Note: This post will take the place of my regular Tuesday posting. I wanted to get it up as soon as possible after viewing a recording of last week’s broadcast due to the show’s extremely offensive content.
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.
While I was researching the fragments of Annianus this past week with an eye toward assembling them into a reconstructive narrative, I ran into an odd academic article I had never before encountered. Written in 1971, R. E. Kaske’s “Beowulf and the Book of Enoch” appeared in the unfortunately named journal Speculum and made a case that the beloved Old English epoch poem is founded on the Watchers myth taken directly from the Book of Enoch.
In lieu of a blog post today, I present a project I have been working on for a few days now. As most of you know, the myth of the fall of the Watchers and the birth of the Giants has been a major influence on fringe history. However, the most influential version of the story was not the original, from the Book of Enoch, but the revised version harmonized with the legendary histories of Babylon and Egypt created by the Egyptian monks Panodorus and Annianus around 400 CE. This version was inherited by the Middle Ages and gave rise to the legends of the pyramids, the mythology of Freemasonry, and the occult traditions of the Hermetic occultists--and through them modern occultism, alternative archaeology, ancient astronaut theories, etc. I have taken all of the references to Annianus' work and collated them into a composite, with extensive notes, reconstructing as best as is possible what Annianus said so we can see in full the story that played such a major role in the development of fringe history claims. Apparently, no one has done this before since modern scholars primarily care about Annianus in terms of his work to establish the date of Jesus' birth, so they don't care much about the Watchers. I don't pretend my reconstruction is definitive, and it is a work in progress, but I think you'll be surprised at how well the many different partial sources dovetail together into an almost coherent epic of the antediluvian world. You can read it here.
This week, Nephilim theorist L. A. Marzulli welcomed giant hunter and frequent History Channel barnacle Hugh Newman to Acceleration Radio to talk about—what else?—giants. Newman was on to promote the book he wrote with Jim Vieira, Giants on Record, a book that he self-published in 2015. The interview got off to a bad start, half an hour into the show, which began with Marzulli’s borderline alt-right brand of conservative commentary, followed by commercials for urine stain remover. In the context of Marzulli’s idolatrous worship of Trump as God’s chosen savior of America, there is certainly some humor in his sponsor being a urine removal spray.
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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