We are less than two weeks away from the premiere of the new season of America Unearthed, bowing at 9 PM ET on November 30, and H2 has made available a description of the first episode. Remember how producers and Scott Wolter indicated that the new series would focus less on religious conspiracies and pre-Columbian white conquest of America? Well, the first episode essentially announces: "No! We want religious conspiracies and pre-Columbian white conquest!" Yes, Scott Wolter is going in search of the Ten Lost Tribes of Israel and the Ark of the Covenant in the desert southwest.
Oh, and we go back to the Hill of Tara, where Ancient Aliens told us a flock of UFOs landed. Fun!
Here’s how H2 describes the first episode:
Scott Wolter gets a call from a man who has a mysterious stone on his property. He's convinced that it's the "Stone of Destiny"–the stone that Jacob from the Bible rested his head on when he dreamed of a stairway to Heaven. As Scott investigates, he discovers the stone was once kept with something even more valuable. It was once kept with the Ark of the Covenant and both are rumored to have been brought to America. Scott's quest for the truth leads him to a sacred site in Ireland called the Hill of Tara and to a mysterious site in Arizona where a petroglyph depicting what could be the Ark could suggest its final resting place is right here in the United States. And, as for who brought it here, a tablet inscribed with the Ten Commandments found with a series of other artifacts could suggest a likely group of candidates–the Lost Tribes of Israel.
How does one even begin? The trouble starts right at the beginning. The stone on which Jacob rested his head is not conventionally known as the Stone of Destiny when referring to the actual object from Genesis, where it is mentioned only once and is known typically as the “stone of Jacob.” The reference in Genesis 28:10-22 bookends the dream in which Jacob has a vision of a ladder reaching to heaven on which the angels moved up and down. Specifically, of the stone it is said:
… he took one of the stones of that place and put it at his head, and he lay down in that place to sleep. […] Then Jacob rose early in the morning, and took the stone that he had put at his head, set it up as a pillar, and poured oil on top of it. And he called the name of that place Bethel; but the name of that city had been Luz previously. Then Jacob made a vow, saying, “If God will be with me, and keep me in this way that I am going, and give me bread to eat and clothing to put on, so that I come back to my father’s house in peace, then the Lord shall be my God. And this stone which I have set as a pillar shall be God’s house, and of all that You give me I will surely give a tenth to You.”
Here is where things get weird, and a little racist. This pillar became known colloquially as “Jacob’s Pillow,” and this name became applied to the Stone of Scone, the coronation stone of the kings of Scotland, which legend holds was brought from Ireland sometime in the early Dark Ages. This, in turn, connects the Stone of Scone to the Lia Fáil at Tara, the coronation stone of the kings of Ireland. By the transitive property, Lia Fáil’s title of “Stone of Destiny” in turn became applied to the Stone of Scone, and, by back-formation, to Jacob’s stone. According to modern “Westminster stone theories” like the 2008 claims by Alex Salmond, based largely on speculation, the Stone of Scone is a fake set up by Scottish monks to fool the English, while the real stone of Jacob was secreted away sometime before 1296. This is supported, in turn, by a claim from 1819 that a large meteoric stone was that year found at Dunsinane beside two round bronze tablets with inscriptions relating it to Bethel, suggesting it was the original stone.
So how is this racist?
The legend, which most would rightly conclude is a medieval myth Christianizing a pagan stone, became one of the focal points of British Israelism in the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, and through that to various branches of Aryan supremacy theories. British Israelism is the belief, originating in the 1600s, that the British are the true descendants of the Lost Tribes, with the British monarch the lineal heir of David. British Israelism has traditionally been used to justify the racial superiority of white Anglo-Saxons over non-white peoples through an appeal to special status in the eyes of God, and it is still very much active online today, especially among racial theorists with religious inclinations. In turn, the substitution theory of the Stone of Scone leads to weird British-Israelist claims that Elizabeth II is an illegitimate queen.
In British Israelist ideology, the Lost Tribes became the Scythians (Saka or Cimmerians) of the Beishtun Inscription (column 1, line 6 and column 5, lines 74-75) carved by Darius of Persia c. 500 BCE because Darius says that “Ahuramazda was not worshipped by them,” so therefore they must be Jews. These Scythians, or Cimmerians, called themselves Kumri, which British Israelists like John Rhys argued was cognate with Kymri or Cymru, the names used by Celtic groups such as the Welsh for themselves. Since Hibernia and Iberia also sounded like “Hebrew,” ipso facto the Celts were the Jews, and the British therefore Israelites. It’s a little more complicated than that, but this is the main thread.
