Jason Colavito (editor). Foundations of Atlantis, Ancient Astronauts and Other Alternative Pasts: 148 Documents Cited by Writers of Fringe History, Translated with Annotations. McFarland, 2015.

‘Alt Archaeology‘, or Alternative Archaeology, has been in vogue at least since at least the seventies, even before the publication of the infamous Chariots of the Gods by Erich von Däniken. Some may say that the reason for this popularity is that, lacking the rigorous scholarship of mainstream archaeology, along with a slant towards more sensational claims than those of academia, Alt Archaeology is more accessible and more appealing to the general public than that which comes from universities and colleges. Those who champion this point of view say that the alternative dares to take the cognitive leaps of faith that the hidebound educational system, which is capable of punishing those who are perceived as stepping out of line with consensus thought, will not dare to take. Also, the somewhat unconventional claims of alternative authors help to create a certain tension in the whole field.

Foundations of Atlantis, Ancient Astronauts and Other Alternative Pasts, named hereafter as Foundations, is a book on a mission. The idea is to look at documents referred to by some of the pre-eminent (or notorious, depending upon your point of view) alternative archaeology writers, and to see if the written material supports the arguments of the authors. It should be noted at this point that the editor of this work, Jason Colavito, is a self-professed sceptic when it comes to the statements of alternative archaeologists. He says on his website that he is a “skeptical xenoarchaeologist”, therefore laying out his position straight away as to the direction that his arguments will take.

There are a wide variety of subjects covered in this book, from the Old Testament flood and the Watchers, Atlantis and the Americas, to the Holy Blood and the Holy Grail, so Foundations is ambitious in scope. The subject is chosen and the supporting documents are appended so that the reader can compare the texts with the author’s claims in order to draw conclusions as to whether the accuracy of the original claims are supported. However, along with the documents provided by the author of Foundations, there is significant editorial comment which guides the reader, whether they take note of the documentation’s direction or not.

One example is on page 88 of the chapter 'Flying Chariots and Ancient Astronauts' where Colavito writes “In 1:16, for example, a more magnificent version of the Babylonian wheeled chariots for transporting divine statues is quite clearly indicated”. This is in response to the claims of many ancient astronaut theory supporters that the vision in a storm mentioned in Ezekiel of the Old Testament is that of an alien spacecraft. His conclusion that this conveyance is a grandiose version of a mundane and easily explainable ground vehicle may indeed be accurate, and if one is going to comment upon such things then a grounding in early Middle-Eastern history and culture certainly would not hurt, although it is still directing the reader in lieu of them coming to conclusions via the data supplied.

That said, there is an index, and relevant data after the heading of each document as to the language it was written in, the approximate date when it was originally created and so on.

Foundations has a praiseworthy mission in that the author is supplying his audience with information, ostensibly so that they may make their own minds up as to whether the claims of alternative archaeologists are viable. However, this is tempered by the supplying of sufficient guidance in his editorial comment to ensure that readers draw the conclusions that would point them closer to the sceptical pool of thinking that he represents. Having said that, it will still be a valuable resource because of the accumulation of so many relevant texts in one volume. -- Trevor Pyne

1 comment:

  1. I am glad Magonia has reviewed this book, but I am puzzled by the reviewer framing its value in strictly partisan terms. Pyne states flat out that skepticism is inherently biased but not once does he cite examples of bias distorting Colavito's analysis. Should we not conclude from this that Pyne himself is the one holding the bias?