Why Ancient Astronaut Theorists Think Gilgamesh Visited a Rocket Launch Pad at Baalbek
Today’s blog post covers one of those characteristically roundabout merry-go-round’s of fringe history where a chance encounter with an odd claim accidentally leads to the answer to an unrelated question. In this case, I started with a weird new book that claims aliens brought the moon to earth 12,000 years ago and I ended up answering a different question: Why did Zecharia Sitchin think the Epic of Gilgamesh took place at Baalbek?
I had never heard of Permuted Press before this past weekend, but when I stumbled upon one of their new releases I was shocked to find the author of the flagrantly incompetent tome about aliens delivering the moon to the Earth in 12,500 BCE trumpeting the fact that his book was being released by Simon & Schuster, one of the biggest names in publishing. So I took a look at the claim, and as always there was less to it than meets the eye.
Rob Shelsky is, to be blunt, a crackpot. He self-publishes books of varying quality, most of which are science fiction novels based on fringe history claims, and some of which are putatively nonfiction. By my count, he is currently selling 54 eBooks and digital short stories, ranging from nonfiction to science fiction to paranormal and historical romance. Most have the kind of garishly photo-manipulated cover art more typically associated with Hugo Award nominated trash Space Raptor Butt Invasion. It pains me to even type that sentence, but such is the state of publishing.
Permuted Press is an independent publisher of post-apocalyptic horror and fantasy fiction. Last year, they began a strategic rebranding to “place a bigger emphasis on a wider set of genres outside of zombie and post-apocalyptic,” according to a statement the company’s president sent to its authors. Shelsky has published three novels with Permuted, and they chose his awkwardly titled new book Invader Moon: Who Brought Us the Moon and Why? as one of their first nonfiction releases. Simon & Schuster has a co-licensing deal with Permuted and acts as a distributor for some titles, much the way Penguin-Random House distributes my Cult of Aliens Gods internationally for Prometheus Books.
Anyway, Shelsky’s new book is a real piece of work, a sort of distillation of Ancient Aliens to its least common denominator, and presented with self-confidence that would make Socrates cringe. Shelsky’s brand of aggressive ignorance is laid bare in just the first few pages when he confuses oral history for written history and imagines that Western scholars treat Classical myths as true accounts of the past:
For instance, western historians always refer to the “myths and legends” of the Hindus of India. Where these people see their ancient vedic texts as real historical texts, written ones, no less, we in Western Civilization have seen them as just mere legends, myths, and not “real events.” For us, they are just so many fantasies and fantastical fictions. Tens of thousands of lines of historical texts, and we never even bothered to see if they held any validity at all! (capitalization in original)
Can you spot all the copyediting errors? How about the lack of familiarity with academic literature on the subject of Vedic literature?
Shelsky belongs to the band of merry miscreants who must have really hated high school. Like his competitors Scott Wolter and Alan Butler, he expresses anger that mainstream accounts of history were “pounded into us repeatedly in school,” something like the way a goose is force fed to produce foie gras. If you believe fringe authors, schools are indoctrination factories where the ONE TRUTH is imposed from above. How he squares that with the fact that American schools are astonishing in their diversity, even when teaching to the test, with an ungodly number still sneaking creationism and Noachian flood geology into the science curriculum.
But as to his claims: Shelsky offers a blend of Abrahamic creationist nonsense, Atlantis and lost civilization claims, Velikovsky’s catastrophism, and ancient astronaut theories to imagine a world where a Pre-Adamite civilization reached amazing technological heights under the tutelage of space aliens before said aliens destroyed them all in the Great Flood, caused by their importation of the Moon, a hollow space station, to orbit the world. Thereafter, civilization began again, retaining only fractured memories of the antediluvian glory of the Pre-Adamite races and the Nephilim. Shelsky is not religious and claims his use of Abrahamic mythic terminology is for “convenience,” but it rather baldly lays bare the origins of some of his views on the development of civilization.
