I should start today with the sad news of the passing of Leonard Nimoy, best known for Star Trek but influential in the world of fringe history as the narrator of In Search Of... and the host of Ancient Mysteries on A&E. He introduced many people over the past four decades to both science fiction and the pseudo-historical fantasies built from sci-fi parts.
Before I get into the main topic for today, I have a brief review of last night’s episode of Expedition Unknown S01E08 “Code to Gold,” which followed almost exactly the Freemason conspiracy treasure hunting format used by many of last season’s episodes of America Unearthed on a rival channel. By contrast, when host Josh Gates heads off to Virginia to look for the fictitious Beale Treasure—a vast hoard of gold supposedly buried in Bedford County around 1819—the show gives a fair airing to a number of different perspectives on the treasure, including what I am certain is the correct solution: that it never existed.
The Beale Treasure story derives from a work of fiction, a pamphlet published in 1885 by John B. Ward, a Freemason, who claimed that the three numerical ciphers therein were composed by the likely non-existent Thomas J. Beale in the 1820s and would give the location of his treasure to anyone who could decode them. One of the three, he said, had been decoded by using the Declaration of Independence as a key. Ward, of course, made a good chunk of cash selling the pamphlet to would-be treasure hunters. In 1982, skeptic Joe Nickell determined that Beale never existed and that Ward had fabricated the documents, which contain words that did not exist in the 1820s. He concluded that Ward modeled the hoax on the “secret vault” allegory of Freemasonry, which is also Nickell’s explanation for Oak Island and many other mysteries. It’s his favorite explanation for anything involving underground treasure.
After visiting with several different treasure hunters who each have their own pet theory about where the treasure is buried, Gates meets with the Freemasons in Philadelphia to discuss Masonic codes, but he declines to promote conspiracy theories about Masonry. Instead, he turns to the NSA (which, if you believe that other show is in the clutches of Masons), where an expert demonstrated that one cipher was critically flawed and that the other two were not ciphers at all but random series of numbers thrown together from the first cipher. Gates correctly concludes that this won’t change the minds of treasure hunters but pretty much closes the book on this “mystery.” Ward dreamed up the hoax, and that was that.
The episode was well-produced, and given that I’m not at all interested in fruitless treasure hunting, enjoyable to watch. It had its share of TV fakery—I doubt Gates just happened to stumble upon a cave while carrying spelunking equipment for what he claimed was a boat trip down a river, but his caving adventure did produce this wonderful line you won’t hear over on H2: “I feel like a giant baby squeezing my way out of a limestone birth canal.”
Actually, given H2’s penchant for psycho-sexual rewritings of history, you might hear something like that.
Scotty Roberts on Irish Anunnaki
Our friend Scotty Roberts uploaded a paper to Academia.edu in which he claims that the Irish deities known as the Tuatha De Danann are the Anunnaki of Mesopotamian mythology. The paper can also be found as an article on Mysterious Universe. This is ridiculous on many levels, but in discussing the mythic beings Roberts manages to demonstrate his lack of familiarity with the many layers of mythology and the changes mythic figures underwent over the centuries, as well as his poor research.
He begins by discussing the Irish deities and notes that they are also depicted as “flesh and blood” kings. He seems to find this surprising, but he fails to note that the source he consults for this—the Lebor Gabála Érenn—is not ancient but medieval and exists in several different redactions. The reason that the Tuatha De Danann appear as kings and queens is that their stories were rationalized and euhemerized by Christian monks, who only on occasion hint that the stories were originally told of divinities before being downgraded to mortals, much the way Euhemerus reduced the Greek gods to Eastern monarchs and Snorri Sturluson turned the Norse pantheon into a traveling band of Trojan heroes. Section 7.317 explicitly calls them “gods,” while in 7.318, the monkish commentator adds that Christians view them as “demons.”
Roberts tells of how the Tuatha De Danann descended onto a mountain in a cloud that covered the sun for three days. It’s interesting that Roberts rejects the oldest version of the first redaction, the Book of Leinster (1150 CE) version of section 7.306, which describes this event in mythical terms, but prefers the later additions to 7.306 in the Book of Fermoy (1373 CE) and also when the story is repeated again in 7.322. In those cases, the descent on the mountain in fog becomes a smokescreen created by the Tuatha De Danann burning their ships to show that they would not leave Ireland. The two versions represent different levels of euhemerizing of the same story, but for Roberts, the second version is “less steeped in the mistiness of legend” and therefore for him more correct! I would argue that it’s just the other way around: that the rationalized version is an attempt to place stories of the divine in a human world.
(Just to note: Roberts’s citation of the Lebor text, including the line used to introduce an excerpt from the Macalister translation, appears to be copied from Wikipedia, since in both texts the following words appear exactly: “A poem in the Lebor Gabála Érenn says of their arrival.”)
