Zecharia Sitchin, |
The Earth Chronicles Expeditions:
Journeys to the Mythical Past
(Bear & Co., 2004)
If you aren't familiar with the controversial theories of Zecharia Sitchin, I would recommend that you acquaint yourself with some or all of his previously published work, known collectively as the Earth Chronicles, before embarking on this personal tour of many of the ancient sites that inform his work. This is not to say that you have to be a fan of Sitchin -- or even agree with his ideas -- in order to appreciate The Earth Chronicles Expeditions: Journeys to the Mythical Past, however, for it is a unique travel guide featuring a large number of breathtaking images of some of the world's most ancient, venerated, and thought-provoking monuments and artifacts.
You will find no fewer than 158 black-and-white images as well as 60 beautiful, full-color photographs in these pages. The magnificence of the images is without question; Sitchin's theories about the origin and meaning of the sites and materials, however, are not. I am not going to debate the merits of Sitchin's theories in this review. Having read most of Sitchin's published works, I personally find his account of Earth's past fascinating, reasonably logical and even plausible -- certainly his ideas are worthy of thought and debate, although I would not go so far as to call myself a true believer (although I probably would qualify as a fan).
This particular book is primarily aimed at Sitchin's true believers and biggest fans, which makes the narrative somewhat problematic for those unfamiliar with Sitchin's work. Having argued the merits of his radical ideas in previous books, he tends to treat his theories as facts here -- and, while some of the discoveries he made on the research tours discussed here shaped his original thinking, on occasion he seemed to go looking for things that would support conclusions he had already drawn. My main point about the text, though, is this: in this particular book, Sitchin makes statements that would seem incredulous to the uninitiated.
To put it all in a hopelessly oversimplified nutshell, Sitchin believes that inhabitants of a "twelfth planet" in our solar system first arrived here on Earth millennia ago, basically created human life via genetic engineering and influenced the whole of human history in the form of gods. Nine previous books explain his theories and detail the evidence that led him to make his dramatic conclusions; this book covers his research tours and breathes new life into ancient sites -- it does not attempt to rehash the complicated arguments Sitchin has already documented elsewhere.
Sitchin is an accomplished scholar who has studied ancient history and archaeology all across the globe; he has an almost unparalleled grasp of ancient languages, especially that of the Sumerians and other early cultures of the Middle East; and he is also an accomplished Biblical scholar. Through his study of diverse artifacts and writings, he believes that the ancient tales of the gods, as well as the events recorded in the Hebrew Bible, were all true -- that the gods and goddesses of ancient history were real. The Earth Chronicles Expeditions is the equivalent of a virtual tour for his fans, taking them to some of the most significant sites all across the globe, from the Holy Land to Troy to Mesoamerica. Here, he describes what it is like to walk among ancient ruins, view fascinating artifacts thousands of years old, experience the history of long-dead peoples through fantastic murals that survive to this day, and marvel at the poignant power of religious sites such as the Temple Mount in Jerusalem.
A lot of the narrative describes the problems Sitchin faced in making these research tours possible. Political and religious conflicts in the Near East made travel arrangements to such places as Syria, Egypt and Israel over the last few decades tricky at best, and the artifacts he most wished to see were not always available for public viewing -- at least not without a little finagling on Sitchin's part, although his efforts were not always successful in getting him the access he wanted. The whole work is a little self-indulgent in places, and Sitchin sometimes sees things that I do not, but Expeditions makes for a fascinating and visually incredible excursion through time for those interested in Sitchin's theories. This, unlike the author's previous books, is very much a personal account, and as such it features some information and ideas that Sitchin has been pondering for years but felt himself unable to include in his more scholarly works. That makes this a must-read for Earth Chronicles fans.