For the past few weeks, I've been reviewing chapters from Frank Joseph’s new alternative history anthology, Lost Worlds of Ancient America (New Page Books, 2012). This is my review of Chapters 41 through 45. That means I'm finally done, and not a moment too soon!
As we move into the final set of chapters, I’ve learned a few things from Lost Worlds of Ancient America. I learned that alternative archaeologists of 2012 have much less respect for facts than either Graham Hancock in the 1990s or even Ignatius Donnelly in the 1880s. Donnelly, at least, didn’t make things up out of whole cloth. I also learned that as long as a writer has the right ideology—that ancient America was ruled by a white Aryan master race—that author can write pretty much anything for Ancient American magazine, including articles whose only evidence comes from fictional poems and novels. Lastly, I learned that editor Frank Joseph, the former neo-Nazi, is still obsessed with Aryan supermen and swastikas.
* * *
Victor Kachur begins Chapter 41 with a severe case of textual literalism. While most scholars understand that Homer’s Odyssey is a composite poem, a fantasy built up from a wide range of parts dating from Mycenaean times (1600-1200 BCE) down to the age of Homer (c. 800 BCE), and thus can’t be taken as a literal account of a real voyage, Kachur assumes that the Odyssey was based on fact.
He begins by suggesting that Odysseus sailed to America to bring back copper, something that is explicitly not present in Homer’s poem. He then marvels that the sun god’s 350 cows and 350 sheep (7 flocks of 50 animals each) are “a remarkably detailed example of record keeping for a piece of fiction,” missing the fairly obvious symbolism that the cows and sheep represented days and nights in the then-current lunar calendar (which had 354 days per twelve lunar “months”). Aristotle (fr. 175) understood this, and the image of cattle standing for days reappears in most Indo-European mythologies, implying that it dates back to Proto-Indo-European times, long before Homer or even the Mycenaeans.
Kachur assumes that because the sun god’s herds were kept on a triangular island, this must therefore be Newfoundland since other triangle-shaped islands, like Sicily and Britain “possess no copper to be mined and exported.” But Homer never claims Odysseus went in search of copper, so I fail to see on what grounds this assumption is warranted. Besides, the island, called Thrinacia, actually means “land of the trident,” not “triangle” and may have originally been the three prongs of the Peloponnesus, as Wilamowitz suggested.
Then: NUMEROLOGY! Kachur tells us that the 50 cows (or sheep--he isn't specific) per herd represent 50 degrees north latitude, one of the parallels running through Newfoundland (47-52 degrees north), while the 7 herds represent the seven degrees the island covers. Yes, I know that 47-52 is only 6 degrees inclusive, but Kachur tells us that it is “nearly 7 degrees” “when sailing approaches are considered.” In other words, if the data don’t fit, change them!
But wait, there’s more! Not only do the cows represent latitude, but the sheep (or maybe it's the cows, after all) represent longitude—2,500 years before a way of measuring it accurately was invented. Apparently the 50 sheep represent 50 degrees of longitude west of the Pillars of Hercules (unknown to the Mycenaean Greeks, but whatever, right?), while the 7 herds represent the seven degrees of longitude covered by Newfoundland (52-59 degrees west). Yes, I know that 52-59 degrees is actually 8 degrees of longitude in the inclusive counting system used in Greece and Rome, but remember, we’re just making things up.
Since the cattle and their number are Proto-Indo-European in origin, they can have nothing to do with Bronze Age trips to Canada.
* * *
In Chapter 42, C. Fred Rydholm, a deceased ancient copper mining autodidact (he died in 2009), reports the controversial dating of Pedra Furada in Brazil, a site where some anomalous charcoal dating indicated human habitation at 54,000 BCE. Rydholm accepts this as proven, though most U.S. archaeologists believe that the hearths and stone tools being excavated are actually naturally-occurring geofacts, while Brazilian archaeologists support the opposite conclusion. Rydholm is also very interested in discoveries of archaic Maya sites in Central America because they indicate earlier dates for Maya culture than earlier archaeologists had established. The fact that in both cases a robust debate is occurring within archaeology about revising dates and paradigms refutes the very thesis of Lost Worlds that the “Establishment” refuses to accept change. At any rate, neither of these discoveries does anything toward proving a white Master Race in early America.
* * *
In Chapter 43, Fritz Zimmerman, a believer in fallen angels (who migrated to Ohio, don't you know), claims that the Bell Beaker People (2800-1800 BCE) of Britain and Western Europe were the same as the Adena mound-building people of North America (1000-200 BCE) because…well, Native Americans are too stupid to make big piles of dirt. Only white people can do that. A brief glance at the widely-accepted dates for these cultures shows that contrary to Zimmerman’s claims, they were not contemporaneous. These dates are based upon radiocarbon dating of the pottery Zimmerman claims is so similar between the two cultures. So, where did they hang out for 800 years? Where could a large population of European Beaker People have hid, refusing to evolve or change their pottery or building styles for eight centuries—even while invading a new land—while their friends and relatives back home moved on to the Bronze Age? Maybe they made use of those time portals that Ancient Aliens claims exist inside European caves, because otherwise the numbers just don’t work out.
