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The Phantom Time Hypothesis
December 19, 2011 6:37 AM   Subscribe

Did the Early Middle Ages Really Happen? Or are they an elaborate conspiracy? Is it, in fact, 1714?
posted by robself (141 comments total) 49 users marked this as a favorite

 
Yes, no, and no.
posted by m0nm0n at 6:40 AM on December 19, 2011 [9 favorites]


It contradicts all basic knowledge and attacks the historian’s self respect
to such an extreme that the reader of this paper is asked to be patient, benevolent and
open to radically new ideas. I shall argue step by step – and, I hope, you will follow.


I think you're asking a bit too much.
posted by Fizz at 6:41 AM on December 19, 2011


Wow this is hot. Unbelievable, but wicked awesome conspiracy theory bro!
posted by Potomac Avenue at 6:41 AM on December 19, 2011 [1 favorite]


Jerry Glover is an independent researcher of historical mysteries, and the only other person to have played the role of Number 6 from 'The Prisoner' at its original location

What does the latter half of that even mean?
posted by Wolfdog at 6:41 AM on December 19, 2011 [6 favorites]


This is better Borges than Borges. Because, in fact, Borges never existed, and was completely invented by literary theorists.
posted by kandinski at 6:43 AM on December 19, 2011 [29 favorites]


Like Bourbaki.
posted by kandinski at 6:43 AM on December 19, 2011 [5 favorites]


This is my new cause celebre. I don't care if its true, I'm telling everyone!
posted by Carillon at 6:43 AM on December 19, 2011 [4 favorites]


Jerry Glover is an independent researcher of historical mysteries, and the only other person to have played the role of Number 6 from 'The Prisoner' at its original location

It sounds like he broke into the set and played out some fan fic he wrote. On the other hand, it makes "independent researcher of historical mysteries" sound downright quotidian.
posted by Bulgaroktonos at 6:44 AM on December 19, 2011 [3 favorites]


I think if we put this together with Anatoly Fomenko's theories we can conclude that pretty much everything is made up.
posted by Wolfdog at 6:44 AM on December 19, 2011


On the other hand, it makes "independent researcher of historical mysteries" sound downright quotidian an AMAZING BUSINESS CARD!
posted by Fizz at 6:44 AM on December 19, 2011 [5 favorites]


It sounds like he broke into the set and played out some fan fic he wrote.
Yeah, that's about how I was reading it.
posted by Wolfdog at 6:45 AM on December 19, 2011


So basically, this explains why everyone's time machines have been off by over 3 centuries? Good to know. Really don't fancy meeting the Huns like that again.
posted by pointystick at 6:45 AM on December 19, 2011 [13 favorites]


You gullible sheep. History being off by 300 years is what they *want* you to think.

Really it's just viral marketing for Dan Brown.
posted by saturday_morning at 6:47 AM on December 19, 2011 [2 favorites]


Even if it's not true, the fact that someone can make a case that it might be true is pretty mind-blowing.
posted by mstokes650 at 6:47 AM on December 19, 2011 [6 favorites]


So it's 1714? And everyone laughed at me when I put my life savings into shoe buckles and wig powder!
posted by Bromius at 6:48 AM on December 19, 2011 [18 favorites]


The empire never ended
posted by rmd1023 at 6:49 AM on December 19, 2011 [12 favorites]


I guess we'll never know if the Mayans were right. Darn.

Oh, and somebody just wrote Umberto Eco's next book for him.
posted by BobbyVan at 6:49 AM on December 19, 2011 [6 favorites]


Well, everyone knows millions died to the Black Death in the Late Middle Ages. What this book presupposes is... maybe they didn't?
posted by defenestration at 6:53 AM on December 19, 2011 [19 favorites]


You're not here and neither am I.
posted by Ghostride The Whip at 6:53 AM on December 19, 2011


We should let Harold Camping know that his end times prediction of May 21st, 2011 may yet be correct.
posted by Capt. Renault at 6:53 AM on December 19, 2011 [2 favorites]


It'll be y2k all over again.
posted by three blind mice at 6:55 AM on December 19, 2011 [1 favorite]


My timecube says different.
posted by OmieWise at 6:55 AM on December 19, 2011 [8 favorites]


kandinski: why couldnt you wait until i finished my coffee to jack my moment of Borges snark :D
posted by liza at 6:57 AM on December 19, 2011


The crew of the Enterprise really messed up the timeline this time...ugh.
posted by Atreides at 6:58 AM on December 19, 2011 [4 favorites]


So says Steven Dutch at UWGB:
The Phantom Time interval closely approximates the Tang Dynasty of China, a high point of Chinese culture and political power. So there's a neat conspiratorial interpretation. The Tang Dynasty is an invention, a classic "golden age" myth. The only thing lacking is some explanation of how someone from medieval Europe convinced the Chinese to create a fake dynasty complete with bogus archives.
posted by davidjmcgee at 6:58 AM on December 19, 2011 [11 favorites]


I knew I've seen the phantom time hypothesis on the blue before.

Also, widely debunked.
posted by fimbulvetr at 7:02 AM on December 19, 2011


Considering the Chinese scholarly tradition, I wouldn't be surprised if compounding a fictional epoch was part of that imperial civil service exam.
posted by griphus at 7:02 AM on December 19, 2011 [2 favorites]


btw, i had a really interesting conversation with my cabbie on saturday after coming back from the Occupy Wall Street "reoccupation" that never happened at Duarte Sq.

Mr. NYC Taxi driver was talking about how much real estate churches own in NYC and all of their boards are controlled by Wall Streeters. i quipped, "yeah, it used to be called fiefdoms but now we just call them corporations. it's like a new middle ages." to which he quipped back: "that's if you think the middle ages ended. they haven't."

so there you go.
posted by liza at 7:02 AM on December 19, 2011 [15 favorites]


The easiest way to understand Stephen Dutch's doubts is to seriously question the existence of "China".
posted by Wolfdog at 7:02 AM on December 19, 2011 [4 favorites]


Well we had a Middle Ages, then some asshole came by and ruined the time stream, necessitating the invention of a Middle Ages that ought to have existed anyway.

