One of the problems with fringe writers is that even when they have an occasionally interesting idea, they lard it with so much ridiculousness that the whole thing collapses under its own weight. Take, for example, the claim made on Ancient Origins today from self-described archaeoastronomer William James Veall. Veall, who studied engineering at one time, offered a somewhat interesting speculation about the potential purpose of the so-called Band of Holes at Cajamarquilla, Peru. These 6,900 shallow holes form a long line often compared to a serpent, but their purpose is unknown, with suggestions ranging from grain storage pits to a gigantic serpentine geoglyph. Veall suggests that they were meant to trap rainwater, which, instead of running off, would sit in the holes and drain through the limestone below to channel into an underground aquifer and ultimately to a collection site. I have no way of evaluating this hypothesis, but it is not completely unreasonable and it is testable.
Then he goes off the deep end.
Locals in the Black Sea town of Sile are upset about their government’s restoration of Ocakli Castle, a stone tower that spent the better part of the last two centuries crumbling into ruin. Restoration work left the tower looking like new, but the decision about how to restore the castle’s unusual arched windows left locals complaining that the resulting building looked like a monument to Spongebob Squarepants. It raised an interesting question about whether restoration work should attempt to make ruins look like they did when first built, or whether our aesthetic reaction to history requires us to leave them looking ruinous to make them “feel” old. It also raises questions about what phase of construction to restore since the tower has at least Byzantine and Ottoman layers of construction. I was also interested in the fact that no one seems to be able to say how old the tower is. According to the Daily Mail, the “latest research suggests it was built by the Genoese 2,000 years ago and was later renovated by the Byzantines and again by the Ottomans.” This doesn’t make any sense since the Genoese didn’t exist the early days of the Roman Empire.
Tonight’s episode of Ancient Aliens, S08E05 “The Other Earth,” wasn’t of too much interest to me since it’s mostly about the question of how many other planets have Earthlike characteristics. If you are an ancient astronaut theorist and already believe humanoid aliens have visited the Earth, the answer is pretty clear that such planets exist and are the home of aliens. Our knowledge of them is of secondary concern. Since I am not a space enthusiast, I had still less interest in the science of looking for other planets that the laws of physics dictate I will never visit.
Oh, and my computer died just before this episode came on, with Windows 8 choosing this evening to have some catastrophic failure that left it unstable, so I am writing this on a borrowed laptop while I am trying to fix my own laptop with only 48 hours left on its Dell warranty. As a result, my comments will likely be briefer than usual.
Friday Roundup: Alien Hybrid Follow-Up, Fictitious Treasure Hunts, and the Sad Fate of a Neolithic Tomb
Since I’ll be reviewing Ancient Aliens later tonight, I have a couple of brief topics to discuss today in the few hours between then and now. First, in a follow up to a July story about a dead man whose fiancée and her assistant believed him to be an alien-human hybrid working for the CIA, legal documents obtained by the media reveal that the man was (surprise!) not an alien-human hybrid, and was not working for the CIA. I have a hard time understanding how someone could meet a man, become convinced that he was a space alien, and nevertheless decide to marry him. It is astonishing what people are willing to believe, and I hope that the History Channel is paying careful attention to this tragic and disturbing story—and not to turn it into a documentary!
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Late yesterday America Unearthed host Scott Wolter reversed course after months of teasing a “major” fringe history discovery and published the results of his examination of the so-called Jesus Ossuary on his blog, where almost no one will see them. The Jesus Ossuary is a small first-century burial box found in the Talpiot Tomb in 2003 and claimed to be the burial box of Jesus Christ on the strength of an inscription said to read Yeshua bar Yehosef (Jesus, the son of Joseph) found on it, though critics have strongly disputed that the inscription is original. Indeed, some have been unable to find the name Yeshua at all. Wolter viewed the ossuary when it was on display in Los Angeles earlier this year. The vast conspiracy placed it on public display in one of the world’s most populous and media-saturated cities in order to hide it from the public, I’m sure.
It’s hard not to see a relationship between two articles that ran over the last week in the Atlantic. The first is extremely depressing and discusses the rise of “trigger warnings” and “microaggression alerts” on college campuses. On the surface this doesn’t seem like it would relate to subjects of interest to us, but bear with me.
It’s that time of the year again: The Ancient Artifact Preservation Society has announced its lineup of speakers for one of the Midwest’s largest conferences of fringe historians. Would it surprise you to learn that once again this year Scott Wolter of the History Channel and H2 program America Unearthed has agreed to speak at the same conference as Frank Joseph, the former head of an infamous American Nazi Party and a convicted child predator? Wolter’s lecture topic has yet to be announced, but Joseph will be speaking about the Ice Ages and prehistoric civilizations he believes (pace Graham Hancock and Ignatius Donnelly) were destroyed at the end of the glacial period. No word on whether Joseph intends to link these to Thule, the imaginary Aryan homeland SS commander Heinrich Himmler vainly sought in the 1930s.
Ancient Origins fancies itself a one-stop shop for fringe history claims, but it tends toward the lost civilization and ancient mysteries end of the fringe spectrum. As a result, we also have Ancient Code, a website from Ancient Origins writer Ivan Petricevic that’s exactly the same but focused on ancient astronauts. Both sites are larded with crippling amounts of advertising—my browsers routinely crash when trying to load their pages—and both are characterized by recycled content and very bad, sometimes incoherent, writing. Nevertheless, they are wildly successful with their audiences due to a mixture of clickbait and seeding article links across the web.
As we settle in for 63 minutes of ancient astronaut zaniness, I want to call your attention to the happy news that American Antiquity has made its special section of reviews of pseudoarchaeology books from its July 2015 issue available for free, with no membership or subscription fee required. These reviews, by leading scholars, explore topics ranging from lost civilizations to Nephilim-giants through an examination of works by leading fringe theorists like Graham Hancock and Andrew Collins, both of whom have appeared on Ancient Aliens. You can download your own copy here to enjoy, probably much more that you enjoyed tonight’s slipshod, recycled discussion of “Alien Evolution” (S08E05).
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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