Your antidote to cyber-twaddle and misguided research about the ancient world. Lots of people do research on the mysteries of antiquity. Some insights are valuable; others are insanely stupid. PaleoBabble exists because insisting that conclusions be drawn from data is a coherent idea, because conjecture isn’t evidence, and because appealing to conspiracy to validate ideas is intellectually lazy.Paleobabble RSS
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I was interviewed this past week by Natalina for her Extraordinary Intelligence podcast. The interview was a good one. Talked about The Facade first just a bit, and then focused on the new sequel, The Portent. Just like my first interview a year or so ago, Natalina succeeded in getting information from me, some of it even personal!
The last two reviews on Amazon capture what to expect in The Portent pretty well. Here are a few lines:
[The Portent] takes everything the reader thought they knew (and were sure of) about the return of Jesus and turns it on its head! [It] challenges all popular end times belief scenarios with stunning precision and well documented, real-life supported claims. The divine council of The Portent will forever change your perspective regarding the return of Jesus, who may be fooled, and who won’t! This is a must read for anyone who believes in intelligent evil and an elegant shadow system that operates above the law, behind the scenes, and hidden in plain sight.
When it comes to internet mythology about alleged alien assistance to the ancient Egyptians, the hieroglyphs in the picture are ground zero. As with the case of the lightbulb in Egyptian art, and the mis-identified picture of an alien grey in an Egyptian wall painting, the claim that there were technologically advanced flying craft in ancient Egypt is utterly bogus.
The glyphs in question are in the temple of Seti I at Abydos. I have blogged about these glyphs before, explaining that they are a well-known and classic instance of hieroglyphic superimposition — a palimpset. In briefest terms, the panel in Seti I’s tomb on which the current glyphs was originally carved with a set of “normal” hieroglyphs. At a subsequent point in time, the glyphs were plastered over and re-carved — a well-known phenomenon in ancient Egyptian monumental writing. After centuries of time, the plaster came off, revealing what we see now — two sets of hieroglyphs superimposed. That is why some of the shapes on this panel are unlike any others in Egypt.
The mdw-ntr website has a detailed, thorough, splendidly illustrated step-by-step explanation of this process. It is absolutely certain that these hieroglyphs are the result of carving one set of glyphs over another for a simple reason: each set of glyphs is known from other texts. It is quite easy to illustrate how the “helicopter” came about from both sets of glyphs. If you want the truth, it’s all here.
If you’re into archaeology, neolithic civilization, ancient religion and, of course, paleobabble, you’ve head of Gobekli Tepe. But in case not, Gobekli Tepe is an archaeological site in Turkey whose use dates back to the 10th-8th millennium B.C. The site has been interpreted as a worship center / temple complex. If that’s the case, it is arguable the oldest such complex discovered to date. As the Global Heritage Fund website for Gobekli Tepe states:
Göbekli Tepe is an Early Neolithic site of enormous significance, featuring 5-meter-high monolithic pillars carved in relief and dating to 10,000 or more years ago. Erected within circular “temple” structures, the latest excavations have revealed that these structures likely covered the entire hillside and could number as many as 20 in total. Göbekli Tepe has been interpreted as the oldest human-made place of worship yet discovered.
Though known earlier, excavation of the site first began in 1994 under German archaeologist Klaus Schmidt. The site quickly became known as the Turkish Stonehenge in the popular media. It’s circular structures are unique in that:
. . . [its] circles range from 30 to 100 feet in diameter and are surrounded by rectangular stone walls about six feet high. Many of the pillars are carved with elaborate animal figure reliefs. In addition to bulls, foxes, and cranes, representations of lions, ducks, scorpions, ants, spiders, and snakes appear on the pillars. Freestanding sculptures depicting the animals have also been found within the circles. During the most recent excavation season, archaeologists uncovered a statue of a human and sculptures of a vulture’s head and a boar.”1
Fringe researchers were quick to label it the original Eden. The problem is that other archaeologists who have now gone through the dig material don’t believe the site is a slam dunk for a temple complex. One of them is E. B. Banning, author of “So Fair a House: Göbekli Tepe and the Identification of Temples in the Pre-Pottery Neolithic of the Near East,” Current Anthropology 52:5 (October 2011): 619-660. Like so many of the antidotes to paleobabble, Banning’s article is not publicly available to those who lack access to scholarly journal databases like JSTOR. And of course the archeo-porn popular press would never tell you about alternative views. Fortunately, a short write-up of Banning’s criticisms of the temple interpretation is available: “Archaeologist Argues World’s Oldest Temples Were Not Temples At All.” Here’s a telling summary:
He outlines growing archaeological evidence for daily activities at the site, such as flintknapping and food preparation. “The presence of this evidence suggests that the site was not, after all, devoid of residential occupation, but likely had quite a large population,” Banning said.