Get off my lawn, time travelers!
posted by Slackermagee at 7:05 AM on December 19, 2011


This would make a fantastic premise for a science fiction story - I dibs!!!! There would be some key social or ideological premise rooted in mis-periodization (and mis-periodization would be much more plausible on a colonized planet) and you could work out all the subjectivity/ideological things that result from the realization that history is fragile and uncertain, the past is a mystery, etc. With aliens!
posted by Frowner at 7:06 AM on December 19, 2011


Oh, it's all, all of it, every last bit of reality, a convenient fiction and I dare you to prove otherwise.
posted by seanmpuckett at 7:07 AM on December 19, 2011


You know, I feel like people would have noticed if one day it suddenly went from The Year Of Our Lord 600 to The Year of Our Lord 914 overnight. For one, think of all the new calendars that'd have to have been made.
posted by gc at 7:08 AM on December 19, 2011


Oh this is awesome.
posted by crush-onastick at 7:10 AM on December 19, 2011


I remember reading somewhere that people who readily believe conspiracy theories have some significant difference in brain biology than "normal" people.

Of course that's just what they want you to think.
posted by device55 at 7:12 AM on December 19, 2011 [1 favorite]


Even if it's not true, the fact that someone can make a case that it might be true is pretty mind-blowing.

Well you can make a decent case for a lot of outlandish theories if you cherry-pick data and frame facts in a way that helps your case, while ignoring obvious evidence to the contrary. I can never really enjoy reading conspiracy theory arguments because it's hard to take anything at face value, you know that their evidence and logic is most likely incorrect but unless you are deeply familiar with the actual evidence it's difficult to figure out what exactly they are getting wrong. That's why I like reading about conspiracy theories through debunkers, you get the claims of the conspiracy theory, plus the actual evidence that contradicts those claims. It's much more interesting for instance to read someone debunk in detail all of the moon landing conspiracies and learn about the physics of photography on the moon and whatnot rather than just read the conspiracies themselves. I would be very interested to read about what exactly we know about the chronology of the Early Middle Ages and what exact proof there is that we know what we think we know.
posted by burnmp3s at 7:12 AM on December 19, 2011 [14 favorites]


Also, widely debunked.

Links?
posted by nzero at 7:14 AM on December 19, 2011


I adore this idea and desperately want it to be true.
posted by empath at 7:14 AM on December 19, 2011 [3 favorites]


Yeah this guy is only considering European history. Doing this would have required global coordination of multiple different cultures at a time with no real way for them to communicate. And when they were using different numbering systems for years. Actually this during this time period the Chinese didn't have a single long-running year number. They would reset the clock on years every few decades whenever the emperor felt like it.
posted by delmoi at 7:14 AM on December 19, 2011 [2 favorites]


Pshaw, this was on Sherman and Peabody.
posted by spitbull at 7:15 AM on December 19, 2011 [2 favorites]


In order to deal with these discrepancies, I suggest we switch to the DeLorean calendar.
posted by defenestration at 7:15 AM on December 19, 2011 [2 favorites]


I didn't think anyone would ever unseat David Icke, but this might be my new favorite crazy conspiratorial theory.

Seriously, I wish I had a conspiracy theory of my very own. I think I would be much more in demand at parties.
posted by WidgetAlley at 7:16 AM on December 19, 2011 [1 favorite]


It has the potential to be a fantastic learning tool, carefully applied. Set it up for students, then devise means of debunking it, make some hypotheses to test, then go through the process of debunking it (seeing where that process comes up against limitations). Fun, accessible, informative.
posted by howfar at 7:16 AM on December 19, 2011 [6 favorites]


Well there's only one problem with this. Astronomical observations from before the Early Middle Ages correspond to calculations done today. The planets didn't just stop moving for a few hundred years.
posted by charlie don't surf at 7:18 AM on December 19, 2011 [19 favorites]


The only thing lacking is some explanation of how someone from medieval Europe convinced the Chinese to create a fake dynasty complete with bogus archives.

It doesn't have to be fake -- they can construct their timeline counting back from today, right? So that just means it happens 300 years earlier than they thought -- during late antiquity, right?
posted by empath at 7:18 AM on December 19, 2011


Also, widely debunked. Ugh. Do a google search. Lots of easily found links. This has been bopping around the intertubes for years. e.g: here. This theory is basic crazy talk. Tin foil hattism. Nuts. Euro centric preposterous nutsy material. Bonkers.
posted by fimbulvetr at 7:18 AM on December 19, 2011 [3 favorites]


High-resolution radiocarbon dating of events and sites from the time period he's talking about still turns out to be around the era we'd expect if the dark ages existed. He dismisses dendrochronology for some silly reasons, but basically this is essentially nothing but lunacy. Cleverly written lunacy, apparently, but just as much bunkum as anything written by climate change deniers, evolution "skeptics", and others who clearly don't know much.
posted by barnacles at 7:20 AM on December 19, 2011 [1 favorite]


It's only Eurocentric if the rest of the world is real! OMG OMG IT GOES DEEPER!
posted by Wretch729 at 7:21 AM on December 19, 2011 [9 favorites]


Talk about a solution in search of a problem.

So he thinks we added 300 years to our count because of a calendar switch in 1582. Oookay. But his evidence is... an architectural feature that "shouldn't exist"? The lack of documentary evidence from a period when almost no one was literate and the printing press didn't exist? And his conclusion requires positing that Charlemagne never existed?

I wouldn't even describe this as "cleverly written lunacy". It's just bad history.
posted by valkyryn at 7:22 AM on December 19, 2011 [1 favorite]


Everyone thinks I'm a crank, and all I want to do is eliminate daylight savings time.

