The Nielsen ratings held mixed news for Ancient Aliens in its second Saturday broadcast. The show’s viewership remained steady at 1.046 million, but the composition of the show’s audience is changing. Steep declines in the number of younger viewers have pushed it out of the top 50 broadcasts in the advertiser-favored 18-49 demographic for the day it airs. When the show aired on Fridays, it typically cracked the top 10 and to the best of my knowledge was always in the top 20.
Meanwhile, this week, Graham Hancock published an article—really, just a promotion for a book—by his new author of the month, Madeleine Daines, in which Daines starts off with a grandiose but not completely wrong discussion of an ancient Sumerian text and somehow ends up in a Templar conspiracy. I wonder sometimes if the conspiracy theorists who invented all of the different conspiracies that modern pseudo-historians weave together would recognize the elements of their own work or endorse the merger of so many disparate elements into a baroque tapestry of hidden Hermetic history. I’d think not, but they are all dead, so we’ll never know. Well, that is unless University of Arizona psychical researcher Gary Schwartz succeeds in raising the funding for his “soul phone” (officially: SoulPhone™) to call up ghosts in the afterlife. That sounds like a joke from an old Twilight Zone episode, but, sadly, it is very true.
Anyway, Daines begins by imagining herself to be one of the few to rightly understand that the ancient Sumerian text known as the Instructions of Shuruppak from the third millennium BCE contains a corruption whereby the antediluvian city of Šuruppak has been mistaken for a king interpolated between Ubara-Tutu, otherwise the last king before the flood, and Ziusudra, his son the hero of the Great Flood. Daines rewrote the Instructions with this understanding and claimed to have the first correct translation of the document, though, really, it’s a hypothetical reconstruction.
In so doing, Daines claimed to have discovered a secret language embedded in Sumerian cuneiform symbols which, naturally enough, only she can read. She alleges that such symbols prove to her satisfaction that the Turkish name “Göbekli Tepe” has Sumerian (!) connections (despite being a Turkish word applied to the ancient site in modern times) and that such words are remnants of pre-Flood global language from before God confounded the tongues in the Tower of Babel incident.
Her method, sadly, is the same as many other advocates of fanciful and false etymologies. She looks for out-of-context similarities of sound and declares a connection. For example: “For the origin of Greek ‘meso’ (middle), part of the name Mesopotamia which is understood to mean ‘between the rivers’, see the Sumero-Hermetic proverb ME ZU NU MU ZU…”. Isidore of Seville would be proud.
Nevertheless, this allows her to revisit The Da Vinci Code and the Templar activities at Rennes-le-Chateau. Because she rejects the Jesus-centric Holy Bloodline conspiracy, she instead takes up the torch of “ancient wisdom” and alleges that since she can decode geometric shapes into an antediluvian writing system, she and she alone can see that a rock at the site inscribed with the Latin palindrome SATOR square (a five-by-five block of Latin letters that spell out words horizontally and vertically in each column or row both forward and backward) is actually a secret shout-out to Sumerian occultism.
This claim is difficult to understand since the SATOR square isn’t fully understood. The best guess is that the square’s words (“sator,” “opera,” etc.) were an old form of agricultural magic, possibly related to the very ancient worship of Saturn and Ops. However, a minority of scholars feel that the square originated in Roman Egypt and therefore contains hidden references to Apis, Aten, and Neper. Frankly, those references don’t read very cleanly, and at any rate, the square works only in Latin, so it is difficult to see how Daines can claim that its appearance in France “demonstrates that some undercurrent, some remnant of extremely ancient knowledge had been kept alive there.”
But we are supposed to trust her since she apparently divinely inspired in her unique understanding of antediluvian linguistics:
Along the way and again unexpectedly, the great wisdom teacher Hermes Trismegistus found me and took my hand. Hermes, revered by the Sabians of Harran (if the 1st millennium AD sources are to be accepted as true accounts) and assimilated to Egyptian Thoth in deepest antiquity, was the first alchemist, the Great Magician, Master of all boundaries. A study of the Sumerian symbols showed me the source of his name and its hermetic nature, a revelation that, as far as I know, has not been made public before now. The analysis of it is carried out as plainly as possible in chapter 18 titled “HERMES AND THE CRYSTAL HERESY” for reasons that should become obvious in the reading of it. I was led to a better understanding of the most noteworthy of the magic symbols and given a few unique glimpses into age-old knowledge which I share on his authority in this book. I don’t imagine that all has been revealed but I share what I have so far understood. It is harmless and of interest.
Hermes Trismegistus didn’t exist before the Greco-Egyptians invented him. Indeed, they did so poor a job of it that they were unable to figure out when he lived or what exactly he did. Cicero claimed that there were five men or gods named Hermes, at least two of which shared elements we’d identify as those of Trismegistus. The Jews and Christians, struggling to fit the Hellenistic figure into historical time, proposed that there were two, one who lived before the Flood and one after. The Muslims added a third, and by the Middle Ages, he wasn’t even considered a specific person. Instead, “Hermes Trismegistus” was taken to be a title held by various alchemists, priests, and mages—including Noah, the Flood hero! That, at least, closes the circle on this strange set of claims.
Daines believes in an ancient goddess-based global religion, a popular twentieth century idea that never had enough evidence to justify it. She also weirdly claims that the antediluvian tongue she discovered is “language of birds” as well as of Hermes.
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.
Enter your email below to subscribe to my newsletter, The Skeptical Xenoarchaeologist, for updates on my latest projects, blog posts, and activities, and subscribe to Culture & Curiosities, my Substack newsletter.
Terms & Conditions
Please read all applicable terms and conditions before posting a comment on this blog. Posting a comment constitutes your agreement to abide by the terms and conditions linked herein.