Jesus in Britain – prehistoric ingots of tin from Cornwall discovered in Israel

It can be shocking to discover just how quickly time can go by when one is preoccupied, and this is something I’ve experienced for myself once again over the course of the last few days. To my deep regret, I’ve not published a post on this site for months – not because I’ve run out of material, far from it – but because one particular writing project, coupled with other matters, have demanded my attention.

I’ve had neither the cause nor the opportunity to even revisit some of my writings on Stonehenge in recent times, even though the stats page on this site has long shown a steady stream of visitors to the posts I published dealing with the mediaeval poem The Ruin and my certainty that it was inspired by a traveller’s tale of Stonehenge.

I’ve written about numerous other subjects here, but the one I’m most constantly aware of, I suppose, is the subject of Jesus in Britain, on account of the book I had published in 2009 entitled The Missing Years of Jesus, which you can read more about, if you wish, on this link. I composed this book over a decade ago and I long ago became aware of its failings, but I am still proud of it and I still continue to receive generous-spirited correspondence from others who have read it and thoroughly enjoyed it.

I also continue to either find or else to receive new information that I wasn’t aware of when I wrote my book, such as a detail of another purported visit to Britain “in ancient time” made by Joseph of Arimathea and a young Jesus to a port in what is now Hampshire, from which they found their way up a river to Priddy. To my mind, the subject of Jesus in Britain is enthralling enough anyway, but jewels like the one above serve to keep my interest alive and to bolster my hope that, one day, something seismic will come to light.

At the same time, I received the inevitable slagging from some of our deeply embittered, home-grown maniacs both here in Britain, and also from across the world. Other sections of British society flatly ignored me and rightly so, because I don’t possess a Degree in Archaeology, and what would the world come to if informed amateurs such as myself, albeit one with a Classical education, were to be taken at all seriously when they investigated and held forth upon historical matters? A good many clergy interviewed me when my book was published, while others have since written encouragingly to me, so it would be churlish of me to lump them together with the extreme, uninformed doubters in their midst.

Imagine my joy, therefore, when I came across this wonderful feature by Amanda Borschel-Dan, the Jewish World and Archaeology editor for The Times of Israel. This lady’s highly detailed feature deals with the discovery in Israel of prehistoric ingots of tin that were analysed and shown to have originated in Cornwall, just as I had written about in absolutely meticulous detail about in book.

You can read this magnificent piece for yourself, of course, but I feel it’s important to point out here and now that it’s not some inane drivel or wishful thinking penned by some pot-smoking hippy. On the contrary, there’s everything here that a serious archaeologist or churchman could possibly wish for, such as peer-reviewed papers, photos, histories, isotope and chemical analysis, interdisciplinary scientists and other treasures. Seriously, it’s enough to make even the most cold-hearted British archaeologist swoon with utter joy, the only drawback being that all these wonders add a solid base to the many questions I looked into in my book.

A story comes down to us from antiquity, telling us that when Pythagoras realised that his famous theorem worked, he sacrificed a hundred oxen to the Muse. I have reasons to doubt the veracity of this tale, but it doesn’t matter whether it’s true or not, because I can recognise the sheer elation of being shown to be right on a contentious issue, especially after having waited for a decade. And on that blissfully happy note, I’m going to cut short what could easily turn out to be an inordinately and increasingly incoherent post in order to celebrate for a few hours.

My warm thanks and intense gratitude go to Amanda Borschel-Dan.

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Stonehenge and Another Failing of Science.

Back in 2004 or thereabouts, after I’d left Wessex Archaeology and before I started my Eternal Idol site, I wrote a book on Stonehenge provisionally entitled A Glimpse of the Great Beyond, a work based on my absolute conviction that one didn’t have to rely on archaeological excavations at the ravaged, desecrated site to be able to say new and original things about the ruins and their distant origins.

