Many people are fascinated by strange beliefs and stories about ancient artifacts, or sensational interpretations of ancient writings. This book deals with a number of these, together with some more modern mysteries and controversies, particularly with regard to official interest, real or imagined, by US government agencies.
It is rather cleverly written in a manner likely to appeal to sceptics as well as believers. Some of the more bizarre stories are described as "controversial", so the sceptic only has to substitute "barking mad" for this adjective. In other words it depends on how you read it, as Redfern, unlike many other writers on similar topics, never tries to bully the reader into accepting his verdicts on what he describes.
Those of us who consider ourselves to be reasonably sane would probably suppose that there is really no truth in the legend that Noah's Ark eventually grounded on the upper slopes of Mount Ararat, as the story obviously does not make sense if taken literally. The CIA, though, were apparently quite interested in it and not only carried out investigations but refused to disclose their fndings. Of course it wasn't really Noah's Ark, but a wrecked alien spacecraft, rather than just an outcrop of rocks sticking out through the snow. Believe it if you can.
There is plenty of other nonsense for the true believers and the guffawing sceptics. Did you realise that the Egyptian Pyramids and the Sphinx bear remarkable resemblances to similar structures on Mars? Egyptologists, although not the stuffy academic ones, find it hard to believe that the enormous stones were cut out, transported and moved into position by sheer hard work. No, the ancient Egyptians were really clever; they knew and applied the technique of moving them by levitation. They placed "magical papyrus" under the edges of them, struck them with a metal rod, and they levitated and glided along a pathway surrounded on both sides by metal rods. Just like that!
There is a chapter dealing with the notion that highly technologically advanced societies may have existed in the distant past, and had discovered how to use atomic energy, eventually bringing about their destruction in nuclear wars. This idea is based, like so many strange interpretations of ancient writings, on over-literal interpretations, in this case the Sanskrit text known as the Mahabharata. This interpretation is based on comparing some of the descriptions to those of modern warfare, whereas boring conventional scholars describe them as being written in a fanciful and exaggerated style. Of course, if the ancients really had such advanced technology there would surely be plenty of evidence remaining for the archaeologists to study. But don't spoil the fun.
For British readers there is some material about mysteries, real or imagined, about stone circles, such as Avebury and Stonehenge, as well as the inevitable item about RAF Rudloe Manor, about which ufologists have for long swapped yarns having varying degrees of plausibility, the only reasonably convincing one being that there was a unit there investigating flying complaints and UFO reports. However, Redfern does not mention the secret railway which is said to run underground between Rudloe Manor and 10 Downing Street. An example of his artistic restraint, no doubt. -- John Harney