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As Always With Menzies, Intriguing, But . . .,
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This review is from: The Lost Empire of Atlantis (Paperback)
Gavin Menzies is an impressively clever and imaginative man. As a retired Royal Navy submarine officer, he is a throwback to the days of the gifted amateur historian/archaeologists who sometimes made discoveries that had been overlooked by professionals, and who sometimes made gigantic misinterpretations of what they had "discovered." With Menzies its sometimes hard to tell which he has done. His experience in the Royal Navy has enabled him to analyze shipping routes and interpret the roles of currents and sea levels far better than many other historians with less sailing experience. But unfortunately his enthusiasm and tendency to make giant leaps of faith when interpreting data often leads him to exagerrate or to see connections where there really are none.
With The Lost Empire of Atlantis Menzies postulates that the Minoans of Crete created a world wide shipping and trading empire that stretched from the Middle East through Europe all the way to North America, and that this empire was the basis for the Atlantis legend, including its violent and sudden end when a volcanic eruption on the island of Thera devastated Crete around 1450 BCE. There's really nothing new in Menzies' connecting the Minoans to Atlantis, nor is there in his descriptions of Minoan civilization, which was indeed as advanced and artistic as he describes it. What's new is his idea that the Minoans sailed far and wide, for which he offers little real evidence. One supposed tobacco beetle corpse; possible evidence of tobacco, cocaine, and other Western Hemisphere drugs in Egyptian mummies (which he admits had been stored in museums and thus possibly contaminated for years); carvings and paintings that he claims depict maize, sunflowers, and tobacco but which are too faded or weathered to be certain; admittedly fascinatingly similar stone circles found all over Europe; these and many other pieces of evidence are indeed interesting, but none of it amounts to the absolute proof that Menzies seeks to make of it. Surely more than one tobacco beetle (which is actually found in many habitats, not just in North America) would have made its way to Crete if there had really been so much contact!
Its impossible to read The Lost Empire of Atlantis or any of Menzies' other books without developing a liking for the man. Much of this book reads like a travelogue as he journeys from place to place seeking and finding Minoan relicts (and once spending a night in jail!) and has an air of excitement that is frequently lacking in professional historians' works. But while he has an intriguing thesis and the evidence he cites deserves a closer look, in the end one has to render the verdict Not Proven.
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Showing 1-6 of 6 posts in this discussion
Initial post: Mar 3, 2012 1:43:09 AM PST
Amazon Customer says:
I posit this reviewer only read until he got to the tobacco beetle... if he had read to the end and the DNA section, would he be so dismissive of Mr Menzies? See my review of this book for my opinion.
In reply to an earlier post on Mar 3, 2012 5:08:08 AM PST
John D. Cofield says:
I read the entire book, including the sections on X and X2 DNA. Again, Mr. Menzies accepts a theory because it supports his overall thesis and ignores other explanations. Bryan Sykes' The Seven Daughters of Eve has more information on MTDNA, including the X haplotype.
In reply to an earlier post on May 25, 2012 5:19:11 AM PDT
Last edited by the author on May 25, 2012 5:27:44 AM PDT
I agree with you regarding Menzies light hearted treatment of the facts. He is really nothing but a showman, if not a fraud. I did find him likeable till I realized I had "been had" after doing some research on the subject. There is a book, The Destruction of Atlantis: Compelling Evidence of the Sudden Fall of the Legendary Civilization by Frank Joseph (its latest update is 2002) that point by point disproves the Minoan thesis for Atlantis. Much better written, more objective, and well-reasoned.
It is a travesty that Menzies is described this way by such respectable book reviewers:
"A DISTINGUISHED HISTORIAN." (BBC World Service )
"A HISTORICAL DETECTIVE, AS WELL AS A SCHOLAR, [WHO] ADDS TO OUR KNOWLEDGE OF THE WORLD, PAST AND PRESENT." (New York Daily News )
"ASTOUNDING . . . MENZIES SHOULD GET THE NOBEL AND PULITZER PRIZES FOR HIS WORK. WALK ALONG THE PATHWAYS OF DISCOVERY WITH HIM. IT IS A JOYOUS JAUNT." (San Bernadino Sun )
"I WANT TO CONGRATULATE GAVIN MENZIES ON A REMARKABLE JOB OF RESEARCH ... A CONVINCING CASE FOR THE ORIGIN OF THE ATLANTIS MYTH ... I RECOMMEND THE LOST EMPIRE OF ATLANTIS." (Betty Meggers, Director of the Latin American Archaeology Program at the Smithsonian Institution's National Museum of Natural History )
All that for old information with added junk history? A book that is silly on its surface once you know something about the ancient sources and their description of Atlantis? Those reviewers need to get another line of work.
In reply to an earlier post on Jul 12, 2013 7:34:27 PM PDT
Kent Clizbe says:
Although I'm only halfway through this book, I have to agree with the "showman" assessment.
It doesn't appear that Menzies is a fraud--because he's not really selling anything but himself and his hare-brained theories.
After the fifth story recounted by Menzies about his "research," he lost me. His "research" each time consists of his sitting at home drinking coffee, reading a newspaper article, and then traveling to a foreign country to visit a museum. His travelogue commentary takes up about 80% of the chapter, 15% is his description of what he viewed in the museum's cases, and the other 4% appears to be descriptions he borrows from guide books. The last 1% is his repetition of a limited array of "facts" that he's pre-determined to prove his "theory."
It's almost impossible to believe that someone pays him to write this drivel.
Luckily I did not purchase his book, but am reading it on an audio-book from the library.
Showman, self-satisfied know-it-all, fraud, whatever he is, Menzies sure as heck is not convincing.
But there's a sucker born every minute!
In reply to an earlier post on Jul 12, 2013 10:18:47 PM PDT
Thanks for the comment and your assessment of Menzies. As to this
<It doesn't appear that Menzies is a fraud--because he's not really selling anything but himself and his hare-brained theories. >
I guess it depends on one's definition of fraud, here is one dictionary's (Merriam Webster online) definition and I would say it fits Menzies:
1 a : deceit, trickery; b : an act of deceiving or misrepresenting : trick
2 a : a person who is not what he or she pretends to be : impostor"
deceit, trickery describe this man and his work most accurately. It is a disgrace the publishing world lets him get by with it time and time again.
In reply to an earlier post on Jul 13, 2013 6:14:08 AM PDT
Last edited by the author on Jul 13, 2013 6:15:01 AM PDT
Kent Clizbe says:
The beauty of Menzies' scam is that he is NOT misrepresenting himself--he is EXACTLY what he claims to be.
He waves his hands, tells some stories about visiting museums, fantasizes about some fantastic alternate reality, and asks what do you think of his stories.
He's not claiming that he is the 32nd generation of Atlantean commodores reincarnated.
So, I'm still reluctant to call him a fraud. He's a fantasist, a dreamer, a half-cocked babbler. Sort of like the drunken sailor you meet in a bar who prattles on about the time he saw a mermaid.
I think that the publishers and marketers of Menzies' schtick come closer to fraud than he does. He's simply telling his stories--his business handlers are the ones who are peddling them--selling fantasy dressed up as a "scientific study." They are the real culprits--Menzies is just along for the ride--the drunken sailor dressed up and paraded around by handlers who sell tickets to hear him talk about the mermaid.
But, we're on the same page--his "theory" is a crock and he's s a genial crackpot.
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