Where we attempt to fill you in on everything they forgot to teach you at school

American Antiquity Discusses Fringe History Theories

Ancient (American) Aliens

The journal American Antiquity has devoted a section of its most recent release (80:3) to discussion of fringe history claims, featuring reviews of a number of well-known books on the topic, by scholars familiar with the relevant fields. According to pseudo-archaeology critic Jason Colavito, "the overarching theme is that pseudo-archaeology books are glib, ignorant, and a little bit racist":

According to the introductory essay by Donald H. Holly, Jr., the intent of the reviews is to offer curious laymen and especially inquisitive college students an academic perspective on popular archaeological fantasies, and to inform archaeologists of what the public is really reading about the ancient past.

I don’t want to spoil the quality of the reviews by repeating too much of the information. Instead, I’ll list some of the books under consideration and the well-chosen set of scholars who handle each skillfully: Graham Hancock’s Fingerprints of the Gods is reviewed by Ken Feder. Philip Coppens’s The Ancient Alien Question is reviewed by Jeb Card. Andrew Collins’s Göbekli Tepe: Genesis of the Gods is reviewed by Eric H. Cline. Robert Bauval’s and Thomas Brophy’s Black Genesis is reviewed by Ethan Watrall. Gary A. David’s Star Shrines and Earthworks of the Desert Southwest is reviewed by Stephen H. Lekson. Frank Joseph’s The Lost Colonies of Ancient America is reviewed by Larry J. Zimmerman, though sadly without mention of Joseph’s Nazi past, which is relevant to the theme of white cultural dominance. John A. Ruskamp’s Asiatic Echoes, about alleged Chinese pictograms in the desert southwest, is reviewed by Angus R. Quinlan. William D. Conner’s Iron Age America before Columbus is reviewed by H. Kory Cooper. And Richard J. Dewhurst’s The Ancient Giants who Ruled America is reviewed by Benjamin M. Auerbach, who is an expert on ancient American bones and notes that among the hundreds of skeletons he has personally measured, including some which were also cited from inaccurate reports as giants in Dewhurst’s book, there were no “giants.” No skeleton, he said, measured more than 190 cm (6’3”) in height.

In these generally excellent reviews, the authors collectively express dismay that the pressures of modern academia have left the public with unreliable fringe writers as their most important guides to the ancient past while archaeologists talk mostly to one another through specialist publications.

I can't comment on the reviews as I haven't seen the journal in question yet. Hopefully it will be released online for free, given the comment above regarding the dismay of the reviewers that the general public don't hear 'the truth' from archaeologists because they "talk mostly to one another through specialist publications"...

Link: American Antiquity Features Special Section Reviewing Pseudo-Archaeology

Do These Amazing Churches House a Secret About the Location of the Ark of the Covenant?

Church of St George at Lalibela

In the northern Ethiopian town of Lalibela one can find a number of churches that have been hewn out of the solid rock of the natural landscape. These chthonic churches were carved into their shape in the 12th century - though some theories suggest the initial work began several centuries earlier - at the behest of of the Emperor of Ethiopia, Saint Gebre Mesqel Lalibela, and their construction is said to mimic the layout of Jerusalem and the Holy Land in order to create a 'New Jerusalem'.

The churches are also said to take many features of Solomon's Temple, including a 'Holy of Holies' where a replica of the Ark of the Covenant is kept. This Judaic connection is found across many aspects of Ethiopian culture, from a rejection of pork as a food and similarities between Ethiopian and Judaic words, through to a strong belief that the Ark of the Covenant is housed in a church in the city of Axum.

Some say this Judaic 'heritage' arose directly from the construction of Lalibela as a 'New Jerusalem' in the 12th century, while others claim the influence is explained by various 'hidden histories' of Ethiopia, ranging from the involvement of the Knights Templar through to the hiding of the actual Ark of the Covenant in Ethiopia centuries before the destruction of Jerusalem.

