Review of "In Search Of" S01E09 and S01E10: "The Empire of Atlantis" Parts 1 and 2
In my review of the pilot episode of History’s revived In Search Of with Star Trek actor Zachary Quinto as host, I noted that the show seemed to stand with one foot in Leonard Nimoy’s shadow and another in the standard History channel mold of wallpapering the screen with nutjobs pretending to be experts. Over the course of its run, In Search Of has covered many topics of no interest to me, including high-concept ideas like life after death and mundane subjects like sinkholes, the subject of an entire episode. As the season comes to a close, not much has changed since the pilot, but the audience for the series never really grew beyond the spillover from its Ancient Aliens lead-in, nor did the series build much of an independent fan base. Last week’s episode, the first to air without a new Ancient Aliens as lead-in, fell to just one million viewers and a 0.17 share of the 18-49 audience. For comparison, the show’s primetime rating is the same share and fewer viewers than the noon Inside Politics newscast on CNN.
Later tonight, In Search Of will air its season finale, a two-hour search for the lost city of Atlantis. I am not overly enthusiastic about their hunt, and I can’t imagine how it is going to differ from all of the other two-hour Atlantis specials that have aired over the past five years. But in preparation for this, I thought it would be worth briefly mentioning a claim about Atlantis that has been cycling around the internet. A YouTube video claiming that Atlantis is located in Mauritania received a big push over the past two weeks after Russian propaganda site Sputnik picked it up, along with the online British tabloids that follow Sputnik’s lead with clockwork regularity. From there, the story spread to prominent “mystery” sites like Mysterious Universe as it continued its upward ascent to the mainstream
Giorgio Tsoukalos Likens the Ancient Astronaut Theory to an Unfinished Puzzle in New Newspaper Interview
Yesterday, the Philippines’ largest-circulation newspaper published an interview with Ancient Aliens star and co-executive producer Giorgio Tsoukalos. In the interview, Tsoukalos described Ancient Aliens as a “beautiful show” and encouraged the paper’s readers to watch it in order to learn about the world. To that end, he spoke about the criticism that the show has received and why he feels it is wrong. (I assume the spelling and grammar issues are due to the newspaper’s errors.)
As many of you know, I have been researching the survival of Hellenistic and Late Antique myths and legends in medieval Islamic literature, particularly how this literature preserved and extrapolated on Late Antique Christian myths about antediluvian times. To that end, I’ve been working on reading King Alfonso X of Castile’s sections in his General Estoria about Hermes Trismegistus and the Giants that survived the Great Flood (2.34-39). It’s a bizarre and very interesting story that seems to incorporate Arabic material alongside narratives paralleling those of Late Antiquity—Pseudo-Eupolemus and Pseudo-Sibyl among them—but I am having a bit of difficulty with the material because (a) it has never been translated into English, nor to the best of my knowledge any other modern language (except for a few paragraphs in modern Spanish) and (b) I have not mastered medieval Castilian. I can read it clearly enough to get the sense, but the exact wording escapes me in places. I am plugging my way through translating it, but I am somewhat annoyed that in almost 800 years nobody seems to have thought that maybe it would be helpful to make this material available in more modern languages.
I grew up in what used to be known as the “Burned-Over District,” a place where the flames of the true faith—whatever that was—burned so brightly that they scorched all they touched. In nineteenth-century upstate New York, evangelicals spoke of their conversations with the Holy Spirit to rapturous audiences. Joseph Smith preached about visitation from the angel Moroni, and the Spiritualists vouchsafed that they were in direct contact with ghosts from another plane of existence. What all had in common was an unyielding faith in things unseen, and also an unwavering demand that no evidence be admitted against their beliefs, for faith was, as Jesus said, a blessing for those who believed without proof: “Blessed are those that have not seen yet have believed” (John 20:29). The cynic might argue that this type of faith exists precisely to hide the fact that there are no facts to support it. Even Jesus had to show his wounds to Doubting Thomas.
How Abu Ma'shar Accidentally Inspired "Hamlet's Mill" and the Modern Myth of the Amazing Science of a Lost Civilization
My research over the past couple of weeks in to Islamic treatises on antediluvian times and Hermetic lore has yielded an unexpected revelation. It came to me because the libraries around me don’t have what I need. In 1968, David Pingree published his important study of astrologer Abu Ma‘shar’s The Thousands, an influential but lost book that established (indirectly) the myth, so popular in fringe history, that the pyramids were built in antediluvian times to preserve science from the Flood, typically identified today with the end of the last Ice Age. As Edward Sachau noted in 1875, scholars had all but ignored both Abu Ma‘shar and the Thousands, meaning that until Pingree that was very little written about either. But Pingree’s book is a bit of a specialty item, especially since it is 50 years old, and WorldCat says that there isn’t a copy within nearly 100 miles of me. One of these days I should probably request an interlibrary loan, but it has literally two minor references to the Egyptian pyramids in it that I have not already read and otherwise is a massive study of astrology that I do not care about.
George Knapp Claims Pentagon Fears Demons in Flying Saucers; Plus: New Russian Video Game about Egypt Markets to "Ancient Aliens" Crowd
Yesterday, I discussed some of the cross-cultural currents that fed into the myth of Hermes Trismegistus, and since the world of fringe history has been a bit quiet, I thought that today I’d pick up on yesterday’s discussion by examining how the Ancient Alphabets of Ibn Wahshiyya might actually solve a nagging problem in understanding the development of the legend of the pyramids known to Arabic-speaking Muslims of the middle ages. For convenience’s sake, I’ll follow Michael Cook and call this the “Hermetic history” of the pyramids. I’ve discussed this story many times—how before the Flood a fictitious king named Surid had a dream of the coming disaster, and how his priest Philemon calculated the time of the Flood, and how Surid built the Giza pyramids to preserve knowledge from the Flood. It is the story that inspired basically the whole lost civilization pre-Ice Age pyramids genre when Victorian writers picked it up for their occult texts. An overview of the development of the myth can be found here.
Before I begin today, I want to follow up with and crow about something I guessed correctly! Last week, I wrote about the astrological calculation of the Flood and the End Times in medieval literature, and I guessed that the planetary alignments given for the Flood in the Akhbar al-zaman for the time of the Flood had to have been borrowed from Abu Ma‘shar’s lost book The Thousands. I discovered this weekend that I was right! I learned that A. Fodor confirmed that the astrological data given in the Akhbar al-zaman are a match for calculations that the medieval writer al-Biruni gave on the authority of Abu Ma‘shar. It all comes together eventually, and it’s a great feeling to make a prediction about what must have happened only to have completely independent evidence confirm it. Of course, if I had remembered that the text was already on my website, I could have saved myself a lot of trouble. It’s hard to remember everything ever written.
I am an author and researcher focusing on pop culture, science, and history. Bylines: New Republic, Esquire, Slate, etc. There's more about me in the About Jason tab.
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