threats

When pseudoscientists turn nasty

Bad Arcaheology logo

By Keith Fitzpatrick-Matthews

Stars, Stones and Scholars cover

Stars, Stones and Scholars: the book

A week ago, I received an email from somebody known as Nazani who had written a review on Amazon.com. It’s of a work by Andis Kaulins, a lawyer and prolific blogger, called Stars, Stones and Scholars. Interestingly, the author reviews the book himself and gives it a five-star rating. It’s also the only review available on the Amazon.co.uk website; Nazani’s is found only on Amazon.com. I don’t understand the workings of Amazon’s review system, so I don’t know if this is usual or not for an English-language work.

The email said that “About 2 weeks ago I posted a negative review of Andis Kaulins’ book “Stars, Stones, and Scholars.” on Amazon.com.  Kaulins has responded by threatening me with a libel suit, even though the bulk  of my review was quotes from his own journal.  I’m not wooried about any suit, but I feel this bully needs to be poked with a stick.’. This is a worrying development. Of course, people can post negative reviews.

What I suspect upset the author was the start of the review (taken from the Google cache of the page): “Andis Kaulins is a nutter. From his Lexline journal…”, with the next four paragraphs of the review consisting of Kaulins’s own words. The final paragraph reads “So there you have it- you name the pre-4000 BC site, and he’s come up with some contorted explanation about why it must be incorrectly dated. Needless to say, he doesn’t accept carbon dating. There’s also a strong streak of “the Europeans/Hebrews did it first” in his theories.”.

Very clear threats from Andis Kaulins

Very clear threats from Andis Kaulins posted on Amazon.com

Kaulins posted a lengthy and threatening comment to the review, complaining “… Have you nothing better to do with your time? You sometimes allegedly review 2 or 3 books per day, obviously never reading any of them. Besides, calling someone names like this on the Internet is libel per se – a serious criminal offense – made even more blameworthy by your hiding behind an anonymous facade and not posting a single word about the book under review, but simply picking other topics out of context from other sites on the web – thereby posting original copyrighted material not belonging to you at all – a violation of the author’s copyright in addition to you4 libel offense. The question is – for what amount of money should you be sued for these offensive materials and what can you afford? A good jury might take you for every penny you have. Here is the reputation being libelled – it looks to us like a legal action against you will be a VERY expensive proposition for you. …”. There is a lot more to the comment, but I have quoted only the threatening parts.

Presumably under this threat of legal action, Nazani edited her review so that the start now reads: ““Andis Kaulins is a nutter.” I am revising this to say that Kaulins is not nuts, he is a very clever man who spends so much time blogging that it seems unlikely that he has time to conduct actual archeological research. Be sure to read his threatening reply to my review. True enough, I only skimmed through this book, but why would I want to read the work of a guy who spends so much time bad-mouthing credentialed scientists? A scientist would not threaten people who merely quoted a few of his controversial ideas. His scholarship has been criticized by Eric C. Cline (From Eden to Exile,) and researchers at the University of Chicago: [...] Kaulins may have a few valid ideas about depictions of astronomy by ancient man and the importance of the Baltic languages, but they’re getting lost in his shrill denunciations of mainstream academia. Read his bio, his own academic background is in law, not linguistics or archaeology.”.

Andis Kaulins

Andis Kaulins

Who is Andis Kaulins, apart from a lawyer who is ready to threaten somebody with legal action over a review of a book, something that strikes me as a bit of an over-reaction? According to LexiLine (“A Renaissance in Learning” – modesty is not a feature of this site!) and a number of other sources, he obtained a Bachelor of Arts from the University of Nebraska (in 1968), a Juris Doctor from Stanford University Law School (1971), was a lecturer at the University of Trier from 1998 to 2002 and is currently (March 2010) a freelance Dictionary Author at Langenscheidt Fachverlag. He is clearly a very intelligent and well educated man. But as Nazani points out, his intellectual milieu is the law, not archaeology. Again, according to LexiLine, he “examines the alleged knowledge of mainstream historical science from the standpoint of evidence”, asking “What does the probative evidence actually tell us about man’s past? Does this evidence support the historical judgments that have been made by the mainstream?”.

Now, these are approaches we see in the works of several Bad Archaeologists. Erich von Däniken and Graham Hancock, for instance, are very fond of holding up evidence as if they are barristers in a court of law, presenting only those bits that they believe bolster their case. This is the reverse of the way real archaeologists work: we try to deal with possible objections to our hypotheses, using evidence that at first sight appears to contradict our ideas and showing why it does not. In other ways, he is like David Rohl or Immanuel Velikovsky, in that if archaeology disagrees with the Bible, then it must be archaeology that’s at fault.

Sobekemsaf II and Montju

Sobekemsaf II and Montju: how stupid of us not to recognise that it’s really Moses and Yahweh!