For a cracking read that explores some of these themes, see Graham Hancock's The Sign and the Seal (Amazon US and Amazon UK):

Hancock was in Ethiopia in 1983, having been hired by the Ethiopian government to write and produce a coffee-table book extolling that country. He was greatly surprised when told that Ethiopia's Falasha Jews did not exist, and that many people could land in jail, or worse, if he went around photographing such nonexistents. Even so, off he went to Axum, deep in the desert, to see the temples and statuary of the Black Jews of Ethiopia. What he found was a sect that claimed to have the original Ark of the Covenant.

For a tour of some of these amazing, mysterious churches, see the video below:

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The Timeless Mystery of Hy'Brasil

The above video is a nice and short compendium of the mystery surrounding the legendary Hy'Brasil, a mythical island which has been popularized as 'the other Atlantis.'

The fact that it was portrayed in several ancient maps, and that there's even some first-person accounts of actual mariners who claimed to have visited the island, is nowadays dismissed by modern historians and cartographers as nothing but folklore. The same reason behind why those maps also showed the customary warning "Here Be Monsters" on regions still uncharted.

But the mystery of Hy'Brasil got a recent rekindling a few years ago with the release of the book The Rendlesham Forest Incident [Amazon US & UK], co-written by Jim Penniston , Jim Burroughs and Nick Pope. Penniston and Burroughs are first-hand witnesses to the famous Rendlesham UFO case of December, 1980; many years after the incident, Penniston claimed that when he touched the strange triangular craft roaming through the British forest on that fateful December night, he received a 'binary transmission', which was later encoded and said to directly pinpoint to the geographical location of Hy-Brasil.

It has to be said though, that the new book has been challenged by a few investigators within the UFO field. Mainly Peter Robbins, the co-author of Left At East Gate [Amazon US & UK] with Larry Warren, who has always been the subject of attacks by some of the other characters involved in the Rendlesham story --e.g. retired Colonel Charles Halt. Peter wrote an entire e-book as a critique to Encounter in Rendlesham Forest, which you can download here.

To listen to the Grimerica Show interview with Burroughs and Pope, click here.

Incidentally, last year I had a chance to chat with Irish researcher Barry Fitzgerald at the Paradigm Symposium, and among the things we discussed was Hy'Brasil. Barry told me how one of his associates had apparently found remnants of an ancient coral reef right in the coordinates of Hy'Brasil, implying that an island could have existed there in the past.

But if so, what happened to it?

No doubt this mystery will continue capturing our imagination for many years to come. In fact, I kind of suspect J.J. Abrams might have been inspired by the legend of Hy'Brasil and used it as source material for his famous Lost TV show --or infamous, depending on whether you liked how the series ended or not.

Who knows? Maybe there were a few polar bears roaming around the Irish island, along with the giant black rabbits.

Seeing Egypt's Pyramids from the Gods' POV

The above image was taken by NASA astronaut Terry Virts during his final day aboard the International Space Station. Not an easy feat, considering how --contrary to popular thinking-- man-made structures like Egypt's pyramids and even the Great Wall of China are incredibly difficult to detect from space with the naked eye, as they tend to blend themselves with the surrounding landscape --but that's where that shiny Quartz pyramidion came in, right?

Now, what's interesting is that our astronauts are not only on the lookout of famous historical landmarks, but that some of them seem to also be interested in the more alternative theories related to those structures. Exhibit A: The live contest astronaut Scott Kelly launched on his Twitter account, to name "3 iconic man-made structures" which are "precisely aligned" with the constellation of Orion, a more-than-obvious reference to our friend Robert Bauval's theory, which is still deemed as 'pseudoscience' by the likes of Zahi Hawass and his colleagues.

I think this a great evidence showing how, despite the stubbornness of orthodox archeologists, who refuse to look at the evidence offered by alternative historians with an objective and open mind, they have failed miserably in their attempts to suppress the public's interest in these 'historical heresies'. Indeed, Bauval's theory has managed to reach higher places than the ivory towers of Orthodoxy --about 400 km higher, give or take.

Keep up to date with more fascinating stories like this one by liking The Daily Grail's Facebook page, or by following us on Twitter.

