One of the themes that I discuss frequently is the cross-pollination between the various streams of fringe history, notably the swapping of ideas among ancient astronaut, Atlantean, and Nephilim hypotheses. To that end, I’ve pointed more than once to the way Ignatius Donnelly implicitly equated the Nephilim with the denizens of Atlantis in Atlantis: The Antediluvian World (1882), notably when he describes Atlantis as the “antediluvian world” and, explicitly, that in Genesis 6 “the Antediluvian World was none other than Atlantis.”
But I’m always learning things, and it’s interesting to see that Donnelly was but a pale reflection of the first wave of speculation that much more clearly—and much earlier—explicitly made Atlantis into the land of Nephilim and their parents, the Watchers.
Our first piece of testimony comes from Constantine Samuel Rafineseque, who was for a long period of his life a respected if impecunious scientist. But Rafinesque fell on hard times and he started presenting increasingly unhinged claims about ancient history in a desperate bid for cash. A couple of months ago, I mentioned that Rafinesque invented a lost race of white giants called the Atlans (or Atlantes), but it turns out that he had some choice ideas about how these giants got to America. In his book The American Nations (1836), Rafinesque proposed that the Atlantes were the descendants of Cain and populated the Americas when they were sent there after Noah’s Flood:
The Cainites or Cabils have been deemed parents of the Atlantes and Africans. They were skilful, powerful and wicked, inventing agriculture and arts, building cities &c.: while the Sethites invented astronomy, letters and dwelt in tents. If the American Atlantes were antidiluvian, they must have sprung from the Atlantes Cainites, KIN of Moses.
We’ll leave aside the implicit racism that Native Americans are genetically evil. We see here in embryo the later fringe claim that the “underworld” was really the “opposite” world, that Hell is South America! More than one fringe writer currently advocates the idea that when Odysseus went to the Underworld he actually crossed the Atlantic. But it’s also interesting to see the Egregori (the Watchers) appearing in a “science” book, in partially rationalized form. But most interesting of all is Rafinesque’s claim, specifically, that the Giants were cannibals—a claim derived from Jewish apocryphal lore—and that these same giants populated prehistoric America as a consequence of the Flood.
But Rafinesque merely applied to America a claim that was already circulating among scholars and pseudo-scholars that identified Atlanteans with the Nephilim and Atlas with Noah. Ten years earlier, in the fringe mythology tract Nimrod: A Discourse upon Certain Passages of History and Fable, the author, Algernon Herbert, asserted that “the far-flamed Atlantis” was “the residence of the Nephilim or Titans.”
If you want to go all the way down the rabbit hole, it turns out that Algernon Herbert was a crank of the first order. He was also the author of a book called Cyclops Christianus in which he tried to prove that Stonehenge and other megalithic remains were not ancient but rather medieval constructions in Germanic style, built for King Arthur. In that same book he endorsed the view that Native Americans were actually the product of Kublai Khan’s Mongol fleets, and therefore earlier ruins could not be theirs.
Herbert was a younger son of the second Earl of Carnarvon. His brother, Henry, who inherited the earldom, was the grandfather of the fifth Earl of Carnarvon, who financed the excavation of King Tut’s tomb in 1922 and accidentally sparked the legend of the Mummy’s Curse when he died of blood poisoning. It can be weird how these things connect.
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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