Kaulins has a tendency to prejudge matters. Where there is no historical or archaeological evidence for the existence of a biblical character, he simply identifies them with somebody else. No trace of Moses in the archaeological record? Why, he’s actually known to Egyptologists as Pharaoh Sobekemsaf II of the Seventeenth Dynasty. “Very few equivalences in ancient times are so certain as the equivalence of Ramses II with King Solomon. Indeed, no mainstream scholar has been able to present even the most minimal requisite evidence necessary to rebut my challenge to current chronology”, although the url to that challenge does not work. Where the chronology worked out by ancient historians and archaeologists appears to contradict the fables of the Bible, then a new chronology must be constructed around the biblical system. Unfortunately, many of the pages dealing with chronology are missing from the LexiLine website, which makes it very difficult to find out what the “challenge to current chronology” consists of in its entirety, let alone rebut it.

Simple! Everyone else is wrong. Why on earth can’t we all see that?

Turning to the specific book that Nazani criticised, the basic thesis is outlined on Megaliths.net, “The Megaliths as Astronomy and Land Survey System”. According to the Amazon.com summary of Stars, Stones and Scholars, Andis Kaulins “shows that ancient megalithic sites are remnants of ancient local, regional and worldwide Neolithic surveys of the Earth by astronomy”. Kaulins’s own review of the book on Amazon.com says that it is “a pioneer analysis of prehistoric art, megalithic sites, astronomy, archaeology and the history of civilization”. Looking through the book, we can see that he accepts untenable ideas about the past, such as the existence of ley lines, a fantasy dreamed up in the 1920s by Alfred Watkins. He finds cup-and-ring marks on stones that depict constellations in the southern hemisphere (such as Musca) that were not defined until the sixteenth century: remember that constellations have no objective reality in the sky, that they are arbitrary groupings of unrelated stars and that different cultures make different groupings. His mangling of linguistics allows him to state that the name of Merlin – who is identified as a genius behind megalithic carvings that no-one else has yet recognised! – can be derived from a root “MER- meaning “measure, survey” in ancient Indo-European” when it comes from Welsh Myrddin, probably derived from the Brittonic placename Moridunon, now Carmarthen (Caerfyrddin in Welsh), meaning “sea fort”.

There is little point in trying to do a detailed, point-by-point rebuttal. The evidence simply does not stack up. While Andis Kaulins is evidently an accomplished lawyer and translator, I find nothing in his excursions into archaeology, ancient history and biblical exegesis that is really worth spending time on.

Update

As expected, Andis Kaulins has responded on his website, characterising my post as “libelous”. Of course, this post is not in any sense libellous. It is a criticism of Kaulins’s ideas: ideas cannot be libelled, even under the ludicrous English libel legislation.

I’m not going to do a detailed refutation of what Kaulins conisders a rebuttal of my post, simply make a few comments. Firstly, the post is not and never has been by “anonymous posters” or an “unseen foe”: my name is here for all to see beside my posts. A simple click on the About Bad Archaeology tab will tell the reader a little bit more about the writer. Pointing out that his book does not mention ley lines, he states “many of these [megalighic sites] are land survey markers sited by ancient astronomy”. It’s actually worse than that: at the very start of Chapter 1, he makes the ludicrous assertion that “All Neolithic sites in England and Wales, as marked on the Ordnance Survey map of Ancient Britain, form a map projection of the stars of the northern and southern heavens… Sites later than the Neolithic show that the ancients adjusted for precession of the solstices and equinoxes.”. There is no point in trying to refute this: just ask yourself if the Ordnance Survey Map of Ancient Britain shows “all” the sites in England and Wales that can be dated to the Neolithic period. Even if the term “ley lines” does not occur in the text, we are looking at the same concept of geodetic marking that writers such as John Michell extrapolated from ley line theory.

When it comes to the history of the constellation Musca, it simply had not been defined before 1597/8. That medieval European scholars believed that “the southern heavens contained a constellation near the pole similar to our Bear” has no bearing on the prior definition of Musca. Remember, constellations have no real existence and are defined by human convention; they vary from culture to cultura and Musca is a modern European invention. End of story!

The criticism that I am using nothing more than a folk etymology for the origin of the name Merlin is backed up by a statement in Wikipedia for which there is no citation. No alternative is given in Wikipedia, but the statement seems to come from an entry in Celtnet, which seeks to explain how the name of a poet at seems originally to have been Latinised as Lailoken, representing a Welsh Llallawg, was transformed into Myrddin. It’s that process that is described as a “false etymology”, not the derivation of Myrddin from Moridunum (although it should be noted that the writer proposes an untenably etymology for Myrddin in the next paragraph). The consensus among Celtic scholars seems to be that Merlin is a ‘ghost’ name, derived by false etymology from the Welsh placename Caerfyrddin (English Carmarthen), misunderstood as “Fort of Myrddin” instead of the correct “Fort Moridunum”.

I don’t see any reason to do a rebuttal of the “challenge to Egyptology and Astronomy, which depends on such imponderables as the assertion that “The Horus Falcon Names are a Calendar of Kings”, at least of the Archaic Period, that the cosmetic grinding hollow on the Narmer Palette is actually a representation of a solar eclipse or that, after Huni, Egyptian kings did not use the Horus name. I leave it to others better qualified in Egyptology to point out that these ideas are just plain wrong.