[H/T Mashable]

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In 1938 Nicholas Winton Took a Holiday in Prague, and Saved the Lives of 669 Children

Today marks the 106th birthday of the remarkable Sir Nicholas Winton. In 1938, Winton took it upon himself to go on a 'holiday' to Prague, and through forgery, blackmail and bribes managed to send 669 children - mostly Jewish Czechs - to England before the Nazis moved in to enact their 'Final Solution'.

As an example of how many extraordinary historical stories we remain oblivious to on a daily basis, Winton's story was unknown for the best part of 50 years - not least because he himself didn't bother telling anyone about it. Even his wife, who only learned of what he had done after finding an odd scrapbook in their attic with information about the operation.

After learning of the story, in 1988 the BBC lured 'Nicky' to a taping of their show That's Life "under false pretences", and surprised him by reuniting him with a number of the children whose lives he had saved. Below you can find video of that moment.

Happy 106th good sir. A living example of how one person's actions can make an extraordinary difference - we can but only try to emulate his good works.

Graham Hancock's Magicians of the Gods

Magicians of the Gods

The release date has been set for Magicians of the Gods, the much-anticipated sequel to Graham Hancock's 1995 'alternative history' bestseller Fingerprints of the Gods - September 10 this year - and the book is now available for pre-order from Amazon US and
Amazon UK.

In a statement published at The Bookseller, Graham says:

When I published Fingerprints of the Gods in 1995 I didn’t expect the immensely enthusiastic public response to the book or the furious academic backlash that followed. Twenty years on, however, Fingerprints has weathered all attempts to ‘debunk’ it and powerful scientific evidence has emerged to support the case it makes for a great lost civilization destroyed by a global cataclysm at the end of the last Ice Age. It’s because this evidence is so compelling, and so new, with such revolutionary implications for our understanding of history, that I’ve written Magicians of the Gods.

Get in!

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Game of Groans: Egyptologist Zahi Hawass Goes Into Meltdown During Debate with Graham Hancock

Zahi Hawass goes into meltdown

Who needs HBO or Netflix when you can watch the great Zahi Hawass make a complete ass out of himself for free? In what for many alternative history buffs was going to be a more anticipated head-to-head encounter than next year's Batman vs. Superman, the former supremo of Egypt's Ministry of Antiquities had agreed on participating in a high-profile public debate with Graham Hancock, taking place on Wednesday this week at the Mena House Hotel in Egypt.

Alas, it was not to be, with Hawass going into meltdown before the debate even began. The cause? One single photograph of Robert Bauval - the man who put forward the Orion Correlation Theory about the Giza pyramids - included at the start of of Hancock's presentation. One mere glance at it was all it took for Dr. Hawass to go completely berzerk, start insulting Graham and his poor wife Santha, and storm out of the room!


[...] Dr Hawass saw that one slide contained a photograph of Hancock’s colleague Robert Bauval, originator of the Orion correlation theory with whom Dr Hawass has had disagreements for many years. Dr Hawass immediately became furiously angry and began to shout at Hancock and at Hancock’s wife Santha (Santha is wearing the white dress in the video). Hawass demanded that Hancock censor his talk to remove all references to Robert Bauval and the Orion correlation theory. When Hancock explained that the alternative view of history that he was on stage to represent could not exclude the Orion correlation and therefore could not exclude Robert Bauval, Dr Hawass, again shouting, marched out of the debating room. One member of the audience who was present managed to record part of Dr Hawass’s meltdown which is the subject of this video.

Hawass' feud with Bauval is no secret. For more than 20 years the pair have been at odds over Bauval's theory, his role in the release of the first video of the 'Gantenbrink Door' within the Great Pyramid, and other associated themes. More recently though their relationship has become even more acrimonious, after the scandal concerning two Germans who allegedly extracted samples from Khufu's pyramid broke - with numerous accusations and counter-accusations between Hawass and the author of The Orion Mystery. Where it will end is something that even Edgar Cayce wouldn't be able to predict.

After Hawass' tantrum, the event organizers frantically performed a damage-control op in order to convince Zahi to return to the hall, give his talk and answer questions from the audience. He agreed on the condition that the debate with Hancock was cancelled altogether, and he even refused to watch his opponent's presentation or talk to him.