His argument for why he believes in a Pre-Adamite lost civilization of high technology is essentially one of confusion: He doesn’t understand the difference between arithmetic and geometric progression. That is to say, he is dumbfounded as to why “civilization” (by which he means technology) increased so rapidly in the last few centuries but remained “stagnant” for thousands of years between 10,000 and 3,500 BCE. “For those 6500 years, were people incapable of innovation, invention, and learning anything new?” He assumes that “progress” (for he follows the old Victorian idea of improvement) must necessarily build steadily given ideal circumstances. This would produce linear improvements in technology over time. He fails to account for the fact that new ideas build upon older ones in ever-increasing fashion, which means that the arc of progress, such as it is, is not a straight line by a curving one, geometrically increasing through time such that the rate of change is always increasing. Until you have a strong base to build from, you can’t have a rapid explosion of new developments. The gradual change during the Neolithic set the stage for the Bronze Age and all that followed, each subsequent period shorter than the preceding one. The difference between arithmetic and geometric progression neatly accounts for the majority of Sheksly’s argument that logic dictates the existence of a “lost” technological civilization.
As for the quality of Sheksly’s evidence: there is none. His book is a mishmash of ideas taken from ancient astronaut and fringe history books, without citation, usually without acknowledgement, and mostly misunderstood. Consider this claim that Shelsky obviously derived from Zecharia Sitchin. He is speaking here of Baalbek, the Roman-era temple complex in Lebanon that he believes to date back to Pre-Adamite times:
We do know the location is mentioned in the ancient Sumerian Epic of Gilgamesh. In this poem/story, he describes the place as a special platform where great things thundered up and down from heaven, leaving smoke and fire, with the sound of roaring thunder in their wake.
Sitchin alleged that the Sumerians knew Baalbek as the “Landing Place” and that the Epic of Gilgamesh recorded the launch of a rocket from the site. The claim appeared verbatim on Ancient Aliens a few years ago, despite the fact that the Epic of Gilgamesh contains no such landing place and no rocket launches. In Twelfth Planet (1976) Sitchin claimed to find this in a dream vision that Gilgamesh had in Tablet IV. In a sober translation it is hardly suggestive of rockets:
My friend, hast thou called me? Why have I awakened? Hast thou touched me? Hath a god passed by? Why art my muscles trembling? Enkidu, my friend, I have had another dream. The dream that I dreamed was very terrible; heaven thundered, earth quaked; day grew dark, darkness came up; lightning set in, fire flared up, sated with destruction and filled with death. (trans. adapted from William Muss-Arnoldt)
Because this occurs on “Mount Lebanon,” the cedar-clad Lebanon mountains, this claim would later become conflated with the Soviet writer Matest M. Agrest’s idea that Baalbek was a launch pad for rockets, even though Baalbek is much closer to Mount Hermon, lying in the shadow of Hermon in the opposing Anti-Lebanon mountain range. Sitchin himself only appropriated Agrest’s idea in 1980, in Stairway to Heaven, having omitted it from Twelfth Planet. It was then that Sitchin decided that the text of Gilgamesh referred to Baalbek, on the strength of the idea that he could simply rewrite the text to suit his needs. He determined that Gilgamesh was seeking Baalbek, not the paradise of the gods, in order to climb aboard their rocket service back to Nibiru. “And there is no doubt left in our mind that in Baalbek we have found Ba’al’s Crest of Zaphon, the target of the first journey of Gilgamesh.”
Oddly, in the same chapter of Stairway, Sitchin also shows his poor reading comprehension. He claimed that the seventeenth century French traveler D’Arvieux quoted the Jews as believing that Nimrod built Baalbek with the help of the Nephilim. Sitchin misunderstood a paragraph in Michel M. Alouf’s 1890 book on Baalbek which in quoted D’Arvieux before reporting the above legend from a different source, an unnamed Arabic manuscript. The footnotes in the French, German, and English editions of the book even say as much in case the text itself was not clear. Sitchin, who pretends not to have read Alouf, borrows Alouf’s citation to D’Arvieux without realizing it applied to the previous paragraph.
This same error probably led Sitchin to identify Baalbek with the Gilgamesh epic. Alouf’s book, in its second edition, included a passage right next to the one referenced above from Estephan II Boutros El Douaihy, a seventeenth century Marionite cleric, that mistakenly claimed Baalbek was situated on Mt. Libanus (Mount Lebanon), and Gilgamesh’s dream occurs on Mt. Lebanon. “Traditions state that the fortress of Baalbek on Mt. Libanus is the most ancient building in the world; Cain, the son of Adam, had it built in the year 133 of the creation, in a moment of frenzy. He gave it the name of his son Enoch and peopled it with giants who were visited for their iniquities by the Flood” (trans. L. Mooyaart). It seems that Sitchin simply accepted this as fact. I do not have access to the French original of the second edition of Alouf, in which the text was first published (only the first edition seems to be online), but given the mistakes the translators made elsewhere, I wonder if he did not confuse mountains in Lebanon, or even the Anti-Lebanon mountains for Mt. Libanus.
