Fred C. Woudhuizen is an independent Dutch scholar who has produced a number of obscure publications making a series of controversial claims to have deciphered hitherto unreadable texts to reveal surprising confirmation of Greek mythological traditions. He argued, for example, that the Phaistos Disc was in fact a letter written by the Luwians to Nestor, the king of Pylos in the Odyssey. In another, he argued that the otherwise indecipherable Etruscan language is in fact a patois of colonial Luwian. The Luwians, for what it’s worth, are his major interest, and his arguments, as one published review of his scholarship put it, are “alas, not very convincing.”
Chapman University Finds Continued Growth in Paranormal Beliefs, Including Rising Support for Atlantis, Ancient Astronauts
Each year, Chapman University publishes its annual survey of American fears, and each year the results get worse. In the two metrics that I have monitored over the past three or four cycles, we have witnessed self-reported belief in ancient astronauts and lost Atlantis-like civilizations climb to record levels, among the highest rates of belief ever recorded. Belief in Atlantis became a majority belief last year, and it now stands at 57%, up from 55% last year. Belief in ancient astronauts rose from 35% to 41%, representing a plurality of respondents. (The remaining respondents either disbelieved or were unsure—the latter category not exactly being great for the side of science.)
The Search for Atlantis: A History of Plato’s Ideal State
Steve P. Kershaw | 428 pages | Pegasus | October 2018 | ISBN: 978-1681778594 | $27.95
The greatest compliment I can bestow on Classical scholar Steve P. Kershaw’s The Search for Atlantis (Pegasus, 2018), released last week, is that I have very little to say about it. Kershaw’s book, whose title is somewhat misleading, offers a history of scholarly and pseudo-scholarly reception of Plato’s myth of Atlantis from Classical Antiquity to today. It is decidedly not a book about hunting for Atlantis, and the author makes plain his conclusion that Plato invented the story of Atlantis as a philosophical allegory and that there is not and never was either a real Atlantis or an Egyptian myth of Atlantis for Plato to have drawn upon. I am in almost complete agreement with Kershaw, who teaches at the continuing education branch of Oxford University, and have almost nothing to add.
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.
Special Edition of National Geographic Promotes Atlantis, Curses, and Other Shopworn "Mysteries of History"
Bioarchaeologist Steph Halmhofer posted to Twitter an excerpt from National Geographic’s recent “special issue” on “Mysteries of History,” and the cover is a depressing look into what journalists think qualifies as “history,” and basically it’s mythology. The three stories teased on the cover are Atlantis, King Arthur, and the Curse of the Hope Diamond. Of the three, Atlantis is fictitious, King Arthur is a myth (or at best a composite legend), and the Hope Diamond curse is fictional. It’s good, I guess, that the magazine asks “What’s real, what’s fantasy, and what’s still a mystery,” but it’s sad that the only “history” on the cover is the picture of Stonehenge.
In my review of the pilot episode of History’s revived In Search Of with Star Trek actor Zachary Quinto as host, I noted that the show seemed to stand with one foot in Leonard Nimoy’s shadow and another in the standard History channel mold of wallpapering the screen with nutjobs pretending to be experts. Over the course of its run, In Search Of has covered many topics of no interest to me, including high-concept ideas like life after death and mundane subjects like sinkholes, the subject of an entire episode. As the season comes to a close, not much has changed since the pilot, but the audience for the series never really grew beyond the spillover from its Ancient Aliens lead-in, nor did the series build much of an independent fan base. Last week’s episode, the first to air without a new Ancient Aliens as lead-in, fell to just one million viewers and a 0.17 share of the 18-49 audience. For comparison, the show’s primetime rating is the same share and fewer viewers than the noon Inside Politics newscast on CNN.
Later tonight, In Search Of will air its season finale, a two-hour search for the lost city of Atlantis. I am not overly enthusiastic about their hunt, and I can’t imagine how it is going to differ from all of the other two-hour Atlantis specials that have aired over the past five years. But in preparation for this, I thought it would be worth briefly mentioning a claim about Atlantis that has been cycling around the internet. A YouTube video claiming that Atlantis is located in Mauritania received a big push over the past two weeks after Russian propaganda site Sputnik picked it up, along with the online British tabloids that follow Sputnik’s lead with clockwork regularity. From there, the story spread to prominent “mystery” sites like Mysterious Universe as it continued its upward ascent to the mainstream
One of the most frequent refrains I receive from my critics is that it is inappropriate to discuss the connections between fringe history and broader social and political trends, particularly where they overlap with alt-right and white nationalist politics. Patrick Iber, writing in the Chronicle of Higher Education, recently dealt with this problem by explaining that history and politics cannot be separated.
After a great deal of hard work, I am not only a few pages away from finishing my book on the history of the Mound Builder myth, but in doing so, I ran into a couple of small issues that I haven’t been able to resolve, for all my efforts at research. I am going to present them here, and perhaps one of you reading this will have an answer.
Today I learned that no good deed goes unpunished. As most readers know, I maintain a growing library of important texts related to fringe history and pseudo-archaeology. Since there is no full public domain translation of the Epic of Gilgamesh, and I certainly wasn’t going to pay thousands in licensing fees to use a modern one, I put together my own version from public domain material and my own editorial emendations and additions based on more recent translations. I started from the base of William Muss-Arnolt’s translations, published in 1904, and added in translations of fragments that were discovered and translated in the 1910s and 1920s. Because Muss-Arnolt’s material was in the wrong order, incomplete, and often wrong, I took a pretty strong editorial hand, and about 50% of the text is mine, though I tried to echo Muss-Arnolt closely enough that it isn’t always easy to tell. I don’t claim it as my own translation because, obviously enough, I don’t read cuneiform to work from the primary sources. That’s also why I don’t sell it for a profit; I don’t feel it is enough of my own labor to charge for. But it also isn’t in the public domain. I wrote half of it.
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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