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Crimea (Allen Lane History)
Crimea (Allen Lane History)
by Orlando Figes
Edition: Hardcover

7 of 12 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Singularly inappropriate Title, 31 Dec 2010
Rather than being a "Crusade," the Crimean War was the precise opposite: Two European powers fighting in support of the Turks against another European power which was attempting to liberate the Christian populations of the Balkans from Turkish oppression. If it was a "crusade," then the Russians were the crusaders and the British and French were on the side of the jihadis.
A book so inaptly named does not inspire confidence in the author or his abilities. Yet this work is better than the title suggests, and Figes provides an insightful account of a conflict which probably more than anything else exposed the moral bankruptcy of Britain and France at the time. The carnage in the Crimea was the first "modern" war in a number of ways and, viewed retrospectively, can now be seen as a warm-up for what happened during World War 1. Generals and politicians who can quite happily sacrifice the lives of thousands of men for doubtful or even openly immoral reasons would be equally happy to sacrifice the lives of millions for the same ends.
Using a wide variety of sources, Figes weaves a fascinating picture of this tragic and utterly futile adventure.

A Test Of Time: Volume One-The Bible-From Myth to History
A Test Of Time: Volume One-The Bible-From Myth to History
by David Rohl
Edition: Paperback
Price: £12.99

4 of 9 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars A missed opportunity, 30 Nov 2010
This book represents the first instalment of David's Rohl's project for the revision of ancient history. Like Velikovsky, whom he acknowledges (though only barely), he would subtract several centuries from the length of New Kingdom Egyptian history. Velikovsky went for between six and eight centuries, Rohl goes for the far more conservative three and a half. These three and a half centuries he subtracts mainly from Egypt's so-called Third Intermediate Period, roughly between the twelfth and ninth centuries BC. One result of this is that Ramesses II (currently placed in the fourteenth-thirteenth century BC) is seen as the pharaoh Shishak, who plundered Solomon's Temple around 920 BC.
There is no question that Rohl is a gifted writer, and that he presents his arguments eloquently and convincingly. The problem is not so much in what he says as in what he leaves unsaid. Or, to put it another way: The problem is not in the evidence he presents, but in the evidence he leaves out. For the fact is, that in order to sustain a meagre three and a half century reduction in Egyptian dates, Rohl must ignore an enormous quantity of evidence demanding a much more radical reduction in dates. (In this he is in accord with the methods and attitudes of the Egyptological establishment). For example, he must ignore the evidence of technology and metallurgy (note: a steel - not iron - dagger was found in Tutankhamun's tomb); he must ignore the evidence of language and epigraphy (Hebrew phrases and expressions in the Amarna Letters, contemporary with Tutankhamun, are written in good seventh-century biblical Hebrew); he must ignore the evidence of glass-working (glass jars of the Amarna Age, with classical variegated colouring, are virtually identical to glass vessels of the seventh and sixth centuries BC); he must ignore the evidence of architecture (the hilani-houses of northern Mesopotamia of the time of Niqmepa, contemporary with Horemheb, are identical to the hilani-houses of the same region from the time of Shalmaneser III); he must ignore the evidence of stratigraphy, which shows an enormous hiatus between the Late Bronze Age and Early Iron Age in virtually every Near Eastern site.
I could go on and on. Actually, I could fill many volumes with such material (and have). But the point is, all this material is ignored by Rohl. Furthermore, although his book is advertised as a synchronisation and harmonization of biblical and Egyptian histories, in fact because of his rejection of Velikovsky's work he misses the most important and attractive of these harmonizations. Thus he fails to see that Hatshepsut was actually the Queen of Sheba, and that her journey to Israel is actually recorded and illustrated at the Djeser Djeseru in Thebes. And such missed chances are everywhere. Thus rather than enriching our understanding of biblical and Egyptian histories and their relationship with each other, Rohl only impoverishes it, leaving us little better than what we have in conventional history books.
All in all, Rohl's work represents a spectacular failure and a tragically missed opportunity to unravel the truth about ancient history and the fascinating story it has to tell.