Seriously, this is one of the coolest nutty ideas I've heard in a while.
posted by gauche at 7:22 AM on December 19, 2011 [3 favorites]


Phantom Time is maybe the craziest conspiracy theory that could ever be.

Obviously, its most important finding is that now Columbus beat the Chinese to North America by, like, 200 years, so take that, non-Europeans.
posted by Copronymus at 7:26 AM on December 19, 2011 [1 favorite]


With regards to English history, it's impossible to find such a gap. A continuous account from 597 to 731 exists in Bede, and from 891 onwards in the Anglo–Saxon chronicle. The gap between the two is not large enough to allow phantom time, and anyway would mean that the English at 891 didn't know Bede was just a generation earlier than them. The time before Bede is more murky, but there is evidence enough to suggest that between the end of the Roman empire in Britain and the arrival of Augustine was many generations.

Assuming, of course, that you thought in the first place the whole theory might be credible.
posted by Jehan at 7:27 AM on December 19, 2011 [4 favorites]


I love the name - Phantom Time. Sounds like a Doctor Who episode from the Tom Baker era and I read the PDF with the theme tune running through my head.

But, here's a debunking point: Gibbon's Decline and Fall, probably the most important history work on the Roman empire that documents the Roman empire from Julius Caeser up until the fall of constantinople in about 1500 lists all of the names of the emperors (east and west until the west fell) throughout that time, and the times of their reigns. 300 years of emperors can't just be invented surely?
posted by BigCalm at 7:31 AM on December 19, 2011


Well, everyone knows millions died to the Black Death in the Late Middle Ages. What this book presupposes is... maybe they didn't?

defenestration, either you DNRTFA did not read the FPP itself, or you have no idea when the "Late Middle Ages" happened.

And 90% of the rest of you: it's the Fortean Times. This is the conspiracy version of The Onion. You can stop taking this so seriously; the author doesn't (necessarily).

You're welcome.
posted by IAmBroom at 7:32 AM on December 19, 2011 [1 favorite]


Really nothing happens except for right now, where we await the Elder Gods to be born.
posted by Burhanistan at 7:35 AM on December 19, 2011


Phantom Time is maybe the craziest conspiracy theory that could ever be.

Nazis harnessing dinosaur-power in the center of the Earth to overthrow the lizard-people Illuminati would like a quick word with you.
posted by griphus at 7:36 AM on December 19, 2011 [11 favorites]


A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur's NO I'M NOT WHERE THE HELL AM I?
posted by Bunny Ultramod at 7:38 AM on December 19, 2011


A continuous account from 597 to 731 exists in Bede...

Oh please. Bede was bought and paid for by the Illuminati. OPEN YOUR EYES, SHEEPLE!
"Venerable" my ass!
posted by PlusDistance at 7:38 AM on December 19, 2011 [4 favorites]


Yeah, that is the beauty of the Fortean Times. They discuss things seriously no matter how crazy they may be, without judgment and a heaping side order of skepticism. Part of the Fortean philosophy.

"Besides being a journal of record, FT is also a forum for the discussion of observations and ideas, however absurd or unpopular, and maintains a position of benevolent scepticism towards both the orthodox and unorthodox."
posted by fimbulvetr at 7:39 AM on December 19, 2011 [1 favorite]


delmoi: “Yeah this guy is only considering European history.”

Er – this is pretty much flatly not true. He extensively considers Islamic and Indian histories as the correlate with the European timeline (since it's the Europena timeline that he claims is false.) Not that I think he's right, mind you, but charging him with Eurocentrism is far off the mark.
posted by koeselitz at 7:39 AM on December 19, 2011 [1 favorite]


Argh. HTML fail. Try this.
posted by fimbulvetr at 7:40 AM on December 19, 2011


Cecil Adams on "Phantom Time" & "New Chronology".

Gibbon's Decline and Fall, probably the most important history work on the Roman empire that documents the Roman empire from Julius Caeser up until the fall of constantinople in about 1500 lists all of the names of the emperors (east and west until the west fell) throughout that time, and the times of their reigns. 300 years of emperors can't just be invented surely?

The above linked article says that the "Phantom Time" folks say that Charlemagne was an "invented figure", so it's not out of the question. But the period that is "missing" under this theory starts well after the end of the reconquests of Justinian—which were basically the last attempt to regain a "Roman" Empire that included Rome—and, as noted above, the Phantom Time theory kind of falls apart when you consider anything happening outside of Western or Central Europe.
posted by Johnny Assay at 7:41 AM on December 19, 2011



The above linked article says that the "Phantom Time" folks say that Charlemagne was an "invented figure", so it's not out of the question. But the period that is "missing" under this theory starts well after the end of the reconquests of Justinian—which were basically the last attempt to regain a "Roman" Empire that included Rome—and, as noted above, the Phantom Time theory kind of falls apart when you consider anything happening outside of Western or Central Europe.


Gibbon's list doesn't include Charlemagne - the Roman empire in the west had long since fallen to various Germanic tribes by then, and Gibbon is looking at the Eastern (Constantinople-based) emperor's from then on. So, Charlemagne might well be invented - but Gibbon didn't cover him as he wasn't Roman empire at the time. Emperor list
posted by BigCalm at 7:43 AM on December 19, 2011



Well there's only one problem with this. Astronomical observations from before the Early Middle Ages correspond to calculations done today. The planets didn't just stop moving for a few hundred years.


There is a lot of source material dated to that period, that a lot of research is based on.

Historians are willing to consider all kinds of novel ideas, and have dealt with some very difficult to prove or believe theories. But if you're going to attack the very foundation of entire disciplines, you need to do so with great care, and ensure that your research is really, really, really solid.

