I've always been interested in history, and occasionally I like to dip my toes in "alternative" history, or history that the "mainstream" historians don't necessarily agree with. I don't always believe them, but they can come up with some interesting theories and mysteries that are hard to explain. It was with that feeling that I picked up Unearthing Ancient America, a compilation of articles from Ancient American magazine edited by Frank Joseph. The 37 articles here range from Roman coins found off the coast of New Jersey to Vikings in Minnesota and Templars in Newfoundland. The articles themselves are very interesting, a good read for anybody who has an interest in ancient America. That's assuming they're not one of the "censors" keeping all of this information from the general public, of course…
The book is divided into a series of chapters, from Ancient Artifacts to Subterranean Mysteries and Underwater Discoveries. The subject matter varies widely, with a several articles on copper-trading barons in the Great Lakes area, a Crystal Pyramid of Wisconsin's Rock Lake and various figurines and artifacts found either underwater or in deep Midwestern caves. Thus, the reader never gets bored with one subject as the next article could be on something quite different (occasionally a follow-up or supplementary article follows the first one). For those who have only read, or are only familiar with, the popular history of the country, most of these articles are intriguing, even if some offer more evidence for their theories than others.
Occasionally, the author of an article goes "way out there" and comes to some wild conclusions, but thankfully not often. The most radical piece (in terms of the limits of my believability, anyway) is a short article by Dr. John White entitled "Pre-Columbian Hebrews in Michigan," based on a cave drawing that looks kind of like a Menorah on a three-legged stand. On the other hand, given how basic the drawing is, it could be a comb on a three-legged stand. It seems quite a stretch to figure it's a Menorah when that symbol could mean anything. Granted,
White does spend a third of the article (it's only a page long) cautioning the reader, finally stating "Such encounters may be exciting, but we must remember that alleged discoveries are often explained by unforeseen realities." (page 182).
Some of the authors grant that what they're talking about might not be the truth, though they do believe it's worth investigating based on what they’ve found so far. "Mainstream" scholars often point to the findings of artifacts or strange structures and call them hoaxes, and when the evidence can't be found, the authors admit that it could very well be a hoax. This usually happens when the person who found the thing refuses to show it to anybody but still makes claims based on what he or she has found. Sometimes the article's author makes a good case for why the original discovery should be hidden; other times they point out that the discovery was reported but suppressed by the government or historical organization to which it was reported.
Most of the articles are interesting in their own way and all of them are short, but occasionally one takes forever to wade through as the authors spend so much time detailing every little bit of their discovery and theories that they forget to actually make it interesting to the reader (with the exception of the small subset of people who might be as fascinated as the authors with what they found). The most obvious example is "Sweden's Iron Age Monument to Transatlantic Voyages" by Reinoud de Jonge and Jay Stuart Wakefield. They detail a circle of megaliths in Sweden whose stones seem organized in such a way as to symbolize various trans-Atlantic voyages, with the positions of the stones actually corresponding to various latitudes. They go into great detail with example after example until my eyes started to glaze over. It's the longest article in the book and also the least interesting, at least to me.
Still, Unearthing Ancient America has a lot to recommend it. There is, of course, the occasional sniping at mainstream historians and scholars who want to keep all of this quiet (the introduction features the bulk of this, though some of the articles do, too), but most of the time they provide good detail on what the discovery is and what it could mean (Egyptians in the Midwest, an ancient civilization with a massive copper-mining conglomerate in Michigan, or an underground city in the Grand Canyon). It's fascinating stuff and kept me interested as I made my way through the almost-300 pages of the book. Most of the articles are short and to the point, which makes picking the book up and reading in small segments easy.
Keep an open mind when you're reading and you should enjoy it - unless, of course, you're one of these vile censors who would love nothing more than to make sure the "standard" history of America is all that people know. If that is you, I would bet that Frank Joseph is willing to take you on one-on-one.