Worlds in Collision
Worlds in Collision
by Immanuel Velikovsky
Edition: Paperback
Price: £19.98

7 of 7 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Revolutionary, 27 Nov 2010
This review is from: Worlds in Collision (Paperback)
This is where it all began. I recall giving a copy of this book to an art student friend to read. His comment was that Velikovsky was "obviously right," but that he doubted the academic establishment would ever accept it - or even read it. And that, unfortunately, has been the truth for sixty years. Those who have actually read the book (such as Albert Einstein) are invariably greatly impressed by it; and those who haven't, call it "pseudo-science" and "pseudo-history."
In Worlds in Collision Velikovsky revisits much of the ground covered by people like Brasseur de Bourbourg, Ignatius Donnelly and Lewis Spence; and the whole book is an encyclopaedic collection of catastrophe myths and legends from all parts of the globe. Unlike his immediate predecessors however (with the possible exception of de Bourbourg), Velikovsky placed these cataclysms within the period of recorded human history. That was his great contribution. Even William Whiston, in the seventeenth century, had the last cosmic catastrophe (the Flood) immediately before the rise of civilization, which he, in common with everyone in his time, would have placed in the fourth or fifth millennium BC. Velikovsky however brought the last of the cosmic upheavals down into the eighth and even seventh centuries BC, and connected these with disturbances in the planetary system. No one, since Plato at least, had ever imagined such a thing. So radical was the idea that Einstein, though he was convinced that Velikovsky had put the existence of cosmic catastrophes - and recent cosmic catastrophes - beyond question, had to withdraw whole-hearted support on this issue. (Later however, just a few weeks before his death, Einstein arguably came round to Velikovsky's view: He died with a copy of Worlds in Collision open on his desk). And there seems little doubt that, had Velikovsky gone the same way as Donnelly et al and placed the cosmic catastrophes at a safe distance in the past, such as 9500 BC, then his book might have been a good seller, and caused quite a bit of comment; but it would not have caused the academic furore that it did. For not only was Velikovsky proposing something outrageous and unheard-of, he was himself a member of the academic establishment; a member of the establishment who was now breaking ranks and proposing something utterly disturbing and unsettling in a whole host of ways.
The result was the "Velikovsky Affair": The suppression, by the academic establishment, of a book. The suppression took the form of intimidation of Velikovsky's publisher Macmillan, and habitual and repeated misrepresentations and caricaturizations of his work. The respected journals within which these appeared never permitted Velikovsky to reply. It was, in effect, a kind of academic Stalinism. Frighteningly enough, it continues to this day. (Those who believe they live in a completely free and open society where science is independent of politics and ideology please take note).
When will Velikovsky's ideas be openly and freely discussed? It is impossible to say. Perhaps only when another cosmic catastrophe happens, which, if Velikovsky was right, is by no means an impossibility.
Comment Comment (1) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Feb 15, 2013 6:14 PM GMT

Ages in Chaos - Volume 1 - From the Exodus to King Akhnaton.
Ages in Chaos - Volume 1 - From the Exodus to King Akhnaton.
by Immanuel Velikovsky
Edition: Hardcover

