Every few months we get a story about how “scientists” have discovered some location associated with a famous myth. This time, the story revolves around a cave where Circe housed Odysseus in the Odyssey. As with most efforts to find the “true” location of Greek mythic tales, this supposed discovery involves a lot of special pleading and a naïve approach to understanding the formation of ancient Greece’s most important poems.
To promote the release of his self-published book The Discovery of Troy and Its Lost History, historical researcher Bernard Jones published an article in Ancient Origins highlighting the book’s central claim, that the ancient city of Troy (Ilium) was not located in Asia Minor as has been assumed since ancient times but instead was located in the Celtic world. His evidence is Homer’s Iliad, whose poetic descriptions he takes as literal depictions of a voyage to the New World.
On Sunday, Expedition Unknown broadcasted a live special in which host Josh Gates presided over the opening of an Egyptian sarcophagus containing the mortal remains of a priest of the god Thoth. Gates took to Twitter to share his excitement, declaring the dead man to be “a stunner.” I get the idea of being excited by digging up a mummy, but it makes me uncomfortable to turn a corpse into entertainment.
I’ve been working on writing my book about legends associated with the Giza pyramids, and in so doing, I have, of course, been reviewing material related to the story of the Pillars of Wisdom of the Abrahamic tradition, since the stories about their antediluvian knowledge were later applied to the Great Pyramid. In so doing, I came across a very strange fact that I am not entirely sure what to do with. It seems like it might be possible that these pillars were conceived as being the pyramids of Egypt all along, or at least since Late Antiquity.
In Brief: "To the Stars" Tells Investors about Alien Metals; Plus: Hindu Scientists Make Absurd Claims about Stem Cells and Dinosaurs in the Vedas
Ancient Origins ran a couple of unusual articles by John McHugh this week about the Biblical story of how Jesus walked on water, and they were… weird. McHugh correctly notes that the different versions of the story recorded by the Gospel writers are not identical, and he is also right that the Biblical authors wrote long after the events they claimed to record. But then Hugh tries to argue that the story is astrological and revolves around Greek mythology and Mesopotamian linguistic puns. This seems like a bridge too far for me, particularly since there are more immediate potential cultural influences for a story of walking on water than long-lost Mesopotamian wordplay.
I see that Adrienne Mayor, the author of The First Fossil Hunters, has a new book out called Gods and Robots, which explores ancient ideas about automata and related mechanical devices. I have not yet read the entire book, but I wanted to note that it opens with a subject that is particularly special to me, since I wrote an entire book about it myself five years ago: the legend of Jason and the Argonauts. She introduces the story first thing in chapter 1 in order to bring up the myth of Talos, the “man of Bronze,” whom she identifies as an “animated statue,” following, apparently, the being’s appearance in the Jason and the Argonauts movie, where the bronze giant was depicted as a statue on a pedestal. Indeed, she illustrates her discussion with a picture of a bronze casting of the movie’s model Talos used for the special effects shots. Weirdly, though, Mayor writes that the movie’s Talos was felled by “Medea’s trick,” even though in the movie the incident is removed to the start of the Argonauts’ voyage, before they met Medea, and Jason himself pops the bolt from Talos to kill him, an odd error for so important a point.
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.
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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