Robert then asserts that the Tuatha De Danann became the Elves, and that the word Elf is “a derivative of the ancient Sumerian Elil and the Hebrew Elohim,” an unsupportable assertion for many reasons. First among them is neither of those words is Indo-European, while “elf” is an Indo-European term believed to be closely related terms for “white” (cf. Latin albus), suggesting the elves magical or moral power. We can see that in the Old English form of “elf,” aelf, and its medieval Norse and German counterparts, alfr and alp respectively. By contrast, the Elohim derive from a Semitic word, il, a word associated not with whiteness but strength. I am not familiar with “Elil,” which I believe is a variant of Enlil, the high Sumerian god.
But this is not enough language play for Roberts. He then connects the Tuatha De Danann to the Jewish tribe of Dan, and thus to the Watchers and the Nephilim, because, really, what fringe theory doesn’t involve Jews and Watchers? Roberts claims that the Tribe of Dan traveled to Mt. Hermon during the Exodus and there were indoctrinated into the pagan rites of the Watchers, who in 1 Enoch descended from the sky onto Hermon. I think that he is referring to the later events when Dan became a center of idol worship under Jeroboam (1 Kings 12:30).
Unbeknownst to me, this is apparently a popular fringe theory in End Times prophecy since Hippolytus of Rome claimed that the Antichrist would come from the Tribe of Dan. Therefore, Christian anti-Holy Bloodline conspiracy theorists assert that Mary Magdalene descends from the Danites in order to assert that the Merovingians, by dint of being Magdalene descendants, are lineal Danites and therefore satanic breeders of the future Antichrist. In other words, there are some Christians who assume that there is some substance to the Holy Bloodline conspiracy and then back-form a satanic conspiracy to fool us all into thinking the Holy Bloodline conspiracy is true. It makes my head hurt.
But Roberts doesn’t make so facile a connection as Dan = Danann. Oh, no! Instead, the Tuatha De Danann are Canaanite worshipers of Anu whose menfolk married the womenfolk of Dan:
The people of the Israelite tribe of Dan intermingled with the Canaanite Tuatha De Danann, also known as the Dragon Lords of Anu, said to be the offspring of the ancient Sumerian Anunnaki. This is also one of the interpretations of the Sons of God intermingling with the “daughters of men,” referenced in the Genesis chapter six story of the Nephilim.
He then asserts that the combined Canaanite-Israelite group migrated across Europe, bequeathing Nordic and Celtic culture wherever they went, a culture he called “Canaanite Anunnaki Serpent culture.” Roberts asks: “Are these simply tricks of word similarities or are the coincidences far too great to overlook?” The first. “Danann” is not related to “Dan” but is the genitive of Danu, a reconstructed goddess name that scholars variously link to Indo-European words for running water or goodness. “Dan” is a Hebrew word referring meaning “judge” and may be a Hebraizing of Denyen, one of the Sea Peoples whom some believe became the Tribe of Dan, or even the Danaoi, a Homeric term used for the Mycenaeans.
Roberts connects the Tuatha De Danann to Greece by asserting, from website and fringe book claims, that the lost Psalter of Cashel claimed (in the full quotation) that “The Danans were a highly civilized people, well skilled in architecture and other arts from their long residence in Greece, and their intercourse with the Phoenicians. Their first appearance in Ireland was 1200 B. C., 85 years after the great victory of Deborah.” The trouble is that the quotation is not from the Psalter, but has been found in various forms in Victorian works, typically attributed to Philip MacDermott’s Annals of Ireland (1846). You’ll see how Roberts got misled because he copied from people who copied from people who copied from Victorians who never read the original:
O’Brien, in his learned work on the Round Towers of Ireland, considers that these beautiful structures were built by the Danans, for purposes connected with Pagan worship and astronomical observations, an opinion not improbable, when it is considered that the Danans ruled in Ireland about two centuries, or one hundred and ninety-seven years, according to the Psalter of Cashel, and were highly skilled in architecture and other arts, from their long residence in Greece, and intercourse with the Phoenicians.
The Psalter was only used to claim the length of the gods’ reign; their sojourn in Greece was O’Brien’s brainchild, fed through the filter of MacDermott.
O’Brien’s Round Towers (various editions, 1830s-1890s) is the origin point for claims Roberts doesn’t even know he’s copying! In that crazy bit of unmoored antiquarianism, the author claims that the Tuatha De Danann were from the East (India, originally), migrated through Europe, and gave rise to various civilizations, spreading culture with them as they made their way to Ireland, where they built temples to Indian and Greek gods. He claims that the round towers of Ireland are evidence of this primeval pilgrimage, but we know today that these towers are medieval in date.
Roberts’s piece concludes with speculation drawn from Laurence Gardner, who is not accurate or reliable enough to waste the time to summarize, and some musing about how historical research shows that the Tuatha De Danann have Sumerian origins!
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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