Revisiting the Age of the Sphinx Controversy with Robert Bauval and Robert Schoch

The Great Sphinx and Pyramids

Nostalgic for the halycon days of the 'alternative Egypt' craze of the 1990s? It seems that two decades later, it's due for a comeback. We already know that Graham Hancock is revisiting the areas covered in his hugely influential Fingerprints of the Gods - presumably including ancient Egypt - in a 2015 release titled Magicians of the Gods. And now two other big names of alternative Egyptology, Robert Bauval and Robert Schoch, have announced they are teaming up to write a book on the 'Age of the Sphinx' controversy. From Robert Bauval's Facebook page:

I am please to announce that Dr. Robert Schoch and I have decided to team up in order to write a book on the Sphinx. Since the early 1990s on the one hand Schoch's name has been associated with the 'Age of the Sphinx' geological debate and, on the other hand, I have been associated with a similar debate based on astronomy. Since then much new evidence has come to light after twenty years of new research and on-location expeditions which we will present in this new book, as well as tackle heads-on the various criticism and academic attacks that were thrown at us over the years. No punches will be spared in this forceful book that will once and for all hammer in the last nail to this intellectual coffin of Egyptology. Stay tuned for more news....

Link: Sphinx: The Quest for the Source of Civilisation

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News Briefs 24-10-2014

“Life is short and truth works far and lives long: let us speak the truth.”

Quote of the Day:

“Change alone is eternal, perpetual, immortal.”

A. Schopenhauer

News Briefs 23-10-2014

Someone make this game happen, stat!

Thanks Red Pill Junkie, @GrailSeeker and @MysteriousUniv.

Quote of the Day:

It ain't how long you live, it's how you live your life
Burn bright until the grave don't shy away from the light

You+Me, "Open Door"

Recreating the Lost Music of our Ancient Ancestors

Deerbone Flute from Avebury

In the modern age we take for granted the almost magical ability to record audio - up until the 19th century, if you wanted to listen to music, you had to either play it yourself, or listen to someone else play it, live. How then can we hear the sounds of the past before this point? One way is through the transcription of music on to paper - this is how we know the music of the great composers such as Mozart and Beethoven. Sometimes it is through through memory, such as in the transmission of folk tunes from one generation to the next. But in more ancient examples, those sounds have largely been lost.

While we can't be sure of the melodies these ancient people played, archaeological excavations have uncovered some of the instruments that were used. And they show that music is something humans have enjoyed for a very long time: three flutes found at the Geißenklösterle cave in Germany - two of which were made from swan bones, the other from a hollowed mammoth tusk - have been dated to around 36,000 BC, while flutes made from vulture bone discovered in France have been dated to between 20,000 and 35,000 years ago. In fact, it seems the ancients realised fairly early on that bones make for a pretty damn good flute, and utilised skeletal remains from birds, animals, and even humans (most often femurs and ulnas).

And from these archaeological discoveries, we can at least get a sense of what ancient music might have sounded like. The position of the holes in a flute give us the musical scale they utilised, and the construction of the object provides us with an idea of the tone the instrument may have had. Last year we posted video of an ancient vulture bone flute being played. And recently Philip 'Greywolf' Shallcrass has recreated a deer-bone flute found near the Avebury megalithic complex and posted the resulting sounds to YouTube:

The original instrument, now lost, was discovered in July 1849 by one John Merewether, Dean of Hereford, when he dug into some burial mounds about a mile and a quarter from Avebury. The flute was found beside the crouched skeletal remains of a man and an undecorated urn containing the bones of a child. We know what it looks like as Merewether sketched and described his finds in a book published in 1851. I'm not sure why Greywolf's recreation has four holes rather than the three in Merewether's sketch, but imagining the sound of this flute floating across the Avebury circle certainly does give me chills.

(h/t @Fiona_Lang)

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News Briefs 22-10-2014

The world hasn't run out of stories just yet.

Quote of the Day:

Stories of imagination tend to upset those without one.

Terry Pratchett

To Celebrate the 100th Birthday of the Late Martin Gardner, Some Skepticism

Martin Gardner

Today would have been the 100th birthday of the late polymath and influential skeptic Martin Gardner. Gardner – who passed away aged 95 in May 2010 – published more than seventy books on such diverse topics as mathematics, science, philosophy, literature and skepticism. For a quarter of a century he was also the writer of the ‘Mathematical Games’ column in Scientific American, and as a consequence he has influenced many of the modern day’s top academics in the hard sciences. Douglas Hofstadter described Gardner as “one of the great intellects produced in this country in this century,” and Arthur C. Clarke once labeled him a “national treasure.”

