News Roundup: William Shatner Is Mad at Archaeologists, Nick Pope Says Will Smith's Slap Stopped an Alien Invasion, and Bryan Bender Finally Says I'm Right
It’s been a busy week in the world of the pseudoscientific fringe, so busy in fact that I don’t even have time to do more than mention that Graham Hancock has a new book out, Visionary, a revised and expanded “definitive” edition of his 2005 book Supernatural. Yesterday, William Shatner got upset because archaeologists and proponents of science took to Twitter to complain about the hogwash his The UnXplained offered as archaeology on Friday.
A new article published on Tuesday in the journal Antiquity offers another in a long series of claims that Stonehenge was an ancient calendar. British archaeologist Timothy Darvill says that he has decoded how the calendar worked, suggesting that its rings of stones were intended to track the twelve months of thirty days, with the largest stones standing for five intercalary days between 360-day years and four station stones helping to calculate leap years. So far, the argument is not dissimilar to a range of previous calendar claims for the monument, except for being a bit more elaborate in its mechanics. Then things get weird.
The people behind the Younger Dryas Impact Hypothesis—the claim that a comet struck the Earth during the last Ice Age, often alleged to have destroyed an Atlantis-like civilization—are at it again with a new claim alleging that another comet hit Ohio in the early centuries CE and destroyed Ohio’s Hopewell civilization, who conveniently commemorated their own incineration with a comet-shaped earthwork.
Last night, the CW's Legends of Tomorrow attempted to thwart the assassination of Archduke Franz Ferdinand in Sarajevo in 1914. Coincidentally, yesterday I traced back the origins of the occult claim that the car carrying the archduke also carried a curse that killed a dozen people or more. It turns out that Smithsonian magazine was wrong about ufologist and Fortean broadcaster Frank Edwards inventing the story, just as occult writers are wrong about the story being true. My findings, with translations and transcriptions of the original documents can be found here.
Uri Geller, the Israeli spoon-bender who convinced contractors for the U.S. government that he had inexplicable psychic powers in the 1970s, announced yesterday that he had discovered the location of the Ark of the Covenant while dowsing on the ground floor of his new museum of himself in Jaffa.
It was a big week for Mormon news. The owner of Skinwalker Ranch, Brandon Fugal, discussed how his Mormon faith in infinite populated worlds helps to shape his investigation of Skinwalker Ranch, which culminated in his assertion that the ranch is inhabited by a noncorporeal “precognitive” intelligence that adapts its supernatural manifestations to the subconscious “intentions” of each visitor. “It can anticipate and even be aware of your thoughts and consciousness and react according to your intention that you bring to the property,” Fugal told Salt Lake Magazine. That sounds a lot like people are seeing what they want to see and are experiencing their own expectations reflected back at them through the mirror of their own minds. In other words, there is no interdimensional intelligence, just people scaring themselves with their own fantasies.
It's not unusual for the BBC to report on the eccentric pseudohistorical theories that British speculators propose. It is, however, unusual for them to layer so much pseudohistory into an ostensibly neutral news report.
Our story today concerns carpet-fitter Steven Tasker, 66, who thinks that he has uncovered the secret machine, mentioned in the Bible, that enabled the Egyptians to build the pyramids and the people of ancient Britain to build Stonehenge. It's an elaborate version of rollers and rockers that have been stacked atop each other. It's implausible--for example, he thinks that Egyptian jars used for eye makeup were the rollers--but he has convinced himself that it is the chariot of God described in the book of Ezekiel, with the wings of the cherubim and the calf's feet resembling his conception of the platforms and rockers used to rock heavy rocks across the landscape.
But I was dumbfounded by the illustration Tasker provided and the BBC ran uncritically:
This week, Discovery launched a new series called Curse of Akakor, in which a team traveled to South America in search of a supposed underground lost city and the explorers who died in the 1980s in quest of it. I was surprised to learn that this “new” show was in fact originally produced in 2019 for Facebook Watch and is now being recycled for Discovery. I have not seen the original 2019 broadcast to know what, if any, changes were made, but the titles, cast list, and episode storylines are the same. The “lost city” of Akakor is quite patently a fake, and it’s rather annoying that the show plans an entire series to get to a point that can be made in a couple of paragraphs.
A couple of weeks ago, Huang Heqing, a professor in the department of art and archaeology at Zhejiang University in Hangzhou, China made ridiculous claims about ancient history at a conference. Huang, who teaches art history, holds a doctoral degree from the University of Paris but nonetheless is convinced that all the achievements of ancient Western cultures were fabricated in the nineteenth century.
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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