Researches into the Lost Histories of America (1883 book)
From Kook Science
|William Stephens Blacket
|Trübner & Co.
|Atlantis, the Americas
Researches into the Lost Histories of America: Or, The Zodiac Shown to be an Old Terrestrial Map in which the Atlantic Isle is Delineated; So that Light Can be Thrown Upon the Obscure Histories of the Earthworks and Ruined Cities of America is a book, authored by William Stephens Blacket and published in 1883, which details a range of hypotheses about the historical existence of Atlantis in the Americas, building from the author's belief that "the Zodiacs are terrestrial maps, by which it is seen that America formed a part of the known world in the Mythic Age; in Greek traditionary history America appears as Oceanus; the Icelandic and Scandinavian mythology contained a geography of it; the legends and stories of Atlantis relate to it; the pedigree of Titan is in accord with the ethnology of Mexico; Mexico is the Great Dragon, Prometheus and Medusa of mythology; Saturn or Cronus was the emperor of the people who built the earthworks of the Ohio and Mississippi Valleys; the mysterious ruins of Central America compare with Plato's Atlantis; [and] the sculptured edifices, cyclopean buildings of Western Europe attest the presence of American races," (notably the Apalachian Indians being accredited as the builders of Stonehenge).
- Blacket, W. S. (1883), Researches into the Lost Histories of America: Or, The Zodiac Shown to be an Old Terrestrial Map in which the Atlantic Isle is Delineated; So that Light Can be Thrown Upon the Obscure Histories of the Earthworks and Ruined Cities of America, London: Trübner & Co., https://catalog.hathitrust.org/Record/005994160
- Blacket, W. S. (1884), Researches into the Lost Histories of America (...), London: Trübner & Co.; Philadelphia: J. B. Lippincott & Co., https://archive.org/details/researchesintolo00blaciala
Walford's Antiquarian Magazine & Bibliographer (5:25, Jan. 1884)
The wit who defined history to be "a lie with a circumstance," probably little suspected how much truth was in his sharp-edged saying. Certainly if the theories enunciated in the book before us will stand the test of learned investigation we must cast our preconceived notions, as to a great portion of the annals of the ancient world, to the winds. It is sufficiently startling, at the outset, to be told that the ancients figuratively embodied their knowledge of the geography of the world, including America, in the names of the signs of the zodiac, and we should have been inclined to condemn the book as a mere quasi-historical romance, were it not for the vraisemblance with which the author contrives to invest the evidence in favour of his extraordinary theory. That America, or rather the extreme north of that continent, was known to the Scandinavians long before the date of the voyage of Columbus has long been the opinion of many, but this work attempts to prove that not only many of the myths of Iceland and Norway, but also a great part of the Greek mythology allegorically refers to the Atlantic Isle which our author identifies with America. For instance, Mr. Blacket makes the Titan Oceanus identical with North America personified. After that, it is comparatively a small thing to make South America the land of the demons, and to find the River Styx in the Gulf of Mexico. Very ingenious are some of the arguments with which the author supports the claims of his restoration of lost history, and if he does not absolutely prove his hypotheses, he at any rate shows great perceptive power and breadth of vision in the process of reasoning. A remarkable element in the writer's character is his patriotism, which is shown not only in his quietly appropriating to Yankeedom the myths of the Greeks and Hindoos, but also in his concluding words: "One thing is certain; it will add another star to the banner of the Stars and Stripes when the literati of the United States shall produce a record of the world's past existence, in which America and the American people shall be put into their proper place in History," on which we shall make no other comment than the words of the Western preacher celebrated by Jules Verve, "In the beginning was America."
Transactions, Bristol & Gloucestershire Archaeological Society, 1883-1884
THE vast remains of ancient races on the American continent from the day of their discovery to the present have been considered an unfathomable mystery. No antiquary, so far as we know, has ever attempted to investigate them upon any scientific principle. That they were raised by numerous and powerful races possessing a high degree of civilization is self-evident, nevertheless their history has by general consent been deemed impenetrable — absolutely and entirely for ever lost.
The author of the remarkable work before us has undertaken to unfold the closed scroll and to display before our eyes the lost history of those great and powerful empires which would appear to have disappeared from off the face of the earth, leaving these marvellous and stupendous works as the only evidence of having ever existed. Mr. Blacket's method is as surprising as it is ingenious, and we are bound to add, it is not unreasonable.
The ancient Americans must have had a history, and we think a history well deserving the researches and careful consideration of the learned. The difficulty has been that no basis has been discovered upon which to found a theory. Everyone who has given any serious thought to the subject has been groping in impenetrable darkness. Mr. Blacket has made a bold plunge. He has spread out before us the celestial map, and on comparing the constellations with the myths of the ancient classical writers, considers that he has found the means to remove the veil which has shrouded this great mystery from our sight.
We are all aware that ancient maps are very unlike those formed upon scientific principles which are now in use. Mr. Blacket points out that those which go by the names of Herodotus, Strabo and other ancient geographers, convey the probable idea of the form of the earth in the old system of geography, but these maps shew no indication of America. On the other hand, however, the ancient Japanese maps have the coast line of America as well delineated as the lands of Asia and Europe, and he prints an old Hindoo map of the world, in which, in the fashion of the time, America is distinctly laid down. The space at our command will not admit of our entering into details and, indeed, were it otherwise our observations would be unintelligible without illustrations.