Glancing at the first chapter, I’m satisfied that it holds up all these years later, despite the many things that have been written and said in the intervening time about the mysterious monument on Salisbury Plain. I’ll reproduce a small excerpt from Chapter I here and I’ll leave it to others to decide for themselves what they think, while part of it has some bearing on what follows later in this post:

“Why has no one yet successfully transported a bluestone from south Wales to Salisbury Plain using agreed prehistoric methods? We have the manpower, we have the flint axes for cutting down trees for rollers and rafts, we probably have the intelligence, the physical strength and the ingenuity, we have ropes and we have grease. We have everything we could possibly wish for aside from one vital ingredient, which is passion, because no individual or group of people today is sufficiently motivated to recreate the journey of one of the bluestones or sarsens, let alone attempt to reconstruct the entire monument using prehistoric methods. The word ‘passion’ comes from the Latin verb ‘patior’ meaning ‘I suffer’, so in this context, I would define passion as the capacity to voluntarily endure hardship or suffering towards a greater end, while being fully aware that there is no absolute guarantee of success. So, right at the beginning of our quest, we can now point without question to one intangible, abstract but nonetheless very real quality that our ancestors possessed specifically with regard to Stonehenge.

“Identifying this element is all well and good, but does it have any practical application that will assist in enabling us to reach the solution we seek? Out of pure curiosity, let us say, do any practices exist today that not only have their basis in antiquity, but also involve passion in the literal sense we’ve described? One such tradition immediately springs to mind and it is the modern Olympic marathon. To win this race is arguably the pinnacle of human sporting achievement and it is easy to understand why, as anyone who has watched the agonized faces of the runners can testify. These people voluntarily put themselves through the extremes of human endurance during the race, while training relentlessly in a Spartan regime for years beforehand. And why do these men and women choose to suffer so? For the chance of glory and to demonstrate what humans are capable of achieving in a strictly delineated field, that of long distance running in this case.

“The marathon was never an event in the ancient Olympic games, but was reintroduced in modern times in memory of Pheidippides, who was said to have run the twenty-six miles back from the battlefield of Marathon to Athens in 490 BC to proclaim that the Persians had been defeated. Once he’d announced the victory, he collapsed and died and little wonder, given the heat, the length of the journey back, the difficult terrain he had to cross and the fact that he’d just fought a desperate pitched battle against an invader superior in numbers. This is the story that we accept and rejoice in today, but the likely truth is even more astonishing, because the tale of Pheidippides running the twenty-six miles or so to Athens was a later version. The Greek historian Herodotus, writing closer to the time, relates that Pheidippides actually ran from Marathon to Sparta before the battle took place to request assistance from the Spartans and he is said to have covered one hundred and fifty miles in two days, a vast distance even by the standards of our modern athletes. Going on the evidence of this account, the accomplishments of our ancestors were even more impressive than we sometimes suppose.

“The Oxford Classical Dictionary, Second Edition, describes the death of Alexander the Great in the following lyrical terms “In him the soul wore out the breast and he died, in his thirty-third year, of a fever which might well have spared him had he ever known how to spare himself.” I would suggest that very much the same thing applied to the demise of Pheidippides, but despite the risk of injury or even death, our modern athletes continue to be inspired by the sheer passion displayed by this dead hero, regardless of the real route or the exact distance covered. They continue to run the marathon and will almost certainly do so for centuries to come, because the prize for triumph is so great and so alluring.

“It would be as well to bear in mind this potent element of passion when considering the reasons that Stonehenge was erected. Nearly two and a half thousand years after the death of Pheidippides, the whole world still remembers his name, the name of the battlefield from whence he came, the route that he took and the reason he ran it, despite his doubtless real suspicion that this feat would almost certainly result in his own premature death. A natural consequence of an act of true passion such as the run of Pheidippides, whatever course it took, is that onlookers should react with wonderment to what was achieved by a human being. Even today, we still marvel at Pheidippides’ remarkable feat and we are roused to admiration and occasionally to awe by the efforts of those who seek to emulate his triumph nearly two and a half thousand years later.

