Review of Forbidden History S04E02 "The Secrets of the Vatican"; Plus: Ben Radford Has More Reasons He Thinks I'm Wrong about Chupacabra
I was planning to review Forbidden History today, but then Benjamin Radford responded to my recent response to his recent response to an article I wrote about the Chupacabra six years ago. So, I will append the Forbidden History review below. Meanwhile, in the latest piece, Radford accuses me of purposely misrepresenting him and engaging in straw man arguments to promote a wacky, evidence-free hypothesis. As much as I respect Radford’s work, at times he is that tiresome type of skeptic who demands everything be spelled out in syllogisms and tends toward blindness in the weaknesses of his own arguments. He adds little new in the most recent piece, so I have very little to say about it except to point out some of those aforementioned weaknesses:
After researching the alleged medieval Egyptian rabbi Abenephius over the past couple of weeks, I became curious about the question of what exactly Jews and Christians of Egypt would have known about Hermes, Enoch, and the other related characters whose apocryphal adventures formed the basis of so much later fringe history. This led me to learn that the Jews of Egypt had indeed been interested in Enochian literature, but that they had been extinguished in the middle of the second century CE (177 CE to be specific), not to reappear again until the 300s, at which point their interest in Enoch and Hermes goes unrecorded. One would think they almost certainly would have produced their own texts reacting to Enochian and Hermetic texts because their Christian neighbors were obsessed with apocryphal texts; however, the period from 70 to 600 CE saw the suppression of the Enochian tradition among the Jews almost completely, reemerging only after around 700, for reasons that are not entirely clear.
A few days ago, I discussed a bit about the mysterious Arabic manuscript of Abenephius, or the Rabbi Barachias Nephi, which the Renaissance polymath Athanasius Kircher claimed to have had in the 1630s. Suspicion has long lingered over the claim, especially since Kircher never let anyone see more than one page of the text, and his story about who wrote it and what it contained changed over time. When I discussed this the other day, I mentioned that Daniel Stolzenberg believes that the fragments of Abenephius quoted by Kircher in his three major works of Egyptology, Historia Obelisci Pamphilii (1650), Oedipus Aegyptiacus (1652-1655), and Sphinx Mystagoga (1676), contain enough evidence of an Arab-Islamic origin (despite claims of Jewish authorship) that he believes the fragments to be the genuine remains of a lost medieval Arabic manuscript treating this history of the hieroglyphs and Egypt.
Six years ago, skeptical investigator Benjamin Radford released his book Tracking the Chupacabra in which he traced the modern story of the goat sucking monster back to 1995, when a series of events in Puerto Rico gave birth to the legend. After a series of mysterious attacks on animals in the spring of 1995 that left farmers thinking that sheep and other livestock had been killed and drained of blood (no evidence ever confirmed exsanguination), in August a woman named Madelyne Tolentino claimed to have seen a monster, describing what Radford correctly identifies as a description of the creature from the then-current movie Species. Shortly afterward, comedian and entertainer Silverio Pérez connected the monster and the mutilations and attached the name “goat sucker” (el chupacabra) to the monster.
Smithsonian Channel Claims Babylonian Tablet Preserves "Exactly What the Tower of Babel Looked Like"
Sometime in the last couple of weeks the Smithsonian Channel launched the fourth season of its Secrets TV series, and the season premiere focused on the Tower of Babel. Over the past few days both Christian groups and fringe archaeology types have embraced a clip of the program in which a Babylonian tablet is discussed because they believe that the tablet “proves” that the Biblical story is literally true. I was intrigued enough by the tablet to try to find out why the tinfoil hat brigade would think that the tablet demonstrates the reality of a Biblical legend.
The Australian edition of National Geographic carries a rather grandiose claim that an Aboriginal tribe in Australia accurately preserved the memory of the eruption of a local volcano for 230 generations spanning 7,000 years. This article is one of dozens that appeared in Australian and British media in the last few days after the University of Glasgow issued a press release on the subject last Friday. It would be wonderful if this were true, but the article left me feeling uneasy, not least because the story in question was first recorded in 1970, some 6,900+ years after the fact, and long after most members of the Gugu Badhun would have been familiar enough with volcanism that Western education could conceivably have influenced any story told at that time. Indeed, by 1970, the Gugu Badhun language was dying, and a linguist studying them at the time found no fluent speakers of the language and only a dozen or so partial speakers.
You probably saw the news that broke yesterday that a new paper in the journal Nature claims that an unknown human species occupied the Americas around 130,000 years ago and butchered a mastodon found in California with large rocks. The study used uranium-thorium dating to date the bones, which were originally discovered 25 years ago, and the team conducting the study used experimental techniques involving rocks and elephant bones to attempt to prove that the damage to the mastodon’s bones had been caused by intention butchering with stone tools.
Last week I mentioned the information about the Great Sphinx provided by the traveler George Sandys, who in 1610, so far as I know, became one of the first to link the Sphinx to the constellation of Leo, a claim which is today an article of faith among fringe historians such as Graham Hancock and Robert Bauval. At the time, I noted that Shaw doubted the religiously oriented claim that the Pyramids of Giza were either the granaries of Joseph or the remnants of constructions by Hebrew slaves. Today I’d like to note a very interesting variant that occurs in the work of another traveler, Thomas Shaw, who wrote in 1738 of his trip to Egypt. Mostly it’s interesting for what Shaw leads us to: the original source of the claim that the Sphinx represents the constellation of Leo.
In this day and age, some 135 years after Ignatius Donnelly wrote Atlantis: The Antediluvian World, it is strange to see someone actually accepting Donnelly’s claims as factual, much less working from Donnelly’s book to propose a research program to find Hell. Yes, you read that right: Brad Yoon of Ancient Origins actually claims that using insights from Donnelly’s Atlantis, we can find the real-life inspiration for Hell, which he places in the Caribbean Sea. The argument is one of the odder ones I’ve heard in a while. “I shall extend Donnelly’s thesis and undertake an in-depth analysis of the underworld and where it may have been, and how a real and physical place might have become transformed into the final resting place of souls departed both in the physical and the mythological planes.”
Turkish Government Funds Documentary Claiming Göbekli Tepe Was Built by Abraham’s Father and Destroyed by Abraham
Remember how fringe writers including Andrew Collins and Graham Hancock have heavily implied that the ancient Turkish site of Göbekli Tepe had been constructed by a lost civilization related to or identical with the Nephilim and/or Atlantis? Well, it turns out that the Turkish government has done them one better by funding a documentary that claims the ancient temple site to be the work of the patriarch Abraham’s idol-worshiping father Telah, according to an account from the Turkish Hürriyet Daily News newspaper, the country’s oldest and most respected English-language news source.
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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