A breathtakingly lucid and coherent map of the tectonic shifts which drastically reshaped the human psyche, and the human world, within a hundred thrilling, terrifying years [and which] leaves us asking ourselves how we could have missed so much about the wider implications of a time we lived through. An illuminating work of massive insight, I cannot recommend this magnificent work too highly.
When Alan Moore describes a book - Stranger Than We Can Imagine: Making Sense of the Twentieth Century - in such an effusive manner, you can bet that it's going to be a fantastic read. And when the author is our good friend John Higgs, and the subject is a tour of the backwaters of history and science, you can double down on that bet. John's the writing genius behind, among others, two brilliant non-fiction books on counter-culture icons Timothy Leary (I Have America Surrounded) and The KLF (KLF: Chaos Magic Music Money), as well as a couple of wonderful 'strange fiction' books (The Brandy of the Damned and The First Church on the Moon).
If you've read John's non-fiction, you'll know how adept he is at illustrating history in a different light, by finding and connecting various esoteric moments via synchronicities and hidden history. If you haven't, see as an example his Darklore 7 article "From Operation Mindf**k to The White Room: The Strange Discordian Journey of the KLF" (PDF), or more quickly this article I wrote discussing some of the wonderfully odd material about Doctor Who covered in John's KLF book.
John's a long-time collaborator and friend - he's contributed to multiple Darklore releases - and was closely involved with the Cosmic Trigger revival last year in the UK. But even if I only knew him through his writing, this would likely be the book release of the year for me - so I can't recommend this highly enough. And I'm not the only one - apart from Alan Moore's high praise, Stranger Than We Can Imagine is already getting big ups from many quarters, from New Scientist to Robin Ince.
The book is released today in the UK (later this year in the Americas, but since when do geographical boundaries bother us anymore?), so head to Amazon UK and grab a copy, stat! For those interested, here's the blurb:
The twentieth century should make sense. It's the period of history that we know the most about, an epic geo-political narrative that runs through World War One, the great depression, World War Two, the American century and the fall of the Berlin Wall. But somehow that story doesn't quite lead into the world we find ourselves in now, this bewildering twenty-first century, adrift in a network of constant surveillance, unsustainable competition, tsunamis of trivia and extraordinary opportunity.
Time, then, for a new perspective. With John Higgs as our guide, we step off the main path and wander through some of the more curious backwaters of the twentieth century, exploring familiar and unfamiliar territory alike, finding fresh insight on our journey to the present day. We travel in the company of some of the most radical artists, scientists, geniuses and crazies of their age. They show us that great innovations such as relativity, cubism, quantum mechanics, postmodernism and chaos maths are not the incomprehensible, abstract horrors that we assume them to be, but signposts that bring us to the world we live in now.
John Higgs brings us an alternative history of the strangest of centuries. He shows us how the elegant, clockwork universe of the Victorians became increasingly woozy and uncertain; and how we discovered that our world is not just stranger than we imagine but, in the words of Sir Arthur Eddington, 'stranger than we can imagine'.
For those wanting to learn more about the book, check out John's recent appearance on the Little Atoms radio show. And to put a face to the name - and learn a little bit along the way - see John's talk about Robert Anton Wilson embedded below.
Few archaeological discoveries have captured the public's imagination more than Tutankhamun's tomb. Since Howard Carter first uncovered the lost burial site of the boy pharaoh, people have marvelled at the artefacts recovered, spun myths about the curse of Tutankhamun, and speculated about how he died.
But King Tut's tomb may hold one more object of fascination - indeed, something that would likely be considered a more important archaeological moment than the discovery of his own tomb: the whereabouts of the lost tomb of the iconic queen of the 18th dynasty, Nefertiti.
Egyptologist Nicolas Reeves has put forward the startling theory that Nefertiti may lie buried right beside Tut's tomb. His interest was piqued when he noticed a number of fissures and cracks in the walls of Tutankhamun's burial chamber, suggesting the presence of passages that had been blocked and plastered to conceal their existence:
One of these would probably lead to a storeroom; its position and small size mirror that of an already-uncovered storeroom inside the multi-chambered tomb. The other, bigger possible doorway in the north wall of Tutankhamun’s burial chamber suggests something much more exciting.
There are several oddities about Tutankhamun’s tomb. It is small compared with others in the valley. The objects found in it, while magnificent, seemed hurriedly placed and were found to be largely second-hand; even the boy-king’s famous gilded funerary mask sports the strangely unmanly feature of pierced ears. The tomb’s main axis is angled to the right of the entrance shaft, an arrangement typical of Egyptian queens rather than kings.
Noting that the bigger of the two doorways he may have located aligns perfectly with both sides of the tomb’s entrance chamber, Mr Reeves thinks it could conceal a corridor continuing along the same axis, in the scale and shape of other nearby royal tombs. All this, as well as evidence that the tomb’s decoration and construction were executed at different stages, leads him to conclude that this corridor would lead to the burial chamber of a queen, or perhaps several princesses.
