Robert Bauval Tries to Save Egypt from Itself with New Book Making It the Center of Global Spirituality
Robert Bauval was born in Alexandria, Egypt, but he is not a descendant of the ancient Egyptians, or modern Egyptians. Instead, his parents were Belgian and Maltese; yet Bauval feels a very deep connection to the land of Egypt, married to the European expatriate’s desire to tell the natives that they are doing their own culture wrong. To that end, Bauval has produced a new book that is apparently being released in October from Inner Traditions, a fringe publisher. The new book is called The Soul of Ancient Egypt: Restoring the Spiritual Engine of the World, written with Ahmed Osman, an elderly Egyptian author who believes Christianity was invented in Egypt and that Joseph, Moses, and Jesus were members of the family of Akhenaten (Moses), with King Tut as Jesus. Their new book is an interpretation of the mystical and spiritual force that Bauval feels animates the ancient land. He released the first chapter to Graham Hancock’s website as a promotion for the book.
Ronda Rousey, the UFC fighter, told Fortune magazine that she is obsessed with Ancient Aliens, adding her name to the long list of celebrities who count themselves acolytes of the ancient astronaut theory. “I love ‘Ancient Aliens.’ Sometimes at the end of the day I just need to sit down and learn about some aliens. For some reason it makes me feel good, and I don’t know why, I can’t explain it, but I love me some aliens.” I’m not sure whether it’s scarier that she thinks she’s “learning” about aliens, or that she can’t even explain why it makes her feel good.
I have a few odds and ends to discuss today, beginning with the exciting news that a new fragment of the Epic of Gilgamesh has been found! The Neo-Babylonian fragment comes from a piece of the epic looted from somewhere in Iraq and acquired by Sulaymaniyah Museum in the Kurdish region of Iraq. It has now been recognized as a previously unpublished portion of Table V, telling the story of Gilgamesh and Enkidu fighting the giant Humbaba. The twenty heretofore unknown lines provide two new details: First, that there were “monkeys” present in the Cedar Forest, and second that Humbaba was not a rampaging ogre but rather was depicted as a king of gigantic stature who presided over a sort of natural court. It also adds additional information about Enkidu’s childhood tutelage at the court of Humbaba, whom he returns to kill. The text and translation are available here.
It’s a bit weird to review a show that is undead. Pirate Treasure of the Knights Templar was doomed before it began, consigned to a Saturday night burn off after a scathing UNESCO report, but History couldn’t turn a blind eye to its low, low ratings. In one of her first acts as the new head of the network, Jana Bennett moved the show to 5 PM ET, out of prime time, where its vacated slot now houses Pawn Stars reruns. The eight episodes announced for the series in June seem to have been cut down to six, and these were the show’s last hours. Bennett replaces Dirk Hoogstra, who while at H2 became infamous for declaring that there is only “a portion of our viewers that still want” deep factual information, and he led the network into fact-free and low-information programming.
History Channel Bumps Ratings Disaster "Pirate Treasure" Out of Prime Time, Sees "Ancient Aliens" Ratings Fall
Are we seeing the beginning of a retrenchment for fringe history on TV? The History Channel pulled Pirate Treasure of the Knights Templar from its prime time lineup effective immediately due to the show’s disastrous ratings. Even longtime History stalwart Ancient Aliens has fallen out of the top 100 Friday cable programs. The last Ancient Aliens episode to chart in the cable ratings aired at 3:04 AM on September 4 and drew just 721,000 viewers, of whom 300,000 were in the 18-49 demographic. Presumably, the new episodes that have aired since have done worse since they did not surpass House Hunters International or afternoon Law & Order: SVU reruns. By contrast, Discovery’s Bering Sea Gold is pulling 1.7 million viewers in the same timeslot.
One of the problems with fringe history is that there isn’t any quality control. Everything from the potentially interesting to the outright fraudulent all gets dumped into the same fetid pool in which fringe authors swim, splashing slime on one another and yelling to their readers to join them since the water is so fine. The internet is making this problem—already present in book form—that much worse as websites compete for clicks and page views with recycled content or a race to the bottom in launching outrageous claims.
Thank you all for the well wishes for my cat. He has started on medication, and he had some food, which is a good sign.
I want to call your attention today to an article in the new issue of Smithsonian magazine outlining what archaeologists have learned over the past two years from the discovery of a set of Fourth Dynasty papyri in the ruins of a port at Wadi al-Jarf in 2013. According to the article, the papyri include the diary of Merer, an overseer who helped to transport goods. He describes working for Ankh-haf, the half-brother of Khufu, who was revealed to be the overseer in charge of some of the construction of the Great Pyramid. The journal also describes picking up material from the same town where the limestone for the Pyramid’s outer casing came from. When the diary and other documents were combined with the archaeological remains found at the site—from blocks inscribed with Khufu’s name to boats and copper tools—it quickly became clear that this site, located near the largest source of copper, in the Sinai, was an important supply station for moving the copper needed to carve the Pyramid’s stones. This find, in connection with the large worker’s village that once housed as many as 20,000 workers, offers key insights into how the Egyptians built the pyramids.
There will be no blog today because I have to spend the day at the animal hospital with my cat, who needs tests done.
I’m going to start today with an apology to the many people who have sent me email over the last few days. I haven’t meant to ignore you, but my mind has been on other things. My cat is sick. He was diagnosed a few weeks ago with asthma but needs to see the vet again because of nausea and appetite loss. I hope you will understand that I’ve been a bit distracted. Fortunately, he ate some food today, and I hope that’s a good sign.
You can already hear the excitement in the alternative science and fringe history world over an exceedingly positive review of Graham Hancock’s Magicians of the Gods by Jon Epstein of Greensboro College because an honest to goodness academic not only endorsed the book with a full-throated celebration of Hancock’s claims, but also because he has blasted archaeology for refusing to engage with Hancock or to embrace findings from disciplines outside archaeology, such as geology, astronomy, mythology, etc. Epstein, a sociologist, and the Department of Sociology and Political Science will host Graham Hancock for a lecture and panel discussion on November 23, and his book review is actually a thinly veiled celebration of Hancock’s battle against archaeology. Get a load of Epstein’s praise of Hancock, whom Epstein seems to hero-worship, and his condemnation of academia:
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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