“And so it is with Stonehenge. Whether or not we consciously recognize the process, we still stand gazing at a monument, which, if it possesses anything, retains the power to evoke wonderment among us. We may not know the names of those who built it and we may know next to nothing about the precise degree of exertion and labour involved, but we recognize that our ancestors chose to make a truly colossal effort over a long period of time and stoically endured hardship in expectation of something wonderful as a reward for their efforts. In brief, we still appreciate the scattered remnants of an act of true passion when we see it, even if the event itself took place thousands of years ago.”

Back to the main theme of my post. The third chapter of my unpublished book was dedicated to an intimate study of Geoffrey of Monmouth, author of Historia Regum Britanniae, or The History of the Kings of Britain, in which he described in precise detail how Stonehenge was built and how it came to be built. I long ago lost count of how many times I went into minute and exhaustive detail about all this in the pages of Eternal Idol, so I won’t bother repeating any of the material or arguments. However, in the unpublished book to which I’m making reference here, I estimated that the odds of Geoffrey of Monmouth being right in his assertions through mere chance were something like 1,555,200 to one, although I believe this is an insanely conservative estimate and its inner workings will be obvious to anyone who’s chosen to familiarise themselves with the details of the subject matter.

I’m no statistician, but even if I’m 99% wrong, which I very much doubt, then Geoffrey still had a less than one in fifteen thousand likelihood of correctly ascertaining the origins of Stonehenge by chance, which surely means that any sane, reasonable or scientific person should consider that another agency was responsible for Geoffrey being correct. And just before I come to my main point, what of the name of this man? Geoffrey of Monmouth? I would say it’s inescapable that Geoffrey had some strong link with this town, regardless of what form this link took. Perhaps he was born there, or perhaps he was educated there, as was I in the 1970s. There are numerous other possibilities, but to put it in its most basic form, Geoffrey of Monmouth was disturbingly accurate about Stonehenge and its origins as far back as 1136 AD, while this great man’s name is a clear testament to a significant connection he had with the town of Monmouth.

Imagine my intense surprise, therefore, when I read this intriguing article in yesterday’s Guardian newspaper, in which a number of eminent archaeologists of my acquaintance express their belief that the bluestones were moved from West Wales to Stonehenge by a land route, which passed with a stone’s throw of what is now the town of Monmouth.

Who could ever have imagined such a thing? That what was effectively Stonehenge itself once laboriously passed within spitting distance of a place intimately connected with a man who later wrote with such insight about how and why the monument was moved? In a land that the Romans later described as belonging to the Silures tribe, people whose name may well have meant “The Men of the Stones” or something similar. I’ve found all these details and many more to be engrossing for decades, for reasons I’m sure I needn’t spell out, but it seems I’m alone in this. Nowhere will you find a mention, let alone an examination, of these strange matters; the archaeologists are resolutely not discussing them, nor is a single member of the “online” Stonehenge community, but I’m not complaining – far from it.

One day, I will explore this matter in the most minute detail in a book I’m currently working on, which is provisionally entitled Hidden in the Hills, which deals with this and with related matters. Until such time as I’ve completed it, you are all of course at liberty to look into the matter for yourselves and to draw your own conclusions.

And finally, in case anyone reading this has the slightest doubt about what I’ve written, or about the title I’ve chosen to given it, here’s an entirely apposite quote from Carl Sagan, one of the finest scientific minds Mankind has ever produced:

“What an astonishing thing a book is. It’s a flat object made from a tree with flexible parts on which are imprinted lots of funny dark squiggles. But one glance at it and you’re inside the mind of another person, maybe somebody dead for thousands of years. Across the millennia, an author is speaking clearly and silently inside your head, directly to you. Writing is perhaps the greatest of human inventions, binding together people who never knew each other, citizens of distant epochs. Books break the shackles of time. A book is proof that humans are capable of working magic.”
[Cosmos, Part 11: The Persistence of Memory (1980)]

Dennis Price, M.ICOMOS

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Echoes of War

My mind is still reeling from watching the commemorations to mark one hundred years since the end of The Great War. I don’t believe that it’s possible not to be moved by the pictures and stories that were paraded before us, but while I would have liked to add some small, meaningful observation to the proceedings, I found it impossible to say anything that has not been said countless times before by others.