There is nothing solid about that paper. And the entire tone of the essay is off. It's hard to take someone seriously when they use so many exclamation marks! They're just too dang excitable!
posted by Stagger Lee at 7:43 AM on December 19, 2011 [2 favorites]


One issue with the phantom time hypothesis is that it makes it more difficult for those honestly questioning the chronology of other periods. The chronology at the end of the bronze age and beginning of the iron age has received a lot of attention in the past couple of decades. Even if this latter work is also not credible, it is at least more serious and considered, yet may be harmed by association. Asking whether the Third Intermediate Period is properly measured through available evidence is different from insisting that 300 years were inserted into history through a conspiracy. Sadly the distinction may be lost on the opponents.
posted by Jehan at 7:44 AM on December 19, 2011


300 years of emperors can't just be invented surely?

BigCalm: why not? It's just a list of names... and their supposed lifespans are a helluva lot more credible than the Genesis ancestral line. (OK, pretty low bar, but still...)
posted by IAmBroom at 7:45 AM on December 19, 2011


300 years of emperors can't just be invented surely?

Geoffrey of Monmouth would disagree.
posted by Jehan at 7:47 AM on December 19, 2011 [3 favorites]


When you think about it, all emperors are invented.
posted by gauche at 7:49 AM on December 19, 2011 [1 favorite]


IAmABroom: You should go watch The Royal Tenenbaums before you get all counter-quippy and snarky and embarrass yourself again.
posted by absalom at 7:54 AM on December 19, 2011


1. Emperor Harold the Magnificent
2. Emperor Harold the Second the Pretty Awesome
3. Emperor Frank the Brave
4. Emperor Steve the Man-Slayer
5. Emperor Fred the Bold
...
295. Emperor Arnold the Fantastic
296. Emperor John the Incandescent
297. Emperor Bob the Fluorescent
298. Emperor Jim the Invaded
299. Emperor Allan the Appeasing
300. Emperor Snorfglax the Most Certainly Human
posted by griphus at 7:54 AM on December 19, 2011 [9 favorites]


Geoffrey of Monmouth would disagree.

If he existed...
posted by BobbyVan at 7:55 AM on December 19, 2011 [1 favorite]


IAmBroom:

A) It's called a joke.
B) If it's conspiracy bullshit, why should I read it again?
C) Wasn't the 14th century part of the Late Middle Ages?
posted by defenestration at 7:55 AM on December 19, 2011 [1 favorite]


Well, everyone knows millions died to the Black Death in the Late Middle Ages.

Dead men tell no tales. Vince Foster was a European peasant! WAKE UP SHEEPLE!
posted by robocop is bleeding at 7:56 AM on December 19, 2011


I checked this theory on a scientific device of great accuracy. The result was:

My sources say no.
posted by Splunge at 8:00 AM on December 19, 2011 [1 favorite]


saturday_morning: "You gullible sheep. History being off by 300 years is what they *want* you to think.

Really it's just viral marketing for Dan Brown.
"

PKD - The Empire Never Ended. It never happened, but NOTHING past the Roman times ever happened, because it's all a holographic illusion shrouding everything. We live in the Black Iron Prison, and really are still living under Roman Rule. Duh.
posted by symbioid at 8:01 AM on December 19, 2011 [1 favorite]


Phantom Time is maybe the craziest conspiracy theory that could ever be.

Actually no -- dinosaurs from outer space who lie in stasis in the Earth in time machines powered by spinning iridium and will waken to take control of the planet has you beat.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 8:03 AM on December 19, 2011 [2 favorites]


Okay, more seriously: from the second link --
Phantom Time is also borne out by Jewish history, which “totally disapp­eared together with the breakdown of the Roman Empire”, not resurfacing in evid­ence until the Carolingian period.
Y'know, call me crazy, but I think being forcibly evicted from your homes and having all your books and texts and worldly goods destroyed by the enemy has a lot more to do with the dearth of archeological record than does any kind of worldwide calendrial conspiracy.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 8:06 AM on December 19, 2011 [1 favorite]




Actually no -- dinosaurs from outer space who lie in stasis in the Earth in time machines powered by spinning iridium and will waken to take control of the planet has you beat.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 8:03 AM on December 19 [+] [!]


Ia ia Cthulhu fhtagn?
posted by Stagger Lee at 8:07 AM on December 19, 2011


Also, widely debunked.

"History is more or less bunk." -- Henry Ford
"History is a nightmare from which I am trying to awake." -- James Joyce
"History is a bunk on which I am trying to awaken." -- John Sladek

I guess debunking this sort of "history" is when you actually get up rather than lying there trying to sleep but thinking instead about all the crap you have to get done.
posted by GenjiandProust at 8:12 AM on December 19, 2011


IAmABroom: You should go watch The Royal Tenenbaums before you get all counter-quippy and snarky and embarrass yourself again.

absalom, nothing on earth could make me want to waste time watching that dreck again. Not sure how having lived without that awful movie would have 'embarassed myself'.


defenestration:
A) It's called a joke.

Sorry. Too many people are that dumb.

C) Wasn't the 14th century part of the Late Middle Ages?

I was commenting on your claim that the Late Middle Ages were somehow part of the portion of history that was made up, which is clearly described in the title as the Early Middle Ages. The 14th-century was not part of the Early Middle Ages.
posted by IAmBroom at 8:19 AM on December 19, 2011 [2 favorites]


Y'know, call me crazy, but I think being forcibly evicted from your homes and having all your books and texts and worldly goods destroyed by the enemy has a lot more to do with the dearth of archeological record than does any kind of worldwide calendrial conspiracy.

Not during the period in question. And besides, even in places where Jews were oppressed and persecuted, plenty of evidence attests to their existence.
posted by Jehan at 8:19 AM on December 19, 2011


Mr. NYC Taxi driver was talking about how much real estate churches own in NYC and all of their boards are controlled by Wall Streeters. i quipped, "yeah, it used to be called fiefdoms but now we just call them corporations. it's like a new middle ages." to which he quipped back: "that's if you think the middle ages ended. they haven't."