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Velikovsky at his best, 27 Nov 2010
Here we see Velikovsky at his best. Ages in Chaos reconnects the disjointed strands of Egyptian and biblical history in a masterful way. This book is a joy to read, and should have formed the foundation-stone of the reconstruction of ancient history. Ages in Chaos does contain errors, but these are of a comparatively minor nature, and called for fine-tuning, rather than complete rejection. In choosing the latter course, the critics threw out the baby with the bath-water.
Throughout Ages in Chaos Velikovsky demonstrates the need for a five-and-a-half century reduction in Egyptian Eighteenth Dynasty dates, to bring them into line with those of the Old Testament. His identification of Hatshepsut, for example, with the Queen of Sheba (who visited Solomon) was absolutely correct, as was his equation of Thutmose III with Shishak, the pharaoh who plundered the Jerusalem Temple. Attempts by the critics to pick holes in these pivotal synchronisms have proved futile. The suggestion, for example, that Punt (the destination of Hatshepsut's famous expedition) was in Africa (made by David Lorton and John Bimson), is fairly easily refuted, as I have shown in several places. The "African" creatures shown on the Deir el Bahri reliefs, which the critics made so much of, were all anciently found in Syria/Palestine, and most especially in the Jordan Valley. To this day, the flora and fauna of the latter region, with its tropical climate, is described as typically "African".
The only significant misidentifications in Ages in Chaos came in the chapters dealing with Akhnaton and the Amarna Letters. Velikovsky argued that Abdi-Hiba, the King of Jerusalem at the time, was the same man as Jehoshaphat, and that the King of Hatti who threatened northern Syria in the time of the Letters was Shalmaneser III. Neither of these identifications can be sustained. In fact, a veritable mountain of evidence shows that the King of Hatti in the time of Akhnaton was Suppiluliumas I, whilst the King of Assyria, who actually wrote several letters to Akhnaton, was Ashuruballit. Neither of these characters can be identified with Shalmaneser III. However, although Velikovsky got it wrong here, it is important to stress that he was wrong by only a couple of decades. As I have demonstrated in some detail in various places, Ashuruballit of the Letters was the same person as Ashurnasirpal II, the father of Shalmaneser III. In the same way, Abdi-Hiba of Jerusalem was not Jehoshaphat, but Jehoshaphat's father Asa. Furthermore, Labayu, the troublesome king of Shechem, whose activities caused much harm in the region, was one and the same as Baasha, the warlike king of Israel who caused so much trouble for Asa.
The layout of Ages in Chaos was therefore broadly correct with regard to biblical history. However, it was not, as can easily be shown, correct with regard to classical history: For the classical and biblical histories are not accurately aligned and are out of sync with regard to each other by two centuries. Thus all the characters and events described in Ages in Chaos, Vol. 1, need to be moved down the timescale, lock, stock, and barrel, by a further two centuries, to make them synchronize properly with ancient history as recorded by the Greeks. This can be illustrated most easily with regard to the Mita or Mitanni, the Indo-Iranian rulers of Upper Mesopotamia in the time of Egypt's Eighteenth Dynasty. These folk can only have been the Medes, whose Great Kings dominated the Near East during the seventh century BC.
This then is the correct location of the Theban pharaohs of the Eighteenth Dynasty, as well as the Early Monarchy of Israel, with whom the latter interacted. Hatshepsut therefore did not visit Solomon in 940 or 930 BC, but closer to 700 BC.

Atlantis. The Antediluvian World
Atlantis. The Antediluvian World
by Ignatius Donnelly
Edition: Paperback
Price: £8.90

11 of 12 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Still a cracking Read, 27 Nov 2010
In spite of its rejection by the academic establishment, this book remains a masterpiece of its genre, and has had a much bigger impact than is generally realised. There seems little doubt, for example, that Immanuel Velikovsky was greatly influenced by Donnelly, and it is a certainty that the recent revival of catastrophism traces much of its inspiration back to him, though most of the modern neo-catastrophists would probably deny it.
Leaving aside Donnelly's enormous contribution of collating catastrophe legends from many lands and cultures, Atlantis, the Antediluvian World also provided an exhaustive overview of cultural parallels between the Old World and the New. These, Donnelly demonstrated, go well beyond the usual and clichéd examples of pyramid-building and mummification, and extend to incredible details of life and custom on both sides of the Atlantic.
Donnelly's big mistake was his uncritical acceptance of the date provided by Plato for Atlantis' destruction (about 9500 BC) and his equally uncritical acceptance of the academic establishment's dates for the Pleistocene extinctions and the rise of the first civilizations. The critics were quick to point out, of course, that in the epoch mentioned by Plato (9500 BC) no civilization of any kind existed, far less the opulent Bronze Age culture described in the Timaeus and Critias. If such a civilization existed, they said, where are its remains? Donnelly argued that the culture of Atlantis must have been the prototype of all subsequent civilizations, and held that it was emigrants from the lost island who established the great cultures of the Old World and the New. This, he insisted, explained the striking parallels observed between the civilizations of the Old World and the New. Here again, however, chronology got in the way. According to conventional historians, the civilizations of the New World, with their pyramids, human sacrifice, and dragon-worship, were much younger than the ancient civilizations of the Old World, which also had pyramids, human sacrifice and dragon-worship. By the time the peoples of the Americas had begun to build pyramids, practice mummification, etc, the peoples of the Middle East had long abandoned these things. This was an objection Donnelly could not answer; and it is an objection that has remained unanswered to this day. It is an objection that cannot in fact be answered unless the chronology is challenged. But who would dare do that?
Well, Immanuel Velikovsky challenged the chronology very effectively in the 1950s, and the assault he launched on ancient dates and dating-systems was never effectively refuted by the academic establishment. If the Old World civilizations are not as old as is commonly believed, and if they are in fact the same age as the civilizations of the New World, then the parallels observed by Donnelly become very pertinent indeed. If, furthermore, the Atlantis civilization was not a prehistoric culture of the tenth millennium BC, but a culture of the Early Bronze Age, as the description of Plato implies, then we might be justified in accepting the whole story as having a factual basis.
We know that during the Neolithic and Early Bronze Ages the entire earth was afflicted by a series of powerful seismic disturbances, involving cataclysmic earthquakes and volcanic eruptions. This "vast eruptive age" as Percy Fawcett called it, left its mark throughout the Mediterranean and western Europe. Sunken Neolithic villages and forests are still regularly located around the coasts of the British Isles and Denmark, as well as much further afield. In volcanically active regions, such as the Mid-Atlantic Ridge, the disturbances must have been incomparably more severe; and this has been confirmed by the discovery of sunken beaches and shorelines (often hundreds of metres down) off the coasts of the Azores.
The evidence, as I have shown in various places, suggests that Atlantis was an Early Bronze Age culture centred on a main island in the Azores (about the size of Ireland) and an archipelago of smaller islands straddling the Mid-Atlantic Ridge. These acted as stepping stones between the Old World and the New; and it was by means of these that the tobacco and cocaine, found in many Egyptian mummies, reached the Old World. Near the end of the Early Bronze Age, during the last of the great cosmic disturbances, the mid-Atlantic islands were sunk and the transatlantic connection severed. Yet the peoples on either side of the ocean remembered the lost islands and retained traditions and customs so strikingly similar that they could not have developed in such a way coincidentally.

