It’s the summer doldrums, and it seems that many fringe history heavyweights are on vacation right now, and the lower echelons are trying to keep cool in the shade. The C-listers like Scott Wolter and Hutton Pulitzer seem to have gotten tired of me pointing out their errors and lies, so the two of them moved their weekly rehashing of old America Unearthed episodes from Soundcloud to a Facebook live stream on Pulitzer’s personal Facebook page (not his author page, Investigating History page, or any of his others), so that only a small number of their fans following their social media accounts can join their mutual lovefest and watch the Dutch angle live stream of a web cam video of Pulitzer’s computer screen displaying web cam images of the two men. The number of viewers was 313 as of this writing. I’m blocked from viewing their social media. Pulitzer promises to put the video up on YouTube at some point, but for now only those fans he has accepted as personal friends on Facebook (or at least hasn’t blocked, like me) are able to view the video. Who is afraid of the truth now? Apparently the people who are trying to hide their lies and talk only to true believers. [Update: The video is now on YouTube, and I will review it tomorrow.]
So it seemed like a good time to do some archival research. In so doing, I found a strange claim that shows the risks of not researching primary sources.
Our story today begins with the claim that the Cherokee preserved evidence of the truth of the Biblical narrative in their story of the Elohi, five Atlantic islands destroyed by fire and flood, which Europeans and European-Americans have long suggested is a reflection of the Hebraic Elohim, and thus proof of a connection to Genesis, Fallen Angels, or even Atlantis. The similarity of names had been remarked upon frequently, but Edgar Cayce tied the islands to Atlantis and pushed the material from Biblical to fringe historical in nature. Cayce was not the first to make the claim, however. Lord Arundell of Wardour had declared the Cherokee Flood Myth to be connected to Atlantis in passing in his 1885 book The Secret of Plato’s Atlantis.
Anyway, the Cherokee journalist Charla Jean Morris self-published a book in 2011 called From the First Rising Sun: The Real First Part of the Prehistory of the Cherokee People and Nation According to Oral Traditions, Legends, and Myths. In the book Morris identifies the ancient Cherokee homeland as Atlantis and compares the Cherokee Flood Myth to the Noachian Flood Myth as part of a much larger fringe takeover of Native beliefs.
This much is standard for fringe history and indeed appears in identical terms in the works of Frank Joseph on Atlantis. What is interesting to me, though, is the way Morris overreached in trying to prioritize Cherokee mythology within fringe history. For example, she alleges that Cherokee oral histories maintain that before Noah’s Flood people lived in “tall buildings” and “used 100% of their brains instead of the apparent and supposed 10% we use now.” These claims are not ancient; they occurred within the past few decades. Her source for this claim is her aunt, Lula Lee Morris Boggs, who alleges that she could trace her ancestry back to Julius Caesar, Boadicea, and Old King Cole! Another of her relatives allegedly descended from Pocahontas!
Morris, though, is steeped in fringe history in ways that are embarrassing to read. She attributes to Cherokee mythology claims taken from Graham Hancock about the precession of the equinoxes and the allegation that ancient Mexican peoples had knowledge of the same. She takes from fringe historians a half-understood claim that the ancients had “black stones” they used to see everything going on in the world, which she compares to iPads. This is a conflation of the magic mirror used by Surid in Arabian-Egyptian lore and the black obsidian mirror that John Dee used for magical rites. She also cites “gold or brass airplane models found at various sites around the world,” a somewhat confused reference to the Colombian gold insect sculptures that ancient astronaut theorists consider airplanes and wear on their lapels as symbols of their loyalty to the cause. She cites, too, claims of ancient atom bombs and that the people of India used rockets to stop Alexander the Great.
Following all this—presented as a discussion with a Cherokee elder who attributes the claims to “they say” and “legends”—Morris offers the Arabic pyramid legend and gives it an unusual twist. Regular readers will recall that the story, first told in the Akhbar al-zaman around 1000 CE, alleges that before the Great Flood the Egyptian king Surid had a vision that led him to construct the pyramids of Giza to protect knowledge and wisdom against the coming of the Flood. Now take a look at how Morris mangles the story from her reading of fringe history (capitalization and punctuation as in original):
Coptic 10th century writer Masudi stated, ‘Surid, one of the Kings of Egypt before the Deluge built the two great pyramids.’ Whether or not the “two great pyramids” refer only to the ones in present Egypt is debatable, especially since there is at least one, the one in China, the Great White Pyramid, which is possibly larger than the largest pyramid of Egypt. And let us not forget our own great pyramid, the pyramid our ancestors built, at Cholula in Mexico. It is the largest pyramid in the world by volume. That would mean the Great pyramid of Egypt might not even be one of the two great pyramids that Surid built.
How does one begin to unpack all of the wrongness in this short passage? Al-Mas‘udi was an Arab born in Baghdad, not a Coptic Christian. He is not the author of the Arab pyramid myth, and indeed he offered a different account of the origin of the pyramids. The account Morris uses is from the Akhbar al-zaman, wrongly attributed to Mas‘udi in the Middle Ages and incorrectly reprinted as his work in Col. Vyse’s Operations Carried on at the Great Pyramids of Gizeh (1840), the source for Erich von Däniken and most later fringe historians. (Seriously: It is fun to see how many have copied, often verbatim but sometimes indirectly, from this source.) The sentence given in the text is not a direct quotation. Presumably it is meant to reflect this line: “Surid is the builder of the two pyramids that are attributed to Shaddad ibn ’Ad” or the many very similar versions in the other Arabic historians. Her exact wording is mangled somewhat from that given at the start of the loose reconstructed semi-translation provided in Vyse’s Operations (vol. 2, p. 322), which did not have the benefit of a complete text of the Akhbar al-zaman. Vyse’s translator therefore reconstructed the text (somewhat wrongly) from al-Maqrizi, where his wording can be found at the head of the section quoting Ibrahim ibn Wasif Shah. Morris is incorrectly quoting bad quotations of Vyse popular in fringe literature, themselves based on a rewriting of a line not found in the original!
But because Morris has never read the full passage, let alone the complete Akhbar al-zaman, she is unaware that the line does not exist in isolation. The text makes absolutely plain that it speaks of the pyramids of Giza. There is no debate. You needn’t believe me, though: I have placed all of the texts in my Library (here, here, here, and here) where they may be viewed.
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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