We have already seen how Glenn Beck recently used these exact same claims to argue that “Caucasians” are God’s Chosen People, and that America was founded by God’s Chosen.
But Scott Wolter goes farther still down the British Isles religious rabbit hole.
The Bible says nothing about the stone of Jacob being stored alongside the Ark of the Covenant. This might be based on claims that the Ark of the Covenant had been secreted to Scotland by the Knights Templar and entrusted to the Sinclair family. Or it could be derived from some truly nutty religious ranting by a group or person called JAH, who asserts that he, she, or they have “discovered” a text written by the Queen of Ireland in the 500s BCE describing how the Ark of the Covenant and Jacob’s Pillow were taken to Ireland where the pillow became the Lia Fáil and the Ark secreted in Queen Tephi’s tomb at Tara. This, in turn again, is no real discovery but the allegedly ancient words are instead taken verbatim from an 1897 poem called The Book of Tephi by John A. Goodchild, in which the author specifically disclaimed any real connection to truth but instead said it was a fantasy concocted from the Bible and fragments of Irish poetry, of which he admitted much ignorance. Others who advocate the same theory instead base their views on verbatim quotations from an 1880 novel on a similar subject.
But I won’t leave it there. There has to be a historical basis for these British Israelist claims. It certainly does not come from the obvious sources, like the Lebor Gabála Érenn (c. 1150), which in standard form relate that the Lia Fáil originated when the Tuath De Danann brought it in their UFOs (just kidding—it was boats) from Falia, or that Simon Brec brought it from Spain, or that Pharaoh’s daughter Scota brought it from Egypt in the days of Moses. (Goodchild ran all these together to make a multi-stage journey.)
Instead, the story originates in a truly bizarre mixture of materials assembled in 1861 by the Rev. F. R. A. Glover, a British Israelist, and advocated by the American C. A. L. Totten, author of the appropriately named Our Race describing how God favored white Anglo-Saxons as the Chosen People. Obviously, such claims could only emerge after the English had full control of Ireland and Scotland and felt comfortable tracing their lineage to a Celtic group, something that came about only after the Act of Union. Prior to that, the Celts were often demonized as subhuman, rather than heralded as the pure embodiment of Aryan greatness.
Glover’s ideas start with the Apocrypha, where the prophet Jeremiah is said to have hid the Ark of the Covenant in Mt. Nebo, where it would stay hidden and safe from the invading armies during the destruction of Babylon in 587 BCE (2 Maccabees 2:4–7). Because Jeremiah’s followers could not find it, later writers began to claim that Jeremiah fled with the Ark. In 1024, in the poetry of Cuan O’Cochlain (attributed; many think the source text is older), we read that Tephi, daughter Cino Bactir, a king in Spain, died and her fantastic tomb became Tara. He was repeating a claim made by Amergin in the sixth century. Somehow, and I do not know how, British Israelists made Tephi into a daughter of Zedekiah, the last Jewish king before the destruction of Jerusalem in 587 BCE, and had her marry a Milesian (Scot) and bring the Stone of Destiny to Ireland and call it the Pillow of Jacob. This is very much a purposeful misinterpretation of Cuan O’Cochlain’s discussion of how Tephi married Canthon of Britain, and the Britons’ most important idol, the Etherun or Taran, was left in Spain until her body was restored to that country. Tephi’s tomb in Spain then became the model for another tomb in Ireland, called Tara, after the return of the stone idol.
In the Lebor Gabála Érenn, we read that Milesians invaded Ireland, and someone had the brilliant inspiration to decide that Jeremiah was one of them, when in fact the Irish annals specify that their leader, Ollam Fodlah, was a native king, not one from the Middle East. British Israelists purposely conflated Tephi, known only from the works cited above, with Tea, a native-born queen married to Heremon, son of Miletus, in Spain just before the Milesian invasion. Since the annals preserve her genealogy in Ireland back at least three generations, she was therefore not the daughter of Zedekiah.
The warrant for this is Jeremiah 41:10 and 43:5-7, where a king’s daughters (either Zedekiah’s or Josiah’s; the text is unclear) escape the destruction of Jerusalem. There is no indication they went to Ireland or anywhere else, or that any of them was Tea or Telphi.
All of this is mixed up with the similar legend of Scota, the supposed ancestress of the Scots, whom Irish legends dating back to the 1100s claim was a daughter of Pharaoh from the time of Moses who was exiled, married a prince, and spawned the Scots. Various arguments have been put forward to work Scota and Tea-Tephi into the same myth, or to move Scota from the time of Moses to that of Jeremiah, etc. The Lebor Gabála Érenn however is fairly clear on the point, though some variant manuscripts offers another Scota, daughter of an imaginary pharaoh. It also claims she was married to a Scythian, which pulls us back into the Celts = Scythians = Lost Tribes claim.