How come nobody writes a nytimes "deep thought" opinion piece based on this sort of taxi ride anecdote?
posted by ennui.bz at 8:20 AM on December 19, 2011 [1 favorite]


There was a period of time in Cordoba, Andalusia, in which a Syrian named Abd al-Rahman, whose Umayyad clan had been thrust out of power, fled to the Iberian Peninsula and took control from the Visigoths and established a rival center of Islamic power. Christians and Jews were allowed to worship (as long as they avoided openly blaspheming the Prophet) and could attain societal rank.

It is believed by some that the seeds of later chivalric and romantic poetry, which would spread to Southern France, were first planted here.

And this largely took place during this allegedly invented time period. If so, well played, Otto III!
posted by Danf at 8:24 AM on December 19, 2011


Not during the period in question. And besides, even in places where Jews were oppressed and persecuted, plenty of evidence attests to their existence.

I know that and you know that, but the guy in the second link doesn't seem to know that.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 8:25 AM on December 19, 2011


The idea that someone could take this conspiracy theory seriously is somewhat disturbing to me. On the other hand, so is the idea that people could believe that history started in 4004 BC, and we know there are folks who believed that.
posted by immlass at 8:29 AM on December 19, 2011 [1 favorite]


absalom, nothing on earth could make me want to waste time watching that dreck again. Not sure how having lived without that awful movie would have 'embarassed myself'.

IAmBroom,

It being 1714, there is a brother here from the Tribunal of the Holy Office of the Inquisition who would like you to clarify a few of your recent statements, so that it may be determined the degree to which they align with current doctrine.
posted by TheWhiteSkull at 8:31 AM on December 19, 2011


1714? Way off. Waaaay off. We're clearly pacing the holodeck with Worf's brother Nikolai, en route to our new home.

Occam's Razor, people.
posted by Durn Bronzefist at 8:34 AM on December 19, 2011 [2 favorites]


I was going to post the same thing rmd1023 posted above. The other day in the Philip K. Dick thread there was a dude seriously suggesting Dick was a psychic, not a psycho when that happened. I was going like, it was the drugs, man; and he's all no way here's some facts and figures for you.
posted by bukvich at 8:36 AM on December 19, 2011


Seriously, I wish I had a conspiracy theory of my very own. I think I would be much more in demand at parties.


Hunter S. Thomspon is still alive and living in seclusion on Jonny Depp's private island in the Bahamas, Little Hall's Pond Cay. He's acting as Depp's acting coach and spiritual advisor. He's seen from time to time by people snorkeling nearby, and was first reported as a naked man with a speargun and a Nixon mask passed out on the beach. When the police were called, Depp himself showed up with an ATV and carted him off before the patrol boat arrived.

You're welcome.
posted by Slap*Happy at 8:38 AM on December 19, 2011 [6 favorites]


As others have pointed out here, the Venerable Bede finished writing his Ecclesiastical History of the English People (by his reckoning) in 731. Bede is actually quite meticulous with dates in his work, and describes English history to at least some degree of accuracy dating back to the Roman occupation.

So, if there's a conspiracy, then they were in on it back then too! It goes all the way back!!!!11

Also: China.
posted by Avenger at 8:50 AM on December 19, 2011


In related news: Parallel Timelines in History
posted by clarknova at 9:00 AM on December 19, 2011 [1 favorite]


Not during the period in question.

So, the forced conversions, territorial expulsions, bans on religious practice, land confiscations, stake burnings, and enslavement that occurred in the various Christian states in Spain, Merovingian France, Carolingian Italy, and the Byzantine Empire don't count?

Not that ANYTHING happened during the period in question, of course.
posted by snottydick at 9:10 AM on December 19, 2011


Slap * Happy that may be the greatest thing I've ever heard, and just in time for Christmas too! Now I can keep up with my grandpa's "Obama is an alien" over the turkey!
posted by WidgetAlley at 9:10 AM on December 19, 2011 [1 favorite]


Bede is actually quite meticulous with dates in his work

Yes, almost TOO meticulous....
posted by Panjandrum at 9:16 AM on December 19, 2011 [1 favorite]


IAmBroom: "BigCalm: why not? It's just a list of names... "

I'm no expert on these matters, but during my little research it seemed like their lives could be generated with madlibs:

*Became Caesar through (intrigue/lineage/murder/monetary purchase/endorsement by senate/endorsement by praetorian guard).

* Good (strategist/administrator/poet/toady/hedonist), poor (strategist/administrator/poet/toady/hedonist).

* Mistreated or offended (roman people/noble houses/praetorian guard/soldiers/priests).

* Overestimated (intelligence/charisma/wisdom/strength/dexterity/luck), underestimated (hatred by one or more SIGs/greed and laziness of praetorians/uncouth germanic tribes).

* Weakened Senate. (Razed/adopted) Byzantium.

* Murdered in (street, senate, bedchamber, recreated arena) by (slave/family member/trusted courtier/drunk praetorians/enraged russell crowe).

what do you mean there are exceptions no there aren't
posted by vanar sena at 9:34 AM on December 19, 2011 [3 favorites]


This is right up there with 'giraffes are a government conspiracy'.
posted by bq at 9:34 AM on December 19, 2011




Klopstockstr. 18


silly from the get-go
posted by OHenryPacey at 9:38 AM on December 19, 2011


I thought I saw a giraffe once, but on reflection I think it might just have been a really surprised horse.
posted by lucien_reeve at 9:41 AM on December 19, 2011 [8 favorites]


I thought I saw a horse once, but on reflection I think it might just have been a really depressed giraffe.
posted by Splunge at 9:44 AM on December 19, 2011 [2 favorites]


So, the forced conversions, territorial expulsions, bans on religious practice, land confiscations, stake burnings, and enslavement that occurred in the various Christian states in Spain, Merovingian France, Carolingian Italy, and the Byzantine Empire don't count?

