In 1650 CE, a bishop named James Ussher tried to identify when the world was created. He used the dates given in the Bible of the pre-flood people (Adam, Enoch, Noah, etc.) to establish when Adam and Eve lived.
Counting back so many years, plus six days, he discovered the date God had created the earth. He determined it was sometime in 4004 BCE. The vice-chancellor of the University of Cambridge, also looking to determine the date of creation, went one step further. He fine-tuned the date and stated that the earth was created on October 23, 4004 BCE, at 9:00 a.m. It was a Sunday.
For hundreds of years people believed that creation happened in 4004 BCE. Discoveries in science tell us a different story. Today, most Westerners have let go of the 4004 BCE date. They reason, “How could such a recent date account for things such as trilobites, the dinosaurs, and the action of plate tectonics?” It only took one hundred years for our societal viewpoint to change. If we want to understand where we came from we must be willing to look outside the box, or should I say, “the Book.”
We continue to live entrenched in a cultural timeline that is incorrect—even with all of the recent discoveries in the sciences. The currently accepted timeline tells us that civilization began in Sumer around 4000 BCE. Supporters of this notion state that the pyramids in Egypt were built shortly thereafter. Archaeologists, historians, and researchers into our distant past want us to believe that humanity moved from living in caves and huts into a full-blown society nearly overnight.
Alternative historians, such as Brad Steiger, Michael Cremo, Graham Hancock, John Anthony West, Klaus Dona, Zecharia Sitchin, and Erich von Däniken, believe that evidence of our past is being hidden from us. At worst, new discoveries are not being discussed, and mainstream researchers are overlooking important finds. The suppression of evidence keeps our history nice, neat, ordered, and controlled. The exposure of newly acquired facts and information that do not conform to the norm would force us to look outside the box. For some, this is a very uncomfortable idea.
Recent archaeological discoveries in Syria and Turkey are challenging contemporary mainstream archaeologists. In Bosnia, a series of pyramid structures have been found. Called the Bosnian Pyramids, they have been dated, conservatively speaking, to 7000 BCE. In Turkey, a presumed religious structure filled with monolithic columns and detailed carvings, called Göbekli Tepe, has been dated to have been built around 10,000 BCE. Have you heard about either of these sites in the media? Have there been any shows on the Discovery Channel or History Channel talking about these incredible finds? Thanks to the Internet, information about these amazing discoveries is slowly being revealed. The result of these discoveries could revolutionize our thoughts about history.
Our myths, legends, and oral tradition provide us with an image of our ancient past. These tales tell of the lives and experiences of our ancestors. Dating the events, chronicled in these ancient tales, is difficult if not impossible. The date of Noah’s flood, for example, is lost to posterity. Stone carvings, which describe the flood, have been found in Sumer. The carvings by themselves do not help us determine the date of the flood. Scientists are obliged to date the evidence in hand: the carved tablet, the rock, and other strata in which the carving was found. If, on the other hand, there was a reference to a known (dated) person, a place, or a thing found within the writing itself, a reasonably close, if not exact, date could be determined. This, in most instances, is not the case. The writings, stories, and myths we have inherited never sound like a modern newspaper. The tales never begin with “On Friday, December 21, 2012…” (If only they did!)
Many historians are quick to dismiss information that comes to us from ancient cultures. They state that primitive people, in order to explain their surroundings, invented these creative stories. Pedro Sarmiento de Gamboa’s History of the Incas, written in 1572 CE, uses this line of reasoning:
“This absurd fable of their creation is held by these barbarians and they affirm and believe it as if they had really seen it happen and come to pass.”
When anthropologists investigated the cosmology of the Dogon people, their peers quickly dismissed their findings. The Dogon are an ethnic group living in Mali, West Africa, in and around the Bandigara Cliff. French anthropologists Marcel Griaule and Germaine Dieterlen studied these primitive people in the early twentieth century. Dogon priests, over time, revealed to the anthropologists many of their secret myths, lores, and traditions.
Griaule and Dieterlen reported the advanced astronomical knowledge these people possessed. The Dogon were aware of the rings of Saturn and the moons of Jupiter. The Dogon also claimed that Sirius, the brightest star in the night sky, had a companion star. The Dogon describe it as being very small, incredibly heavy, and white in color. Today, astronomers call this secondary, binary star, Sirius B. Sirius B is not visible to the naked eye. It was first observed with a telescope in 1862.
Astronomers such as the legendary Carl Sagan dismissed the potential knowledge of the Dogon, suggesting that the priests of this primitive group must have encountered Westerners prior to Griaule and Dieterlen’s investigation. The Dogon, according to Sagan, took this scientific information about Sirius’s binary star and, in the course of sixty years, incorporated this new knowledge into their cultural mythology. This explanation, nevertheless, does not address the Sigui ceremony that has been performed by the Dogon people every sixty years since at least the twelfth century that celebrates the renewal of the world.
Mythic epics such as the Hindu Mahabharata and the Ramayana are described as being ambitious tales of fiction, or, should I say, science fiction. These stories are portrayed as a figment of someone’s wild imagination. Homer’s epic tales “The Iliad” and “The Odyssey” also fall into the category
of fantasy. Homer’s sagas provide detailed descriptions of the people, places, and events that transpired during the war between the people of Troy and the Greeks, the Trojan War. These heroic tales apparently provided enough factual information that in the 1870s Heinrich Schliemann discovered the mythic city of Troy. This find forever changed our view of Homer’s work. What was once believed to be a fairy tale overnight became recognized as an important historical document.