Banning goes on to argue that the population may have been housed in the purported temples themselves. He disagrees with the idea that the presence of decorative pillars or massive construction efforts means the buildings could not have been residential space.
If you’re not used to reading scholarly literature on archaeology, this doesn’t sound like much. I’ll translate. True temples were houses of gods — not domiciles for the general population. The fact that this site does indeed witness to neolithic occupation by a sizable number of people argues against it being a temple complex. The abstract of the actual article puts it this way:
Archaeologists have proposed that quite a number of structures dating to the Pre-Pottery Neolithic A and B in southwest Asia were nondomestic ritual buildings, sometimes described specifically as temples or shrines, and these figure large in some interpretations of social change in the Near Eastern Neolithic. Yet the evidence supporting the identification of cult buildings is often equivocal or depends on ethnocentric distinctions between sacred and profane spaces. This paper explores the case of Gobekli Tepe, a large Pre-Pottery Neolithic site in Turkey that its excavator claims consisted only of temples, to illustrate weaknesses in some kinds of claims about Neolithic sacred spaces and to explore some of the problems of identifying prehistoric ritual. Consideration of the evidence suggests the alternative hypothesis that the buildings at Gobekli Tepe may actually be houses, albeit ones that are rich in symbolic content.
Here are some excerpts from the Banning article that extend from the abstract:
. . . contrasting interpretations of Neolithic ritual space make it clear that archaeologists are far from agreed on how to identify specialized ritual spaces either in the Neolithic or more generally. This is not only a matter of identifying evidence of ritual activity but of identifying in what ways, if any, it can be distinguished from the “ordinary” activities of daily life that we associate with residential or “domestic” use. (619)
Schmidt interprets the images on the pillars as “art” and as religious symbols . . . [He] insists that “no serious claim for domestic use [of the buildings] . . .” and that the Gobekli structures are “without fireplaces, ovens, or other usual traces of “domestic life.” (623)
Banning proceeds to discuss the evidence for domestic ritual, ritual symbolism, and art in previously-known neolithic sites. Bringing such evidence to bear at Gobekli Tepe undermines its identification as a centralized cult center for a single population (i.e., a temple). Banning’s article shows that there is an abundance of such domestic contexts and artifactual materials from those contexts. Lastly, he combs through the excavation records from Gobekli Tepe, pointing out the site yields evidence of domestic occupation.
The point here is not that Banning’s alternative thesis has won the day. Rather, the point is that it’s a thesis that exists and must be taken seriously — as opposed to jumping to conclusions and turning Gobekli Tepe into Eden (perhaps Atlantis would be a more appropriate analogy). This propensity is something that crops up all the time in discussions of fringe archaeology. Amateur researchers seize on some site, assign a fantastic meaning to it, write a book that never undergoes peer review, make some cash, and then look for the next point of titillation amid the dirt and debris of antiquity. Conclusions are drawn about an object without serious consideration of all the data in context (or the absence of data one would expect if a given interpretation would be correct). This “method” is simply unprofessional and misleading.
Um … no.
Here’s a link to a detailed debunking / explanation from the MDW-NTR website. It’s the same site that featured the exhaustive debunking of the “light bulb” at Denderah. The author provides the visual context that you need — and that ancient astronaut theorists never provide — for the correct understanding.
I made a page of important links related to a wide range of topics covered on my PaleoBabble and UFO Religions blogs. It doesn’t have a sidebar home yet, so bookmark it. It will eventually have a permanent home that is visually discernible. (When my webmaster gets time for that).
I created the page for easy reference for folks who listen in when I am interviewed. I’ll be on five shows in the next four weeks. I’ll post something a few days before each one, and of course send notice on Twitter.
Forgive the pun.
I just came across this amazingly detailed debunking of this oft-cited piece of Egyptian paleobabble. It’s the best I’ve ever seen on this modern myth. it explains, in deep detail, what the image is depicting and what it means. This “light bulb” nonsense is often used in discussions about Egypt’s high technology (learned from aliens in the minds of certain “researchers”).