Gardner was also one of the major voices in the skeptical movement; George Hansen describes him as “the single most powerful critic of the paranormal in the second half of the 20th century”. Gardner was writing ‘skeptical’ books long before the modern movement ‘began’ in earnest with the inception of CSICOP (now known as CSI) in the 1970s – his seminal deconstruction of pseudoscience, In the Name of Science (later renamed Fads and Fallacies in the Name of Science), had been published two decades previous in 1952. Like Randi, he could be a rather nasty skeptic too, sometimes embracing debunking over debate (he once commented that in certain circumstances, "One horse laugh is worth ten thousand syllogisms").

The occasion of Gardner's 100th birthday has led to a number of tributes on major news sites this week, from the BBC to the New York Times. And rightly so, there is no doubting that he inspired a number of today's leading academics. But I also thought it worth pointing out his fallibility, by relinking to my article "How Martin Gardner Bamboozled the Skeptics", which I think (hope!) does a good job in deconstructing the truly awful 'skeptical' essay he wrote about the medium Leonora Piper. Rather than denigrating Gardner's memory, I would hope that a man who esteemed skeptical thinking as much as Gardner would appreciate my critique of this particular work of his. It's a long piece, so here's the summary:

Unscientific skepticism of the type exhibited by Gardner and Cattel is a corrosive one which, rather than defending science, instead shields it from possible new discoveries and viewpoints through irrational over-protectiveness. It also brings skepticism as a whole into disrepute when such cheap tactics are employed. In his article “How Mrs. Piper Bamboozled William James”, Martin Gardner ignores the original scientific work done, misrepresents the competency of the investigators, and misleads the reader both through incorrect statements and loaded language. This is hardly the type of writing we would expect from “one of the great intellects produced in this country in this century.”

Sadly for Martin Gardner, perhaps the most succinct summary of his essay can be found in James Hyslop’s caustic response to Hall and Tanner’s Studies in Spiritism, written nearly 100 years previous: "The calm critic can only say that the book either displays the grossest ignorance of the facts and the subject, or it is a colossal piece of constructive lying. The authors may take either horn of the dilemma they like."

Link: Skeptical of a Skeptic

Related: Vale Martin Gardner

Review: ‘Discovering Scarfolk’ by Richard Littler

Ebury Press 2014, ISBN 9780091958480

Britain in the 1970s was a very strange time and place. Caught in the brutal come-down after the Sixties yet still retaining more than a hint of pagan mysticism in the air, Britain had a distinctive otherworldliness underlying the economic woes, ever-present threat of nuclear war and public service films warning children that horrific death lurked in every field, every street. Both grubby and garish, represented equally by Abigail’s Party and Children of the Stones, Albion seemed caught in an awful liminality. There was nothing quite like living through that strange time, in that weird place.

Nothing, that is, except for Scarfolk.

The invention of Richard Littler, Scarfolk is a fictional town in the North-West of England which is perpetually trapped in the 70s. Littler’s pastiches of the advertising and cultural symbols of the time, filtered through the paranoid occult and technological fears then present, became an immensely popular blog series over the past couple of years, drawing praise from writers as diverse as Ian Rankin, Caitlin Moran and Warren Ellis. The clever perfection of the parody images, combined with the Pythonesque word play and riffs on the stranger aspects of British culture, are a masterpiece in absurdist horror.

Although there are some parallels to other fictional towns draped in the Weird, Scarfolk is very much its own thing. Comparisons to the Welcome To Night Vale podcast are commonly made, especially when trying to explain Scarfolk to Americans: but whereas Night Vale has a folksy cute-weird inclusive charm that might tempt the fan to consider living there if it existed, nobody in their right minds would want to visit Scarfolk, let alone live there... it makes Royston Vasey seem positively inviting by comparison.

Now, Scarfolk has made the transition from blog to book, and in the process has both gained and lost something in translation.

The book contains most of the classic images Littler created for the Scarfolk site - favourites such as the controversial fake Penguin Books cover “Children And Hallucinogens”, which went viral last year, convincing many that the book had once existed (including, so rumour has it, several concerned Penguin executives). They are surrounded by a two-layered, almost Lovecraftian-styled framing story: the book purports to be a professor’s reconstruction of a found text, telling the tale of one Daniel Bush. Bush, while moving home after the death of his wife in a bizarre Morris-dancing related accident, is trapped in Scarfolk following the disappearance of his twin sons. Recovering from the brainwashing inflicted on him for ‘his own good’ by the residents, he wanders the town, trying to understand his surroundings and find his children.

Though that storyline itself is interesting (and draws heavily on other great British cultural influences such as The Prisoner and The Wicker Man), it doesn’t flow well: mostly because it’s continually interrupted by both the pictures and a lot of footnotes - the readers attention is being continually split. Each element of the book - the art, the story and the footnotes - don’t quite gel together... but each is thoroughly enjoyable in their own form.

