After a great deal of hard work, I am not only a few pages away from finishing my book on the history of the Mound Builder myth, but in doing so, I ran into a couple of small issues that I haven’t been able to resolve, for all my efforts at research. I am going to present them here, and perhaps one of you reading this will have an answer.
Some of you might have seen that Graham Hancock posted on his social media accounts yesterday that he is currently writing his new book on prehistoric America and is deep into creating alternative explanations for the alignments of the Newark Earthworks in Ohio. This amused me because I am also writing about the Newark Earthworks for my own book this week, though in a very different way. Hancock is analyzing the mounds themselves for secret alignments and their connections to astrology and Atlantis, while I have been investigating the people who invented these claims, many of whom never actually studied the mounds in person or conducted any scientific surveys. Hancock is particularly interested in the Great Serpent Mound, which has quite the colorful history of attracting misinformed views, including the bizarre claim that it is a duplicate of a mound at Loch Nell in Scotland, which is actually a glacial deposit and not a serpent-shaped mound. That claim had a good run of 140 years, and none of the early advocates of the claim, including famed archaeologist Frederick Ward Putnam, had actually visited both sites.
Earlier this week, I briefly discussed a book I have been working on for the past few years, which will tell the story of the mound builder myth and how it affected the growth and development of the United States. As I described in my earlier blog post, so far no agent or publisher has expressed interested in the book. In lieu of a blog post today, I would like to share the first few pages of the book so you can get a sense of my approach to the topic. The book opens with a brief preface providing a factual overview of the history of mound building in North America, after which our story begins. The pages below are, of course, a draft, and they will likely undergo further revision, fact-checking, and correction should the book ever proceed to publication.
Yesterday I reviewed Andrew Lawler’s new book The Secret Token, and to be entirely honest, it was a bit of a depressing experience. That’s because the book’s first half is set up much like a book I’ve been working on writing for several years now, though on a different topic. My book is a narrative history of the “white” mound builder myth, starting with the Spanish explorations and proceeding down to the famous Bureau of Ethnology report that closed the subject as a legitimate scientific question. The structure and approach are remarkably close, though, in my obviously biased opinion, I feel that I have done a much better job mining my subject for the kind of rich, novelistic detail that helps to bring the past to life. I wrote it basically as a nonfiction novel. My cast of characters is also richer and more compelling, including Thomas Jefferson, Benjamin Franklin, and Constantine Rafinesque, all of whom left elaborate paper trails that help to tell a fascinating story in an engaging way.
I have some good news to share today. My critical review of alt-right philosopher Jason Reza Jorjani’s Prometheus and Atlas is about to be published in The Journal for the Study of Religion, Nature & Culture. The Autumn 2017 edition, which was supposed to have been published last fall, has finally come back from the printers and will be in your favorite academic library and electronic database in the next few weeks. I have some more good news, too: My article providing a historical overview of Rothschild conspiracy theories has been accepted for publication by Britain’s All About History magazine and will be appearing in an upcoming issue this spring. It’s a major feature with a 2,500-word article and two supplementary info-boxes with 1,000+ words of additional information.
Since this is the weekend before Christmas, I trust you will forgive me if I have nothing particular to discuss today. In a week where the Pentagon’s UFO research dominated fringe news, and where holiday preparations saw even the biggest mouths in fringe history going silent, this weekend is a time for a much-deserved rest. As I prepare to celebrate the holiday, however, I thought I would share with all of you that a British history magazine has commissioned me to write an article on anti-Semitic conspiracy theories surrounding the Rothschild banking family. So, if over the next few weeks my blog posts are shorter than normal or perhaps more sparse, it will be because I am busy working on my Rothschild article for publication. In the meantime, I wish all of you who are celebrating Christmas a very merry holiday, and a festive solstice season to everyone else.
And remember: There is still time to donate this weekend to my end of the year fundraiser to help keep this site up and running.
In the new economy, online services increasingly rely on the generosity of their patrons to continue, mostly because nobody watches or reads ads anymore. In a couple of months’ time, this site will turn eight years old. It is my second website; I have been posting online content since 2001. But as you know, it takes money to maintain a website and to afford to spend the time needed to write, research, and expand the content found here. As we close in on Christmas, I am launching my end of the year fundraising campaign to help me make it possible to deliver the kind of quality content that you have come to expect from this website. I have run this campaign every holiday season since 2014, and each year I have been touched by the generosity of my readers and the exceptional support you have provided to help me keep this site up and running for another year.
This year, I have two options for contributing. You can use the yellow donation button to make a one-time donation to my website, or you can use the orange (burnt sienna?) Patreon button to become a patron with a recurring voluntary subscription in the amount of your choice.
Today I’d like to call your attention to a change I’ve made to my website and my branding to help keep up with the evolving fringe history field. On my homepage, you’ll see that I’ve replaced the old moniker “skeptical xenoarchaeologist” with a new one, “historical researcher & skeptic.” I’d like to explain the reason for the change.
J. Hutton Pulitzer Threatens "Consequences" for Using Photo of Now Almost Certainly Fake "Roman" Sword
Sunlight is the best disinfectant, so I will report that after my blog post about J. Hutton Pulitzer’s claims regarding an allegedly “Roman” sword found sometime in the past several decades off the coast of Oak Island in Nova Scotia, Pulitzer contacted me to demand that I remove my use of the small portion of a photograph of the sword which appeared in the Boston Standard newspaper for violating his copyright. The image in question was included in a side-by-side comparison of two similar swords created by Andy White, who also received the takedown notice. The comparison used a small portion of the Boston Standard photograph in a photo composite.
What Is Josh Gates Really Searching for on "Expedition Unknown"? Plus: Ten Years of "Cult of Alien Gods"
On Monday the History Channel broadcasted Roanoke: Search for the Lost Colony, and if we can judge by the ratings, there seems to be a cap on the number of viewers interested in conspiracy theories about early American history. The show, weirdly listed as Time Machine (apparently the official name of the documentary anthology series occupying the Monday at 9 PM ET time slot), scored 1.3 million viewers, with 400,000 in the coveted 18-49 demographic. That means that the two-hour show had slightly more viewers than the 10 PM showing of FX’s critically acclaimed Fargo, which drew 1.2 million viewers, with 400,000 in the demo, but had only half the viewers of WWE Monday Night Raw on USA. Anyway, the interesting thing is that these numbers are just almost exactly the same as the average viewership for Ancient Aliens over its last few showings. We’ll know more about the current draw of crazy conspiracies when Hunting Hitler debuts next month alongside the new season of Curse of Oak Island.
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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