New England is up there on the weirdness meter: old cemeteries, crazy epitaphs, H.P. Lovecraft, Pomoola, Dighton Rock, Salem witchcraft trials, StepheNew England is up there on the weirdness meter: old cemeteries, crazy epitaphs, H.P. Lovecraft, Pomoola, Dighton Rock, Salem witchcraft trials, Stephen King, the Bridgewater Triangle, Mary Baker Eddy, the Goshen Tunnel, Betty & Barney Hill, America's Stonehenge, "Ghost Cars," the Moodus noises, Joseph Smith, the Oneida Community, Phineas Gage, the Lake Winnipesaukee mystery stone, Wilhelm Reich, spontaneous human combustion, the Dover Demon, Loren Coleman, the Upton Tunnel, Lake Champlain monster, Gungywamp, Skull and Bones, and Purgatory Chasm. And better writing than many others in the Weird America series. ...more
This might be my favorite Macaulay book yet. It answers so many of my questions about how the ancient Egyptians were able to build such a technologicaThis might be my favorite Macaulay book yet. It answers so many of my questions about how the ancient Egyptians were able to build such a technological marvel, and doesn't once bring up out-of-place modern technologies or pseudo-divine extraterrestrials in the process. One of many details—the use of water-filled ditches as levels—blew my mind!...more
This book didn't seem that interesting until I realized the book's alternate title could be "Factory." Fictional case study of the evolution of a smalThis book didn't seem that interesting until I realized the book's alternate title could be "Factory." Fictional case study of the evolution of a small, Rhode Island mill-town provides an in-depth look at the Industrial Revolution in terms of the built environment. ...more
David Macaulay's Underground was a wonderful book, but his City tops it by showing the same sorts of infrastructural accomplishments (e.g., public wDavid Macaulay's Underground was a wonderful book, but his City tops it by showing the same sorts of infrastructural accomplishments (e.g., public water works, plumbing, sewers, etc.) only here set in classical antiquity! Macauley's masterful illustrations and clear text provide ample evidence of the "civilizing" (literally, "urbanizing") skills and talents of the Roman people whose arts, according to the Aeneid, "are to be these:"
To pacify, to impose the rule of law, To spare the conquered, battle down the proud. (6.1151-1154)
For, as Macaulay notes in his introduction (p.5), "[t]he Romans knew that well planned cities did more to maintain peace and security than twice the number of military camps." Fascinating stuff here, and not just for kids!...more
The Phoenicians we learned about in grade school are a larger part of history than I would have first believed, and this approachable account attemptsThe Phoenicians we learned about in grade school are a larger part of history than I would have first believed, and this approachable account attempts to set the record straight.
This loosely affiliated band of nomadic Semites provided cedarwood for the pharaohs of Egypt and learned mastery of the Mediterranean Sea, and with it, international trade. Later they had many of their coastal lands invaded by another upstart band of Semites called "Israelites" (who knew the Phoenicians as "Canaanites," the name Phoenicians used for themselves). Subsequently King Hiram of Tyre, one of the main Phoenician city-states, provided cedar and craftsmen for King Solomon's temple, and the two groups of Semitic peoples lived in relative peace under one or another empire.
Semitic gods and goddesses made their way east and were incorporated into the Greek pantheon: Aphrodite, Heracles, Adonis, Dionysus. Even the name Europe was derived from the name of a mythic daughter of a Phoenician king who was kidnapped and ravished by Zeus. Even as the Hellenes replaced the Phoenicians as the kings of trade and of the sea, they did so using the alphabet invented by their rivals. Alexander the Great was finally able to conquer Tyre before he went on to conquer much of West Asia by building a bridge from the land to the fortified island. Even with Tyre out of the picture, however, the Phoenicians were not done influencing the West.
Carthage, a city-state in North Africa, was founded by Phoenicians (Poeni or Puni in Latin), and the general who led elephants across the Alps to wage war on Rome had a Semitic name, Hanni-Baal. Although Carthage was destroyed utterly by the Romans at the conclusion of the Third Punic War, the Carthaginians/Phoenicians left their mark on the island nation of Malta, the only European nation with a Semitic official language.