The author's theory is that the Zodiacs are terrestrial maps of the mystic ages by which it is seen that America formed a part of the known world at that early period and that it was set in the stars. He says " that the Zodiacal map is, in point of fact, a good delineation of the countries of the ancient world. The signs adapt themselves to the countries that are beneath them, and this he says, must be proved or the argument fails. There ought to be a universal agreement between the constellations and the nations that lie beneath them. They ought to agree in name, nature and place. If the sign is a human being ho ought to be the proper person to educe the histories of the country. If it is an animal it ought to be some animal peculiar to the country, and the animal ought to have the name of the nation it represents. If the sign is a fish the sign ought to overhang some sea, or to lie along some sea coast. In all cases the position of the sign must correspond with the relative position of the surrounding countries" (17). These are the principles upon which his argument is based.
As regards America all the countries are placed under the light of mythology. The author states that his is "a comprehensive attempt to pry into the antiquities of the laud by giving considerable attention to the mysterious writings of the ancients." With respect to America he takes each of the Zodiacal signs separately, and examines the adaptation of the constellation to the locality, and we must admit that in the main his arguments are worthy of attention.
Not the least interesting portions of the work are the comparisons of the antiquities discovered in America with the same class of representations handed down from the Greeks and historically known ancient peoples. In these comparisons the same conception is apparent, though the expression is differently conveyed. This is shewn by a Mexican figure of Atlas, from Lord Kingsborough's Mexican Antiquities being placed, for comparison, in juxtaposition with a Greek Atlas. The Mexican figure carries the simple vault of heaven, whilst the Greek Atlas bears upon his shoulders the spherical form of the earth, exhibiting a more advanced state of astronomical knowledge, and the author raises the question as to which is the type and which the antetype, and says the rule that must decide the question is that the simple is the father to the complex, and that, therefore, the Mexican must necessarily be the oldest.
The general result of the author's studies and researches is that at some unknown and remote era there must have been an Asiatic pre-occupation of America, which amalgamated with what may be called the aboriginal inhabitants, forming two powerful kingdoms, that of Mexico or North America and that of Peru or South America, and that the former, in process of time, became sub-divided into two great nationalities.
A great deal of evidence is exhibited to shew that the existence of America was well known to the ancients, that there must have been maritime intercourse between the hemispheres, and that it is probable that Egypt and India received their astronomical knowledge from central America. That from some causes which are not very apparent, great wars arose between the two North American kingdoms we have mentioned above, which led to a great exodus into Europe and Africa from the transatlantic lands. In the mythic stories of the ancient nations we have, the author thinks, a traditional account of the irruption of these powerful and warlike races. In the opening of real history an account is given of these transactions. Plato, the father of history, who died 384 years B.C., speaks in his Critias of this eruption. He says: "First of all let us recollect that it is about 9000 years since war was proclaimed between those dwelling outside the Pillars of Hercules and all those within them. Of the latter party then this city (Athens) was the leader. Of the former the Kings of the Atlantic Islands. To the Gods was once locally allotted the whole earth: — different Gods having received by lot, different regions, proceeded to cultivate them. But Hephaestus and Athena, having a common nature, from having the same father, arranged the order of government." He says further that, "in the distribution of the earth Poseidon got, as his lot, the Atlantic Island, begot children by a mortal woman and settled in the island." The passage is too long to quote further. It will be observed that Plato speaks of this warlike eruption as great, and though it happened 9000 years before his time as a well known fact, and Mr. Blacket considers that though the knowledge must have been preserved by mythic traditions, he is justified in using these traditions in the construction of his work.
America was known to the Egyptians as the Atlantic Isle, which is described also by Plato in his Timaeus. He says "the Island was larger than Libya and Asia put together, and that it was reached by travellers, who first landed on islands before they reached the main land." They, like Columbus, reached the West India islands first. The invasion of Africa and Europe referred to, constitutes, Mr. Blacket says, a very large portion of the mythology of all nations. It has been supposed that this island through some great convulsion of the earth must have sunk in the sea, but that would be impossible, for according to the description, it would be 8000 miles across. It is more probable that it was only lost because the ancient mariners had not the power or the courage to proceed sufficiently far west to find it.
We must not attempt to follow the author through the analysis of the ancient myths or to sum up his argument for the application of them historically and ethnologically. Upon these points we must refer the reader to the work itself. Doubtless exception may be taken to some of his theories. He is, however, an able man and a scholar, and it must be borne in mind that he is walking in untrodden paths. The work is full of very curious and interesting facts, and will be read with much interest. It is in itself so closely condensed as not to admit of justice being done to it in a short notice. It must be read to be understood, and the author courts criticism.
- Thayer, Thomas B., ed. (1885), "Recent Contributions to North American Ethnology", Universalist Quarterly and General Review, 22, Boston: Universalist Publishing House, p. 196-197, https://babel.hathitrust.org/cgi/pt?id=hvd.ah6myb&view=1up&seq=208
- Blacket, Lost Histories, p. 247