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

Did Leonardo Fake the Shroud of Turin?

Is the Shroud of Turin - the alleged burial shroud of Jesus Christ - actually a fake created by Leonardo da Vinci (using a primitive mode of 'photography' no less)? That's the question asked a number of years ago by 'hidden history' authors Lynn Picknett and Clive Prince in their book Turin Shroud: How Leonardo Da Vinci Fooled History (Amazon US / UK). Now, Clive and Lynn describe a new discovery which they think supports their case:

Note that, at the time of writing this, the Amazon US version is being offered at the crazy price of just a couple of dollars.

Clive and Lynn also have a piece in the upcoming Darklore release, drawing on information in their recent book The Forbidden Universe: The Occult Origins of Science and the Search for the Mind of God (Amazon US / UK).

News of Alan Alford's Passing

Giorgio Tsoukalos has announced the passing of 'alternative Egypt' author Alan Alford on his Twitter account:

It is with an aching heart that I must report that my dear friend and colleague Alan Alford, author of GODS OF THE NEW MILLENNIUM, died yesterday. Alan AlfordI first met Alan in the 90s at a World Conference of the Ancient Alien Society and we have been in touch ever since. He was a great man, husband and writer. Your time has come way too early. Yesterday I KNEW something was "off" in the Universe... today I know what it was... I feel numb.

"Nothing is ever wholly lost. That which is excellent remains forever a part of this Universe." ~Ralph Waldo Emerson

I have not seen independent confirmation of the news at this time, but I have no reason to doubt the report. If it is indeed the case, I'm deeply saddened and my condolences go out to his family and friends. I spoke to Alan on a number of occasions and he always struck me as a quietly spoken, but very driven, seeker of answers to mysteries of all types.

Alan first came to prominence in the mid-90s with his book Gods of the New Millennium, which came in the wake of the 'hidden history' boom of that time (dominated by Graham Hancock and Robert Bauval). He went on to author a number of other books on Egypt, Atlantis and interpretation of myths. You can read a full profile of his career at his website.

Alan was born in 1961, making him 49/50 years of age. Far too young.

Pyramid Glow

Posting this Photoshop manip more for my own future reference (want to remember the source if a planned publishing project works out), but I'm sure y'all will enjoy anyhow:

Pyramids by Aaron Bennett

Copyright Aaron_Bennett

Found at Aaron Bennett's Flickr account.

Graham Hancock Talks to Joe Rogan

Our old friend, alternative author Graham Hancock, was recently interviewed by TV presenter and stand-up comedian Joe Rogan on his podcast show "The Joe Rogan Experience". The two hour conversation ranges far and wide, covering the topics in all of Graham's books - from The Sign and the Seal through to his recent fiction offering Entangled - as well as riffing on creativity, skeptics and use of the shamanic brew ayahuasca. Settle in with a cuppa:

Both Joe and Graham are also known for discussing their experiences with the powerful hallucinogen DMT, and each appeared in the recent documentary DMT: The Spirit Molecule (Joe as 'host', Graham as interviewee). The film is absolutely fantastic - great interviews cut together with wonderful visuals. If you haven't seen it yet, you can buy the DVD from Amazon, or download the film/watch it on demand via a bunch of online outlets, from iTunes to Blockbuster - see the doco's website for a full link listing.

Co-host Duncan Trussell, on the other hand, is perhaps best known for his Drunk History of Nikola Tesla (warning: contains puking).

The Secret Tradition of the Soul

If, like me, you enjoyed Patrick Harpur's Daimonic Reality and The Philosophers' Secret Fire, then you'll probably be very happy to learn that he has a new book due out next week (Oct 18) - and it looks fascinating. Titled The Secret Tradition of the Soul, the book...

...argues that answers to life’s most difficult questions — the meaning of life, the nature of self, and the existence of an afterlife — can be met by a visionary tradition that runs through Western culture, The Secret Tradition of the Soul Book Coverfrom Greek philosophy and Renaissance alchemy to Romantic poetry and modern depth psychology. This hidden tradition, according to Harpur, places our soul at the center of the universe and emphasizes imagination, the collective unconscious, and an “otherworld” or afterlife; above all, it teaches us how to know ourselves and how to recover a sense of meaning largely lost today. Harpur shows how this tradition drives the literature of otherworld journeys, from the flights of shamans and the dreams of psychoanalysis to the mystic imagination of Romantic poets and the visions of those having near-death experiences. The Secret Tradition of the Soul is the first book to gather together all the threads of the soul tradition and weave them into a bigger, clearer picture, presenting a worldview at once ancient and revolutionary.

Get it while it's hot!