In 1301 Baldred Bisset rewrote Scottish history to downplay Irish involvement when he prepared the Scottish submission to the papal curia complaining about English aggression during the Wars of Independence. He rewrote the Scota myth to make her take the Stone of Scone from Egypt with her during the Exodus, and Robert the Bruce made use of this as anti-English propaganda in 1323. This is the only slim line of actual historical detail (though still a myth) connecting either of the coronation stones back to the Middle East—a detail that British Israelists retroactively applied back to the Stone of Destiny in Ireland.
Putting it all together with no mind for chronology or truth, the British Israelists made Jeremiah and Tephi come with the Ark of the Covenant and Jacob’s stone from Egypt to Spain to Ireland, and there hid the Ark at Tara, where it serves to bless the white race with divine protection from the non-white peoples of the world. And not a word of this is actually found in any of the ancient texts from which the story originates.
As various parts of this confabulation were challenged, new claims were invented to support it. None is convincing, and to this very day various racist and anti-Semitic theories use these claims, including one that the Jews, specifically the Rothschilds, are hiding the Ark from good, believing Christians.
Scott Wolter, of course, will simply accept all of this as true legendry and not a nineteenth century concoction. He will further look into whether the Lost Tribes brought the Ark to the desert southwest, and he’s going to use the almost certainly fake Los Lunas Decalogue Stone—which I discussed in great detail back in March—to “prove” it.
So, season two is off to a great start: Racist British Israelist fantasies rehabilitated for your amusement, all while making America the home of God’s own Ark and shining the blessings of Yahweh on the (white) people of America. Perfect.
The Other J.
11/19/2013 07:55:48 am
I'm... just going to keep my mouth shut on this one -- I think you covered the problems well enough.
11/19/2013 11:05:07 am
What I don't get is the lack of critical thinking.
11/19/2013 02:35:49 pm
When do we get to meet Tim The Enchanter?
8/30/2014 11:49:16 am
The American indians, etal., are NOT of the house of Israel. Denmark, pronounced DANmark are of the house of Israel.
11/19/2013 08:05:26 am
How does it advance "Aryan supremacy" to claim that one is not Aryan at all, but rather Jewish? If claiming to be "God's chosen people" constitutes racism, then are the Jews, by this definition, the original racists? Don't Christians, Muslims, Jews, Buddhists, and any national or even tribal religion all claim to be God's chosen people? Why do you insist that such a claim is based upon race? If one belongs to a different race, and then marries into, say for instance the Jews, and becomes a proselyte, then you become one of God's chosen people, right? Your race has nothing to do with it, I think that cries of racism in these cases, may be unfounded. Being one of God's chosen people, need not rely on your race. Imagine an Aryan identifying himself as a Jew, and that makes him a racist! I don't follow the "logic." I realize that there are racists among the British-Israelites, but there are racists among the Italians as well, and then there are the Sicilians who are very proud that they are not Italians. Is pride in your national origin, or race, what constitutes racism in your mind?
11/19/2013 08:42:28 am
British Israelism imagined that what we call "Jews" are really the degenerate remnants of Babylonians who interbred with the Jews, while white British people were "pure" tribes of Israel and bathed in the light of Christ. In their mind, to be a Tribe of Israel is not to be a Jew, but a Chosen One.
11/19/2013 10:47:30 am
OK Jason, "They, for example, appropriate early Jewish culture for Britain, assign the Celts to an Aryan scheme, and make the Germans into Assyrians." It just seems very surprising to me to learn that adopting Jewish culture as your own, accepting the Celts as your racial equivalents, and denying that the Germans are Aryans but are instead Semitic Assyrians, and in fact denying your own Aryan origins in favor of claiming that you are an Israelite (who are not Japhetic but Semitic), could ever be considered as features of "Aryan supremacy." By the way, who is "white" in your mind? Are not the Jews (and/or the Israelites) and Babylonians white?
11/19/2013 11:06:21 am
I think you're trying to impose a unified idea of racism when there were many different racisms in earlier days. Before the idea of genetics, terms like "Aryan," "Semitic," etc. were more fungible. Don't expect Victorians to conform to Nazi-era distinctions of biological racism. The Victorians took seriously the concept of the Jews as the Chosen People and sought to appropriate that for themselves by simply making the "true" Jews into Aryans.
The Other J.
11/19/2013 11:08:31 am
11/24/2013 01:07:32 am
The British Israelists were the source and inspiration for the current American racist religion Christian Identity which is a hate religion followed by many American neo-Nazi, extreme right wing and white supremacists today. They believe that semitic Jews are not the Israeli chosen people but the British are a lost tribe of Israel.
