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.
Before we begin today, it’s worth noting that the Pentagon officially published the Navy’s UFO videos first released by Tom DeLonge’s To the Stars Academy of Arts and Science and the New York Times in December 2017. The news media freaked out about this again, either not realizing that these were the same videos or desperate for something other than COVID-19 to discuss. Most media outlets treated the videos as evidence of alien spacecraft, though there is, of course, no evidence that the objects seen in the videos are vehicles of any kind, let alone from the depths of space.
Scott Wolter did another interview, this time with biophysicist and pyramid conspiracy theorist John DeSalvo on the Science and Paranormal Hour radio show. DeSalvo appeared on an episode of America Unearthed and claims to have lost half his listeners as a result. That’s neither here nor there, nor is the fact that I can’t stand his voice. He sounds like a midcentury children’s show clown, and for me it was like listening to fingernails on chalkboard. His habit of shouting all of his questions made it still worse, his effusive praise of Wolter notwithstanding. (Even Wolter noted that DeSalvo was blowing smoke up his ass.)
After two weeks of near record-low timeslot ratings for Rob Riggle: Global Investigator, the Discovery Channel pulled the show from its desirable Sunday timeslot and benched it until next month. The show will return on Thursday nights in April to burn off the remainder of its season. The misbegotten series wasn’t funny enough for comedy fans, and it offered nothing new to fans of fake history, putting it in the uncomfortable position of alienating two audiences at the same time.
Note: An earlier version of this post noted Brandon Fugal's connection to a Utah-based Ancient History Research Foundation, which listed him as its director on its website. The AHRF, which explored giants, hyper-diffusionism, and other fringe topics, was also affiliated with Wayne May, the patron of infamous figure Frank Joseph, and house Joseph's writings. These references have been removed because Fugal informed me that his affiliation with the foundation ended in 2005, he was not part of the organization when it began housing May's and Joseph's work, and he is not actively investingating anomalous archaeology. I regret the error.
This week, MJ Banias revealed the name of the new owner of Skinwalker Ranch, real estate investor Brandon Fugal, who came out of the shadows four years after purchasing the paranormal property from billionaire Robert Bigelow, just in time to promote his ranch’s new History channel series. But, as always, there is more to the story than meets the eye—and it is weirder than you might imagine.
Mysteries of the Tayos Caves: Lost Civilizations Where the Andes Meet the Amazon
Alex Chionetti | Bear & Company | Dec. 2019 | 272 pages | ISBN: 9781591433569 | $20
Publishers don’t share all of their new books with me, so I don’t always get to read all of the books that might be relevant to this blog before they are published. Ever since Andrew Collins complained that I gave one of his books a negative review prior to publication, Inner Traditions, one of the biggest purveyors of pseudohistory and New Age claptrap in the publishing industry, has stopped making available for review their books on themes relate to archaeology and ancient history prior to publication, presumably to stop me from reviewing them. Therefore, I had to wait to read a new book published last month by Bear & Company, a division of Inner Traditions. The book is called Mysteries of the Tayos Caves by Alex Chionetti, and it deserves notice for two reasons: First, because of who Chionetti is and second, because of who endorsed his book. The actual content of the book is nothing you haven’t seen before on Ancient Aliens and Expedition Unknown, and for good reason, as we shall see.
Last week, I discussed Expedition Unknown host Josh Gates in his role as a trustee of the Archaeological Institute of America, a nonprofit which “promotes archaeological inquiry and public understanding of the material record of the human past to foster an appreciation of diverse cultures and our shared humanity.” I criticized the AIA for giving a prominent role, both administratively and in terms of public events, to Gates because his program had included some dubious content and awful guests. Gates has occasionally spoken in glowing terms about the ancient astronaut theory, and his show airs on a network owned by Discovery Communications, a conglomerate responsible for some of the most damaging pseudoscientific series of the past few years, such as Legends of the Lost.
So, my hard drive failed for the second time in three months. My computer is still functional, to a point, so I can use it intermittently while I wait for HP to send me a box to ship it back for more repairs, including the fault sound, flickering screen, etc. They informed me that the hard drive has to die three times before they will admit that this computer is a lemon and replace it. So, stay tuned for hard drive failure number three later this spring.
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.
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.