If you are in Australia, it’s time to get ready for the Ancient Astronauts: Australian Tour 2015. According to an article in Australia’s Newcastle Herald, Erich von Däniken and David Childress have teamed up to give lectures this month at four locations in Australia, by arrangement with Australian fringe magazine Nexus. The journalist even expressed astonishment that von Däniken was still alive, saying that he had assumed he died years ago! This is one of the more bizarre pairings on the fringe history circuit, and one made possible entirely by Ancient Aliens, which the Herald reporter correctly credits for reviving the ancient astronaut theory from the dustbin of history. You might remember that before Ancient Aliens Childress would say things like “Däniken’s explanation didn’t quite make sense to me” and, only a couple of years before the show started, “these giant ruins aren’t built by extraterrestrials. I say they were built by humans.” Now he’s on tour with the very man he used to write books arguing against. Would you mind keeping them for a while, Australia? We’ve had rather enough of them over here.
Meanwhile, speaking of bad ideas that just keep chugging along, Ancient Origins ran a two part article yesterday (part one and part two here) re-litigating the Mound Builder controversy by using excerpts from nineteenth century literature to support the case that the Smithsonian has imposed a global anti-diffusionist “dogma” on history and science. The authors of the piece, Jason Jarrell and Sarah Farmer, are devoting themselves to a project to “document” how Old World peoples were the true Mound Builders. (They also hunt Bible giants, whom they consider to be among the New World colonists.) The description must be read to be believed:
Their goal is to produce a book which charts the ancient mound builders, among whom were anomalous physical types, through world history in a cohesive fashion, and to positively identify their origin, through a re-evaluation of the physical remains, dating, artifacts, and ceremonial traditions of the Archaic and Early Woodland Cultures of North America, which will be decisively compared to ancient European and Eastern analogues.
In short, they are planning recreate the work of Caleb Atwater, the early nineteenth century writer who did the same thing.
Jarrell and Farmer quickly proved themselves unworthy of the great task they have assigned themselves. They, for example, accept uncritically the Victorian claim that the Serpent Mound of Ohio is similar to the fictitious serpent mound of Loch Nell, a natural glacial formation known since the nineteenth century not to be a manmade earthwork. They also make a facile argument that the presence of geometric shapes in the earthworks of Europe and America implies a connection, as though circles were somehow uniquely European inventions.
In the second part, they take quite literally Victorian reports of giant skeletons in both Europe and America and therefore conclude that the giants lived in both localities. They also assert that the Beaker culture of Europe (c. 2800-1800 BCE) gave rise to the Adena (c. 500 BCE) because of perceived similarities in their cultural productions, specifically the fact that both groups build circular earthworks, the circle of course being a shape so impossible that only Europeans could conceive of it. They attempt to elide the chronological difference with an appeal to radiocarbon dates, arguing that a radiocarbon date of 1200 BCE from Topher Mound in Ohio pushes the Adena back in time, and they marry this to the Beaker culture by folding in the successor cultures to the Beaker, particularly those that gave rise to the Celts. To back this up they turn to nineteenth century sources that attributed the American mounds to “Druids” or “Celts.”
In short, their claims are the most slavish recreation of Victorian Mound Builder myths I have seen in quite a while, apparently assuming that virtually every old claim is prima facie true. This should not surprise anyone, of course, since the authors assert that mound research became corrupted in the 1890s, when the Smithsonian imposed an anti-diffusionist “dogma” (better known as publishing the results of actual archaeological research) on antiquarian speculation, so for them only amateur speculation from before the 1890s is untainted by evil science. That the Mound Builder controversy also roughly coincides with the last time that large numbers of scientists who rejected the theory of evolution were still operating is probably no coincidence since our authors are busy looking for Bible giants, too.
But while our authors take a virtual sledgehammer to cultural heritage in service of their goals, we can at least be thankful that they are confined to online articles and a future book. I am saddened to report that in the real world, Islamic State militants destroyed the priceless Lion of al-Lat, a first century BCE statue from Palmyra and an artistic masterpiece. The lion was destroyed because of its association with al-Lat, a pre-Islamic Arabian goddess and mentioned by name in Herodotus (Histories 1:131, 3:8) and the Quran (53:19-23).
7/3/2015 07:47:00 am
Quite a lot on the arts policy of "Islamic State" in the media this week, including the BBC documentary "Civilisation Under Attack" by Dan Cruickshank, and today this Guardian article expanding on one of Cruickshank's themes:
7/3/2015 08:19:12 am
"The lion was destroyed because of its association with al-Lat, a pre-Islamic Arabian goddess and mentioned by name in Herodotus (Histories 1:131, 3:8) and the Quran (53:19-23)."
7/3/2015 11:28:07 am
I prefer DAESH, the arabic initials. Isis was an Egyptian goddess and I hate seeing that name corrupted.
7/3/2015 09:16:24 am
Erich Von Daniken and David Childress together for the first time, in the tradition of those other great comedy duos. Abbott and Costello, Oliver Hardy and Stan Laurel, George Burns and Gracie Allen and the latest, Kim Kardasian and Kanye West.
7/3/2015 02:28:28 pm
Don't forget Obama & Biden.
7/3/2015 06:22:12 pm
Any pairing that includes Joe Biden isn't a comedy duo, it's a farce. Trust me, we here in Delaware are VERY WELL AWARE of this. DC can keep him, we don't really want him back.
7/3/2015 09:59:25 am
Dear Jason Jarrell and Sarah Farmer,
7/3/2015 10:41:42 am
Boomerangs are clearly an attempt by the Aboriginal mind to imitate the flying saucers constantly fluttering overhead, while the didge is meant to mimic their sound. The alien spacecraft are incredibly advanced, you see, but somehow not beyond the point of being super noisy.
7/4/2015 05:30:05 pm
7/8/2015 03:41:47 pm
You know the excesses and persecution complex of hyper - diffusionists have done more damage to the idea of the diffusion of traits between the Old and New Worlds than any "dogmatic" or "orthodox" imposition by institutions.
7/4/2015 05:20:29 pm
> Now he’s on tour with the very man he used to write books arguing against.
Your comment will be posted after it is approved.
Leave a Reply.
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.
Enter your email below to subscribe to my newsletter for updates on my latest projects, blog posts, and activities, and subscribe to Culture & Curiosities, my Substack newsletter.
Terms & Conditions
Please read all applicable terms and conditions before posting a comment on this blog. Posting a comment constitutes your agreement to abide by the terms and conditions linked herein.