11/24/2013 04:07:48 am
Well, thanks for that David, better late than never, I will stand corrected (with apologies to Jason and the other J, I was doubting your objectiveness). It was the phrase "Christian Identity" that got to me. I guess that there are some, decidedly few (2,000 to 50,000) but vocal, who claim, to my utter amazement, to be both Semitic and Aryan! I was not familiar with these groups. They are not affiliated with Herbert Armstrong's (the Worldwide Church of God) or Yair Davidy's (Brit-am) groups (with whom I am very familiar, and have actually published some of my writings) who condemn and are condemned by them. The Christian Identity "hate groups" would have a tough time explaining, not only the Aryan/Semite conflict of identity, but many Scriptural passages that seem to predict a joining of the "Lost Tribes" with the tribe of Judah at the "end times" (such as Eze. 37) to protect Jerusalem from the "Philistines." Anyway, thanks for your contribution, I will submit and quietly slink away, I just didn't know.
The Other J.
11/19/2013 09:20:22 am
*deep breath -- this is going to be long*
The Other J.
11/19/2013 09:22:22 am
*got cut off -- told ya it was going to be long*
11/19/2013 10:57:58 am
11/19/2013 01:44:52 pm
The Other J,
The Other J.
11/19/2013 03:03:28 pm
Thane, you're right that it's religious-based and about home rule, but those things get wrapped up in each other in a big way. The religious thing is almost entirely a political thing, and easier for the Irish to parse than Americans. I've had Catholic American friends who went to a Protestant service in Dublin and not realized they'd not been to a Catholic service until they were told afterward.
11/19/2013 03:23:16 pm
Thanks, The Other J, for the explanation.
The Other J.
11/19/2013 03:38:48 pm
11/19/2013 04:31:59 pm
The Other J,
11/19/2013 08:14:30 am
I see one error:
11/19/2013 08:34:47 am
11/19/2013 10:46:08 am
11/19/2013 11:08:26 am
I don't think modern churches that follow the idea do, but I'm sure that the white supremacists who use it do.
11/19/2013 12:55:49 pm
Herbert W. Armstrong, founder of the Worldwide Church of God, preached British Israelism.
11/19/2013 03:25:23 pm
The description of this first episode is beyond ridiculous. Do you think he'll find a hooked X on the "Stone of Destiny"? More of Wolter trying to create an Indiana Jones type character and misinforming the viewers. Anyone with some sign of intelligence will figure out that this program is a waste of time.
11/19/2013 10:23:33 pm
The discoveries of Helge Ingstad show that America was discovered by the Vikings before Columbus and this is almost universally accepted by mainstream scholarship (The Viking Discovery of America: The Excavation of A Norse Settlement In L'Anse Aux Meadows, Newfoundland (2001)
11/19/2013 10:37:38 pm
We all know that. I use the word "Pre-Columbian" because that's how archaeology classifies periods in American history. This is because the Vikings did not represent disruptive change to Native civilizations.
The Vikings did not represent disruptive change to Native civilizations? That's a foul summation, in my opinion. The Vikings were disruptive to Old Russia as they ventured into those watery worlds, and we can be sure the Vikings were disruptive to Natives along the East Coast and into the interior "some distance," yet to be determined.
11/19/2013 10:42:40 pm
Jacob's stone, the Stone of Destiny (ditto Ark of Covenant, etc) as physical objects is not the important thing but the religious beliefs that those objects represent. The existence of religious belief always precedes physical objects
11/21/2013 02:43:14 am
11/26/2013 02:56:04 pm
12/21/2013 11:15:10 pm
The Tephi myth is beloved of Mormons trying to trace their family tree back to Adam. They use a list of mythological kings of Ireland down to Tephi and use her to make the leap to the biblical genealogies. Genius. Had a picnic at Tara during the summer, lovely spot. If I'd known that the ark of the covenant was buried there I'd have brought a shovel.
8/30/2014 11:58:24 am
IN 1Thes. 5:21 GOD commands Christians to PROVE all things, hold fast that which is good. Modern professing Christianity is NOT Biblically Christian. I can prove that, but so must you. Read Jer. 3: 16 and 17 very carefully and you might just get a real surprise and shock. The ark IS at Tara Hill and TEA_TEPHI was the daughter of King Zedikia last king of Judah. read about him, if you dare!
2/25/2019 11:20:01 am
The term Cymru for Wales (pronounced Kumree) comes from an early combrogi (companions). It dates from the early Middle Ages.
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