In a few days self-described psychic, former Ancient Aliens talking head, and longtime conspiracy theorist Sean David Morton will be sentenced for a series of crimes that included filing false tax returns and creating and cashing fake U.S. Treasury checks. Morton joins convicted embezzler Erich von Däniken and the other rogues’ gallery of ancient astronaut theorists who have had run-ins with the law. Fringe history, like other fringe fields, attracts a number of frauds, con artists, and unscrupulous snake oil salesman looking to exploit extreme beliefs for cash.
When I discussed Ibn Wahshiyya’s book on hieroglyphics yesterday, I briefly mentioned that there is some evidence that the text might be a forgery, and that evidence came from Athanasius Kircher, the eccentric Renaissance polymath whom you will remember as the man who investigated reports of giant human skeletons, among other oddities. Kircher wrote several books on Egyptology, and in researching his failed attempt to decipher Egyptian hieroglyphics I encountered the fascinating but bizarre question of Abenephius, an Arabic-language writer whom Kircher relies upon for information about ancient Egypt but whose very existence is in doubt. What’s infuriating is that his reality would help solve a vexing problem in pyramid mythology related to the question of the origins of Surid, the alleged builder of the Great Pyramid before the Flood in Islamic lore.
Here is an interesting fact I found in researching Hermes Trismegistus and his pyramids of wisdom. An old Arabic text by Ibn Wahshiyya called Kitab Shawq al-Mustaham (Ancient Alphabets) (c. 863-930 CE), a book purporting to decipher the hieroglyphs of Egypt, makes reference to a creature named Bahumed, which some have claimed to be the same as Baphomet, the demon allegedly worshiped by the Knights Templar. According to Washiyya, Bahumed was “the most sublime secret” and “the secret of secrets,” “the beginning and return of everything.” The secret of Bahumed, he said, was known to the Hermetic occultists, and it was the secret of the hieroglyphs, encoded in inscriptions which unlock secret magic so powerful that none but the Hermetic followers know of it. This secret knowledge was attributed to Hermes, who was Enoch and Idris, and to his ancestors Seth and Adam, as was typical in Islamic lore.
Before we begin today, I want to share something I learned. Remember how Graham Hancock dates the Sphinx based on the precession of the equinoxes, claiming that it goes back to around 10,500 BCE because that is when it faced Leo? I learned from Mark Fraser Pettigrew’s dissertation on The Wonders of the Ancients that a medieval scholar made a similar argument about dating Egyptian ruins. Apparently medieval writer Abu Jafar al-Idrisi, in his treatise on the pyramids, records that Abu ‘l-Mushrif ‘Alawi al-Hafafi (c. 1226) believed that the sun-disk hieroglyph represented the entrance of Altair into Cancer, so by calculating when that occurred by counting backward at a rate of movement of the stars of one degree per 100 years (Hipparchus’s estimate), he believed that Egyptian ruins dated back 20,000 years before his time, or to around 18,800 BCE. Using modern precession rates (one degree per 71.6 years), the figure would come out to 13,146 BCE.
This isn’t really any different than saying the Sphinx is a lion, so let’s calculate Leo’s position. It’s just amazing that in the Middle Ages an early Graham Hancock was already using the stars to create pseudo-history.
My son was none too happy trying to sleep last night, and so my review probably has extra typos this week because of my tired eyes. I am sure I probably missed a few crazy claims as well. Oh well. This week’s episode of Ancient Aliens, “City of the Gods,” is devoted to the city of Teotihuacan, which is not terribly original of them since they have been claiming the city to be evidence of alien involvement since the first season of the show. On the other hand, we had a Maya specialist and a (sort of) UCLA physicist on to trade their intellectual credibility for TV air time.
Before I begin today, I have an announcement: This past week, I welcomed into the world my son, and it has been an exciting and hectic time for everyone! He is a healthy and active newborn, and he weighed in at almost 10 pounds, which was quite a surprise, and as you can imagine, it has been a bit of a transition. As a result of my new arrival, I will no longer be able to review Ancient Aliens episodes in real time as they air. Depending on the baby’s schedule, I will try to fit it in sometime over the weekend, but I can’t guarantee it. Over the next few weeks, you will see the number of blog posts decrease while I take some much-deserved paternity leave, and also because I don’t think I can write on zero sleep.
Now, on to today’s discussion of the American Heroes Channel’s efforts to compete with Ancient Aliens.
Sometimes there are claims that startle even me. My Google News Alert for “Ancient Aliens” directed me to Dope magazine, a publication for marijuana enthusiasts, in which author Katie Conley wrote about claims that space aliens brought the “gift” of cannabis to Earth in the distant past. Given the article’s semi-sarcastic tone, I thought that it must be a joke. However, upon checking the sources referred to in the article, it turns out that there actually is a New Age one-quarter Cherokee ex-porn star who made exactly that claim earlier this year in High Times magazine.
L. A. Marzulli Weighs in on "Ancient Aliens" Elongated Skull DNA Test; Plus: Scott Wolter to Investigate Claims of Templars in New Mexico
On Monday L. A. Marzulli weighed in on last week’s Ancient Aliens, in which an elongated skull allegedly from pre-Contact Peru was said to contain DNA that most closely matched a Scottish person. Marzulli, who has chosen to match Ancient Aliens’ turn toward creationism with an embrace of the popular History Channel show, crowed that these results were consistent with his own DNA test on a different skull last year that found European and Middle Eastern DNA in the skull. He also said that the two skulls both show a lack of a sagittal suture, making them potential Nephilim corpses. However, Marzulli claims that all of this proves that the Nephilim emigrated from Israel after the Flood. He added, apropos of nothing, that Cahokia, the greatest Mississippian city, was not built by Native Americans but rather is thousands of years old, not hundreds, and was built by Nephilim using “Fallen Angel technology.”
Six years ago, skeptical investigator Benjamin Radford released his book Tracking the Chupacabra in which he traced the modern story of the goat sucking monster back to 1995, when a series of events in Puerto Rico gave birth to the legend. After a series of mysterious attacks on animals in the spring of 1995 that left farmers thinking that sheep and other livestock had been killed and drained of blood (no evidence ever confirmed exsanguination), in August a woman named Madelyne Tolentino claimed to have seen a monster, describing what Radford correctly identifies as a description of the creature from the then-current movie Species. Shortly afterward, comedian and entertainer Silverio Pérez connected the monster and the mutilations and attached the name “goat sucker” (el chupacabra) to the monster.
Ancient Aliens had been getting more aggressive this season in terms of positioning itself as the honest broker in a world of conspiring elites. In recent weeks, we’ve seen the show attack the British and American governments, Egyptologists, and archaeologists, accusing them all of engaging in various conspiracies and cover-ups to prevent Ancient Aliens viewers from learning the truth about aliens. This week, they take their aggressiveness a step further by devoting an episode to claims put forward by scientists that have not achieved general acceptance. These the claims that two decades ago were filed under the rubric of Cremo’s Forbidden Archaeology or the goofily names OOPARTS (out of place artifacts). Many such data points have been covered before under the mantle of the subjects they apply to, but gathered together they are essentially meant to indict modern science for rejecting the ancient astronaut theory. But on closer examination, we see that this was the week that Ancient Aliens made common cause with Biblical creationists and joined forces with religious anti-science zealots in pursuit of fruitless mysteries. As I watched segment after segment ripped from creationists books and websites, I realized someone must have recognized that aliens and Nephilim are more similar than they are different, and thus Ancient Aliens became another arrow in the quiver of creationism. The show’s subtext of taking religious mythology literally had finally become outright creationist text.
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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