I was however transfixed by the faces of dead men and women produced by Pages of the Sea, but rather than describe this wonderful site, I would urge you to explore it for yourself. I found the contemplation of the images of these long-dead people to be terribly moving and they stayed with me long I’d turned off my television and laptop screens.

It’s been a long time since I’ve written about such nebulous matters, but the work of our gifted and dedicated modern artists put me in mind of a passage from Tacitus, describing what was at the time the apocalyptic rebellion by Boadicea in Britain:

“While the Britons were preparing to throw off the yoke, the statue of victory, erected at Camulodunum, fell from its base, without any apparent cause, and lay extended on the ground with its face averted, as if the goddess yielded to the enemies of Rome. Women in restless ecstasy rushed among the people, and with frantic screams denounced impending ruin. In the council-chamber of the Romans hideous clamours were heard in a foreign accent; savage howlings filled the theatre, and near the mouth of the Thames the image of a colony in ruins was seen in the transparent water; the sea was purpled with blood, and, at the tide of ebb, the figures of human bodies were traced in the sand. By these appearances the Romans were sunk in despair, while the Britons anticipated a glorious victory…”

I personally believe these reports of terrifying supernatural events, as I’ve studied such things for decades and what Tacitus had to say has the ring of truth to it, as a personal opinion. But it doesn’t matter if I’m right or wrong, because I find it amazing that just under two thousand years ago in Britain, in conjunction with what would be fearful bloodshed, the least of which was the destruction of a Roman legion, “the figures of human bodies were traced in the sand” near the mouth of the Thames.

The likenesses of men and women were created on our beaches in our own time by living men and women, but some invisible hand was responsible for what was seen here in Britain by the Romans all those centuries ago. I seem to remember reading that Holst composed Mars from The Planets before the First World War, something that astonished others at the time who felt that he could only have captured the conflict so memorably in music after the event, so perhaps for Holst and earlier, for the Romans staring in horror at the signs and portents appearing in their midst, they experienced what Thomas Campbell wrote about in his poem Lochiel’s Warning:

“Coming events cast their shadow before.”

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The Incomparable Rowley Irlam, Three Times Emmy Award Winner for Game of Thrones

On the night of Saturday, September the eighth, 2018, Rowley Irlam achieved a world first and thereby made history when he collected his third consecutive Emmy Award at the Microsoft Theatre in Los Angeles. Rowley accepted this prestigious and unprecedented third award as the Stunt Co-ordinator on Series 7 of Game of Thrones, which gifted us all such inforgettable scenes as the fire-breathing dragons attacking a terrified Lannister army and the vicious battle with hordes of the dead beyond the Wall, on an iced-over lake.

There were many other such scenes, of course, but as far as I’m aware, no stuntman or stunt co-ordinator has ever before been nominated three times in succession for an Emmy Award, and no one has ever succeeded in wining this stunning hat trick. In previous seasons, Rowley worked on the Battle of Hardhome and the equally momentous Battle of the Bastards, although these two events were the highlights of many other action scenes that left a global audience gaping with awe and desperate for more.

It is surely obvious from the evidence of our eyes that Rowley thoroughly deserves winning this stratospheric triple accolade. I am generally not a fan of the fantasy genre, but I will freely admit that I long ago fell under the spell of Game of Thrones, presumably for the same reasons that tens of millions of others have done. The murderous, labyrinthine plots reflect an interest I’ve long had in the courts of Imperial Rome and in the struggles witnessed by Machiavelli in Renaissance Italy, but there are countless other mesmerising aspects to the show, the most prominent of which are surely the breath-taking action scenes that range from one-on-one confrontations to full battle scenes.

