Instead, we live in a fact-free world where individuals seem to feel entitled to create their own reality, with no need to provide any reason to believe them. A case in point is an article recently published at Ancient Origins by Thomas O. Mills, a man who has spent the last six years promoting his belief that the Hopi are really Egyptians, or rather that the ancient Egyptians were actually Hopis. In his latest article, he asserts that the Hopi have a myth—which he refuses to cite to a source, only alleging it is the “creation myth”—that their goddess, Spider Woman, and her colleagues that Ant People originally inhabited Egypt and erected the Giza Pyramids in order to stop pole shifts. He alleges that this story was told to him by unnamed Hopi elders and must therefore be traditional tribal wisdom. Not to put too fine a point on it, but oral traditions recorded after the explosion of fringe history in the 1960s have not infrequently revealed contamination from New Age and occult literature of the era. This story has all the hallmarks of influence from Charles Hapgood’s books and the era’s “ancient mysteries” paperbacks.
As best I can tell, Mills is deriving his view from a late version of the Hopi creation myth recorded in the middle twentieth century by Oswald White Bear Fredericks and Naomi Fredericks and published in Frank Waters’s New Age Book of the Hopi (1963), which seems to reflect influence from cultural touchstones of its era like World War II, UFOs, and Velikovsky-style worlds in collision. This version of the myth involves cities engaging in devastating warfare through “flying shields,” and it includes references to the Earth falling off of its axis, destroying the world three times. Presumably Mills reads the anthills of the story as the pyramids, but there is no reason to do so except for the 1990s-era fringe history belief that an old Arizona Gazette hoax “proves” that the Hopi were connected to imaginary Egyptians who lived in the Grand Canyon.
The trouble is that these details don’t appear in earlier versions recorded before the New Age explosion of the twentieth century. Earlier versions of the story claimed that the Hopi climbed up reeds from world to world, from the first to the fourth, but after the pole-shift theory emerged from the work of Immanuel Velikovsky (1950) and Charles Hapgood (1958), we see shifting poles replacing the stacked worlds as the explanation for the three previous creations. I was unable to find a single reference to the Hopi speaking of pole shifts or the Earth’s axis prior to the New Age movement.
But enough of this. I’d like to finish today by talking a little bit about the two competing time travel shows currently airing on network television, Timeless on NBC and Legends of Tomorrow on the CW. I understand that TV shows don’t have an unlimited budget, but as someone who likes to think he knows a few things about history, I feel that if they don’t have the resources to do it right, they might as well tell stories they can accomplish with the resources they have.
I wanted to like Timeless, and I sort of do in the “junk TV” way that my parents really enjoy CBS police procedurals. The cast is uniformly better than the material, but the illogic of the story throws me out of it. It wouldn’t take much to come up with a creative solution to negate the need for the show’s time travel plot to exist at all. But what really bothered me this week was the aesthetics. I know it’s expensive to create sets and scout locations for a new setting each week, but when the time travel team traveled to Washington, D.C. visit Ford’s Theater—a place I have been—I laughed out loud when I realized that they were using a very familiar “Old West town” backlot location to stand in for Washington. It looked nothing like its real world counterpart, and the area around the theater in 1865 did not resemble a clapboard tumbleweed town of the Old West. Historical photographs of the era show paved roads and sidewalks, streetlights, and brick buildings, not entirely different from how they appear today. Timeless gave us dirt roads and wooden sidewalks because they are reusing a standing set, badly.
Surely Vancouver has at least one Victorian street in it that they could have shot on.
This problem paled, though, before the hilarious cheap-out on Legends of Tomorrow. Allegedly the time travel team were going back to seventeenth century France to ensure the conception of Louis XIV at the chateau of Louis XIII. The trouble is that the show, also shot in Vancouver, chose to use what seems to be a 1920s-era Spanish revival house to stand in for a French Renaissance chateau. It’s not even close. They did not bother even to hide the electrical wiring, the exterior electric light fixtures, or the light bulbs in said fixtures. Again, if you don’t have the money to do it right, just don’t bother. Buy some stock footage and shoot around it, if nothing else.
I will give the show credit for one thing, though: They introduced a new job title that I will have to appropriate for myself. This year’s new character, Dr. Nate Heywood (the future Citizen Steel), played by Nick Zano, describes his job as “deductive historical reconstruction,” or what the real world knows as “historiography.” Sure, he can’t tell the difference between Mesopotamian cuneiform and Egyptian hieroglyphs (identifying the latter as “Mesopotamian hieroglyphs”), but why should the writers and producers of a show about time travel know anything about history? It hasn’t stopped Ancient Aliens.