Wednesday, 27 February 2008

Two alternative histories vying for the mainstream...

One noticeable thing about the Voynich Manuscript is how theories and hypotheses in the 'cloud of the possible' surrounding it are perpetually trying to enter the mainstream consciousness. From Gordon Rugg's "Verifier" nonsense, to John Stojko's Old Ukrainian, to Leo Levitov's Cathar make-belief, even though they give it their best shot, the ramshackle pile of fairground cans they're aimed at mysteriously fails to topple.

But this is far from unusual: many other well-known alt.history topics have resisted the best attempts of the gifted and brilliant to bring them to heel. And seeing as two separate assaults on these had stepped into the limelight this week, I thought I'd blog away, see where it goes...

First up is a new assault on the secret history of the Knights Templar here, published as a series of DVDs: its author, Barry Walker, has been researching neolithic sites for decades, and claims to bring out a whole new connection between these and the Knights Templar. DVD#1 opens up a new cave in Royston (to go with the well-known Templar-esque cave that is a tourist spot already): the subsequent 11 DVDs planned are described in fairly open terms.

The problem with this is that if you have already read Sylvia Beamon's excellent "The Royston Cave: Used by Saints or Sinners?" (there's a well-thumbed copy on my shelf), you'd know (a) that Sylvia has long pointed to sites within Royston that should be examined; (b) that these are likely to be little more than abandoned cellars; and moreover (c) that according to most Templar historians, the UK was only ever of marginal interest (as compared to, say, Languedoc).

I'd love it to be true that there was some kind of subtle iconological connection between the Knights Templars and neolithic sites: but I have to say this is right at the edge of the possible, if not over it. To be honest, unless there's some truly amaaaaaazing evidence here, I think I'd rather buy into something a bit more plausibly mad (like the whole Titanic "insurance fraud" conspiracy theory) than this. All the same, a meagre £19.99 will buy you the first two DVDs of "The Quest": and I'm sure it would be an entertaining diversion, if you like that kind of thing.

Second up is a rather more pleasantly gritty work of historical obsession. Tudor Parfitt spent 20+ years trying to track down the lost Ark of the Covenant: and, incredibly, appears to have found its 700-year-old duplicate/replacement in Harare. His book ("The Lost Ark of the Covenant", to be published on 3rd March 2008 by HarperCollins) details the driven and (unavoidably) Indiana Jones-esque path he took along the way.

I've got a lot of sympathy with the 'verie parfit Tudor': he has clamped the meagre historical clues available to him in his bulldog-like jaws, and repeatedly stepped sideways with the subtle literary and DNA evidence available to him to give them colour, shape, depth - and hopefully to find the truth behind them all, whatever it happens to be. Though the hardback is £18.99 (if, inevitably, cheaper at Amazon etc), it's something I'll definitely be ordering: and will (of course) review here.

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