I’ve written about this elsewhere and I will doubtless do so again, but for those of you who weren’t aware of this, I first had the honour, the privilege and the sheer pleasure of meeting Rowley as far back as the summer of 1990. For the past two years, I’d worked on what was at the time the world’s only touring mediaeval jousting tournament as William of Pembroke, the Earl Marshall and principal speaking part on this attraction.

My time there had been enjoyable, but it had taken its toll, so I was only lured back in 1990 by the prospect of performing in Russia after we’d toured Finland in the summer. I was late to the game, as I’d been unavoidably detailed elsewhere, so I ended up flying to Finland with my cousin Chris and my friend Dominic, who has also gone on to make a notable mark as a stuntman and stunt co-ordinator.

Be that as it may, one of the new knights waiting for us in the “Land of a Thousand Lakes” was Rowley, and I instantly took to him. After the summer’s tour of Scandinavia and Russia ended, I stayed in touch with him and I could write a small book on this, but for now, I want to do nothing more than dwell on his incredible accomplishment in 2018. It didn’t come out of nowhere, because if you care to pore over his vast list of credits on the Internet Movie Database, you’ll see that Rowley’s work has graced our screens in some of the world’s most memorable, thrilling and enjoyable productions for over two decades.

So, Rowley, my old friend, I trust you enjoy celebrating with Nichola and with your children, while I also hope you don’t come down from this exalted plane of Dionysiac consciousness for many weeks to come. I look forward to buying you a drink one day and telling you in person how impressed I am, but for now, I’ll raise a glass to you and leave you to your chosen festivities. Congratulations, sir, and if I had a hat on, I’d take it off to you in a heartbeat.

 

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Blueboy – A Doggy Tale

In the middle of March, 2016, roughly a week after I’d fallen so ill and while I was still struggling badly in hospital, my wonderful dog Blueboy had to be put to sleep. I swore to myself that if it was the last thing I did, as far as writing was concerned, I would construct a memorial for him that went some way to doing him and his life justice. I’ve deliberately written as much as I can about other matters since leaving hospital; chronicling my difficult recovery, corresponding with others via email, making regular posts on Facebook and engaging with others as best I can, in an attempt to be sociable and to be a meaningful part of the real world that continuously thrives around me.

At the beginning of the year, I even made a halfway decent start on an entirely new, Stonehenge-related project that I remain extremely excited about, but with the best will in the world, this faltered after the fire that destroyed my home, so I’m building up to restarting it and writing it properly.

For now, it’s high time that I found some discipline and put pen to paper in everlasting memory of this wonderful dog, which a benevolent Fate brought into my life in 2001. There is no time like the present, so I intend to start the moment I’ve published this post and I look forward to being happily occupied for around a month, turning a vivid gallery of mental images into print, so that Blueboy can live on as a literary doggy hero, as well as in the form of his loving spirit and the glorious memories that trail in his wake.

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The Ever-Lasting Allure of the Hesperides

Over the course of roughly a decade, I’ve become increasingly fascinated with the ancient Greek myth of the Garden of the Hesperides, a wonderful retreat somewhere at the western edge of the known world in ancient times. I had hoped by now to have been able to give a detailed explanation for my deep interest in this story, as I had planned to include it in the pages of a book I started writing at the beginning of this year, but it was not to be.

A fire in early March destroyed my home, along with just about everything it once contained, including my beloved, extensive library, while this conflagration brought my writing to an abrupt end. I shall resume this enterprise as soon as I’m able, so in the meantime, I shall simply explain, for the benefit of those who might be unaware of this place, that this blissful garden was tended by the Hesperides, the daughters of Night.

Different ancient sources provide other parents for the Hesperides apart from Night, one being Erebus, or Darkness, but these tantalising creatures were known as Daughters of the Evening and also Nymphs of the golden light of sunset. This subject is rarely far from my mind these days, so it is perhaps no surprise that I was stunned and enchanted earlier today when I saw the photograph at the top of this post.

It was taken by my childhood friend Bizzy Mitchell on one of the Greek islands, so I’m extremely grateful to her for giving me permission to reproduce her magical image of a Greek sunset here. The picture is enchanting in its own right, but I was literally spellbound when I found myself gazing at the physical embodiment of a mystery that has captivated me for ten years.