As a visual aid to what you’ll read in the link, I offer the picture below (taken from the link). In the picture I’ve added a red arrow — it points to the lotus flower (which is what the “light bulb” actually is). The details of the flower are clearly visible. It’s a familiar and important motif / symbol in Egyptian mythology. The blue arrow points to the snake emerging from the flower — it isn’t a wire filament … it’s clearly a snake (in both “bulbs”). You can click on the image to get an enlargement.
It’s startling how dumb the ancient astronaut stuff really is.
[Update Note: The story comes from "World News Daily" which seems to spoof "World Net Daily." It's a hoax site.]
Hat tip to Brian Godawa for alerting me to this story. The article leads as follows:
An Italian expert studying a first century document written by the Roman historian Marcus Velleius Paterculus that was recently discovered in the archives of the Vatican, found what is presumed to be the first eyewitness account ever recorded of a miracle of Jesus Christ. The author describes a scene that he allegedly witnessed, in which a prophet and teacher that he names Iēsous de Nazarenus, resuscitated a stillborn boy and handed him back to his mother.
I’m not familiar with the “historian and archivist” who made the discovery, Ignazio Perucci. The article notes he was hired by the Vatican “to sort, analyze and classify some 6,000 ancient documents that had been uncovered in the gigantic archive vaults.” It’s about time — and good luck!
The article notes:
This new text from an author known for his reliability, brings a brand new perspective on the life of the historical character that is Jesus of Nazareth. It comes to confirm the Gospels on the facts that he was known for accomplishing miracles and that his sheer presence in a town was enough to attract crowds of people.
If this is legit, it would be a stunning find. Hopefully the text will receive wide attention and peer review so that a consensus can be reached. Proper investigation needs to follow, just as was the case with the bogus “Jesus’ wife” fragment.
I just posted the registration page for MEMRA 2015. There will be four courses offered:
Beginning Biblical Hebrew
Beginning Biblical Greek
Beginning Biblical Aramaic
Course descriptions are available on the MEMRA site.
Aramaic has been offered but canceled twice before. That will not happen this year. The course will be available so long as someone signs up for it. The required textbook for Aramaic has changed, so please see the course descriptions. Part of the difficulty with an Aramaic textbook is finding the one that least assumes students have had Hebrew. They all assume that, but the current textbook seems to require the least amount of supplementation in that regard (i.e., the fewest gaps I need to fill on my own).
The courses are discounted until January 18, 2015, at which time prices will change. Registration closes completely for Module 1 at the end of January.
The first 2015 module will begin February 2, 2015. Courses are plotted out over the course of one year, but students can proceed faster if they are able.
All who have read The Portent, the sequel to my novel, The Facade, know that one of the research threads in the sequel is the inherently racist nature of ancient astronaut theory — that is, it articulates the idea that the white European race (and even more narrowly for the Nazis, the Germanic strain) is descended from extraterrestrial gods. The other races are inferior.
Readers of The Portent will immediately recognize that same thought trajectory in the first season of the television series, In Search of Aliens (starring Giorgio Tsoukalos of Ancient Aliens infamy). My fellow ancient astronauts debunker, Jason Colavito, authored the summary at the link above. It shows quite clearly the racist bent of the whole idea and its “proofs.”
Tsoukalos and H2 (History Channel) should be ashamed of themselves and soundly condemned for this contemptible racist tripe. Having this sort of material in these shows sullies the reputations of people who appear in them who aren’t racist in their thinking. The History Channel producers may be too dim-witted to be able to connect these dots, but millions of racial supremacists and their followers have done so since the 19th century.
Jason ends his piece fittingly by noting that Tsoukalos “truly is the apostolic heir of his mentor, Erich ‘Was the Black race a failure?’ von Däniken.”
New Testament scholar Craig Evans recently wrote this pointed, detailed review of Reza Aslan’s book, Zealot. The review spans several pages, so make sure to click through at the bottom of the first page.Evans has a long scholarly publishing resume and is known and respected in the fields of Jesus research, New Testament, and Second Temple Jewish studies. And for anyone wondering, he’s no “fundamentalist” Christian scholar, either.
For those who may not recall, this was the book that the mainstream media and “we decide what books will be in stores” publishing establishment fawned over when it first appeared many months ago. As Evans notes, it’s just rehashed, long-debunked thinking about Jesus. When someone like Evans refers to your book as “riddled with errors” it matters — at least to anyone interested in things like accuracy and truth.