This week, I’m going to take on a challenge. I’m going to review David (née Hatcher) Childress’s most famous book, and the one that he uses as his credential for appearing on Ancient Aliens: Technology of the Gods (2000), the book in which Childress claims to present evidence for high technology in ancient times.
Before we begin, let me remind any readers who aren’t familiar with my history with Childress that the alternative author attacked me in print in 2006 for calling him an ancient astronaut theorist during the period between his book Extraterrestrial Archaeology (1999) and his stint on Ancient Aliens (2009) when Childress claimed he did not believe in aliens. As I outlined here, it is hard to keep track of his constantly-vacillating position on what exactly he does believe.
So, onward to the book.
First off, I’m not going to be going through Childress’s claims one by one; at more than 350 pages that would be impossible. Instead, I’m going to discuss the types of evidence he uses and the way he constructs his arguments.
Things don’t start well when Childress begins by trying to establish whether Egypt received its civilization from an ancient, more advanced earlier civilization. Few alternative writers support this hypothesis now (even Childress jumped on the alien bandwagon), but in the wake of Graham Hancock’s Fingerprints of the Gods (1995), it was all the rage around the time Childress wrote this book. Childress’s evidence includes the long-debunked ancient astronaut standbys, the Denderah “light bulb” (actually an image of a lotus flower) and the Colombian “airplanes” (fewer than a half-dozen stylized pieces of jewelry cherry-picked from hundreds of examples to because they vaguely resembled airplanes). Worse, Childress states upfront that he plans to “recap” information he’s already delivered in innumerable other collections that in turn reported on other alternative theorists’ earlier plagiarisms and crackpot ideas. Ah, originality!
To “prove” an ancient civilization pre-dated Egypt, Childress uses John Anthony West’s 1993 NBC-TV documentary The Mystery of the Sphinx, narrated by Charlton Heston. This program prevented Robert Schoch’s re-dating of the Sphinx, which Childress only vaguely understands, relying on the TV show to tell him everything he knows about the controversy before complaining via a quote from James Joyce’s wife that scholars write stuff normal folk can’t read.
Childress sprinkles his text with phrases like “highly rated,” “popular,” “famous,” etc. to provide an argumentum ad populum that associates his ideas with the borrowed acclaim of others. He describes the destruction of ancient libraries, deems this “suppression” of ancient knowledge (by evil secularists, scientists, and “Moslems”), and speculates that the lost books contained technological secrets about plumbing.
Yes, plumbing. We next have to suffer through a length discussion of the “Bathrooms of the Gods.” I am not kidding.
Relying largely on sources from the 1940s-1960s as well as mass-market books, Childress outlines the history of irrigation and plumbing in the ancient world, studded with lengthy (and presumably not paid for) excerpts from his source books. He describes various forms of toilets and how the ancient disposed of fecal waste. He relies on the work of J. Rendel Harris, the early-twentieth-century scholar, without acknowledging Harris’ own “alternative” ideas, including his belief that all ancient myths were descended from one story of cosmic twins, remnants of a great seafaring empire of which no evidence exists. Childress then discusses the inventions of the Chinese, drawing on Robert Temple (yes, the ancient astronaut theorist) and his book The Genius of China. Within reasonable tolerance, all of this is standard historical material, free from controversy. But then we start to go off the rails when Childress quotes (and, man, does he ever quote and paraphrase endlessly) other alternative writers to wonder why the Chinese invented so much. Could it have been Atlantis or Lemuria or Mu behind it all?
Somehow leaving behind plumbing and its derivatives, Childress introduces the apocryphal “crystal skull” mystery. As skeptics well know, these skulls are of modern manufacture and are not an ancient mystery. There is no reason to discuss them more except to note that Childress include an image of a skull taken from a Mayan relief carving and identifies it as a “crystal” skull despite the complete lack of any reason to do so. It’s a skull: you know, the bony kind, like the thick one that prevents facts from entering Childress’s brain.
Childress was smart to start his book with more or less uncontroversial material. Copied from sources more or less known to the reader, it builds up a base of borrowed credibility from which Childress can launch into the crazy, beginning with the megalithic stone builders of Chapter 2.
Childress asserts that worldwide cyclopean architecture is “Atlantean” and derived from an ancient, lost civilization. Thus, everything from Mycenae to Sacsayhuaman to Easter Island is part and parcel of a single culture. It couldn’t be that fitting together rocks by banging their edges together until they stuck was easier than creating perfect right angles in the ancient past. No, that can’t be it. It has to be Atlantis.
Or maybe it was the “Osirian civilization,” a coeval Atlantis alternative attributed only to “esoteric tradition.” Well, actually, it’s a word-for-word plagiarism of his earlier Lost Cities of Atlantis, Ancient Europe & the Mediterranean (1996), plagiarizing his still earlier Lost Cities & Ancient Mysteries of Africa and Arabia (1989). Pages 37 and 38 of Technology of the Gods are word-for-word plagiarism of page 27 of Lost Cities of Atlantis. Pages 39-41 of Technology of the Gods differ from pages 28-29 of Lost Cities of Atlantis only in the substitution of “technology” for “Atlantis”, and from pages 128-129 of Africa and Arabia in substituting "technology" for "lost cities and vanished civilizations" in the cut-and-paste plagiarism. Here’s an example:
Eventually, after four pages of self-plagiarism, we veer off into original (I think) material. Childress never cites his source for “Osirian” civilization, and so far as I can tell, it derives from a mistaken nineteenth century attempt to link “Osirian” and “Assyrian” on the grounds that they sort of sound alike.
Childress relays the “mysteries” of ancient stone blocks, relying on (and this must be a joke) “Sumerian scholar” Zecharia Sitchin (he was not; he was an ancient astronaut theorist), Charles Berlitz, and sundry other alternative writers who, to their credit, did more than just copy other people’s work and pass it off as their own. That doesn’t make them right, of course, just less copy-happy. Childress also relies on Theosophical literature, itself an intellectual fraud, for ascribing megalithic ruins to Atlantis and renaming Atlantis as “Poseid.” (The latter appears to be from Frederick Spenser Oliver’s psychically-channeled novel Dweller on Two Planets , a book well known to Childress and frequently cited by him, though only in the Lemurian Fellowship version.)
I could go on, but really, what’s the point? The rest of the chapter is the same as this. Childress spews out some lightly rewritten summaries of other people’s work on Carnac, or Cuzco, or Stonehenge and then relates it to his true passion, his fantasy of a pre-Ice-Age world of Lemurian, Muvian, Atlantean, Osirian, and sundry other imaginary civilizations. All of the research is secondhand, outdated, and inaccurate. Worse, he imagines every ancient civilization was coeval, derived from a fantastic original. Conventional dating, chronology, and science mean nothing compared to the esoteric revelation “channeled” from the Theosophical dwellers on other planets.
He concludes with a photo barrage of stone structures and one image, apparently a Mayan relief (though I can’t find evidence of it outside alternative books), showing an erupting volcano, that he identifies as the “destruction of Atlantis” based on no evidence whatsoever. Like there aren’t volcanoes in Mexico.
What a lazy piece of crap this book is. There’s not an original thought—and precious little original writing—in the whole of the first two chapters.
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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