But I wouldn’t have picked that book out of the shelf of them if it weren’t for cable TV and its crazy quilt of kooky claims. Nevertheless, the fact remains that it was the survival of bad ideas, transmitted from one generation to the next that ended up interesting me in ancient astronauts. Rod Serling accidentally was to blame, along with the persistence of paper. I wonder how things will be different in the future when all the “old” things are eBooks that have resolved themselves into an unreadable digital dew.
This isn’t really related, but I found this interesting couple of paragraphs in a Victorian book about American archaeology written by the politician, minister, and popular writer John Denison Baldwin, who treated some of the questions of diffusionism with respect to the Phoenicians in America. It’s amazing how little the arguments have changed in 150 years, right down to the whiteness of the civilizers:
The known enterprise of the Phoenician race, and this ancient knowledge of America, so variously expressed, strongly encourage the hypothesis that the people called Phoenicians came to this continent, established colonies in the region where ruined cities are found, and filled it with civilized life. It is argued that they made voyages on the "great exterior ocean," and that such navigators must have crossed the Atlantic; and it is added that symbolic devices similar to those of the Phoenicians are found in the American ruins, and that an old tradition of the native Mexicans and Central Americans described the first civilizers as "bearded white men," who "came from the East in ships." Therefore, it is urged, the people described in the native books and traditions as "Colhuas" must have been Phoenicians.
But if it were true that the civilization found in Mexico and Central America came from people of the Phoenician race, it would be true also that they built in America as they never built any where else, that they established a language here radically unlike their own, and that they used a style of writing totally different from that which they carried into every other region occupied by their colonies. All the forms of alphabetical writing used at present in Europe and Southwestern Asia came directly or indirectly from that anciently invented by the race to which the Phoenicians belonged, and they have traces of a common relationship which can easily be detected. Now the writing of the inscriptions at Palenque, Copan, and elsewhere in the ruins has no more relatedness to the Phoenician than to the Chinese writing. It has not a single characteristic that can be called Phoenician any more than the language of the inscriptions or the style of architecture with which it is associated; therefore we can not reasonably suppose this American civilization was originated by people of the Phoenician race, whatever may be thought relative to the supposed ancient communication between the two continents and its probable influence on civilized communities already existing here.
Baldwin also wasn’t a big fan of the Atlantis theory. He said that he had a “smile of incredulity” when reading that the Egyptians were allegedly the children of Atlantis, a claim we’ve seen recycled as recently as last fall’s Magicians of the Gods by Graham Hancock. He went on to detail the reasons that only “imaginative minds” would find the Atlantis theory plausible, most notably he emphasized the distinctive differences between Egyptian and Mexican pyramids. It’s all the more amazing that Baldwin wrote in 1872 against all of the arguments Ignatius Donnelly used in Atlantis: The Antediluvian World in 1882—a full decade later! This is not as shocking as it at first seems; Baldwin was critiquing Brasseur de Bourbourg, and Donnelly owes no small debt to rewriting the French author’s arguments in English, just as Graham Hancock owes no small debt to Donnelly in rewriting that author’s two most important books as the starting point for his own Fingerprints of the Gods and Magicians of the Gods.
The same claims and the same evidence keep repeating, ricocheting down the centuries. It’s particularly galling how little they’ve changed.