Legend: The Genesis of Civilisation
Legend: The Genesis of Civilisation
by David Rohl
Edition: Paperback
Price: £7.24

3.0 out of 5 stars Good, but over-cautious, 27 Nov 2010
This book is an enjoyable and informative read, with David Rohl displaying his usual erudition and flair for explanation. The chapters dealing with the rise of the first civilizations are particularly intriguing, and the proofs listed of early Mesopotamian influence on Proto- and Early Dynastic Egypt have arguably put the question of Mesopotamia's influence of archaic Egypt beyond dispute.
Unlike most mainstream Egyptologists, Rohl is not afraid to question conventional dates and dating-systems, and his own "New Chronology" of Egyptian civilization would subtract about three and a half centuries from Egyptian dates as found in the textbooks. But this is overly cautious, and Rohl ignores a great body of evidence demanding a much more radical reduction in timescales. Take for example the Mesopotamian influence on early Egypt. This sounds remarkably like the culture-bearing migration from Mesopotamia to Egypt and Canaan recorded in the biblical story of Abraham. The two were never connected, of course, because the Abraham story is placed by conventional historians a thousand years after the founding of Egypt's First Dynasty. Yet it can be shown that everything, absolutely everything, about the Patriarch epoch, the epoch of Abraham, Joseph and Moses, indicates that it belongs in the Early Bronze Age. The Patriarch narratives are full of references to cultural and religious practices which point clearly in this direction. Among the most notable of these are: (a) Human sacrifice (mentioned in the Abraham story and the birth legend of Moses); (b) Religious use of ziggurats and pyramids (Jacob's "stairway to heaven", at the top of which was the "house of God".); (c) Mention of cosmic catastrophes (In Abraham, Joseph and Moses narratives); (d) References to Cosmic Pillar or Tower, and its destruction (In Abraham narrative).
It is in fact with Abraham that Hebrew history first connects with Egypt - and the connection was established, it appears, right at the beginning of the histories of the two peoples. We might note, for example, the striking phallic associations of both Abraham and Menes, the first pharaoh. The name Abraham actually means "father of many", and the Patriarch initiates the custom of circumcision, whilst the Egyptian Menes (or Mena or Min) clearly takes his name from the phallic god Min, who was also associated with circumcision and was perhaps the most important deity in Egypt at the beginning of the First Dynasty. Similarly, Jewish legend recalls that Abraham entered Egypt during the reign of the first pharaoh, and emphasizes that, when he arrived, the Egyptians were virtual barbarians, and to the Patriarch went the credit of teaching them the rudiments of civilization. (See Ginzberg, Legends of the Jews).
All this dramatically calls to mind the evidence of archaeology, which has revealed a culture-bearing migration from Mesopotamia to Egypt just before the beginning of the First Dynasty, which David Rohl has so ably illustrated.
If "Abraham" then, or the Abraham epoch, was contemporary with Menes, the first pharaoh, this has dramatic consequences for the whole of Egyptian and Hebrew history. Most immediately, it implies that the Patriarch Joseph, who brought the Hebrew tribes into Egypt, be identified with the Egyptian seer Imhotep, who laboured for pharaoh Djoser at the start of the Third Dynasty. Imhotep was the greatest and most celebrated of all Egyptian seers, who solved the crisis of a seven-year famine by interpreting Djoser's dream. In precisely the same way, biblical history tells us that, about two centuries after Abraham, a young Hebrew seer named Joseph became vizier to the pharaoh after solving the crisis of a seven-year famine by interpreting the king's dream.
Removing a thousand years from Egyptian chronology therefore seems to have the effect of producing a precise match between the histories of the two neighbouring peoples. And the matches continue through subsequent centuries. These however are missed by Rohl because he remains too cautious.

