I wasn’t sure what to make of The Lost Worlds of Ancient America when the new anthology from New Page Books showed up on my doorstep yesterday. The volume claims to be a selection of articles detailing “compelling evidence” of prehistoric European visitors to America, lost technology, and other currently unsupported suggestions about ancient America. In reality, it is a collection of articles from Ancient American magazine, the publication edited (until 2007), like this anthology, by “Frank Joseph,” the pen name of 68-year-old Frank Collin, a former neo-Nazi convicted in 1980 of sexually molesting underage boys. (For details, see here.)
Joseph has devoted the past two decades or so to “proving” prehistoric white voyagers to the New World, and his magazine was owned and financed by Wayne May, a Mormon described by Mormons as being on the speculative fringe of the movement. Such extremist Mormons consider it a religious duty to advocate for the Book of Mormon’s claims about two waves of white colonization of ancient America. They believe that God turned some of these white people red as punishment for idolatry, making them Native Americans.
Joseph has also been active in promoting the so-called “Burrows Cave,” an alleged prehistoric European site in Wisconsin containing $25 million in gold that no evidence has ever proved exists. The only “artifacts” from the cave are crude pastiche drawings in various ancient styles (appearing to have been carved by the same, modern hand) only marginally better than the equally fake Ica Stones. The cave was discovered by a guard at the prison where Collin/Joseph served his time.
This is not the most auspicious background for a volume claiming a dispassionate collection of evidence proving that the traditional history of the Americas is wrong.
However, the facts of a claim exist independently of the claimant, no matter how unsavory his background. So, I suppose I need to examine the book presented by Frank Joseph independent of my feelings about Frank Collin. So, I will refer to “Joseph” when identifying the author of specific claims and reserve “Collin” for the man outside of his work.
Lost Worlds of Ancient America contains 45 articles written by “geologists, college professors, science writers for prominent periodicals, award-winning investigators, physicists, engineers, zoologists, radio broadcasters, artists, newspaper columnists, society presidents, and so on—but no mainstream archaeologists.” Archaeologists, Joseph asserts in his introduction, are too cowed by the scorn of the Establishment and any risk to their tenure-track positions and flow of lucrative grant money to challenge the status quo about the peopling of the Americas. This, I suppose, is why Dennis J. Stanford was so punished by the Establishment for suggesting early European influence that he was reduced to working as the director of the Paleoindian/Paleoecology program at the Smithsonian Institution, writing books, and appearing on TV documentaries on ancient history. We should all be so unfortunate.
The first article in Lost Worlds is by none other than Joseph himself, reporting on what he calls the “Los Angeles monolith,” a roughly 1.5 foot square rock standing about three feet high found beneath the basement of a house at some unspecified time after 2001. I’d love to say more about the monolith, but Joseph provides little to go on. It is not clear from article that he has ever examined the piece, since he sources his description to an appearance the rock made on an episode of PBS’s Antiques Roadshow, where its age was estimated—based entirely on the appearance of soil stains—as at least 500 years old. Joseph says that the owners of the monolith talked with him on condition of anonymity and that he never reveals the location of the rock. Convenient.
The stone features a stylized image of a face and some swirling lines, if what appears to be a cropped, low-resolution digital image Joseph provides is any guide to its actual form. I can’t independently confirm this because, so far as I can tell, there is no information about this rock anywhere other than Joseph’s article. It certainly is not called the “Los Angeles monolith” by anyone else, and I cannot find the episode of Antiques Roadshow on which it appeared--if it appeared at all, since the text as written is not specific enough. (Since the rock was "discovered" after 2001, and Roadshow was in L.A. only in 1999 and 2006, the appearance should have been during the 2006 L.A. episodes. The rock is not listed in the episode descriptions for that event. However, the owners may well have gotten an offhand, unofficial opinion before being rejected for on-camera appearances.) If I had to judge based entirely on the screen grab provided by Joseph, it looks like an eroded piece of Victorian carving often found around nineteenth century doorways.
Maybe it’s older, but the only evidence for this is “curators” (unnamed) at the Natural History Museum of Los Angeles, who apparently could not date the stone. This, however, is mere hearsay since Joseph provides no references or specifics and cites only the word of the stone’s owners that this event ever happened. I have spoken with three officials at the Museum, and no one has any record of seeing the rock, let alone testing or dating it. I have another call in to the archaeology department, and I will let you know if the Museum finds any more information about the supposed examination of the monolith.
However, Joseph declares that rock’s art style to be utterly unlike anything Native Americans ever produced. From there he spirals off into speculation about Phoenicians and the worship of Astarte based on little more than an imagined resemblance between the stylized face and some Near Eastern images of Astarte. His source for his speculation is Wikipedia. Helpful.
According to Joseph, the key connection between Astarte and the carved face on the rock is its forward-facing position, something he says is “diagnostic of Phoenician sculpted art” and therefore an “unmistakable” connection. Hardly. Much closer to home, the South American Staff God was routinely depicted in forward-facing positions, and the face on the monolith, if anything, looks more like him than it does Astarte. The Byzantines also diverged from their Roman predecessors by using forward-facing designs in coins and reliefs.
From here, Joseph swings to a different bit of rock art carved into the side of a boulder (erroneously called a monolith). He accuses archaeologists of “gagging” at the thought of the carving being three to four thousand years old because it has “a geometrical precision too sophisticated for … hunter-gatherers.” The accompanying photograph shows a crudely-drawn maze roughly in the form of an elaborated swastika (a symbol dear to Joseph’s heart—back when he was Collin, he appealed to the Supreme Court for the right to wear one in public). I can’t see either (a) anything anomalously precise about the rock art or (b) anything significantly different from the tens of thousands of pieces of rock art scattered across southern California. Joseph himself admits knowledge of fifty others. Naturally, he sees these stones are remembrances of the Great Flood because they are usually up on high stones that would have been above the flood waters. Since the Hopi ceremony commemorating the flood involved reeds, and the Aztec believed their homeland was Aztlan, the “place of reeds,” naturally this all must go back to the Lost White Race of Atlantis on the basis of nothing more than Aztlan sort of sounds like Atlantis if you say it really fast.
This is “compelling evidence”? It isn’t even a coherent magazine article. How can one evaluate this evidence based only on Joseph’s word, some hearsay, and (maybe, sort of) Antiques Roadshow?
This was the lead article in the anthology. It will be a tough slog from here. I don’t intend to review all 45 chapters, but I’ll try to discuss some of them as time and energy permit.
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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