This was a fascinating history of a fascinating people whose descendants still live in Lebanon and Syria, albeit without the fame and recognition one might think they deserve. It is also a much needed reminder that the world has always been smaller than it seems and that those in power today aren't guaranteed power and fame tomorrow. ...more
Excellent souvenir of Stonehenge with good photos (better than any I took, for sure), clear illustrations, and fascinating historical and archaeologicExcellent souvenir of Stonehenge with good photos (better than any I took, for sure), clear illustrations, and fascinating historical and archaeological information. Covers other nearby sites on the Salisbury Plain. ...more
Interesting and heavily illustrated contrarian look at American prehistory, drawing all sorts of unusual (and unwarranted?) conclusions from evidenceInteresting and heavily illustrated contrarian look at American prehistory, drawing all sorts of unusual (and unwarranted?) conclusions from evidence that mostly looks to my untutored eye like tally marks engraved on stones. Amongst these conclusions are that ancient Phoenicians, Libyans, and Celts established colonies in the Americas, ranging from New England and Oklahoma in North America to Paraguay in South America. You wouldn't suspect it from his confident tone, but (according to the Wikipedia article on Fell) he was and is viewed as a "pseudo-archaeologist" by many of those in the field (for what that is worth--see Thomas Kuhn, Robert Anton Wilson, and others on the hazards of group-think in the sciences). The Wikipedia article goes on to cite archaeologist David Kelley to the effect that there is evidence of a pre-Columbian European presence in the Americas and that as much as Fell might have played it up, mainstream archaeologists have ignored it. Is the Zuni language derived from ancient Libyan? Did the native Algonquin peoples intermarry with Celtic colonists? Perhaps further research will help discern the truth from interesting speculations. ...more
**spoiler alert** I was reading something online about the Earth's "hum" when I came across this fascinating article by engineer and "pyramidiot" Robe**spoiler alert** I was reading something online about the Earth's "hum" when I came across this fascinating article by engineer and "pyramidiot" Robert Bauval . In it he explains that the Great Pyramid was constructed in such a way that it might have translated this frequency into something suitable for human listening; in other words, the pyramid may have been designed to "sing," making it the world's first multimedia monolith. I was so amazed at this revelation that I fired the e-mail off to my good friend, Rev. José M. Tirado, who shares my fascination with both ancient wonders and contrarians. Within minutes his reply indicated that I needed to read a book called The Giza Power Plant.
Although certain that the local library would not have a copy of this oddball book, I was taken aback when the online catalog pointed me right to it and indicated that it was available to request and check out locally. I placed my request, and once the book arrived at the library, I figured out why they were able to get a copy. It turns out that author Christopher Dunn lives in Danville, IL, which is about 45 miles from here, and so the public library owned a copy. My attitude toward coincidences is that they all are meaningful, and so the proximity of the author cemented my desire to read this book.
Dunn begins with a pretty interesting question, one rooted in his decades of experience in manufacturing: why is the Great Pyramid of Cheops so precise in its construction? He explains at some length that the precision found in the measurements of the pyramid, including the surveying and alignment of the base, with variances of less than a hundredth of an inch over a length of hundreds of feet, is beyond the level of precision expected of contemporary construction. As an aerospace machinist with over 30 years of practical experience, Dunn cannot simply brush aside this question; he makes it clear that for the folks like him, those responsible for translating the ideas of engineers into physical artifacts, the standard theory about the purposes and construction of the Great Pyramid just don't hold water.
He also asserts that there is abundant evidence of the use of machine tools at Giza and he shows quite a few images that seem to support his contention. Thin parallel grooves in shaped stone look like the marks left by a power drill. Intersecting curved surfaces in stone bowls indicate the use of lathe-like machine tools, and not easily blunted copper implements and scouring compounds. Dunn marshals some pretty intriguing evidence in his chapter on the use of machine tools in ancient Egypt and discusses the positive responses he's gotten from machinists, engineers, and others involved in hands-on manufacturing. This chapter was probably the most compelling in the book, because it does seem to me, a total layman, that he's on to something.
However, while his ideas on machine tooling in ancient Egypt are pretty intriguing, I found his overall hypothesis--that the Great Pyramid was a vast machine intended to produce power through resonance with Earth's "hum"--a lot less convincing, though no less fascinating. In brief, he asserts that the pyramid was a power plant that converted the Earth's hum into a source of clean, renewable energy. He doesn't just make this up out of whole cloth either; on the contrary, he provides a lot of circumstantial evidence that, if nothing else, does seem to indicate the inadequacy of the current explanation of the pyramid as a tomb. The granite-lined "King's Chamber" with its overlying vaults and entry-way is seen as a sort of "sound box" whose abundant quartz crystals resonate and amplify the humming earth below. The "Queen's Chamber" was a reaction chamber providing a source of hydrogen as a medium for the accumulated energy; Dunn notes the presence of various salt encrustations and a foul smell in this chamber that would be consistent with the presence of acid-base reactions. He even explains the mysterious shafts running up through the pyramid at an angle (a design feature inexplicable to modern manufacturers, since constructing the shafts on the horizontal would have been much, much easier); one shaft acted as wave guide to collect microwaves from space, focused them through granite lens that has been mistaken for a sarcophagus, and sent them out the other shaft as high-powered output.
It's a fascinating idea but it is not without its problems, obviously. Where are machine tools used in the construction, for example? I've seen museum cases filled top to bottom with Bronze Age implements but not one ancient Egyptian Black and Decker power drill. Where is evidence of the power usage (apart from the hypothetical power tools)? How was the power transmitted? (On one page, Dunn shows a bizarre "eye of Horus"-like satellite reflecting the beamed power back down to Earth, but thankfully doesn't really try to explain that.) Why did the human race completely lose its collective memory of this level of advancement?
This was a very interesting book which was incredibly well written (particularly since its writer is from Danville; in his defense, he is English by birth) and very fun to read. Dunn is an articulate voice for the seldom heard perspectives of those "on the ground" in the worlds of machining and manufacturing, and he raises some valuable and not easily dismissed questions about our knowledge of the ancient past....more