The other day, when I reviewed Forbidden History’s episode on Noah’s Ark, I found something really interesting by accident while researching the show’s stupid claims. I ended up discovering a medieval legend of the Giza pyramids I had never seen before! So, something good came out of this bad show, albeit in a roundabout way.
For much of the past decade—has it really been that long?—I have explored the many vicissitudes of the medieval Islamic legend that the Giza Pyramids were the work of an antediluvian leader, either Surid or Hermes. I’ve traced the story from its origins in the Thousands of Abu Ma‘shar through its classic form in the Akhbar al-zaman and its copyists to its introduction into modern pyramid mythology thanks, in no small measure, to contemporary writers’ uncritical reliance on old books like those of John Greaves and Col. William Howard Vyse, who brought the story to the West. In fact, I wrote a whole book about it that is currently sitting with the publisher. Now I have to see if I can reedit it to add in a new incident that took place at the end of last month when Egypt’s former Grand Mufti Ali Gomaa resurrected the medieval story for a national Egyptian TV audience.
Weekend Roundup: Ex-Ancient Aliens Researcher Spills Very Few Beans; Plus: Matt Sibson Recycles More Pyramid Claims
Let’s start today with the Archaeological Fantasies podcast interview with Annelise Baer, an archaeologist and former staffer for Ancient Aliens, whom readers with long memories will remember for writing a 2014 blog post proudly discussing how she sold her integrity to Ancient Aliens for the “fun” of going off the “deep end” in making the anti-scientific show. (Baer blocked me on Twitter in 2014 for publicizing her blog post.) In the new interview, Baer laughs about how she hated Ancient Aliens until they offered to pay her, saying she took the job because she was unemployed. I can’t say I find her current interview reassuring since she continues to take no responsibility for the ethical and moral issues created by the show, or the deep impact its lies and fraud have on audiences.
As I am nearing the end of writing my book about legends of the pyramids (just two chapters left!), I have unfortunately come to more recent history, and this is the period when things get really weird—not just because of crazy legends that writers felt free to make up but also because of the completely bonkers misunderstandings of everything that turn even the simplest research questions into days-long quests into the heart of obscurity. This one vexed me for far too long, but it is too weird to let go.
I’m going to give Ancient Origins a little bit credit for their recent article on colored stones at the Giza Pyramids. At least the article, by writer Morgan Smith, took a different approach to developing an unusual claim about the pyramids. I hadn’t heard anyone try to claim that the colors of the stone used on the pyramids’ casings were tied to astrological and astronomical symbolism. So, I award points for at least a bit of originality. However, that doesn’t make the claim any better evidenced.
On Sunday, CBS’s 60 Minutes ran a piece on Easter Island reported by CNN’s Anderson Cooper. To promote the piece, CBS tweeted questions about whether aliens built the statues. In the filmed piece, Cooper asked whether space aliens put the statues in place. It was a depressing confirmation that the media has a low opinion of its audience and that the ancient astronaut theory is now so mainstream that it even shows up in news reports on the highest-rated news broadcast in America.
As a reminder, for the next week, I am reducing my blog output as I work on reviewing Graham Hancock’s America Before.
Last week, The Daily Star, ran a piece (picked up within hours by Sputnik) about ancient Egypt alleging that a lost book contains all of the secrets of the pyramids. The claim comes from Matt Sibson, the blogger and YouTuber whom we met last year when he alleged that the hoax Zeno map was actually an antediluvian chart of Atlantis. In his latest brain dropping, he misunderstood his sources and mangled yet another effort to understand ancient history, this time the Great Pyramid of Giza:
As I have been writing my book about the myths and legends associated with the Giza pyramids, I have run across a few facts I wasn’t previously aware of, or which were right in front of my face but which I didn’t fully understand. One of the more interesting I just discovered by accident this past week. It concerns a passage found in the historian al-Maqrizi’s Al-Khitat, which al-Maqrizi composed around 1400 CE. In the passage he relates what at first seems like a rather standard summary of another writer’s views about the pyramids of Khufu and Khafre:
Erich von Däniken Receives Award for "Integrity," Gives Keynote Speech Based on Decades-Old Mistakes and False Claims
This weekend Erich von Däniken was in California to give the keynote address to the Conscious Life Expo. At the event, he received the “Integrity Award” for his lifetime of investigation into the ancient astronaut theory. The layers of irony are thick, particularly since von Däniken’s “integrity” involves being convicted of embezzling money to fund his writing of Chariots of the Gods, admitting to fabricating his exploration of a cave full of “alien” artifacts, wholesale reusing of material from book to book while charging readers for “new” content, and the usual laundry list of false and misleading statements that demonstrate his lack of scholarly rigor or even a basic critical understanding of his own material.
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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