Saturday, February 13, 2010
Tea-Drinking and Excavations: The Adventures of Ben Hammott
In November last year I saw, and wrote an review of, Bruce Burgess documentary Bloodline. I've seen work by Mr Burgess before, and though I like him as a character and the subjects he focuses on, I've always felt that he is very, very uncritical. Bloodline is, of course, about the theory that Mary Magdalena and Jesus had children and that their dad probably survived and moved to France, or just died on the cross and was buried there. This is not a new theory at all, but it became very popular when Dan Brown hit gold with The Da Vinci Code. The first time this was mentioned was in the nine or tenth century, and has been discussed ever since. Anyway, I wrote about the documentary and also about a detail that I thought was fishy - and good some unexpected feedback.
Bloodline features Ben Hammott (an anagram for The Tomb Man), a British hobby-researcher that claims that he found a tomb outside Rennes-le-Château. He found it through decoding the clues that the priest Bérenger Saunière has buried around the landscape. Bruce follows Ben on the hunt, and they also finds some interesting stuff and films the tomb! This is sensational stuff, but somehow it's TO good. It's like a movie, a novel. Something made up using wild imagination. But still, it has nothing to do with UFO's, Bigfoot, Yetis or ghost - so why not.
Ben commented on my second post about the Bloodline-documentary, and he's a nice bloke and obviously a good salesman too, so I bought his monster of a book, over 600 pages of facts about his quest for the treasure and tomb: Lost Tomb of the Knights Templar! So, what do we have here? First of all, it's a very detailed account of his interest in the Rennes-le-Château-mystery, from how he first saw a documentary about it on TV and how this led him to go on expeditions first together with his brother Mick and then together with other fellow researchers. What happens in the documentary seem to take five minutes, which raised my suspicions about a hoax, but according to the book it involved more people over a long period, and many hours on every place they found a lead. But that would probably be to boring to show in a documentary.
Some stuff is... no, I just don't agree with Mr Hammott on everything. It seem to far-fetched. But on the other hand, there's stuff that's very impressive. Would you risk everything, many years of your life, career, friends, family, to just make such an elaborate hoax? Maybe, but the down-to-earth style of Ben Hammott makes me believe that he's on to something here. He also himself admits to stuff that some of his critics had said before and after - and also seem convinced that some of the leads was made to "real" leads by Saunière by just using the details in them without changing anything himself, which seem more logical in many of the cases.
But 600 pages of dry facts, turning of stones and walking in the French forests wouldn't be so interesting if it wasn't good written, and to my surprise (I have to admit), it's not a bad writer we have here. Ben writes with a lot of that classic British dry humor, with small witty remarks - sometimes a bit to mean - but still very funny. If you're not that interested in the mystery, this is also quite a good travel book with a lot of information about culture, nature, food and friendships. And tea-drinking. LOTS of tea-drinking.
My advice to you who are interested, is to read the book first (the link is to Ben Hammotts official site). After that, go buy the DVD and see some of the stuff for real. Lost Tomb of the Knights Templar is the child of Ben Hammott, and it shows. This is his life (and I hope his wife can stand him!) and is labor of love and passion.
I'm still a skeptic, but boy, this was great reading!