But wait, the groan-fest continues! During the Q&A, one attendant had the gall to ask Hawass for his opinion on the 10,000-year-old Turkish megalithic site Göbekli Tepe, and the impact this site might have on Egypt's archeology - for example, on the controversy over the age of the Sphinx. The man who used to be the gatekeeper of an entire nation's historical heritage, the one who had the first and last word in green-lighting any excavation on Egyptian soil, and who has belittled and mocked whoever dares to question the Great Pyramid's age or its purpose, admitted on the record that he'd never heard of Göbekli Tepe before. You'd think perhaps his National Geographic buddies would've been kind enough to give him a free subscription to their magazine, after all the *many* favors he allegedly did for them…

Herein lies one of the true roots of our inability to understand our past properly: Arrogant insularity disguised as academic specialization, and a refusal to look beyond your particular area of expertise. It was because of that exact reason Göbekli Tepe was first mistaken for a Byzantine cemetery when it was originally discovered in the 1960s; it wouldn't be until the 1990s when the late Klaus Schmidt re-visited the site and realized its monumental importance. It's people like him, and not stubborn naysayers, who will go down in history as the true searchers of Truth.

It's a good thing Zahi wasn't born during the age of the pharaohs, though. No pyramid or ancient tomb would have been big enough to accommodate that ego.

[H/T Disinfo]

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Trajan's Column: How to Build an Ancient Monument WITHOUT Alien Intervention

Here's a very sweet stop-motion animation showing how the ancient Romans may have built Trajan's column in 113 A.D. --SPOILERS: It didn't involve anti-gravity...

Trajan's column is not only a marvel of ancient ingenuity, but an incredible cylindrical 'comic strip', erected to commemorate emperor Trajan's victory over the Dacians. While the Roman empire eventually collapsed along with all its former splendor, the column stood the test of time during all these centuries, and it's still one of the most iconic monuments of what used to be the capital of the Western world.

“The campaigns were dreadful and violent,” says Roberto Meneghini, the Italian archaeologist in charge of excavating Trajan’s Forum. “Look at the Romans fighting with cutoff heads in their mouths. War is war. The Roman legions were known to be quite violent and fierce.”

Yet once the Dacians were vanquished, they became a favorite theme for Roman sculptors. Trajan’s Forum had dozens of statues of handsome, bearded Dacian warriors, a proud marble army in the very heart of Rome.

The message seems intended for Romans, not the surviving Dacians, most of whom had been sold as slaves. “No Dacians were able to come and see the column,” Meneghini says. “It was for Roman citizens, to show the power of the imperial machinery, capable of conquering such a noble and fierce people.”

A sobering reminder to alternative historians, that not all megalithic monuments should invoke an unconventional origin or engineering solution.


Fall of the Gods: What Caused the Collapse of Teotihuacán?

Before they became an empire, the Mexica --aka the Aztecs-- were a nomadic tribe looking for a place to settle. On their way to Mexico's central valley they passed through the ruins of a monumental city; so impressed were they with the majesty and sophistication of the ancient metropolis, they concluded no mortal men could have been able to build it.

They named the place Teotihuacán: The city where Men became Gods.

To this day, and despite some impressive archeological discoveries in recent years, there's still a lot of mysteries surrounding this Pre-Columbian civilization --our remaining ignorance is best highlighted by the fact that, after all these years, we still don't know the original name of the city, and are forced to identify them with the term given by the Aztecs. We know that by 450 AD Teotihuacán was the most powerful city in all of Mesoamerica, its influence reaching even the remote nation-states of the Maya in the south-east jungles; we also know that its end was not peaceful, given the evidence that its major monuments were burned around 550 AD. But why exactly did Teotihuacán fall into ruin?

Linda Manzanilla, an anthropologist with Universidad Nacional Autónoma de México has published a paper in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, in which she proposes Teotihuacan's collapse was not due external threats or natural catstrophes, but caused by internal clashes between groups with differing economic interests.