Hatchepsut: The Female Pharaoh
Hatchepsut: The Female Pharaoh
by Joyce Tyldesley
Edition: Paperback
Price: £11.99

0 of 1 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Interesting, but with Flaws, 26 Nov 2010
This is an informative and enjoyable book to read. Tyldsley's account of how Hatshepsut's existence and life-story was rediscovered in the nineteenth century is particularly interesting, and it is intriguing to learn that the earliest explorers believed the female pharaoh to be a man, owing to the masculine pronouns she used to describe herself on her monuments.
Yet there are serious weaknesses. Not least of these is Tyldsley's uncritical acceptance of conventional ideas on many controversial issues. She accepts, for example, that Punt, the destination of Hatshepsut's famous expedition, was in Africa (either Eritrea or Somalia). Yet there exists a great body of evidence, ignored by the author, to suggest that Punt was another name for the region of Syria/Palestine. Just a few examples is this material - and I could add much, much more - are the following: Punt was known as Ta Netjer ("Land of the God"), and the territory around Byblos was known by the same name. Furthermore, Hathor, Hatshepsut's tutelary deity, was called the "Lady of Punt," but she was also called the "Lady of Byblos." Again, Thutmose III claimed to have conquered "all the regions of Punt" in his first year; but the lands conquered by Thutmose III in his first year were in Palestine/Lebanon (and he never went anywhere near Eritrea or Somalia). The chief goal of Hatshepsut's expedition was to bring back incense trees from the "myrrh terraces" of Punt; but the Jordan Valley was anciently famous for its incense and myrrh, and the terraces upon which they were cultivated are there to this day. In the Book of Genesis, the Ishmaelites who take Joseph to Egypt are en route there from Gilead (east bank of the Jordan) with "balm of Gilead and myrrh." And the Jordan Valley, the lowest point on earth, has a tropical climate which, to this day, supports a typically "African" flora and fauna.
Another failing is the author's unquestioning acceptance of conventional dates and dating-systems and, in common with most mainstream Egyptologists, is seemingly unaware of the fact that Egyptian chronology as it stands has no scientific basis. The Eighteenth and Nineteenth Dynasties were originally placed in the fourteenth and fifteenth centuries BC because biblical scholars (beginning with Eusebius) were convinced that Ramses II was the pharaoh of the Exodus. This was because the Book of Exodus mentioned how "pharaoh" had forced the enslaved Israelites to build the cities of Pithom and Ramses. Since traditional biblical chronology placed the Exodus in the fifteenth or fourteenth century BC, this is where they placed Ramses II - and that is the position he still occupies to this day (subject to minor amendments inspired by Manetho's king lists).
Yet all the evidence, whether linguistic, artistic, cultural, or technological, suggests that the Eighteenth and Nineteenth Dynasties belong to a much more recent age. (A steel - not iron - dagger was found in Tutankhamun's tomb, whilst expressions and phrases in Hebrew in the Amarna Letters, contemporary with Tutakhamun, are identical to biblical Hebrew of the eighth and seventh century BC.). In fact, linguistic evidence as a whole strongly indicates that the Eighteenth Dynasty was contemporary with the Early Monarchy of Israel, and that the pharaohs of the time interacted with Hebrew kings. All the clues point to the fact that the Hebrew king with whom Hatshepsut interacted was Solomon.

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