Secrets and Riddles of Ancient History: Great Powers of Forgotten Worlds
Jennifer S. Dawson | Camea Publishing | December 2018 | $2.99 eBook
In some respects, self-publishing has been a boon in terms of providing a path for voices outside the mainstream to share their points of view. But mostly online eBook self-publishing has resulted in tens of thousands of half-assed click-bait titles of middling to low quality. The author Jennifer S. Dawson—apparently a pen name for a non-English-speaking author—churns out a remarkable number of books in the “ancient mysteries” genre, covering topics familiar to readers of 1970s volumes on similar subjects. I’d try to address the books by theme, but they are a hodgepodge of short articles on unrelated topics united only in their general connection to lost civilizations, ancient astronauts, and other such threadbare “mysteries.” Secrets and Riddles of Ancient History: Great Powers of Forgotten Worlds, recently published, is representative of both the author’s handling of mysteries and the carelessness that characterizes so many attempts to exploit the ancient mysteries genre.
It doesn’t help that the problems begin with the front cover, where designer Dennis Westingen has misspelled the words “powers.” Nor does it help that “Jennifer S. Dawson” concedes in an introductory note that English is not “his” first language and that the book’s errors weigh on “his” conscience. “Dawson” is obviously a fake name, but whether one or more foreign writers stands behind it, I cannot say. My references to “Dawson” below use the name only to refer to whoever is responsible for this mess.
Reading the book, I suspect that the text was translated by machine and only lightly revised by someone with a cursory knowledge of English. That probably explains weird word choices, like “ceramic prism” instead of “clay tablet” and “royal roster” instead of the more conventional “king list.” The spelling and transliteration errors are strange—Charles Hapgood is given as “Hapgud,” for example, and Ale Maamun for al-Ma’mūn—and references to kings as “tsars” suggests an Eastern European origin, as do references to Polish and Russian novels largely unknown in the West. I’d guess Russian as the original language of composition.
The book features no introduction and no connecting tissue to bind together its random assortment of oddities, anecdotes from midcentury fringe writers like Jacques Bergier, and lightly rewritten Wikipedia articles. In general, the eclectic mix of pointless, misshapen articles range from incoherent to wildly off topic. For example, the first essay is a potted history of the life of Pompey the Great, which is bizarrely titled “Thunderstorm Filibusters,” the original non-English form from which this title was mangled I can’t even guess. A chapter on Atlantis is nothing more than a book report on the Flem-Aths’ Atlantis-in-Antarctica hypothesis, which Dawson describes as new, despite being published more than twenty years ago. Another random chapter simply gives a biography of Bruce Lee, apparently because he is the author’s favorite movie star.
Instead of reviewing all of the chapters, I want to highlight a few of the book’s unusual claims about ancient astronauts and lost civilizations and other odd things. Dawson mentions, for one thing, the legend of Alexander the Great’s architect Dinocrates, the civic planner for Alexandria and the designer of Hephaestion’s funeral pyre. According to Vitruvius’ On Architecture 2.1-4, Dinocrates proposed carving the entirety of Mount Athos into a monumental sculpture of Alexander, with a city laid out before him. Alexander rejected the proposal, but Dawson, in mangled English, suggests that the whole plan was meant to rival the Face on Mars and was canceled because space aliens didn’t arrive to help the extraterrestrial hybrid Alexander with the work: “What should be the civilization of the Greeks, if they swung at a similar plan! Is that the commander himself was really of unearthly origin and was counting on the help of some unknown forces.” The author also repeats a bunch of claims from Ancient Aliens and says that the fictitious Alexander Romance truthfully relates the king’s trip to outer space, a legend Dawson claims is recorded in medieval Russian art.
In a section on the extinction of the mammoths, and fringe claims that they still live in Russia, the author suggests that the two leading scientific hypotheses for their disappearance were (a) a comet killed them all and (b) they suffered from “mineral deficiencies.” These discussions are framed in terms of Russian and Eastern European science, so I assume that these ideas were much more popular in Eastern Europe than they were in the West. The author concludes, irrationally, that mammoths (excepting a small number of dwarf mammoths) did not go extinct at the end of the Ice Age but instead lived on until modern times. “Like it or not - scientists still have to figure it out,” Dawson writes.
Throughout, Dawson refers to fringe writers as scientists. He applies the label to Jacques Bergier, who was a chemical engineer, though this had no bearing on his esoteric musings. He also referred elliptically to Graham Hancock and Robert Bauval as “British scientists,” which is weird both because neither is a scientist and Bauval is not British.
The book finishes with a discussion of the lost race of giants. The author, confused as always, states both that no evidence of the giants still exists but also that “significant” archaeological finds amply demonstrate their reality. Dawson then goes on to state, preposterously, that the Russians pioneered gigantology:
The first scientist who spoke about the existence of giants in the ancient period of history was Ekimov, director of the Institute of Anthropology of the USSR Academy of Sciences, who claimed that the representatives of this race reached 5 meters and could weigh up to semitones.
Sigh. … I assume you realize that the musical term “semitones” is a mangling of semi-tonne, or half a (metric) ton.
But here is the Russian account of the lost race of giants, straight from Dawson’s mouth:
Many millions of years ago, our planet captured an asteroid with a field that exceeded the size of the moon. This asteroid became a satellite of the Earth. The attraction weakened due to tidal forces, as a result of which the civilization of giants, giants and giants arose. After hundreds of thousands of years, the satellite’s orbit approached the planet, the satellite itself exploded, and fragments fell to Earth. People who survived were already smaller, because gravity increased significantly. These people built a new civilization, which reached a high spiritual and intellectual level. That was the civilization of the Giants.
Dawson claims, without evidence, that archaeologists uncovered the skeletons of giant humans more than twelve feet tall in the mountains of the Republic of Georgia. After giving a standard litany of gigantology claims for discoveries of big skeletons, Dawson ends this way:
At the same time, modern science completely ignores their existence, since for the most part scientists do not perceive legends and myths about giants as truth. Some of the finds are rumored to have been destroyed by archaeologists themselves. Therefore, to believe or not to believe in the existence of giants - let everyone decide for himself.
Dawson ends the book by signing it (!) “Best regards, Jennifer Dawson” (!!).
I have no idea what the purpose of this miserable compendium of recycled claims and mangled English is supposed to be. It is not a book in anything but name, and the best I can imagine is that some foreign sweatshop threw it together in hopes of fooling readers into spending money on junk. What exactly the authors thought would happen when readers realized it was unreadable gibberish, I can only guess. Presumably they planned to have already taken in as much money as possible and run off with the profits before duped Ancient Aliens fans caught on.
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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