Not the Comte de Saint Germain
5/9/2016 01:26:19 pm
Regarding "Space Raptor Butt Invasion," it's not a serious nomination. It was nominated by a group of right-wingers trying to disrupt the Hugo Awards. Last year they nominated science fiction works that fit their ideological viewpoint; this year they nominated "Space Raptor Butt Invasion" as an act of pure trolling. Rule changes are in the works at the Hugos to prevent this kind of thing from happening again.
5/9/2016 01:31:42 pm
I know it wasn't serious, but it does exemplify the kind of terrible cover design so many self-published books have. In fact, its design might actually be a bit BETTER than a lot of self-published fringe history books.
Not the Comte de Saint Germain
5/9/2016 01:42:41 pm
I hadn't seen the cover. Wow. That really is bad.
5/9/2016 10:37:05 pm
As an illustrator who has worked on several books, I can only hope the designer of that met his end from a space raptor.
5/10/2016 07:00:28 am
Chuck Tingler has a whole line of weird gay erotic short fiction. All the ones I've seen have covers like that. I think it's supposed to be a joke about strait to Amazon/eBook literature, but it's been going on for a strangely long time.
5/11/2016 05:05:16 am
Chuck Tingle is on the side of truth in this debate. He's doing a brilliant job of mocking the Puppies.
5/9/2016 02:44:29 pm
Here's my translation of the German translation of the second edition of Alouf (from archive.org, as "Geschichte von Baalbek", p34):
5/9/2016 02:52:37 pm
However, the 3rd (1910) edition of the original French text is very positive (page 29):
5/9/2016 03:49:51 pm
How bizarre. The fault, then, must be with Douahiy, though that would seem unlikely since he lived right near there. I wonder what happened.
5/9/2016 05:00:41 pm
Perhaps the words translated in French as "mont Liban" meant, in reality, "the mountains of Lebanon". Whatever the reason for that mistake, it seems most likely that behind it all is a simple attempt by the Lebanese Maronites to "claim" the city of Cain for themselves.
5/9/2016 02:56:13 pm
.... can I belatedly spot the word "sei" in the German version? Yes I can, changing the translation to "... Baalbek is the oldest building in the world. It was caused ..."
David Childress' Neckfat
5/9/2016 03:24:44 pm
Gilgamesh visited Baalbek? That's nothin'. Thanks to some bad directions to the State Tractor Pull, Enlil and Ishtar once visited my Uncle Zeke's place and stayed for some chicken wings, beer and wife swappin'!
5/10/2016 05:30:47 am
I told them they should have taken that left turn at Albuquerque...
5/9/2016 06:48:30 pm
Hard to understand why anyone cares about such a crackpot blog.
5/9/2016 07:38:16 pm
You care enough to read and comment. Don't you have a life? I mean, I and others like what Jason Colavito does. If you don't then why don't you do something other than spend the time and effort to comment. I mean shut off you compute and do something else. Play with yourself, stand in a corner and look stupid, maybe even read a book or go to a movie.
5/9/2016 07:56:05 pm
I sure hope he's trolling for fun, and not legitimately compelled to read articles and blogs he doesn't like, and then comment about them. That's not a pleasant place to be.
5/9/2016 08:03:53 pm
You nailed it Shane. Like Jason I watch and read things I detest and then have to write about how awful and misinformed it is. It's rather stunning how mindless some of Jason's peons are.
5/9/2016 08:16:09 pm
So you *are* aware that you're chastising Jason for doing the exact same thing you're doing.
5/9/2016 09:08:17 pm
"then have to write about how awful and misinformed it is"
5/10/2016 03:04:46 am
Except you're not a rationalist.
5/9/2016 09:00:09 pm
"aliens brought the moon to earth 12,000 years ago"
5/9/2016 10:57:31 pm
In a rebuttal to Hef, I have a degree in Science, and in my profession for 38 years (since retired). In my 40’s I received a degree in World History and Philosophy, Classical Studies as a hobby.
5/10/2016 02:59:35 am
Carl Sagan didn't 'have any respect for the Bible and was a rationalist,
5/10/2016 03:01:43 am
I don't have any respect for the Bible because I am also a rationalist.
5/10/2016 03:12:57 am
I am also a rationalist and I have a lot of respect for the Bible- but as an accurate description of early history it sucks.
