgar Cayce.
Gwyneth Paltrow receives frequent criticism because her lifestyle brand, Goop, actively promotes all manner of quackery in the name of “wellness.” But I was shocked and surprised to see that Goop has now extended beyond dubious wellness cures into the realm of pseudoarchaeology. Goop interviewed “maverick” geologist Robert Schoch, who gave Paltrow’s moneyed hausfrau readers a summary of his usual claims about an Ice Age Sphinx and a lost megalithic civilization, with the added speculation that civilization rises and falls because “subtle changes in the [Earth’s] electromagnetic/geomagnetic field can modulate mental abilities in humans.” He added that “academia” is financially invested in maintaining the current paradigm of history, which is why his radical revision hasn’t caught on.
Over the past few weeks, I’ve been examining the fragments of Abenephius, a largely unknown figure said to have been a medieval rabbi from Egypt. The fragments preserved by Renaissance polymath Athanasius Kircher represent an otherwise unattested Jewish treatise on the mysteries of ancient Egypt, but no one knows whether the text is authentic or something Kircher made up.
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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