This week Scottish television personality and sometime Ancient Aliens talking head Ashley Cowie attempted to explore the origins of vampires for Ancient Origins. It did not go particularly well, not least because Cowie frames his discussion around Bram Stoker’s 1897 novel Dracula without, apparently, having read the book and without understanding much about its origins. Probably everything you need to know can be summed up in the fact that he traces vampires in popular entertainment to Stoker and then focuses exclusively on movie and TV vampires, despite the fact that Stoker drew on decades of Gothic vampire fiction (Le Fanu’s “Carmilla” and Polidori’s “The Vampyre” most prominently), and vampire entertainments go back in European folklore at least to the stories told for titillation and sensation about the great vampire outbreak of the late 1600s and early 1700s.
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.
Yesterday, U.S. president Donald J. Trump met with Russian president Vladimir V. Putin in Helsinki for a controversial summit denounced by Republicans and Democrats alike. In advance of the summit, members of an anti-immigrant organization known as the Soldiers of Odin, whose leader is a self-described Neo-Nazi convicted of a hate crime, knelt before Trump banners in a show of deference to the American leader. The anti-immigrant hate group was founded in Finland in 2015 to intimidate immigrants, and it now boasts chapters in Anglophone countries, including the United States, Canada, Australia, and the U.K. Although the organization denies being racist or Neo-Nazi, studies by the Southern Poverty Law Center and Finland’s Yle public broadcaster found that its members were predominantly white supremacists and supporters of the extreme right.
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.
You will forgive me if today I am not quite up to writing a particularly detailed blog post. Everyone in my household has come down with a cold, and I feel terrible. The cold has merged seamlessly into my spring allergies, and I am basically using all of my remaining energy staying awake and getting work done. It has not been the nicest of weekends. While I am starting to feel better today, I am looking forward to finally getting over the congestion, sneezing, coughing, and general crummy feeling.
I have always found it interesting that the people who claim that academics are hidebound dogmatists willing to die to prevent the truth from escaping nevertheless try to cloak themselves in the borrowed authority of academia. To an extent, this must be a way of trying to give spurious grandeur to incomplete or incorrect claims, but I read with concern the latest Author of the Month Author of the Month posting on Graham Hancock’s website because it starts off with a laundry list of credentialed scholars who have held unusual or incorrect beliefs about the peopling of the Americas. The purpose of such a list can only be to make author Gary A. David appear more serious than his oddball ideas would otherwise come across. Regular readers will remember David as the writer who wrongly asserted that Hopi settlements were laid out in the shape of the constellation Orion, a claim belied by geography and chronology.
For Easter, Richard Carrier Discusses the Evidence for Dying and Rising Gods in the Ancient Near East
The Easter weekend brings some dark news from the world of ufology. The History channel put out a press release yesterday announcing the imminent return of Ancient Aliens, which will launch its thirteenth season (and ninth calendar year) on April 27 with a two-hour season premiere. According to History, to fill the time, the upcoming season will strip mine recent news reports, including the recent revelation of the Pentagon’s UFO tracking efforts at the behest of former Sen. Harry Reid (D-Nev.) and the recent claims that voids discovered in Egypt’s Great Pyramid are secret chambers. The series will also claim that statues in the Marquesas Islands and on Sardinia are extraterrestrial because their stylized art resembles supposed “alien features.” History claims that the show reached 47 million viewers in 2017, though this number includes some creative math that counts the same 1.2 million actual same-day viewers multiple times if they watch episodes on different days and at different times.
Regular readers will remember Ashley Cowie, the Scottish television personality and occasional Ancient Aliens pundit who now writes milquetoast articles on ancient history for dubious outlets like Ancient Origins. In one of his recent articles for Ancient Origins, Cowie had such a howler that I can’t help but pause to make note of how he displays a truly surprising ignorance of the subject he claims to write knowledgeably about. His topic is an odd one: dragon’s teeth. But it also happens to be one I wrote about extensively in my book Jason and the Argonauts through the Ages, so I am extremely familiar with the primary sources and the scholarly literature that Cowie appears never to have read.
David Warner Mathisen is a one trick pony, a self-described “star myth investigator” who reads basically every story in world mythology and religion as a description of astronomical movements. He was inspired by Hamlet’s Mill, the complex and dense but ultimately self-referential fantasy concocted by Giorgio de Santillana and Hertha von Dechend to argue for the existence of a lost civilization based on the flawed assumption that only an advanced civilization could have gazed up at the sky and told stories about the stars they saw there. Mathisen’s schtick, which he has been promoting since he started selling books on the subject back in 2015, is predictable, but his attempt to tie his hobbyhorse to the spectacular Bronze age gemstone that made headlines last year is bizarre even by his standards.
THE CYGNUS KEY: THE DENISOVAN LEGACY, GÖBEKLI TEPE, AND THE BIRTH OF EGYPT
Andrew Collins with Rodney Hale | 464 pages | Bear & Company | 2018 | ISBN 978-1591432999
READ PART 1
In the first part of my review of The Cygnus Key, I reviewed Andrew Collins’s views on the supposedly prehistoric origins of a cult that worships the constellation of Cygnus the Swan as a vulture that leads souls to heaven. I also noted that this part of the volume, a third of its length, is essentially little more than a summary of Collins’s previous books going back a decade. In the remainder of the book, Collins finally gets to the meat of his thesis, starting with what he calls “The Giza Revelation.”
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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