Confessions of an Egyptologist:
Lost Libraries, Vanished Labyrinths and the Astonishing Truth Under the Saqqara Pyramids
Erich von Däniken | trans. Bernard Sulzer | September 2021 | New Page Books | ISBN: 978-1-63265-191-4
Confessions of an Egyptologist is at least somewhat unusual by ancient astronaut theorist Erich von Däniken’s standards. It is framed not as his usual grab-bag of medieval, Victorian, and midcentury pseudoscience but as a discussion of an Egyptian tour guide he calls Adel H., who died in the 1997 Luxor terrorist attack near the temple of Hatshepsut. His full name, in standard English transliteration (rather than the German used in this book) was ‘Adil Hummam, and the pair had been friends since 1984. I will refer to the man in the book as Adel, however, because it is never clear how much the literary version resembles the actual man. This conceit lasts barely a page before von Däniken (henceforth EVD) winds off on a tangent, asking if Hatshepsut was the “world’s first transgender person.” He can’t write a sustained discussion of anything, even the death of his friend.
Fifteen years ago, evangelical Christian archaeologist Steven Collins claimed that the site of Tall El-Hammam was the Biblical Sodom, presenting evidence that the ancient city had suffered a massive and sudden fiery destruction around 1600 BCE. The History channel’s H2 spinoff network turned that claim into an episode of The Universe in 2014. The idea that Sodom had been destroyed by a comet, asteroid, or some other non-supernatural blast from the heavens goes all the way back to 1743, so it isn’t exactly news.
On Saturday, as the nation paused to mark the twenty years since the terrorist attacks that brought down the World Trade Center, former Pres. Donald Trump and his son, Don, Jr., offered color commentary on a boxing match in Florida between 44-year-old Vito Belfort and 58-year-old Evander Holyfield, the latter replacing Oscar De La Hoya, hospitalized with coronavirus. The younger Trump had promoted the surreal event with a Twitter tweet and video promising viewers that he would use the match to ask his father about Area 51 and the real U.S. government secrets about space aliens. He did not.
More than three years after Yale University announced that it would put the infamous Vinland Map through a through a series of high-tech tests to determine once and for all whether the allegedly medieval depiction of Greenland and the Canadian coast was in fact a fake, the results are in. It is, in fact, a fake, as has long been suspected. New analysis of the ink used to draw the map found that, as earlier researchers has concluded, the ink is modern. It dates no earlier than the 1920s. While the identity of the forger is not known, and the exact time of forgery hasn't been determined, the new evidence should (but probably cannot) put to rest claims that the map is the oldest cartographic depiction of part of North America in European history.
John Greenewald of The Black Vault posted nearly seventy pages of communications from the Pentagon’s Office of the Inspector General detailing internal communications in the spring of this year about UFOs and the lead-up to the release of the Office of the Director of National Intelligence’s UFO report. The released documents cover the period from February to May 2021, and much of the text is redacted. However, one thing stood out: People in the Pentagon were deeply interested in how elite media covered the UFO issue. Defense personnel shared articles from The New York Times, The New Yorker, Politico, and CNN. While the released documents don’t indicate how Defense officials reacted to the news coverage—the released emails are bland and intentionally vague—the fact that the news stories planted by Lue Elizondo and Chris Mellon in the runup to the report’s release were circulating among government officials suggests that I was right to push hard to get a strong counternarrative published in an equally elite publication, The New Republic. Greenewald’s documents cut off in early May, before my New Republic piece ran, but I know it circulated in at least some government circles.
There is no new episode of Ancient Aliens tonight, which is a relief to me, since previous episodes from this season have been nothing but repackaged reruns. It seems that viewers are noticing, since each episode for season seventeen has seen a ratings decline. After hovering around the one million viewer mark, last week’s episode fell to just 810,000 viewers, with only 130,000 in the 18-49 demographic. Slightly more young people actually watched the 12 AM rerun.
I am an author and researcher focusing on pop culture, science, and history. Bylines: New Republic, Slate, etc. There's more about me in the About Jason tab.
Enter your email below to subscribe to my newsletter, The Skeptical Xenoarchaeologist, for updates on my latest projects, blog posts, and activities, and subscribe to Culture & Curiosities, my Substack newsletter.
Terms & Conditions
Please read all applicable terms and conditions before posting a comment on this blog. Posting a comment constitutes your agreement to abide by the terms and conditions linked herein.