I have my limits. Tonight, the History Channel presents a 2-hour Ancient Aliens special in celebration of the fiftieth anniversary of Chariots of the Gods, which was actually this past spring. According to the episode description, the special will ask whether Chariots author Erich von Däniken will finally be proved right thanks to recent discoveries. Because this is going to take so much time to sit through, I won’t be writing another lengthy post for the few hours between now and this evening. I’ll try to have my Ancient Aliens review posted shortly after the episode airs.
It feels like a lifetime ago that Megan Fox launched Legends of the Lost with an episode devoted to the question of women’s roles in Viking society, and it is just possible that the number of articles and reviews devoted to the show outstripped the number of people who actually watched the series. Indeed, if December hadn’t been such a slow month, I’d have probably ignored the show entirely. But I reviewed that first episode, and archaeology professor Howard M. R. Williams of the University of Chester, who specializes in mortuary archaeology, particularly in Anglo-Saxon and Scandinavian contexts, has posted a lengthy rebuttal to my review, and those of other critics of Fox, accusing me of not fully appreciating the depth of originality in Fox’s depiction of Viking life, calling my review “completely wrong.”
Secrets and Riddles of Ancient History: Great Powers of Forgotten Worlds
Jennifer S. Dawson | Camea Publishing | December 2018 | $2.99 eBook
In some respects, self-publishing has been a boon in terms of providing a path for voices outside the mainstream to share their points of view. But mostly online eBook self-publishing has resulted in tens of thousands of half-assed click-bait titles of middling to low quality. The author Jennifer S. Dawson—apparently a pen name for a non-English-speaking author—churns out a remarkable number of books in the “ancient mysteries” genre, covering topics familiar to readers of 1970s volumes on similar subjects. I’d try to address the books by theme, but they are a hodgepodge of short articles on unrelated topics united only in their general connection to lost civilizations, ancient astronauts, and other such threadbare “mysteries.” Secrets and Riddles of Ancient History: Great Powers of Forgotten Worlds, recently published, is representative of both the author’s handling of mysteries and the carelessness that characterizes so many attempts to exploit the ancient mysteries genre.
"Ancient Origins" Writer Claims Ancient Greek Homosexuality Is "A Big Lie" and Greeks Just Really Liked "Bromance"
Modern scholarship is often caricatured as arguments about race, class, and gender. While most of the abuses of history we examine here tend to revolve around race and class issues (Eurocentrism and anti-elitism, among others), these are far from the only areas where history is misused to score political points and fight a culture war by proxy. The question of homosexuality in premodern times has been problematic for centuries, mostly on account of how Western thinkers tried very hard to suppress evidence for it in order to create a version of the past more in line with conservative Christian mores. Indeed, until the end of the nineteenth century, it was routine for scholars to suppress or omit references to homosexuality in ancient and medieval texts, or to alter pronouns from male to female, or to place in Latin references to same-sex desire in English translations, lest women or children be exposed to such moral turpitude.
Compared to years past, this was a rebuilding year for the fringe. Most of the major figures on the fringe sat the year out, preparing for bigger things in 2019 and beyond, and those that were active either failed to produce their promised results, delivered results that failed to meet expectations, or spent their time teasing revelations yet to come in 2019, or whenever they need a cash infusion. There was no major fringe history bestseller this year, and the wannabes in the category came from small presses and consequently received little or no media attention outside dedicated fringe sites. The new fringe pseudo-documentaries that made it to air either muddled through their middling runs or failed outright. The reason for the decline in the fringe was easy enough to see: The fringe had gone mainstream in 2017, and the continued presence of conspiracy theorists and fringe thinkers in the upper ranks of the Republican Party and the Trump Administration lessened the demand for pseudo-history. These sorts of claims tend to be more popular as counterprogramming.
While I am preparing my Year in Review post for tomorrow, I wanted to briefly note that on Scott Wolter's blog this week, Donald Ruh, the author of The Scrolls of Onteora, and an interested party in the story of the supposed Templar documents used on The Curse of Oak Island in 2016 and in the late Zena Halpern's book The Templar Mission to Oak Island and Beyond in 2017, confirmed that the hand-drawn French-language map depicting Oak Island and said to be a copy of one used by the Knights Templar in the Middle Ages is a fake. The map was part of a collection of documents compiled by a man named William Jackson before his death and 2000, and Ruh believes that Jackson was involved in some cloak and dagger secret intelligence work surrounding the documents, including a scandal in Italy involving crimes committed by Propaganda Due, or P2, a Masonic lodge that had been stripped of its charter and became a right-wing secret society with ties to members of the elite and a penchant for murder. "The Oak Island map is a fabrication, most likely created by Bill Jackson as part of an assignment by the agency Dr. Jackson worked for to intentionally set up a bad guy associated with the P2 scandal in the late 1970’s," Ruh wrote. I would need to see more proof to buy the claims about secret intelligence work (and i am not sure why Jackson's letter about it, reproduced in Ruh's blog post, looks to have been professionally or electronically typeset, despite allegedly being a personal letter from 1979), but I have no doubt that Ruh is correct that the map is a modern forgery. The most interesting part of Ruh's post, however, is not his dubious spy claims about the imaginary Spartan Agency, but rather the fact that he and Halpern fell out not over evidence or interpretation but over how best to exploit their claims in order to land the best TV deal. That is the true treasure of Oak Island.
Merry Christmas to all those celebrating today! In order to spend more time with my family this holiday season, I will be blogging on a reduced schedule between now and New Year's. Depending on when my son falls asleep, I will review Legends of the Lost either this evening or tomorrow, and I will take most of the week off. This weekend I will post my annual year in review feature, and I intend to resume regular posting in the New Year.
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.
My son came down with a cold this week after contracting it from one of his toddler playmates. He is doing fine and is all better. However, he passed the cold on to me, and I am too sick and achy to write. I am going to take the day today to rest and to hope that I feel better before Christmas.
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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