I'm specifically talking about Christian Europe in the early middle ages. There was considerable change in the attitudes of Christian rulers between then and the high middle ages. It helps if we recognize the differences.
posted by Jehan at 10:03 AM on December 19, 2011


I’m in.
posted by bongo_x at 10:22 AM on December 19, 2011


If you're going to quote the Cecil Adams piece, it seems to me that this is far and away the more significant bit to quote:

Subtracting 1,257 from 1582 gets us back not to 45 BC but to 325 AD. In other words, more than three centuries are unaccounted for!

No, they're not, nitpickers have pointed out. Gregory's ten-day correction wasn't meant to get the calendar realigned with Julius Caesar's day, but rather with the Easter dating guidelines established at the First Council of Nicaea. When did the First Council of Nicaea take place? In 325 AD.

posted by Naberius at 10:22 AM on December 19, 2011 [2 favorites]


I think we're getting away from the original point.

The argument is that Jewish history “'totally disapp­eared together with the breakdown of the Roman Empire', not resurfacing in evid­ence until the Carolingian period." That is a direct quote from the second link. In other words: the claim is that there was no evidence of Jewish history from 476 AD (which arguably was the final fall of Western Rome) to about 690, the beginning of the Carolingian empire (the first of the Carolingians took power in 688).

The thing is, though, the Romans were making things very hard for the Jews as early as the year 60, nearly four hundred years prior to the fall of Rome -- and nearly 100 years before Christianity. When Rome adopted Christianity as the official religion, it got even worse -- Jews were forcibly converted to Christianity. Even after the fall of the Western Roman Empire, the Eastern Roman Empire -- what we'd call "Byzantium" today -- retained this Roman custom of forced conversions. So in urban centers of Byzantium -- arguably the most "civilized" area of Europe between the years 486-680 -- any Jew would have had to be on the serious down-low, so as not to run afoul of the authorities. This, in turn, leads to rather a dearth of evidence in the historic record -- unless you know what you're looking for.

Now, someone who knew what to look for in the historic record would be able to find plenty of "evidence of Jewish History" in the cited time period. Someone who didn't, probably wouldn't.

So, posited: the sociopolitical climate of Europe, the former Western Roman Empire, and the Eastern Roman empire has far more to do with the perceived "disappearance of Jewish history" during that two-hundred years than does any "conspiracy of the calendar."
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 10:26 AM on December 19, 2011


I'm specifically talking about Christian Europe in the early middle ages. There was considerable change in the attitudes of Christian rulers between then and the high middle ages. It helps if we recognize the differences.

I should clarify that I recognize there was persecution during the early middle ages, but the wholesale expulsions seen after 1000 are uncommon and sporadic. There were plenty of settled communities of Jews in Europe at the time.
posted by Jehan at 10:27 AM on December 19, 2011


I thought I saw a horse once, but on reflection I think it might just have been a really depressed giraffe.

I hope you asked him "Hey buddy, why the long face?"
posted by TedW at 10:27 AM on December 19, 2011


Well there's only one problem with this. Astronomical observations from before the Early Middle Ages correspond to calculations done today. The planets didn't just stop moving for a few hundred years.


Well, all they had to do was invent 300 years of history. You, know, to account for the time that humanity spent in forced suspended animation while the dinosaurs came back to settle their affairs before departing for the stars. Again.

Asteroid, my ass.
posted by KingEdRa at 10:28 AM on December 19, 2011


At least according to the second link, this whole thing seems based upon:
It had long been known that the old Julian calendar had a defect – the Julian year being roughly 11 minutes too long – and the new calendar was designed to correct this discrepancy, to the tune of making up for 10 days that gradually slipped during the years between AD 1 and AD 1582. But Illig alleged that the Julian calendar should have produced a discrepancy of not 10 but 13 days over the period in question, and concluded that roughly three centuries had been added to the calendar that had never existed. His response was to run with the notion of calendar “slack” and look for corroborat­ive evidence.
First of all, 11 minutes per year times 1581 years is about 12 days, not 13 (or 10).

Second, and more importantly, the ten day difference accounted for in 1582 was based upon slippage from the time that the date of the Vernal Equinox was fixed, by the Church, to be on March 21. Which was in the year 325. Which was 1257 years before 1582. Which, at 11 minutes per year, is about ten days. Go figure.
posted by Flunkie at 10:34 AM on December 19, 2011 [2 favorites]


So... I'm not behind on anything.
posted by fuq at 10:35 AM on December 19, 2011 [1 favorite]


kandinski: "This is better Borges than Borges. Because, in fact, Borges never existed, and was completely invented by literary theorists."

GOOGLE UQBAR
posted by sinnesloeschen at 10:56 AM on December 19, 2011 [3 favorites]


I love me some bunkum.
posted by Occula at 11:05 AM on December 19, 2011


TLÖN, UQBAR, RON PAUL!
posted by Naberius at 11:10 AM on December 19, 2011 [3 favorites]


You know, if a man can't be bothered to trace this back to the inundation of the Black Sea and the lizard people spreading Linear B, I can't be bothered to read it.
posted by digitalprimate at 11:25 AM on December 19, 2011 [1 favorite]


As others have pointed out here, the Venerable Bede finished writing his Ecclesiastical History of the English People (by his reckoning) in 731. Bede is actually quite meticulous with dates in his work, and describes English history to at least some degree of accuracy dating back to the Roman occupation.

Yeah, but I'm sure the oldest surviving manuscript only goes back to ... Wow! There's one dating all the way back to Bede's lifetime.
posted by straight at 11:28 AM on December 19, 2011 [2 favorites]


On the other hand, so is the idea that people could believe that history started in 4004 BC, and we know there are folks who believed that.

Some of those people are apparently viable presidential candidates for 2012, too.
posted by elizardbits at 11:54 AM on December 19, 2011


Saying that a particular chapel's roof showing architectural features that weren't seen for another two centuries is proof that those two centuries didn't exist is straight out of the "my hair is a bird, your argument is invalid" school.
posted by Halloween Jack at 11:54 AM on December 19, 2011 [2 favorites]


elizardbits: "On the other hand, so is the idea that people could believe that history started in 4004 BC, and we know there are folks who believed that.