Things just keep getting older: A new paper in the Journal of Archaeological Science has claimed the discovery of a man-made 12 metre long monolith on the bottom of the sea-floor between the island of Sicily and the Tunisian coastline.
Researchers believe the site was abandoned as it was inundated by the rising sea at the end of the last Ice Age, almost 10,000 years ago (although they seem careful not to suggest when the monolith may have been created...though one of their samples appears to date to around 40,000 B.P.?).
The discovery was made at 'Adventure Plateau' - the shallowest part of the entire Sicilian Channel, but a location that saw the most dramatic and intense consequences of changing sea levels at the time. During the Last Glacial Maximum, the area formed a southern peninsula of the Sicilian mainland.
The monolith, found at a water depth of 40 metres, is broken into two parts, and has what appear to be three regular-sized holes bored into it, one which passes right through, and two others part-way through midway along it.
The massive stone was first discovered in late 2012, when detailed sonar sea-floor surveys were conducted in the area. Follow-up scans encouraged researchers to send divers down in 2013 and 2014, who collected rock samples and took around 8 hours of video.
After analysis of various aspects of the discovery, the researchers concluded that the block was made by human hands:
From the data we have here presented and analysed, it can be inferred that the monolith discovered in the PVB is not a natural feature, but man-made. The elements that combine to formulate this interpretation can be listed as follows:
- the monolith has a rather regular shape;
- the monolith has three regular holes of similar diameter: one that crosses it completely on its top, and another two at two sides of the monolith; there are no reasonable known natural processes that may produce these elements;
- the monolith is made from stone other than those which constitute all the neighbouring outcrops, and is quite isolated with respect to them; and
- the lithology and age of the rock that makes up the monolith are similar to those that make up the blocks of the rectilinear ridge closing the embayment.
The presence of the monolith suggests extensive human activity in the PVB. It was cut and extracted as a single stone from the outer rectilinear ridge situated about 300 m to the south, and then transported and possibly erected. From the size of the monolith, we may presume that it weights about 15 t.
The researchers noted that as a consequence of the discovery, "the belief that our ancestors lacked the knowledge, skill and technology to exploit marine resources or make sea crossings, must be progressively abandoned...recent findings of submerged archaeology have definitively removed the idea of “technological primitivism” often attributed to hunter-gatherers coastal settlers."
Readers of alternative historian Graham Hancock's 2003 book Underworld: Flooded Kingdoms of the Ice Age might be interested in the conclusion reached by these researchers in 2015: that "the vast majority of marine geophysicist and archaeologists have now realized that to trace the origins of civilization in the Mediterranean region, it is necessary to focus research in the now submerged shelf areas."
Obviously, further investigation and debate will be required before this discovery is confirmed. Will this monolith be consigned to the 'mystery' category along with other underwater sites such as Yonaguni and Bimini Road, or will it completely rewrite the history books like Göbekli Tepe?
A new study has found that Native Americans in the Amazon bear an unexpected genetic connection to indigenous people of Australasia. The results suggest a previously unknown wave of migration to the Americas thousands of years ago:
“It’s incredibly surprising,” said David Reich, Harvard Medical School professor of genetics and senior author of the study. “There’s a strong working model in archaeology and genetics, of which I have been a proponent, that most Native Americans today extend from a single pulse of expansion south of the ice sheets—and that’s wrong. We missed something very important in the original data.”
Previous research had shown that Native Americans from the Arctic to the southern tip of South America can trace their ancestry to a single “founding population” called the First Americans, who came across the Bering land bridge about 15,000 years ago. In 2012, Reich and colleagues enriched this history by showing that certain indigenous groups in northern Canada inherited DNA from at least two subsequent waves of migration.
The new study, published July 21 in Nature, indicates that there’s more to the story.
Researcher Pontus Skoglund was studying genetic data gathered as part of a previous study when he noticed the link between a couple of Native American groups in Brazil and indigenous groups in Australasia. Reich admitted that it was “an unexpected and somewhat confusing result...we spent a really long time trying to make this result go away and it just got stronger.”
After looking into this link further, they found that the Tupí-speaking Suruí and Karitiana, and the Ge-speaking Xavante of the Amazon shared a common ancestor - no longer in existence - more closely related to indigenous Australasians than any other present-day population, though no traces of this ancestor's genetic lineage were found in other Native American groups in South, Central or North America.
While the migration route of this ancestral group remains a mystery, the study proposes that 'Population Y' came down from the ice sheets along with the First Americans, forming the two founding populations of the Americas.
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"...
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.
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:
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.
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.
— Scott Kelly (@StationCDRKelly) May 29, 2015
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.
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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.
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
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.
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