The footnotes contain some of the best, most horrific writing in the book, I think: such as,

The ice-cream van man came between 3 and 4 a.m. His van blared out the haunting Swedish Rhapsody numbers station. The ice-cream van man wore a clown mask to disguise the horrific burns on his face because he didn't want to frighten the children. It didn't work. He used clothes pegs to hold the mask on because he was missing an ear. He lived in a nondescript building in an electrical substation and no one knew his name.

As an artefact, the book feels like it has fallen out of some grubby wormhole: the pages are faintly faded, the whole thing almost seeming to glower at the reader. The cover looks like a pre-battered textbook from a barely-used library, its recollection of the publishing tropes of the time a pastiche so perfect that it verges on the hyperreal. Sadly, this finish actually obscures some of the finer details of the illustrations; in one of my favourite pictures, the relabelled diagrams of the male and female genital anatomy, several of the terms are too blurry to be read easily.

(EDIT: Richard Littler contacted me after this review aired to note that the blurring of the pictures was a printing mistake and not intentional. Though that accident adds to the grimy air of this version, I am glad later editions will allow readers to fully see a woman's malteser and a man's battlestar galactica in all their glory.)

Despite these drawbacks, Discovering Scarfolk is a pleasure, if a disturbing one: you’ll never read or hold anything else quite like it.

For more information, please re-read this review.

Link: Discovering Scarfolk on Amazon UK

News Briefs 21-10-2014

Someone make this movie happen, stat!

Quote of the Day:

Pray that there's intelligent life somewhere out in space,
'Cause there's bugger all down here on Earth!

Monty Python, "The Galaxy Song"

The Grimerica Show @ PS2014


One of the things I love the most about the Paradigm Symposium, is that it inspires the audience not only to think for themselves and reach their own conclusions, but also to take a more active stance in the search for answers.

A good example of this are my buds Darren Grimes & Graham Dunlop, whom I met on the 1st Paradigm in 2012. They drove all the way from Calgary to join in this event organized by my Cosmic Compadre Micah Hanks, and the Intrepid Magazine editor & religious historian Scotty Roberts; and even though I'd only interacted with Darren through the comment section on Mysterious Universe a few times, we all became fast friends almost immediately.

It was because of Mysterious Universe and Micah's Gralien Report radio show, that the Canadian duo decided to start a podcast of their own. Now I'm going to be honest here: At the beginning I was uncertain on how they were going to pull it off, since they were both rather novice about the whole podcasting requirements, aside from the day jobs and other personal responsibilities they couldn't neglect because of this new 'hobby'; add to it the fact that nowadays there's not exactly a shortage of Fortean shows trying to get a hold of the celebrities in the field, and you can see how The Grimerica Show had quite an uphill road in front of them...

But, as a testament to both their passion and commitment, in a short span of time the Grimericans have already managed to attain a good number of listeners all across the globe, a group of good bloggers writing for their webpage, along with a VERY decent list of guests under their belt --Grant Cameron, Stanley Krippner, Dennis McKenna, Rupert Sheldrake & Dr. Rick Strassman just to name a few.

Not bad for a couple of guys transmitting from a little igloo in the middle of the Canadian tundra ;)

This year Scotty Roberts & his new associate Dr. John Ward --known among the veteran Paradigm attendees as 'the most interesting Egyptologist in the world'-- offered Grimerica to be the official podcast of the symposium; it was just too good an opportunity to pass, and I'm proud to say Darren & Graham once again rose to the challenge like pros. On their table at the back of the vendors' hall they had everything from T-shirts, flyers, business cards, and a banner (co-designed by yours truly) which was later signed by all the PS2014 speakers and now adorns their recording studio in Calgary. They also conducted on-site what they call 'the Money Bomb', which is a funding model they emulated from The Higherside Chats in which they ask for cash donations, and after reaching a certain sum they split half of the earnings with a lucky contributor. Someone left Minneapolis with a hundred bucks-worth of new books thanks to Grimerica!

Below is a list of all the interviews they recorded at the Woman's Club of Minneapolis, the beautiful building in which the conferences and the dinner banquet were hosted this year. If you've never listened to them, you'll quickly notice that, although Grimerica took inspiration from MU and the Gralien Report, their 'loose-cannon' tone of casual conversation is actually closer to Joe Rogan's, and is what probably distinguishes them from most of the podcasts out there --as such, the boys are not afraid of dropping a few 'F-bombs' here and there, something I hope won't prevent you from enjoying the entertaining dynamic between Graham's New Age-y enthusiasm on everything concerning Consciousness, in contrast with Darren's nonchalant 'groundedness' and more skeptic attitude on these topics.

I also got to participate in a few of those recordings, as you might have probably deduced from the top image, in which you can see me sitting right beside UFO historian/researcher Richard Dolan. Having the chance to engage people you've admired for a number of years is a priceless opportunity, and I'm very grateful the Grimericans are taking me along for the ride. Hope you decide to join us as well!