Zahi, Pyramids, and Playing to the Camera

I was recently alerted (thanks, Jennifer!) that the Fantasy (er…History) Channel is airing a new series (begins 9/8) called “Chasing Mummies.” Naturally, it features everyone’s favorite camera-shy Egyptologist, Zahi Hawass. The most interesting episode may be the second in the series, entitled “Bats.”  Here’s the promo:

It’s time for Leslie, the Executive Producer, to do Zahi a favor, and it requires going where few cameras have been before — to the mysterious caves below the Giza Plateau. Zahi is determined to disprove the theories of the so-called “pyramidiots,” who believe that there are secret underground chambers leading to the Sphinx. Little did anyone know that these caves were home to thousands of bats! If that wasn’t enough for Zahi, he’s also agreed to make an appearance at a local wedding celebration and as viewers have learned, Zahi’s likes to celebrate the dead…not the living!

Hmmm. Zahi going underground into the cave system under the Giza Plateau — you know, into the caves that he initially said didn’t exist (after news of their discovery broke; Zahi: “We know everything about the plateau – amateurs cannot find anything new”). Zahi later said these caves (that I guess came into existence after his opinion) didn’t need discovering (I presume because he didn’t discover them). Ya gotta love him.

New Nazca Lines Theory

Kind of cool if it turns out to have validity. The idea is that the lines have something to do with marking underground water sources, like wells. Note that no alien help would be needed for this, either. Here’s what’s needed: (1) knowledge that there is water / a well / a stream under your feet; (2) the notion that “hey, we should mark where this is”; and (3) adding an artistic flair to the markings — and devising a way so that one points to another.

At some point I need to post on the Nazca lines.  Very interesting and often-studied item.

Early Alphabet

Pretty informative piece from Chris Rollston (an epigrapher) on the early alphabet. This is a favorite subject of mine.  I post it here because from time to time I run across paleobabble about “mystical  meanings” that derive from the shape of the Hebrew alphabet. Hate to disabuse anyone of this (actually, I don’t mind), but the Hebrew alphabet originally looked nothing like it does today (or even as it did in the days of the Qumran scribes).  The alphabet began centuries before the “mystical block script” was ever even imagined). Just because someone can “explain” how kabbalists think doesn’t mean that what kabbalists claim conforms to reality. And when it comes to letter shapes, the *best* that could be said is that the Babylonian (not Jewish) scribes who invented the “block” style of Hebrew letters we know today had some sort of esoteric thoughts in their head about them — but it’s too bad they never wrote those thoughts down.

Bible PaleoBabble from a Muslim Apologist

I know — a very unlikely source. But biblical bungling isn’t confined to popular evangelicalism. I’m honestly torn over whether to subject my readers to more of this sort of blather, but hey, I guess that’s why I’m here.  I have heard that this YouTube video is making the rounds (thanks Pam), so I guess I have some sort of obligation.

Needless to say, this absolute BS. The worst kind of sophistry. A few reasons why:

First, the Song of Solomon verse isn’t a prophecy (nothing is being predicted).

Second, to eliminate the consonants suggests that vowel sounds have no importance for meaning. Uh … ALL languages have vowel sounds whether vowels are represented or not.  WRITING is an attempt to convey a language without speaking (by graphic means); it is not *the* language itself.  If WRITING were to be equated with LANGUAGE, then all languages which never got a writing system or whose writing system was lost really never existed!  Huh?  A language needs ALL its sounds (consonant or vowel) to convey meaning. Picking one to the exclusion of the other results in erroneous or contrived meanings.

Third, this logic would mean that if I found a string of consonants in the Hebrew text and eliminated the vowels, I’d have predictions of people or other proper nouns by name.  Sweet! Let’s try a few!  (Unfortunately for those of you who can’t look these up in Hebrew, the profundity of my discoveries won’t have as much impact — you have to settle for transliterations at the links I provide below).

Did you know that Job 7:19 predicted the academy award winning film, Rocky?  Yep. The consonants in the last word of the verse spell it out (see the last word in this column).  In 2 Kings 4:26 the OT writer prophesied Alex Haley’s breakthrough novel “Roots” – just check the second word if you don’t believe me.  I’d love to keep these amazing revelations rolling, but I’m afraid many of you would quit your jobs and sell your possessions to join my new “consonant only” religious cult (vowels are of the devil, you know).

Part of me wants to say there is a special place in hell for people who handle the biblical text this way (or maybe a remedial heaven), but before we laugh too much, we ought to be reminded of how many utterly stupid things Christian “teachers” say about the Bible that follows exactly the same “method” of interpretation. Examples like “Rosh” and “Meschech” in Ezekiel 38-39 for “Russia” and “Moscow” come immediately to mind. And then there’s that viral video about how Jesus gave us the name of antichrist and it’s Barack Obama.  Already blogged that one.

Hobbits in the Human Family Tree?

That’s the title of this archaeological update about an article in the latest Journal of Human Evolution on the “little people” (Homo floresiensis). Personally, I’ll wait for the genetics (like with the recent Neanderthal genome sequencing) before I lend any credence to this “new, ancient human.” I post it here since I can’t wait for the ancient astronaut wacky crowd to start splicing alien grays into the human genome on the basis of this stuff.  More paleobabble coming right up, sir!

Archaeoastronomy: Aliens Need Not Apply

Came across this online issue of the Journal of Cosmology recently. This issue is all about archaeoastronomy, a fascinating field.

Now the obvious rant:  “All these archaeo-astronomical structures all over the world — this *proves* the aliens landed and gave humankind advanced knowledge of the stars!!”

My equally obvious response: No, it proves that when you’re on the earth, the sky is seen all over the globe — and people observed it and tried to track and “map” its behavior. If you were patient enough, you could do this in your backyard (I don’t recommend marking with megaliths, though — maybe just drawing lines on your picket fence).

Presidential PaleoBabble

Well, this isn’t exactly ancient, but I was sufficiently appalled at President Obama’s utterly clueless pronouncement that “Islam has always been part of America” in his speech last week on Ramadan that I felt it was worth an honorable mention. Okay, I know. This is an easy target. We ought not to expect any politician to have any grasp of anything that doesn’t result in filling their coffers with campaign funds or extracting more taxes from us. But we might expect the president to have a bit of a feel for American history.

Apparently the president got this gem of an insight from something called “The Collections and Stories of American Muslims,” the product of a non-profit organization. That organization makes the claim that Peter Salem, a former slave who fought at the Battle of Bunker Hill, must have been a Muslim since “Salem” bears an etymological resemblance to “Salaam,” the Arabic word for peace. Wonderful logic there — and that’s what put me over the edge to including this on PaleoBabble. It’s precisely the same sort of “sounds the same to my ear regardless of whether it has any linguistic – or in this case, historical – support” that far too many Christian “Bible researchers” use to prove this or that piece of paleobabble. And ditto that for the people who think Zeitgeist and Holy Blood, Holy Grail have any intellectual merit. Ridiculous.

Here’s a nice link to a short rebuttal of the comment.

Here’s a bit of information on Peter Salem. I also found several scholarly articles that mention him. This one is representative — see the footnote on page 10 — nothing is actually known about him. For all we know, “Salem” might have been a name given to him to denote where (geographically) he lived as a slave.  It isn’t that far from Boston / Bunker Hill.

If I can find this sort of thing in five minutes, so can the president and his speech writers. But they don’t appear to be interested in research, just propaganda.