Manzanilla is basing her claims on her examination of parts of the ruins, along with an analysis of human remains and other artifacts that have been found in the area. She suggests that because of volcanic eruptions in the first and fourth centuries, people were forced to move from the southern basin, and wound up in Teotihuacan, which resulted in a mix of ethnicities. Activity markers, nutritional patterns, isotopes and ancient DNA analysis showed that the immigrants (some of whom brought specialized skills along with them) tended to live on the outskirts of the city in different neighborhoods and were given specific jobs by businessmen that helped to bolster the economy. But it also led to rivalries between the neighborhoods. As time passed, she believes that tensions arose between wealthy businessmen, neighborhood leaders and those that were part of the government. The tension was increased, she claims, by the government insisting on retaining control of all natural resources. Eventually, that tension boiled over and the result was an angry mob of people burning down major parts (administration and ritual buildings) of the city and trashing sculptures and other iconic structures, and eventually to total collapse of the city.

Manzanilla's theory supports another separate study --in which she also collaborated-- performed by academics from the Institute of Investigations in Applied Mathematics and Systems (IIMAS), who created a mathematical model which supports the theory that Teotihuacán was not ruled by a centralized authority --i.e. a king or emperor-- but rather was organized in a "co-government" represented in a collective, managerial division of the different neighborhoods conforming the city. This theory IMO might explain why recent attempts to discover the tombs of Teotihuacán's rulers have so far proved unsuccesful.

All these new ideas about Teotihuacán paint their culture more like an economic enterprise than a colonizing army. It's almost as if they were the Templars of ancient Mesoamerica --and just like their European counterparts, they attracted the envy and resentment of too many enemies.

In our modern times in which the 1% think of themselves as living deities, the ancient city where Men became Gods has now become a soberly prescient cuationary tale.


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Great Pyramid Controversy - 'Vandals' to Release Their Analysis of Samples Taken from the Famous Monument

"Kheops-Pyramid" by Nina - Own work. Licensed under CC BY 2.5

In 2013 we wrote about a controversy regarding two amateur archaeologists who had allegedly chipped off parts of the famous cartouche of Pharaoh Khufu in the Great Pyramid. That story subsequently blew up, with Egypt laying charges against the pair - Dominique Goerlitz and Stefan Erdmann - and the Egyptian guards who were in attendance during the act.

The case has since concluded, and it is the Egyptian guards who have paid the heaviest price, with all six currently serving time in prison. Goerlitz and Erdmann escaped serving any time - by being out of the country - and continue with their research. Yesterday they put out a press release about their findings:

Notwithstanding the politics, distractions and shenanigans caused by the rash accusations made by Dr. Hawass, the samples that were collected and scientifically tested in Germany for Goerlitz and Erdmann may have solved the age-long mystery concerning the use of iron and possible advanced technologies used by the Pyramid Builders of Giza.

Goerlitz and Erdmann are not the first discoverers of iron in the Great Pyramid - but their research results finally could close the necessary chain of evidence. The particular importance lies in the proof that they can demonstrate ancient Egyptian wrought iron in the original finding context. Both, the occurrence of 18 black magnetite traces on the ceiling and the iron plate found by J.R. Hill in 1883 (metallurgically investigated by El Gayar & Jones, 1989) provide the physical proof for the use of iron in the Fourth Dynasty. The presence of magnetite and “[…] other inclusions of un-reduced iron show that the "melting" operations had been inexpertly carried out at low temperature probably between 1.000 and 1.100°C […]" (Gayar & Jones). All these archaeo-metrical evidence contradict strongly the official statements of the scholars that in the Old Kingdom people neither knew how to produce iron nor how to use it.

The evidence culled from the scientific tests also would explain the mystery of how huge multi-ton blocks were transported and, more intriguingly, how they were lifted and positioned by the Pyramid Builders of Giza, suggestive of a highly advanced technology and the use of iron equipment in the 3rd millennium BCE in Egypt. Goerlitz is preparing an experiment in which he is trying to demonstrate how the ancient Egyptians may have used their iron equipment (Congress in Lennestadt -> August 22nd-23rd, 2015).

Head over to Andreas Muller's website to see the full press release.