5/10/2016 03:20:13 am
Jesus Christ was originally incorporeal - witness how historians have been taken in by a story that was a later development,
5/10/2016 08:59:52 am
The problem is that you are deceived into believing without really being rational. A lot of the assertions and statements made on this site have been debunked and shown to be false. But you don't pay attention to that side.
5/10/2016 11:45:55 am
Poor Bobo (Time Machine, hef, et al). Which fake user name will you pick next? I can suggest a few. :D
5/10/2016 11:58:26 am
5/10/2016 12:09:42 pm
And as for the confrontation between Pilate and Jesus Christ in the Gospels --- note that the Pilate of the Gospels is completely different to the one described by secular historians -- are you really sure that the real and historical Pontius Pilate even knew about Christianity?
5/10/2016 12:10:20 pm
>>>A lot of the assertions and statements made on this site have been debunked and shown to be false.<<<
5/10/2016 12:21:29 pm
Another Christian myth developed during the modern era is the alleged conflict between Peter (the Gospels) and Paul (the mystic Christ), where it is claimed these represent two different conflicting accounts of Christianity.
5/10/2016 12:35:36 pm
Ferdinand Christian Baur, (not Bauer)
5/10/2016 06:34:42 pm
Time machine: my comments were to Bradbury. He and others just accept the blog statements as true. As to falling numbers go to Alexa.com and plug in this site. And tm is a mindless peon that should be dumped on.
5/11/2016 01:28:51 am
After looking at Alexa.com, I think it's time to put hef's "falling numbers" claim into perspective.
5/11/2016 08:09:20 am
You're still not a rationalist.
5/13/2016 08:34:56 am
hef: "my comments were to Bradbury. He and others just accept the blog statements as true"
5/10/2016 01:13:02 pm
Folks, don't feed the troll, okay? When someone's comments are only a step above "NO U," it's not worth it.
5/10/2016 01:31:01 am
Speaking of weird...Did yo see a post about a giant artificial cave world in China? It showed up on a new archaeology site, They were discovered 30 years ago, but exploration didn't start until the late1990s because they didn't have the technology to pump out the water. It's a lousy translation, but the gist of it is they were some kind of survival caves from when the gods waged atomic war on Earth....I think. Just one of those goofy stories that shows up when the keyword is archaeology.
5/10/2016 03:07:13 am
Here's a proper link and story about this cave.
5/10/2016 03:18:21 am
5/10/2016 03:26:49 am
I don't have time to check just now, but is that the same cave system? The German article doesn't seem to give the name Er Wang Dong.
5/10/2016 03:44:09 am
5/10/2016 08:18:55 am
There's a series of well-illustrated pages about Longyou Caves in Chinese, translated thus:
5/10/2016 08:20:24 am
The moon as part of the earth moon system has been around over 12K years...Tidal Acceleration evidence and even fossilized life show the effects of this force for over a billion years..I'm not sure why fringe types are always so obsessed with a "young moon"..maybe as it supports a "young earth."
5/10/2016 03:38:30 pm
So this mountain was actually an accidental typo name. I bet that happens a lot.
5/11/2016 02:09:28 am
5/11/2016 02:14:32 am
Acts of the Apostles is second century propaganda not corroborated by early Christian epistles.
Day Late and Dollar Short
5/10/2016 04:16:29 pm
"an ungodly number still sneaking creationism and Noachian flood geology into the science curriculum."
5/11/2016 02:11:38 am
American Christians that reject creationism because the attempt to teach it in American schools failed several times in key Court Cases.
Day Late and Dollar Short
5/12/2016 04:17:42 pm
Dude, I meant I liked the wordplay. UNGODLY...get it...GET IT!?!
5/13/2016 06:53:07 am
Hey, it's only American Christians that reject creationism as part of their faith. No other Christians in any other country reject creationism irrespective of whether its taught in schools or not.
Day Late and Dollar Short
5/13/2016 10:21:37 am
Fuck you, man. I was pointing out something I thought was a little quippy and you hi-jack the comment and steer it into inane bullshit. I don't give a fuck about your ideas, so please, don't direct them towards me. You responded to my comment. Fuck.
5/13/2016 01:35:53 pm
Yeah, I responded the way I liked.
5/11/2016 02:00:50 am
All I can think of is "tides come in, tides go out, never a miscommunication". It's like these people never paid attention during primary science classes.
12/13/2022 08:56:50 pm
After all the degradation, you had a typo.
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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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