If the events documented in “The Iliad” are shown to be based upon historical information, then why not others? If the Dogon knew about specific astronomical information of our solar system, then how are we to say that other technical information from ancient sources is false or make-believe? Is it possible that the myths and legends from around the world are accounts of what occurred in our past?
Another problem encountered when dealing with a culture’s mythology is it was often recorded long after the event occurred. What little we do have is memorialized in stone, on papyrus, and on wood. This has created problems for many scholars. For example, we recognize the books contained within the New Testament were not written right after Jesus’s death. Stories of Jesus’s life were memorized and then told and retold for years before pen was put to paper. It is theorized that at least fifty years went by after Jesus’s death before his life and work were collected and documented. These books are touted as the one and true word of God, despite a fifty-year delay in documenting the facts of the day.
Books of Jesus’s life and teachings that fall outside the current Bible, called the Apocrypha, are not accepted in much the same way. Manuscripts such as the ones found in the Egyptian town of Nag Hammadi are believed to have been written sometime during the fourth century CE. These books include the Gospel of Thomas, the Gospel of Mary, and the Secret Book of John. Were the concepts depicted in these texts a part of the original teachings of Jesus’s ministry? Religious scholars resoundingly say, “No!”
The majority of the myths we have today were passed down through the generations verbally. It is assumed that these stories, over time, were changed and likely corrupted. How do experts suggest the corruption took place? Have you ever played the telephone game as a child? Do you remember that game? A group of people sit in a circle. A phrase is given to one of the people who will then whisper the phrase into a neighbor’s ear. The goal is to transmit the unchanged phrase around the circle successfully. More often than not, the phrase at the end of the circle does not resemble the original one.
Why is it so hard for some to believe that a story could be so important to a culture that it lived through their oral tradition until it was finally “written in stone”? Passing information orally was an integral part of early cultural life. Individuals specialized in learning, sharing, and retelling mythic information long before the creation of the printing press. These specialists would transmit their stories in the form of song or lyrical verse. Early explorers to the New World were amazed at the native population’s ability to recall word-for-word transactions of long-past treaties. In fact, in some Amerindian cultures, it was correct etiquette for each speaker at their councils to repeat verbatim every word of what all his predecessors had said.
The Talmud, the rabbinic writings that form the basis of Orthodox Judaism, records:
It happened with King Ptolemy, that he gathered seventy-two elders, and gathered them in seventy-two houses, and did not reveal to them the purpose for which he had gathered them, and he went in to visit each of them, one by one, and he said to them, “Write for me the Torah of Moshe your teacher.” The Holy One, Who is Blessed, gave to the heart of each of them, one by one, wisdom, and all of them arrived at a single understanding (Tractate Megillah 9a).
In short, they were each able to translate the entire Torah verbatim. We no longer have the need to memorize and recall vast quantities of information. We open a book or turn on our computers to get the answers to our questions. We can typically store bits of information in our memory, but in our daily lives this is not a skill we practice anymore. We all do find that our recall ability works fine if we hear the same information repeated consistently. Christmas carols are a great example. These songs are only sung during a specific time of the year. Granted, today many of us do not know the second verse to most Christmas carols; yet it is easy for Christians and non-Christians alike to sing along at least to the chorus of “Jingle Bells” or “Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer.” Likewise, I will bet many readers will still be able to recall the opening tune to the epic voyage of Gilligan. Now think. How long was Gilligan supposed to be at sea? What happened to him and his boat? Who was on the boat with him? The same holds true when we ask, What is the jingle describing the contents of a McDonald’s Big Mac?
We can take this concept one step further. Individuals who work as professional singers memorize vast amounts of music as part of their work. Think about the opera singer who learns all of the words to Rigoletto or Madama Butterfly, or the local cover band who can play countless songs upon request. These requests might run the gamut from rock and roll to country to pop. Are they so unlike the bard who was raised listening to the local myths and legends and was later able to tell these tales to an awaiting crowd? Could mythical information be passed reasonably intact? We think so! Especially if what they were conveying was important to them. The tales of our past are anything but boring.
Current convention indicates that each culture’s myths and legends developed independently. This belief becomes problematic when you evaluate cultures worldwide. Scientists state the Sumerians were the first group to develop a full-blown culture. They flourished about 6,000 years ago in Iraq. The Sumerians preceded the Babylonians, a group of Biblical fame. It only seems logical that their story of creation, the flood, giants, and a warring race of gods would filter out and influence the cultures of the neighboring areas such as Egypt, Italy, and Greece. These cultures are in relatively close proximity to Sumer and each other. Trade between these divergent groups could account for a merging of traditions and beliefs. This could lead to sharing and borrowing stories from one another.
There is one, teeny, tiny problem when you try to assert that different cultures came up with their own unique stories. Mythological traditions found worldwide are remarkably similar to each other. If we were speaking strictly about the mythology found in Eurasia, it could reasonably be deduced that the stories spread from a singular source. Granted, the names may have changed and specific details may be different, but the essence of the stories is virtually identical.
One has to stop and rethink what is going on when you include the mythology of North and South America and especially Australia in the mix. It insists you take a step back and look at it with fresh eyes. The prevailing theory states that the Americas were first settled around 12,000 BCE. Australia, amazingly, is believed to have been first populated over 40,000 years ago. These dates, to some, may seem extremely conservative, but they still serve to support the point. The myths found in these geographically diverse locations and cultures surprisingly follow the same story line as those told in Eurasia, including the ones found in the Bible.
The above is an edited excerpt from her forthcoming book The E.T. Chronicles (Hampton Roads, 2014). It is printed here with the publisher’s permission.