Mysterious Paper Sculptures Discovered in Libraries

Earlier this year, staff at the Scottish Poetry Library came across something odd on one of their tables: a tree, carved from book and paper, and with a short, anonymous note addressed to the Library's twitter handle @byleaveswelive:

It started with your name @byleaveswelive and became a tree ... We know that a library is so much more than a building full of books ... a book is so much more than pages full of words ... This is for you in support of libraries, books, words, ideas ... a gesture (poetic maybe?)

Since that time, more 'book sculptures' have turned up in the same way at the National Library of Scotland, the Filmhouse, the Scottish Storytelling Centre, the Central Lending Library, as well as two more during the recent Edinburgh International Book Festival. Here's the sculpture of a dragon hatching from an egg that was left at the Scottish Storytelling Centre:

Paper sculpture of a dragon

For @scotstorycenter - A gift in support of libraries, books, works, ideas..... Once upon a time there was a book and in the book was a nest and in the nest was an egg and in the egg was a dragon and in the dragon was a story.....

Given the messages, it's possible these sculptures are a reaction against the controversial closure of libraries across the United Kingdom. Or perhaps they're just wonderful gifts, just as books and libraries are to us all.

To read the whole story, and check out photos of all the sculptures so far, click through to this post.

Graham Hancock on Ancient Seafarers

I enjoyed watching this presentation from 'alternative history' author Graham Hancock on the topics covered in his books, including the bestselling Fingerprints of the Gods:

It was great to revisit some of these topics that I read in FotG way back in the 90s. Coincidentally I watched this not long after reading a Discovery Magazine story titled "Egypt's Lost Fleet", which discussed a recent archaeological excavation which appears to show that the 
ancient Egyptians "
mastered oceangoing technology and 
launched a series of 
ambitious expeditions 
to far-off lands" - something that Graham concluded in FotG sixteen years ago. Materials discovered in ocean-side caves have led archaeologists to believe that, almost 4000 years ago, the ancient Egyptians built ocean-going boats up to 30 metres long in order to sail to the land of Punt. From the magazine article:

Boston University archaeologist Kathryn Bard and an international team have uncovered six other caves at Mersa Gawasis. The evidence they have found, including the remains of the oldest seagoing ships every discovered, offers hard proof of the Egyptians' nautical roots and important clues to the location of Punt. "These new finds remove all doubt that you reach Punt by sea," Baines says. "The Egyptians must have had considerable seagoing experience."

Readers of Fingerprints of the Gods will know that Graham mentions the 42-meter-long boats buried near the Great Pyramid (some 600 years, at least, before the boats mentioned in the above article). Graham cites Thor Heyerdahl as saying that the boat's design incorporated "all the seagoing ship's characteristic properties, with prow and stern soaring upward, higher than in a Viking ship, to ride out the breakers and high seas, not to contend with the little ripples of the Nile", and that it must have been "created by shipbuilders from a people with a long, solid tradition of sailing on the open sea."

Catastrophe for Catastrophism?

Is the Earth periodically thrown into chaos by short-lived geological and astronomical events? The idea is considered to be somewhat heretical in scientific circles, at least when it comes to the claim that this periodicity is perhaps consistent, and due to interactions between astronomical objects and the Earth (see, for example, Immanuel Velikovsky). One recent suggestion for a mechanism behind catastrophism is a 'dark companion' star to our own, named Nemesis. However, a new statistical analysis may herald the end for one aspect of such an idea:

Doomsayers have been wringing their hands for years over the possibility that an unseen companion to our sun periodically diverts a hail of comets toward Earth, sparking mass extinctions like cosmic clockwork. MeteoriteNow an astronomer has shown that the evidence for such a cycle in the flux of comets or asteroids doesn't actually exist.

...Last year, researchers reported that if the Nemesis companion existed, it wouldn't orbit in a nice, precise 27 million-year cycle. That study, published in the Royal Astronomical Society Letters, was portrayed as the "final nail in the coffin" for the Nemesis hypothesis. But the researchers still couldn't explain why extinctions seemed to peak every 27 million years.

"For me, it's a complete head-scratcher," University of Kansas physicist Adrian Melott said at the time.

Now a researcher at Germany's Max Planck Institute for Astronomy, Coryn Bailer-Jones, essentially says that Melott can stop with the scratching. His analysis, published in the Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society, suggests that the seeming periodicity may look like a pattern but actually is a statistical artifact.

...Bailer-Jones looked at variations in the rate of cratering on our planet over time, using an alternative method for evaluating probabilities known as Bayesian statistical analysis. Bayesian analysis provides a reality check for statisticians who think they see patterns in their data, and in this case, the analysis ruled out simple periodic variations. Instead, the figures pointed to a steady trend of increased cratering over the past 250 million years.