One day, more will follow, but until then, I shall leave you with some words penned by the genius William Wordsworth:

“And I have felt
A presence that disturbs me with the joy
Of elevated thoughts; a sense sublime
Of something far more deeply interfused,
Whose dwelling is the light of setting suns,
And the round ocean and the living air,
And the blue sky, and in the mind of man…”
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John Dillinger Died For You

A few days ago, I belatedly discovered that some magazines I’d bought as far back as the late 1980s had somehow survived the conflagration that destroyed my home in early March of this year. I’d almost forgotten that I still had these fascinating, detailed publications, as it had been so long since I’d browsed through them, so it was a double delight to look through this collection yesterday afternoon:  along with me, they’d survived the fire and I’d not lost myself in their pages for a few decades at least.

Out of a gallery of monsters, the one face that leapt out at me was that of John Dillinger, described succinctly on the front of edition 46 of Murder Casebook as “The 1930s outlaw who blazed a trail of destruction across the USA.” Many other men and some women of the time were in the same often murderous line of business as Dillinger, but he was unusual inasmuch as he seems to have adopted a life of crime as a result of boredom, rather than because of a background or upbringing that had visited deprivation or sustained abuse upon him as a child.

Many men secretly like to think of themselves as outlaws or desperadoes, daydreaming of sticking the finger to The Man while keeping the company of other like-minded outsiders. Some people will be forever condemned to seek sanctuary and release in their imaginations, on account of being tied to a life of stultifying boredom and frustration, or else they will experience a vicarious pleasure through following the lives of other more blessed souls in rock bands, or in what I’ll call other creative collectives. However, whether it’s the aforementioned cases of wishful thinking or else the impressive, documented track record of bands like the Rolling Stones, they all pale into insignificance compared to the reality of the Dillinger Gang.

At the tender age of twelve, Dillinger himself became the leader of a gang in Indianapolis that went by the fearsome name of the Dirty Dozen, so I wasn’t surprised to learn that the collection of men he led in later life were sometimes known simply as the “Terror Gang”. While I don’t approve of the slaying of policemen –  or of anyone else, for that matter – it is only fair to observe that while Dillinger kept company with rabid killers such as Baby Face Nelson, Dillinger himself was never convicted of murder.

Despite this, the official record states that he was executed by two FBI men named Zarkovich and O’Neill in an alley in Chicago, although it quickly became apparent that the corpse in the morgue had brown eyes, whereas Dillinger’s were blue-grey, while the dead body had none of the identifying scars of Dillinger, either. There were other equally striking differences, leaving no doubt that a lookalike or double going by the name of Jimmie Lawrence had been gunned down by law enforcement that evening in 1934, but literally dozens of men all over the USA at the time had been arrested as Dillinger.

A man by the name of Ralph Alsman from Indiana was taken into custody no less than six times, while Detective Frank Slattery of the Chicago police bore such as close resemblance to Dillinger that he was nearly shot on the night of the death of Dillinger, or Jimmie Lawrence, by another FBI agent. I could continue in this vein for hours yet, as there were so many bizarre and intriguing aspects to Dillinger’s life, purported death, burial encased in concrete and convincing survival under another name.

However, I shall resist the temptation to continue writing here and draw to what I hope is a graceful close. Perhaps it’s wrong to eulogise this man, as I accept I may have done in this short essay, but Dillinger was never convicted of murder and even in his own day, he was widely regarded as a ‘Robin Hood’ figure, as distinct from one of his many murderous peers, such as the aforementioned Pretty Boy Floyd or Al Capone.

When Dillinger robbed banks, he was courteous and even respectful to those he held up, whereas nearly a century down the line, the banks and other financial institutions who have been shamelessly robbing us possess nothing of the late Dillinger’s grace; little wonder that one branch of the John Dillinger Died For You Society flourishes to this day.

 

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