* * *
Frank Joseph can’t be as stupid as he sounds. It takes a feral intelligence to purposefully twist facts to suit a political agenda, and Chapter 44 demonstrates Joseph’s methods at work. He well understands that shamanism is a worldwide phenomenon derived, in part, from the hallucinations experienced during altered states of consciousness, which give rise to the belief that the shaman has transformed into an animal. This practice occurs even in cultures that have no possibility of having experienced contact with the Old World. Nevertheless, after briefly referencing these facts (extensively documented in David Lewis-Williams’ The Mind in the Cave ), Joseph suggests that instead this is evidence of a “pre-Columbian legacy introduced by shape-shifters from beyond.” To be fair, he doesn’t mean that there were actual werewolves from space or anything like that, only that a European (preferably Aryan or Celtic) werewolf-worshipping cult was responsible for building America’s ancient earthworks. (Again, for him, Native Americans are too stupid to make big piles of dirt. That’s Aryan he-man work.) It is false for Joseph to claim that “werewolves became were-jaguars” in Mexico, since there is no evidence of werewolves ever having been there at all. Instead, the shamans of the Olmec imagined themselves becoming the fiercest local animal—the jaguar. The same thing occurs around the world in every place. Were-animals are only wolves in our culture because they happened to be the paramount predator of Celtic Europe; in Africa, Asia, Australia, and South America, this role is filled by a variety of other animals. It is frustrating to see that Joseph clearly understands exactly what the real explanation for human-animal hybrids in the Old and New Worlds is but chooses to reject it in favor of a complex, unworkable theory that lacks any evidence except a re-interpretation of the very evidence whose better explanation he has already rejected. I think the werewolf ate his Occam’s razor. It must have hurt.
* * *
Patrick C. Chouinard has the dubious honor of closing out Lost Worlds of Ancient America with overripe speculation about multiple waves of non-Asian migrations to early America. These theories date back to the late 1700s, when early Hindus were the preferred non-Native American ancestors, and the early 1800s, when the Eskimo were thought to be Viking descendants. These theories gave way to the Lost Tribes of Israel hypothesis. What they all had in common was a complete absence of physical evidence to support them. Chouinard provides nothing new in his article arguing for white colonization of America (followed, of course, by a genocide conducted by the bloodthirsty “Plains Indians” from hated Asia). Instead, he relies on halpogroup x, which I already discussed yesterday. We then get repeats of the debunked claims of “white” Chachapoya mummies (also discussed yesterday--they’re not genetically related to Caucasians) combined with a misunderstanding of Kennewick Man, the “Caucasoid” skeleton that he confuses for “Caucasian.” Caucasoid refers to skull shape and is not synonymous with the white race; several Asian and Polynesian populations have Caucasoid skull shapes, too.
Chouinard concludes by stating that “fearful, politically correct social historians” and archaeologists “have built their own academic and financial empires based on theories invalidated by modern genetics” and thus will be looking for “job retraining” now that the truth about white Aryan super-men has been made known by brave researchers like Patrick C. Chouinard and Frank Joseph. As far as I can tell, the only people who have built a financial empire based on false theories about early America are ex-neo-Nazi Frank Joseph and his onetime publisher, Mormon hyper-diffusionist Wayne May. Scientists would be thrilled to make new discoveries, as evidenced by the fact that all the genuine discoveries mangled for evidence in Chouinard’s article were made by…SCIENTISTS, not alternative writers!
Chouinard is right that there could have been multiple waves of migration into the early Americas, but this is a subject of widespread scholarly debate. (Currently, genetic studies suggest a single migration from a small founding population.) That’s called science. Different models have been proposed, and evidence has been gathered. I don’t know where the repressive “Establishment” is, but it can’t be very effective if there are whole scholarly conferences devoted to revising theories about the peopling of the Americas and major publications entertain the notion from the Smithsonian’s Dennis Stanford that ancient Spaniards sailed to America around 20,000 BCE. It seems as if Chouinard read a book or two about anthropology back in the 1950s or 1960s (the heyday of "man the hunter"--another paradigm that the Establishment has nefariously let change) and decided that nothing had or would ever change.
* * *
And with that, I’ve finally finished Lost Worlds of Ancient America, quite possibly the most anti-Native American, white-supremacist (consciously or not) claptrap I’ve read in years. I am amazed that antebellum beliefs about the inferiority of native peoples and the necessity of having white people around to make big dirt piles are still in circulation as “truth” in alternative circles. I am more shocked that Renaissance poems, 1960s novels, “reconstructed” paintings, and outright hoax artifacts are what pass for “evidence” of these Aryan super-studs. Most of all, I am surprised and saddened by just how many people fervently choose to believe in fairy stories that are objectively and demonstrably untrue.
Maybe it makes some people feel better about modern challenges like diversity and immigration to imagine a world of pure Aryan supremacy. Or maybe some people just don’t care for facts as long as the story looks good. Given the poor editing, typographical failings, and other production problems with New Page Books’ work on Lost Worlds (look out for the page where almost a whole paragraph has no spaces between words!), the story doesn’t even look good.
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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