by Peter James & Nick Thorpe
Reviewed by Steven H Silver
Peter James and Nick Thorpe have elected to present several "Ancient Mysteries" and their explanations, or at least possible explanations, in their newest book. What these two authors have chosen to do is to look at legends, myths and the ruins in the ancient world and attempt to come up with rational explanations to explain the stories which have survived to the present day.
In many ways, this book is simply a compilation of some of the more esoteric and controversial theories explaining these "mysteries." However, James and Thorpe present nearly all of the mysteries as having explanations, frequently eliding the counter-arguments against them, with the result that many of their mysteries appear solved. Unfortunately, their refusal to fully explain the credentials of both their theories advocates and detractors and how they fit into an overall view of the history tends to diminish the reader's confidence in their solutions.
The strongest point of their book is the fact that the majority of their explanations make logical sense and provide answers to these mysteries. However, this implies that history and human civilizations and cultures are logical in the same manner that modern civilization is logical.
The tone of James and Thorpe's writing is such that it inspires skepticism whenever they discuss authorities on a particular subject. Trained archaeologists, they seem to be saying, have bought into the prevalent view of history and can therefore not be trusted to really study these mysteries. Instead, the seem to support any half-way plausible theory which challenges accepted explanation while paying lip service to any reasonable doubt concerning these theories.
On an aesthetic note, chapters in Ancient Mysteries are not separated by the beginning of the page, which makes the book have a slightly cluttered and unclean look. It would have been easier to read and to skim through if the page layout have followed a more logical process.
Ancient Mysteries offers interesting and provoking reading material, but the theories in the book shouldn't be taken too seriously. Perhaps the most useful portion of the book is the relatively sparse bibliography which they include at the end and which will direct the reader to more thorough examinations on their topics, both traditional and more imaginative.
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