Some of those people are apparently viable presidential candidates for 2012, too.
"

Candidates, yes. Viable? I dunno.
posted by Splunge at 12:06 PM on December 19, 2011


Teach the controversy!

Seriously, I would love one of these t-shirts on the theme.

What would be the best pictorial representation of that sort?
posted by Anything at 12:07 PM on December 19, 2011


> it's the Fortean Times. This is the conspiracy version of The Onion.

Say, what?! Have you ever actually read the magazine?

While they write with a certain sense of humor, they are \careful with their scholarship and footnoting and are not "making things up to entertain you" like The Onion.

Look at the article that's linked to here. Note that the writer clearly lays out the theory, gives you references but never espouses it - indeed, he points out crucial flaws of internal consistency in the theory, one of which not being mentioned elsewhere: "... what’s the point of going to all the trouble? What’s to be gained? [...] Practic­ally everyone who mattered within the Emperor’s dominion would have been complicit, negating its intended effect."

He does however make the perfectly good point that many of the "official" dates of history have little or no hard evidence behind them (not that they might be off by 300 years of course, but just as certain IMHO that some of them are off by a year or two, or perhaps a decade or two...)

The article is factual, as it reports on theories that other people have - theories that are almost certainly false, sure, but reporting on them is perfectly factual. And this is almost always true of FT and never true of The Onion.
posted by lupus_yonderboy at 12:17 PM on December 19, 2011 [4 favorites]


Come on guys: The purveyors of this hypothesis are not crackpots.
posted by Barry B. Palindromer at 12:46 PM on December 19, 2011


Amen to that, lupus. I love my subscription to FT. But, here on the blue people like to slam FT (do a quick search at posted comments with "Fortean Times") -- it is treated as though it is a glossy version of World Weekly News around here.
posted by fimbulvetr at 12:49 PM on December 19, 2011


Oh who cares. I'm stopping time and starting it all over again. Everyone back up now. Get back over the line. That's right. Be sure to get it right this time, no mistakes. OK ready? And ....... GO.
posted by Summer at 3:47 PM on December 19, 2011


I've seen other versions of this theory, and the gist I got was this: they didn't *invent* the history so much as they sort of spread it out too much. That early historians looking back took it for granted that X years had passed since the birth of Christ, and filled in what they knew onto a wrong timeline. As more centuries passed, any hint of doubt they might have had disappeared and it became fact.

(Or that the keepers of the records just plain old forged them and locked them back away in the catacombs. Anyone who knew the "truth" would be dead in 100 years and all that would be left are the incorrect records, with nothing to contradict them. It would seem to be pretty easy to fake stuff like that in an age when not too many people knew how to read and write, and there weren't very many copies of any historical records.)

It seems like crackpottery, I agree, but I don't see how it is impossible. Has anyone gone through records of say Chinese civilization to see if their accounts of historical meetings, star positions and things like eclipses match up with Western history's accounts of same?
posted by gjc at 4:08 PM on December 19, 2011


Oh, I love this theory. One of my favorites.


Considering the Chinese scholarly tradition, I wouldn't be surprised if compounding a fictional epoch was part of that imperial civil service exam.

I had a running joke with a friend at college that there was a "secret history senior thesis": along with the regular one, they had to confabulate some new history and convince people it happened. His plan was to put together a "Lives of the Presidents" akin to The Twelve Caesars, except intentionally full of spurious claims (George Washington was worshiped as a god; Alexander Hamilton had so many illegitimate children that, in time, they constituted a plurality of Congress...). The idea was to make sure it survived the fall of America, and replaced all other histories.
posted by BungaDunga at 4:11 PM on December 19, 2011 [3 favorites]


I've been inside the Palatine Chapel. It's really cool. I have nothing else to add to this post.
posted by ZenMasterThis at 4:24 PM on December 19, 2011


When I can find it, Fortean Times is my favorite airport reading. It's all so wonderfully straight faced! Also, grainy pictures of Nessy.
posted by stoneweaver at 4:56 PM on December 19, 2011


But, here on the blue people like to slam FT (do a quick search at posted comments with "Fortean Times") -- it is treated as though it is a glossy version of World Weekly News around here.

Yeah, lay off Fortean Times! If you want crackpottery and bunkum, that's what New Scientist is for!
posted by KingEdRa at 6:26 PM on December 19, 2011 [1 favorite]


First version 1995?

He doesn't even buy into his own thesis!
posted by mazola at 8:17 PM on December 19, 2011 [5 favorites]


Also, I learned a new word: majuscule.
posted by Barry B. Palindromer at 10:08 PM on December 19, 2011


Skipped a bunch of this thread sorry, but at parent's house for Christmas watching the a 'documentary' on History Channel with my dad about how the Templars 'might' have discovered the Americas before Columbus, who, quoting this program, 'might have been associated with that order.'

Seemed pertinent, and somewhat concerning that this is the kind of stuff being broadcast on something that purports to be a channel about history.

Thank you Dan Brown.
posted by Hello, I'm David McGahan at 1:41 AM on December 20, 2011 [1 favorite]


On (much later) preview:

Saying that a particular chapel's roof showing architectural features that weren't seen for another two centuries is proof that those two centuries didn't exist is straight out of the "my hair is a bird, your argument is invalid" school.
posted by Halloween Jack at 11:54 AM on December 19 [1 favorite +] [!]


Heh, this documentary did the same thing, but reversed - arguing that some strange windmill in New England used building styles centuries out of date, and looked a little bit like a Templar Church (which was quite clear once they added some CGI to make it look exactly like one)
posted by Hello, I'm David McGahan at 4:03 AM on December 20, 2011 [1 favorite]


So all the folks claiming nine eleven was staged... are right after all!
posted by CynicalKnight at 7:48 AM on December 20, 2011 [1 favorite]


Seemed pertinent, and somewhat concerning that this is the kind of stuff being broadcast on something that purports to be a channel about history.

