23.7.16

Alternative Archaeology Analysed

An academic approach to 'alternative' archaeology.

Jeb J. Card, David S. Anderson (Editors) Lost City, Found Pyramid: Understanding Alternative Archaeologies and Pseudoscientific Practices. The University of Alabama Press; 2nd ed. edition (30 July 2016)

From the publisher's website: Lost City, Found Pyramid delves into the fascinating world of sensational “pseudoarchaeology,” from perennial discoveries of lost pyramids or civilizations to contemporary ghost-hunting and reality TV. It examines how nonscientific pursuit of myths and legends warps both public perceptions of archaeology and of human history itself. A collection of twelve engaging and insightful essays, Lost City, Found Pyramid does far more than argue for the simple debunking of false archaeology. Rather, they bring into focus the value of understanding how and why pseudoarchaeology captures the public imagination. 

By comprehending pseudoarchaeology’s appeal as a media product, cultural practice, and communication strategy, archaeologists can enhance and enliven how they communicate about real archaeology in the classroom and in the public arena. The first part of Lost City, Found Pyramid provides numerous case studies. Some examine the work of well-intentioned romantics who project onto actual archaeological data whimsical interpretative frameworks or quixotic “proofs” that confirm legends, such as that of the Lost White City of Honduras, or other alternative claims. Other case studies lay bare how false claims may inadvertently lead to the perpetuation of ethnic stereotypes, economic exploitation, political adventurism, and a misunderstanding of science. 

Offering much of interest to scholars and students of archaeology, archaeology buffs, as well as policy-makers involved in the discovery, curation, and care of archaeological sites and relics, Lost City, Found Pyramid provides an invaluable corrective and hopeful strategy for engaging the public’s curiosity with the compelling world of archaeological discovery.

18.7.16

Northern Echoes

Continuing this author's series examining the myth and folklore of European cultures.

Claude Lecouteux, Encyclopedia of Norse and Germanic Folklore, Mythology, and Magic. Inner Traditions (21 July 2016)

The legends of the Norse and Germanic regions of Europe--spanning from Germany and Austria across Scandinavia to Iceland and England--include a broad range of mythical characters and places, from Odin and Thor, to berserkers and Valhalla, to the Valkyries and Krampus. In this encyclopedia, Claude Lecouteux explores the origins, connections, and tales behind many gods, goddesses, magical beings, rituals, folk customs, and mythical places of Norse and Germanic tradition.

More than a reference to the Aesir and the Vanir pantheons, this encyclopedia draws upon a wealth of well-known and rare sources, such as the Poetic Edda, the Saga of Ynglingar by Snorri Sturluson, and The Deeds of the Danes by Saxo Grammaticus. The author describes the worship of the elements and trees, details many magical rituals, and shares wild folktales from ancient Europe, such as the strange adventure of Peter Schlemihl and the tale of the Cursed Huntsman. He also dispels the false beliefs that have arisen from the Nazi hijacking of Germanic mythology and from its longtime suppression by Christianity.

Complete with rare illustrations and information from obscure sources appearing for the first time in English, this detailed reference work represents an excellent resource for scholars and those seeking to reconnect to their pagan pasts and restore the old religion.

11.7.16

Comic Strips and UFOs

Bill Schelly. Otto Binder: The Life and Work of a Comic Book and Science Fiction Visionary. North Atlantic Books (June 7, 2016)

Otto Binder: The Life and Work of a Comic Book and Science Fiction Visionary chronicles the career of Otto Binder, from pulp magazine author to writer of Supergirl, Captain Marvel, and Superman comics. As the originator of the first sentient robot in literature ("I, Robot," published in Amazing Stories in 1939 and predating Isaac Asimov's collection of the same name), Binder's effect on science fiction was profound. Within the world of comic books, he created or co-created much of the Superman universe, including Smallville; Krypto, Superboy's dog; Supergirl; and the villain Braniac. Binder is also credited with writing many of the first "Bizarro" storylines for DC Comics, as well as for being the main writer for the Captain Marvel comics. 

In later years, Binder expanded from comic books into pure science writing, publishing dozens of books and articles on the subject of satellites and space travel as well as UFOs and extraterrestrial life. Comic book historian Bill Schelly tells the tale of Otto Binder through comic panels, personal letters, and interviews with Binder's own family and friends. Schelly weaves together Binder's professional successes and personal tragedies, including the death of Binder's only daughter and his wife's struggle with mental illness. A touching and human story, Otto Binder: The Life and Work of a Comic Book and Science Fiction Visionary is a biography that is both meticulously researched and beautifully told, keeping alive Binder's spirit of scientific curiosity and whimsy.

