On Twitter, ancient astronaut writer Philip Coppens criticized an unnamed skeptic for not reading his latest book, The Lost Civilization Enigma, before criticizing him, and for requesting a review copy of said book for critical review.
When I posted yesterday’s blog identifying the passage in Al-Maqrizi’s Al-Khitat that Giorgio Tsoukalos claimed proved aliens aided in the design of the Egyptian pyramids, I literally had just found the passage as I was writing my blog. Now that I’ve had more time to review the material and translate more of Maqrizi’s text, I’d like to review what we’ve learned from this material.
In response to a tweet questioning whether human beings were responsible for “the pyramids,” by which I presume the author was referring to the pyramids of Egypt, ancient astronaut proponent Giorgio Tsoukalos issued a tweet on November 13 asserting that while humans were responsible for their construction, the “ancients” said that they received help from aliens in so doing.
In the wake of my recent discussion of Ibn Firnas’ alleged glider flight in Spain circa 900 CE, Aaron Adair has done us all a great favor and provided the exact wording of the 1001 Inventions exhibit catalog’s claim for the flight in his excellent blog post evaluating the claim. This wording makes quite plain that the authors of 1001 Inventions far exceeded any possible facts. The passage begins by describing an apocryphal first flight using a parachute, and then it continues thusly:
As regular readers will recall, I’ve had a disagreement with the authors of a Skeptical Inquirer article criticizing the traveling exhibit 1001 Inventions, which aimed to present the medieval contributions to modern science and technology from the Islamic world. The essence of my complaint was that the authors, Taner Edis and Sonja Brentjes, overstepped skepticism by attacking the philosophical grounding of the exhibit based on interpretive questions about the contributions of medieval scholarship and philosophy to modern science, as well as interpretive questions about the value of using such connections to promote a specific vision of Islamic culture, before examining in detail the specific claims on which those interpretations rest.
I’ve previously told you about how it was at least possible that my ancestors on my mother’s side of the family attended the infamous Dr. Faustus’ travelling science show when he played Krakow back in the sixteenth century, presumably sometime after he made his deal with Mephistopheles. But did you know that my ancestors on my father’s side also have a demonic connection?
One of my big pet peeves with alternative writers is the way they wave around Heinrich Schliemann’s discovery of Troy as proof that their desire to read myths as literal is well-founded. Philip Coppens makes the claim in his newest book, The Lost Civilization Enigma, but it has been a popular alternative claim at least since Schliemann announced the site’s rediscovery in the 1870s. The most succinct (if obviously wrong) version is probably Erich von Däniken’s from Chariots of the Gods: “Heinrich Schliemann accepted Homer’s Odyssey as more than stories and fables and discovered Troy as a result” (p.69). Most frequently, this claim is used to justify the belief in Atlantis as somehow equal to Troy in historicity. Nevertheless, Schliemann’s discovery of Troy does not prove what alternative writers think it does.
Since Erich von Däniken has put out another new book—which even his fans admit is a recycled pastiche of his earlier books—there has been, as always, more internet chatter about the possibility of extraterrestrial gods. Last week at the UFO Iconoclast(s) blog, the contributor identifying him- or herself as RR explained that von Däniken’s Evidence of the Gods contained one particular claim that made the ancient astronaut theory not just possible but probable:
Erich von Däniken has a new book out called Evidence of the Gods: A Visual Tour of Alien Influence in the Ancient World (New Page Books, 2012), but the publisher isn’t providing me with a review copy. New Page provided me with Frank Joseph’s Lost Worlds of Ancient America and that book on Mayan construction whose name I’ve forgotten, but since my dustup with New Page author Philip Coppens, they’ve refused to respond to my requests for review copies. (Even negative reviews increase publicity, after all.) No matter. As it happens, Evidence of the Gods is another recycling job, this time rewriting much of the information that appeared in In Search of Ancient Gods: My Pictorial Evidence for the Impossible (1973; English trans. 1975).
I’m in the mood to complain some more about ancient astronaut writers’ slipshod scholarship. Today, let’s think about Erich von Däniken’s claim that the Golden Ram of Greek mythology, the flying creature who rescued Phrixus and Helle from their murderous stepmother and whose fur later became the Golden Fleece, was an airplane. Von Däniken makes the claim in Odyssey of the Gods (1999, English trans. 2000):
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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