..."From the crater record, there is no evidence of Nemesis," Bailer-Jones said. "What remains is the intriguing question of whether or not impacts have become ever more frequent over the past 250 million years."

Read the complete article at Cosmic Log.

Hawass Gone for Good?

The controversial Egyptian Minister for Antiquities, Dr Zahi Hawass, has reportedly been dismissed from his position in a cabinet reshuffle by Prime Minister Essam Sharaf. From the NYT:

Egypt's antiquities minister, whose trademark Indiana Jones hat made him one the country's best known figures around the world, was fired Sunday after months of pressure from critics who attacked his credibility and accused him of having been too close to the regime of ousted President Hosni Mubarak.

Zahi Hawass, long chided as publicity loving and short on scientific knowledge, lost his job along with about a dozen other ministers in a Cabinet reshuffle meant to ease pressure from protesters seeking to purge remnants of Mubarak's regime.

"He was the Mubarak of antiquities," said Nora Shalaby, an activist and archaeologist. "He acted as if he owned Egypt's antiquities, and not that they belonged to the people of Egypt."

Despite the criticism, he was credited with helping boost interest in archaeology in Egypt and tourism, a pillar of the country's economy.

When Dr Hawass resigned earlier this year, post-Egyptian uprising, I commented that I thought he would likely be back soon enough - and was later proven correct. This time, however, I find it difficult to see him returning to his former power...this could be the end of the road for Zahi in terms of ruling Egyptian archaeology (he could still have some plum jobs with the U.S. media as a pundit, I'm sure).

As Dr Hawass left his office by taxi he was mobbed by an angry crowd, who smashed out the window of the cab and hit the driver:

Dr Hawass' replacement was initially reported as being Abdel-Fattah el-Banna - however, the Supreme Council of Antiquities (SCA) rejected the appointment and called for the dissolution of the recently established Ministry for Antiquities.

Just last week I reported on some odd incongruities in the Big Z's story of how looted museum treasures were returned to the authorities, so there may yet be further pressures on the former 'pharaoh of the pyramids' beyond public anger at his support for Mubarek.

To keep up to date on breaking news related to Egyptian archaeology, follow Vincent from Talking Pyramids on Twitter (@Bennu) and/or on Google+.

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The Case of the Stolen Tut Treasures

We all know that pyramid supremo Zahi Hawass tends to talk through his hat at times, and at other times doesn't always tell the full story. But the following incongruity may have broader implications. Vincent from the excellent Talking Pyramids website has noted a change in the story about how some of the stolen King Tut artifacts (during the Egyptian uprising earlier this year) were recovered by a government employee.

Here's Al Ahram's original version of the recovery of 4 missing Tut artifacts:

Salah Abdel Salam, a public relation personal at the MSAA, came upon these objects during his daily trip to work on the Metro. He related that he accidently found an unidentified black bag placed on a chair in the Shubra Metro station. Doubtful that the bag was concealing an explosive, Salah opened it and found the Tutankhamun statue gazing up at him. He took the bag and handed it over to the MSAA.

Hawass did not immediately echo this story on his website, but four days later posted about it on his own blog - except MSAA employee Salah Abdel Salam has suddenly turned into simply "a person" who turned up directly on Zahi's steps out of the blue with the bag, rather than handing it over to the MSAA.

But now, in this recent Scientific American interview, this is apparently how it happened:

Hawass: And we've brought back most of King Tut's objects that had been stolen.

Interviewer: And where were they? Where did you find them?

Hawass: Those were taken by the looters who entered the Cairo Museum on the night of January 28. Tut's Death MaskWe tracked them, and had people to ask and people to give us information. We got the objects of King Tut because there was someone working for the antiquities department who came to me and said that there were looters who wanted to return these objects back to me. And the next day he brought a bag with four objects.

Interviewer: And these looters approached the department official anonymously.

Hawass: It's a long story. He was sitting in a café, and heard them talking, and they said they need to return these objects to Zahi Hawass because they trust him.

Hawass appears to be talking about the same event - a government official coming into possession of four Tut items, in a bag, through sheer luck. If so, why the disparities (most especially, "abandoned bag at a train station" vs "overheard conversation in a cafe")? Added to reports like this one and this one, and you start to wonder about the real story here.

Whatever the truth of the matter, you have to giggle at the line "they need to return these objects to Zahi Hawass because they trust him". Nice touch Z!

(n.b. The stolen items did not include the Tutankhamen's death mask - I just had the image at hand to illustrate the story).

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