Writing my annual year in review article used to be amusing, if not actually fun, because there was at least some entertainment value in seeing the wild claims and fantastical speculations that passed for history and science. But each year has been a little darker than the one before, and the job is less an exercise in tut-tutting foolishness than it is a depressing reminder that wealthy and powerful people are pushing conspiracies whose real-life consequences are no longer hypothetical but manifest every day in ways large and small, from the halls of Congress to hospital ICUs.
There is no new episode of Ancient Aliens tonight, which is a relief to me, since previous episodes from this season have been nothing but repackaged reruns. It seems that viewers are noticing, since each episode for season seventeen has seen a ratings decline. After hovering around the one million viewer mark, last week’s episode fell to just 810,000 viewers, with only 130,000 in the 18-49 demographic. Slightly more young people actually watched the 12 AM rerun.
Today was to have been the premiere date for Hunting Atlantis, a new series from Morgan Freeman’s Revelations Entertainment in which volcanologist Jess Phoenix and genre novelist Stel Pavlou were to have explored various hypotheses for the location of Atlantis before deciding that Pavlou was right to tie Plato’s allegory to the alleged flooding of the Black Sea around 5000 BCE, despite matching none of the details of Plato’s fictitious story. The Discovery channel, fresh off purchasing Warner Media, pulled the show without explanation and replaced it with an extended episode of Expedition Unknown.
The following was cross-posted in my Substack newsletter.
This week, I am experimenting with a newsletter format, featuring a longer piece of writing divided into shorter articles rather than separate posts. In this issue, we’ll look at the Today show’s promotion of the curse of the pharaohs, a new article about ancient Greek mythology’s connection to the Bronze Age, and we’ll review a historical piece by a famous writer linking American mounds to Atlantis.
Weekend Omnibus: Younger Dryas Volcano, Elon Musk's Ancient Astronaut Tweet, Steve Quayle's Plagiarism, and More!
Yesterday was an extraordinary day for news of interest to my readers. Let’s take a brief survey of just some of the things that happened.
I’ll put the science first. A new study in Science Advances concludes that the global cooling triggered during the Younger Dryas was not the work of a comet or meteor but was instead brought on by volcanic activity. From the press release announcing the study late yesterday:
Could you imagine what pseudoarchaeology and pseudohistory would have been like had Plato never written of Atlantis? It’s an interesting thought experiment, since so much of modern “alternative” history derives directly or indirectly from efforts to investigate Plato’s allegorical ancient civilization. Without Atlantis, there would be many fewer crazy ideas about “white” rulers in ancient Mesoamerica, no “pole-shift” speculation, and no Fingerprints of the Gods. And since Atlantis ideas also fed into ancient astronaut claims, we’d probably have a lot less space alien nonsense, too. But, you live with what people actually did, not what you with they had done.
Finding Atlantis is such a staple of internet click-bait that it’s hardly a surprise when a new claim arises. If you believe the British tabloids, Atlantis has been found every three months for decades now. Today’s claim comes to us from The Express, summarizing a video lecture Christos A. Djonis made on Ancient Origins. It should sound familiar, though, because it’s the same claim that Djonis made in 2016 and also the same claim that appeared on America Unearthed before that. According to the Express article, Djonis has picked up a few things from America Unearthed, too, now claiming that the Minoans stole copper from America, as Scott Wolter rather ridiculously argued years ago. He also has added a claim picked up from Gavin Menzies that an American tobacco beetle was found in Minoan remains at Santorini, though it was actually an indigenous beetle from the Bronze Age. Rather than rewrite my analysis of Djonis’s poor evidence, let me repeat my 2016 article debunking his nonsense:
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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