Former Ancient Aliens talking head and self-described psychic Sean David Morton is today a fugitive from justice after he failed to show up for his sentencing for tax fraud. A judge issued a warrant for his arrest.
Yesterday Ancient Origins published a new article by Ryan Stone claiming that “recently” scientists have begun to examine Flavius Josephus’ The Wars of the Jews for evidence of flying saucers. That claims sounded familiar, and it took only a few seconds to discover that Stone was baldly summarizing a 2007 article that had already appeared on Ancient Aliens and claiming the resulting paraphrase as new work. Maybe I’m just getting tired of the low quality of ancient astronaut material, but it’s really starting to annoy me how much material is simply copies of copies of copies.
Stone’s article is a paraphrase of Richard B. Stothers’s 2007 Classical Journal 103.1 article “Unidentified Flying Objects in Classical Antiquity,” in which the late NASA scientist, who died in 2011, reviewed Classical reports of prodigies in the sky and speculated about their potential to be alien spaceships. This is not dissimilar to Jacques Bergier’s Wonders in the Sky, and just as accurate. I wrote about the article in 2015, after Ancient Aliens cited the text as proof that “NASA” had endorsed the ancient astronaut theory. Stothers was not speaking for NASA in writing the article.
Naturally, Stone is unaware of the origins of the claims she reports, and so she cites them only to an Epoch Times article from 2014, which is where Ancient Aliens got the story, too.
So, just to be clear: Our current 2017 article is a summary-paraphrase of a 2014 Epoch Times article that is itself a summary-paraphrase of a 2014 NASA reprint of a 2007 journal article, which, in the end, was inspired by and goes little beyond the 1950s UFO books it cites and critiques. All along the daisy chain, virtually nothing new has been added, but somehow the old news keeps becoming “recent” and “new” over and over again.
Stothers’s centerpiece, and the one that Stone picks up on, is a brief mention of a prodigy of a phantom army seen in the sky in 65 BCE and recorded more than a century after the fact by Flavius Josephus (Wars 6.5.3), a bit of exaggerated hearsay that I discussed two years ago. The account was highly similar to reports of phantom armies and navies from the Classical world, a standard (and imaginary) form of prophecy meant to foreshadow events on the ground.
Stone, however, contributes nothing to Stothers’s decade-old speculation except to pretend that it is “recent” and to ignore the fact that it’s already been on Ancient Aliens. Worse, her writing is a significant downgrade from the original. Consider this awkward sentence: “It has been debated among scholars whether these chariots were an attempt on Josephus' part (a man who was already valued by the Roman Emperor for his gifts) to endear the Romans to the Jewish misgivings.” Now, granted, I make my share of writing errors, but I don’t have a team of editors.
Anyway, it gets old seeing all the recycling in fringe history, but the least they could do is recycle things in an interesting way.
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.
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