It seems that there is no claim to ridiculous for the fringe to believe it, and no claim too frequently disproved to come back again. Heck, last night the Republican Party all but chose a conspiracy theorist as its presidential nominee. Today we have two examples of the lack of quality control in fringe history.
Do you remember Alexander Koltypin, the Russian geologist who claimed last year that geological formations in Turkey were the tracks of alien tanks from millions of years ago? Well, he’s back again. Apparently a couple of months ago Koltypin told the Epoch Times that he’s found more million-year-old remains, and the claim was reprinted this week on the Ancient Origins website. According to Koltypin, most underground structures in the Mediterranean basin were once connected to one another as part of a vast network of tunnels and subterranean cities. He concludes that these structures reached the surface not because they were carved and excavated close to the surface but because they eroded out of a deep underground realm 500,000 to a million years ago.
Koltypin bases this on a medieval Turkish site at Antalya where he claims that a pink “cement” contains both manmade ceramics and volcanic basalt more than 500,000 years old. He argues that the cement could only have been made 500,000 or more years ago because he apparently can’t conceive of using older rocks to make medieval cement.
He also believes that Baalbek is proof of a prehistoric megalith-moving culture because he cannot fathom that the Romans could move large rocks, but firmly believes that a million-year-old lost culture could.
Sadly, these kinds of claims are par for the course in fringe history, as is the constant recycling of bad ideas. We all know that the Ancient Code website is bottom-feeding clickbait, but its utter lack of quality control continues to astound. In a recent article now going viral on Facebook, we read once again about the so-called Tulli Papyrus, an allegedly ancient Egyptian document found among the papers of Vatican Egyptologist Alberto Tulli telling of the arrival of a fleet of “circles of fire” during the reign of Thutmose III (1479-1425 BCE). After the sighting of the UFOs, fish rained from the sky. According to Ancient Code “the document and the translation are considered authentic and not a hoax.” This is entirely untrue.
The so-called Tulli Papyrus isn’t a papyrus but a modern translation of a modern transcription of an Egyptian document that no one can prove ever existed, as it was seen by only one person, who was also (conveniently) the translator, Prince Boris de Rachewiltz, Ezra Pound’s son-in-law. Rachewiltz was a bit of a card at the time, an impecunious Egyptology student, a popular writer, and a self-proclaimed scion of the Lombard kings. Rachewiltz offered his translation of the Tulli Papyrus when he was still green in the field, in 1953, when he was a 27-year-old college student studying Egyptology.
In 1955 he began to study Egyptology under Ludwig Keimer and by most accounts developed into a respected professional in the field. By the 1970s he would rise to become a professor in the field, having left the Tulli Papyrus in the dustbin of history.
In 1968, the U.S. Air Force commissioned an investigation into UFOs known as the Condon Report, and in it Samuel Rosenberg and Edward Condon investigated the Tulli Papyrus. They asked the Vatican for the original document, and the Vatican explained that it did not belong to them. They inquired after Tulli’s papers, only to learn that Tulli was not a professional Egyptologist, nor was the minor aristocrat who translated the text. The actual Vatican Egyptologist, Gianfranco Nolli, told the U.S. Embassy’s scientific attaché that the whole thing was likely a hoax. That said, when Jacques Bergier wrote Extraterrestrial Intervention: The Evidence (1974), he concluded that the papyrus could not be proved to be a hoax. None, however, seem to have asked Rachewitz for more information. So far as I can tell, after the papyrus entered UFO lore, Rachewiltz never mentioned it publicly again, which would seem to be a tacit admission that it was not all it seemed to be, especially if it were truly an otherwise unpublished account of a forgotten episode in the life of Thutmose in the hands of an Egyptologist.
At the time he published his translation, Rachewitz claimed that he had received a transcription of the original document. That turned out not to be true. In later private correspondence, he admitted that (a) he had never seen the original document, (b) the hieroglyphs published as the original document had been back-formed from notes made in Egyptian hieratic by another Egyptologist, and (c) Rachewitz had never seen the hieratic notes. In short, he translated a copy of a copy of a copy, with no guarantee they reflected an original text. Additionally, Rachewitz turned out to be a member of the Fortean Society, the same group that published the translation in their magazine Doubt. Even the credulous Jacques Vallée considered it suspicious that a Fortean researcher would stumble upon such a convenient text as one that linked UFOs to the Forteans’ favorite phenomenon, a rain of fish.
So, while we cannot prove conclusively that the papyrus never existed, there is very little evidence in its favor, and certainly not enough to say that anyone other than fringe historians offer unqualified acceptance of the text.
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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