Do you remember how Graham Hancock moved away from defending his Fingerprints of the Gods advanced prehistoric super-civilization? First with Underworld (2005) he proposed instead a slightly advanced coastal Stone Age civilization, and later with Supernatural (2009) and his lectures on hallucinogenic drugs, he suggested that the advanced civilization of the “gods” may never have existed in this dimension but was instead a drug-induced trip to another world. Well, as it happens, apparently too few people are willing to pay good money to listen to an old man go on about how much he likes taking drugs, so he’s going back to an older well.
I was reading Ben Stanhope’s blog about Biblical stupidity today when I came across an interesting claim that has an strange echo among ancient astronaut writers. Stanhope, a seminarian, took a trip to Ken Ham’s Creation Museum and was inspired to take a look at some of the most bizarre creationist claims Ham makes on the Answers in Genesis website. One caught my eye: The claim that the prophet Isaiah saw a pterosaur! According to Ham on Answers in Genesis, this is a reference to pterosaurs:
There is also mention of a flying serpent in the Bible: the ‘fiery flying serpent’ (Isaiah 30:6). This could be a reference to one of the pterodactyls, which are popularly thought of as flying dinosaurs, such as the Pteranodon, Rhamphorhynchus, or Ornithocheirus.
For those of you who accuse me of riding Scott Wolter’s coattails, I hope all of you are busy emailing Richard Thornton, the alternative history writer and Examiner.com “reporter,” who prefaces each of his “Mayas-in-Georgia”-themed articles with a sentence relating the story to America Unearthed as Google-bait, no matter how tangentially related the subsequent story is. Thornton is at it again, this time alleging in a new article that an early modern text has been “rediscovered” by the “People of One Fire” Native American research alliance, a text that “proves” that an advanced civilization existed at Track Rock, Georgia, and housed refugees from the lost colony of Roanoke.
Last night H2 ran an America Unearthed marathon. This is not news, but what is interesting is that I could tell (a) when it aired and (b) what episodes they showed from the comments that immediately started springing up on my blog. This deep level of interest fascinates me because the network shows Ancient Aliens much more yet I almost never receive an uptick in blog comments corresponding to repeat showings of Ancient Aliens. For some reason, people watching America Unearthed are much more interested in seeking out others’ opinions about the show and sharing their own outrage at its abuses or love of its attempt to create an alternative to mainstream history.
I’ve spent an inordinate amount of time tracing the alleged “mysteries” of Muslim and African “discoveries” of America, based largely on misconstrued texts from the journals of Christopher Columbus. After debunking nearly everything on the standard list of “evidence” for Muslim exploration of the pre-Columbian Caribbean, I need a little break. So today, let’s look at Columbus and Greek mythology. First, a fun passage from Columbus (as redacted by Bartolomé de Las Casas) on the events of January 9, 1493, during his first voyage:
Yesterday, I presented Leo Weiner’s “translation” of Columbus’ journal of the third voyage of 1498 in which Weiner claimed that black people had come from the south with gold alloys. He viewed this as evidence of transoceanic contact with Africa, and so far as I could find, his version of the material is the only extant English translation. Weiner paraphrased Columbus as stating that King Juan of Portugal had told him that merchants from Guinea had sailed to islands in the west, and he then quotes Columbus as saying he wanted
to verify on his way the opinion of King Don Juan, and he wanted to find out what the Indians of Hispaniola had told him, that there had come to it from the south and southeast Negro people, who brought those spear points made of a metal which they call guanin, of which he had sent to the king and queen for assaying, and which was found to have in thirty-two parts eighteen of gold, six of silver, and eight of copper.
Have you ever heard of Leo Weiner? No, not the Hungarian composer. The other Leo Weiner, the American scholar born in Russia of Polish-Jewish heritage. He immigrated to the United States from Russia in the late nineteenth century with the eccentric idea of continuing on to British Honduras (now Belize) in order to start a vegetarian commune, but along the way he changed his mind and began a teaching career in Kansas City, Missouri that culminated in him becoming Harvard University’s first professor of Slavic studies.
However interesting that is, he was also thoroughly convinced that the peoples of sub-Saharan Africa had traveled to Mexico and gave rise to Mesoamerican cultures. His Harvard status has made him a popular choice for Afrocentric writers to rely upon as evidence of scholarly confirmation of their beliefs.
Note: This post has been updated to correct minor translation errors.
Alternative history can be rather frustrating for the lack of references; in the case of claims made for Islamic explorers of the New World, this problem is compounded by the relative lack of translations of medieval Arabic texts. This problem is made still worse by the fact that Arabic names are transliterated so many different ways across time and space that even trying to search for an author by name is a challenge. Yesterday I talked a bit about the oldest Arabic text said to record a Muslim voyage to America. Today, I’d like to talk about what is said to be the next oldest, though it’s troublesome to do so because of the aforementioned problems.
Eurocentric and Afrocentric believers are not the only people who want to remake the prehistory of the Americas in their own image. There is also a movement among some Muslim advocates to claim that Middle Eastern or North African Muslim groups came to America centuries before Columbus. Most of their “evidence” is vague accounts of Muslim travelers who sailed west from Islamic Spain and returned some time later claiming to have reached new lands. However, Dr. Youssef Mroueh of the As-Sunnah Foundation of America made a particularly fanciful claim in 1996 to celebrate the “millennium” of Muslim America that bears a bit of scrutiny since it is yet another example of alternative history’s slipshod scholarship and fabricated quotations.
I’m continuing my review of archaeologist Brian Haughton’s Hidden History (2007), a set of 49 mostly unrelated descriptions of various historical mysteries of interest to “alternative” believers. This is the third and, mercifully, final part.
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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