7.7.16

The Witches' Stories

Looking at some of the individuals behind the witchcraft stories

Willow Winsham. Accused: British Witches Throughout History. Pen & Sword History (30 July 2016)

From the publisher's website: The image of the witch - crook-nosed, unpleasant of disposition and with a penchant for harming her neighbours - is well established in the popular imagination. For hundreds of years the accusation of witchcraft has been levelled against women throughout the British Isles: such women were feared, persecuted, revered and reviled, with many ending their journeys at the stake or noose. Far from a mass of pitiable, faceless victims however, each case tells its own story, with a distinct woman at its heart, spanning the centuries down to the present. What did it really mean to be accused as a witch? Why, and by whom, were such accusations made? Was it possible to survive, and what awaited those who did? Prepare to delve into the captivating history of witchcraft with an in-depth exploration of some of the most fascinating and notorious women accused of being witches from across the British Isles. 

On a journey from 14th century Ireland to 20th century Hampshire, Accused examines the why, the how, and, most importantly, the who of these tantalising and evocative cases. Using trial documents, contemporary pamphlets, church and census records and a wealth of other sources, eleven accused women are brought to life in a biographical approach that will take the reader back in time. Meticulously researched and skilfully and painstakingly woven, this book will be indispensable to anyone with an interest in the popular topic of the history of witchcraft and a love of fascinating and diverse individuals. Setting each of the accused in their social and historical context, Willow Winsham delivers a fresh and revealing look at her subjects, bringing her unique style and passion for detail to this captivating read.

28.6.16

Day Tripper

Robert Robinson. Legend Tripping: The Ultimate Adventure. Adventures Unlimited Press (8 July 2016)

Look outside the box and go on the ultimate adventure! Enter the exciting world of myth and monsters, the paranormal, UFOs and extraterrestrials, lost treasures and mysterious places. Delve into these awesome legends and learn how easy and inexpensive it is to search for the subjects of these stories, and what you ll need to look for them. Robert Robinson presents this epic guide to the stranger sites in America and gives you some valuable pointers on legend tripping out your back door. 

19.6.16

New Light on Lucifer?

This seems to be a broader view on 'satanism' historically than many other books on the subject.

Ruben van Luijk. Children of Lucifer: The Origins of Modern Religious Satanism. OUP USA (1 Augusr)

From the publisher's website: Children of Lucifer explores the historical origins of Satanism, the "anti-religion" that adopts Satan, the Judeo-Christian representative of evil, as an object of veneration. Ruben van Luijk traces its development from a concept invented by the Christian church to demonise its internal and external competitors, to a positive (anti-)religious identity embraced to varying degrees by groups in the modern West.

Van Luijk offers a comprehensive intellectual history of this long and unpredictable trajectory; a story that involves Romantic poets, radical anarchists, eccentric esotericists, Decadent writers, and schismatic exorcists, among others, culminating in the establishment of the Church of Satan by carnival entertainer Anton Szandor LaVey. Yet, he argues, this story is more than just a collection of colourful characters and unlikely historical episodes.

The emergence of new attitudes towards Satan proves to be intimately linked to the Western Revolution, the ideological struggle for emancipation that transformed the West and is epitomised by the American and French Revolutions. It is also closely connected to secularisation, that other exceptional historical process during which western culture spontaneously renounced its traditional gods in order to enter into a self-imposed state of religious indecision. Children of Lucifer, thus, makes the case that the emergence of Satanism presents a shadow history of the evolution of modern civilization as we know it.

15.6.16

Has Anybody Seen My Glasses?

And I thought it was just with growing old!

Tony Jinks. Disappearing Object Phenomenon: An Investigation. McFarland. (30 Jun. 2016)

Have you ever had your car keys or television remote control inexplicably vanish from under your nose, only to reappear months later in another part of the house for no evident reason? Most would dismiss it as absent-mindedness, with perhaps a joking remark about paranormal activity. Yet remarkable circumstances surrounding many such accounts suggest that the mysterious disappearance of objects could be more than "just one of those things." Examining a large selection of fascinating narratives, this book investigates the ""disappearing object phenomenon from a scientific standpoint. Both skeptical and supportive perspectives on DOP are considered, leading to the conclusion that "objects behaving badl" are subtle indicators of a controversial take on the nature of reality.