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.
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.
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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