Secrets and Riddles of Ancient History: Great Powers of Forgotten Worlds
Jennifer S. Dawson | Camea Publishing | December 2018 | $2.99 eBook
In some respects, self-publishing has been a boon in terms of providing a path for voices outside the mainstream to share their points of view. But mostly online eBook self-publishing has resulted in tens of thousands of half-assed click-bait titles of middling to low quality. The author Jennifer S. Dawson—apparently a pen name for a non-English-speaking author—churns out a remarkable number of books in the “ancient mysteries” genre, covering topics familiar to readers of 1970s volumes on similar subjects. I’d try to address the books by theme, but they are a hodgepodge of short articles on unrelated topics united only in their general connection to lost civilizations, ancient astronauts, and other such threadbare “mysteries.” Secrets and Riddles of Ancient History: Great Powers of Forgotten Worlds, recently published, is representative of both the author’s handling of mysteries and the carelessness that characterizes so many attempts to exploit the ancient mysteries genre.
I don’t usually cover the same fringe theorist twice in the same week, but I am making an exception because of the shocking new release from L. A. Marzulli that the Nephilim theorist announced yesterday. It also happens to coincide with the subject of my (other) forthcoming new book, tentatively titled Monuments of an Unknown People, which will be published a little more than a year from now. I can’t give more details until the contract comes through, probably next week. Anyway, Marzulli announced his newest DVD, On the Trail of the Nephilim: The Mysterious Moundbuilders. Yes, those Mound Builders—the imaginary lost race of (a) Jews, (b) cannibal giants, (c) ancient Aryans, or (d) Solutreans who were alleged to have been the true builders of the Native American mounds of North America back in the days when white Americans were too racist to admit that Native Americans could make large earthworks out of piles of dirt, a skill they believed only the white race had mastered.
Ever since Expedition Unknown departed the Travel Channel for the Discovery Channel mothership, I can’t say I’ve paid much attention to the network, except to note that the parent company has gradually transformed it into a clone of its Destination American channel, peppered with paranormal and monster programs for the sake of appealing to the majority of Americans who believe in fantasies without evidence. Lost Amazon: Project Z debuted last week on Travel to little fanfare, but its first (and apparently only) episode encapsulates many of the tropes that remain so distressing in cable TV’s continued exploitation of indigenous and non-Western history as grist for colonialist and Christianist narratives. Naturally, the first episode is about hunting for Giants in South America.
A publisher has asked me to assemble a proposal for a short book on the myths and legends associated with the Giza Pyramids, notably the medieval legends of the Muslim world, so I am going to be taking some time today to work on this. In the meantime, I wanted to share something interesting I ran across in reading about Graham Hancock’s new book, America Before. Do you remember the popular claim that there were wooly mammoths flash-frozen in the Arctic as a result of a catastrophic change in climate, perhaps due to a shifting of the poles? It turns out that this claim is much older than I had imagined.
For the past week or so, I’ve been working on an interesting project that turned out to be much larger than I intended it to be. One of the unsolved questions surrounding the compendium of medieval legends about Egypt known variously as the Akhbar al-zaman (History of Time) and the Digest of Wonders is the question of who wrote it. The manuscripts of the book give two different authors with no great certainty that either is the actual author. The first attribution is to al-Mas‘udi, an early medieval historian who wrote a book called the Akhbar al-zaman, but which appears to have had almost completely different content. The second is Ibrahim ibn Wasif Shah, also known as al-Wasifi or in the West as Alguazif, about whom almost nothing is known except that he lived two centuries too late to have written the book that otherwise passes under his name. The situation has not changed since Baron Bernard Carra de Vaux translated the Akhbar al-zaman into French in 1898 and found himself unable to name an author:
After a great deal of hard work, I completed my translation of the Hermetic history of the Giants given in Alfonso X of Castile’s General Estoria, composed in the late 1200s. This undertaking was more involved than I expected, both because I had to learn a new language—medieval Castilian, also known as Old Spanish—in order to read it, and because Alfonso’s writers used complex grammar, pointless repetition, and ambiguous vocabulary that made it difficult to understand exactly what was being said in some places. A few of the words used can’t be found in dictionaries of Old Spanish and only rarely appear in other medieval documents, making them quite challenging to decipher. As a result, I am a little less certain about the particulars of this translation than I am for most, but the overall meaning is clear.
Australian Professor Claims Myth of Giants Emerged from Ancient Efforts to Explain the Effects of Climate Change
I’m not one for just-so stories. There is a place for speculative explanations of history when those speculations can be used to help us explain evidence and, more importantly, look for new evidence that can help to prove the claim right or wrong. But in many cases, these just-so stories are simply modern assumptions and guesses projected into the past and asserted to be true. Such is the case with Australian professor Patrick Nunn, who teaches geography at the University of the Sunshine Coast. In a blog post for The Conversation later picked up by Cosmos magazine, Nunn tried to explain why world mythologies feature a widespread myth of gigantic humans.
Much of this week I have spent researching the myth of the Watchers as presented in the influential chronicle of Annianus, an Alexandrian Christian monk of the fourth century. Because his chronicle was used by Christian and Islamic writers alike for a millennium, it shaped the development of ideas about antediluvian history right down to the 1700s, when traditional myths and legends finally started to give way to a more scientific view of deep antiquity. But I did come across a little sticking point where scholars have very little to say.
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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