In discussing Hesiod yesterday, I briefly mentioned the story of Talos (Latin: Talus), the last man of the Bronze Age who protected the island of Crete. Regular readers might remember him from David Childress’s Technology of the Gods (2000) where Childress claims he is an android robot. Or, rather, he asked whether it was possible: “The metallic creature appeared, threatening to crush the ship Argo with rocks, if they drew near. A robot?” (p. 92). The year before, Erich von Däniken simply asserted that the bronze man was “the Talos robot” or “the robot Talos” (Odyssey of the Gods, pp. 58, 59, 61, 93).
This week I’ve been discussing the alternative idea that the world goes through gold, silver, bronze, and iron ages corresponding to declining moral perfection. This idea derives most explicitly from Hesiod in the Works and Days, which alternative authors like Walter Cruttenden cite as their source. I thought it was worth pointing out that what Hesiod wrote bares very little resemblance to alternative authors’ presentation of it. Let’s begin by looking at Hesiod’s rather lengthy discussion in a standard translation:
Yesterday, I discussed the precessional claims of Walter Cruttenden, an “amateur theoretical archaeo-astronomer.” I explained that Cruttenden’s speculations about precession were based on flawed math and bad history, never mind the fact that there is no conceivable way that the illusory movement of the stars caused by the wobble in the earth’s axis could have any real impact on earth life. (Cruttenden believes that precession is caused by the sun warping our view of the stars, which is physically impossible.) But, as promised, I will also evaluate Cruttenden’s claims about the cycles of “light” and “dark” that lead to the rise and fall of civilizations.
Over at the Graham Hancock website, Hancock played host to Walter Cruttenden, an “amateur theoretical archaeo-astronomer” responsible for a documentary about ancient knowledge of the Precession of the Equinoxes, the apparent backward drift of the stars over time. Cruttenden calls the 2004 film, named The Great Year, “a PBS broadcast documentary,” though I can find no evidence that the independent production was ever part of PBS’s official schedule. Instead, it appears to have aired only once, on KOCE-TV, the Los Angeles PBS affiliate, and was never a PBS program. (KOCE lists it as originating locally, not via PBS.) On Hancock's website, Cruttenden presented an article on his speculation that history has alternating cycles of “light” and “dark” correlated to the astrological changes in the stars over time.
Talking about Erich von Däniken’s line of crappy comic books yesterday sparked a little bit of nostalgia for some equally silly, but far more entertaining comics from my youth: He-Man and the Masters of the Universe franchise. When I was a kid I had probably all of the action figures and most of the mini-comics that came with them. I was born a bit late for the first wave of He-Man marketing, but that meant my parents could get me all of the figures at the tail end of the craze at garage sales and flea markets.
And, as luck would have it, they turn out to have a clear, if somewhat indirect, connection to ancient astronauts, too. Really, is there anything in popular sci-fi that ancient astronauts didn’t touch?
I had no idea that Erich von Däniken had an 8-issue line of ancient astronaut comic books for children. Released by von Däniken’s publisher in German translation from an unpublished Polish manuscript in the late 1970s, the Gods from Outer Space series was putatively fictional and based on von Däniken’s successful line of nonfiction books. Issues covered such topics as the Nazca lines, the Watchers from the Book of Enoch, and the genetic engineering of humanity from apes. The aliens in the comics order the construction of Mesopotamian ziggurats, the Great Pyramid, and Stonehenge, as well as Noah’s Ark.
After completing my translation of Al-Maqrizi’s Al-Khitat chapter on the pyramids of Egypt (the one on the Sphinx is next!), I made a connection that finally answers a question that has been vexing me since last year. Regular readers will remember that I have previously written about the repeated alternative claim that Proclus, the Neoplatonist philosopher, supposedly wrote that the Great Pyramid was flat on top so it could be used as an observatory to watch the transit of Sirius. Well, I now know where that came from, and the answer is as fascinating as it is complex.
I hope you’ve been enjoying the translation I’ve been making of the chapter of Al-Maqrizi’s Al-Khitat on the pyramids. I’m almost through, and I hope to have it done soon. It’s one of the largest collections of medieval myths and legends about the Egyptian pyramids ever made, and it’s certainly well worth the read. I know I’ve found it fascinating. I’m amazed that this material has apparently never been translated into English before, especially given how rich it is with anecdotes and colorful legendry.
Ancient Aliens pundit Giorgio Tsoukalos was asked on Twitter yesterday whether he believes in God, to which he replied that he does, but not the God of Christianity. He further clarified his position, asserting that the ancient astronaut hypothesis, which he calls the “ancient astronaut theory” or AAT, makes no claims on contemporary religion:
One weird claim from Erich von Däniken’s Chariots of the Gods has always bothered me, and I’ve never been able to figure out just where it came from. In the book, von Däniken claims that Egypt’s Great Pyramid lies at the “center of gravity” for all earth’s land:
I'm an author and editor who has published on a range of topics, including archaeology, science, and horror fiction. There's more about me in the About Jason tab.
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