Thank you Dan Brown.


You misspelled "undereducated, almost history-illiterate, American public".
posted by IAmBroom at 10:29 AM on December 20, 2011


Not that "this doesn't make sense" is unique to this particular bit, but:
Illig zeroes in on the polymath qualities of Charlemagne as recorded in various texts which make him an architect, astronomer, educator, philo­logist, folklorist, lawmaker and more. For Illig, “the conclusion is simple: far too much is ascribed to this one person.”
This doesn't make sense.

They would need to invent some superguy if they were trying to compress time - e.g. change 500 real years to 200 fake years, throwing away 300 real years. There would be a need for an explanation (such as "Charlemagne was amazing") for why so much happened in, supposedly, 200 years. An amount of stuff that without such an amazing guy would normally take 500 years.

If they were trying to add time, as the general claim seems to be, they would have to explain why nothing much happened, not why so much happened.
posted by Flunkie at 12:37 PM on December 20, 2011


Well this is the History Channel as shown in Australia, so maybe we can blame undereducated, almost history-illiterate people generally, which in my experience includes a worrying proportion of the undergrads I teach.
posted by Hello, I'm David McGahan at 12:39 PM on December 20, 2011



Not that "this doesn't make sense" is unique to this particular bit, but:

Illig zeroes in on the polymath qualities of Charlemagne as recorded in various texts which make him an architect, astronomer, educator, philo­logist, folklorist, lawmaker and more. For Illig, “the conclusion is simple: far too much is ascribed to this one person.”

This doesn't make sense.

Flunkie, Charlemagne is actually pretty easy to grock once you realize he's the 9th-C's answer to Kim Jung Il.

OK, except that he was sane and an able governor... but still power-mad, egomaniacal, and obsessed with being accredited with every good thing that happened on his watch.
posted by IAmBroom at 1:18 PM on December 20, 2011 [1 favorite]


My point was not "Charlemagne doesn't make sense". It was "the idea that Charlemagne being a polymath is evidence in favor of the phantom time hypothesis doesn't make sense".
posted by Flunkie at 1:24 PM on December 20, 2011


Hi. I a dumbass. Please thank you gentlefolk for some educmacation in his tory. I never new 'bout that Bede dude. Mind. Blown. Many thanks.
posted by Goofyy at 4:16 AM on December 21, 2011


Flunkie, I think you're omitting a key part:

"the idea that Charlemagne being a polymath is evidence in favor of the phantom time hypothesis doesn't make sense" because it's more reasonable that Charlemagne's "accomplishments" were legend, not actually achieved by a single person.

The theory suggests he's an invented figure, with near-mythic abilities. Which is probably partly true...
posted by IAmBroom at 9:40 AM on December 21, 2011


I am not professing an opinion on his "near-mythic abilities".

I am simply saying that "he had near-mythic abilities and therefore might have been made up" would be evidence for the opposite of the phantom time hypothesis. Namely, that somebody tried to suppress evidence of 300 real years.

It wouldn't be evidence for the idea that somebody tried to make up 300 fake years.
posted by Flunkie at 12:48 PM on December 21, 2011


I'm specifically talking about Christian Europe in the early middle ages. There was considerable change in the attitudes of Christian rulers between then and the high middle ages. It helps if we recognize the differences.

It helps if you recognize that I WAS referring to Christian states in the early middle ages.

I should clarify that I recognize there was persecution during the early middle ages, but the wholesale expulsions seen after 1000 are uncommon and sporadic. There were plenty of settled communities of Jews in Europe at the time.

You'll find examples of the whole "convert or be expelled/massacred" thing, but you'll also find evidence to suggest that enforcement was rarely as thorough as what occurred in say, 1492 in Spain. Also, Jews were more often expelled from a particular municipality, diocese, or fiefdom than from an entire realm proper. There certainly may not be as many as what you'll find in the 13th-17th Centuries, but that was pretty much the Golden Age of European Anti-Semitism.

Here are some highlights from the period in question:

582 - Jews expelled from the Merovingian Kingdom of Soissons (Neustria)
612 - Jews expelled from the Visigoth Kingdom of Spain
642 - Jews again expelled from the Visigoth Kingdom of Spain
722 - Judaism outlawed in Byzantine Empire
855 - Jews expelled from the Carolingian Kingdom of Italy

Fun fact, here in the United States, General U.S. Grant expelled all Jews from Kentucky, Tennessee and Mississippi in December of 1862. President Lincoln countermanded the order in January of 1863.

In any case, on the subject of whether Jews totally disappeared from the historical record between the fall of Rome (meaning what, exactly?) and the rise of the Carolingians is sheer nonsense. Jews were a small community, and there is very little contemporary historical record of any kind extant from that period. There are entire states, military powers in their day, who are only known to us by a few oblique references in obscure documents. For a small community of common merchants & tradesmen, practicing a religion that the primary chroniclers of the day (the Church) viewed as a dying anachronism, I'd say there is plenty of archaeological evidence and contemporary references to Jewish communities in Western Europe, nevermind the Muslim world.
posted by snottydick at 8:23 AM on December 23, 2011 [2 favorites]


There are entire states, military powers in their day, who are only known to us by a few oblique references in obscure documents.

So, who wins Lost Medieval History Thunderdome: this guy, or Mary Gentle?

Has anyone gone through records of say Chinese civilization to see if their accounts of historical meetings, star positions and things like eclipses match up with Western history's accounts of same?

I can't be arsed to find cites, but astronomers have often scoured historical documents to see when various comets, eclipses, novas, etc. happened. They'll compare as many distinct records as they can find, to make up for cloud cover, bad observations, lost records, etc.
posted by hattifattener at 11:30 PM on December 28, 2011


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