Oliver D. Smith
Independent researcher • amateur meteorologist • cereologist • editor of the Mammatus Journal. 🛸
Cloud Appreciation Society ☁️ member #58402.
Born in 1990. I grew up fascinated with UFOs (and crop circles). While most researchers focus on 20th century, or contemporary UFO reports, I am primarily interested in UFOs in ancient Greek and Roman literature (see Stothers, 2007). This led me to study BA (Hons) Classical Civilisation at the University of Roehampton and MA Classical Studies at The Open University. My original undergraduate dissertation (in 2013) was on Roman UFOs but it was deemed too much of a fringe topic – so I ended up writing on Plato’s Atlantis instead. Over the years, I have published articles on UFOs, Atlantis, cryptozoology, and various other peculiar things. I have been labelled a ‘Fortean’ but I do not like this label nor have a high opinion of Charles Fort (I prefer William Corliss). A FAQ about my views and research can be read here.
🔓 = open access | 🔐 = paywall | ✓ = peer-review | ✗ = failed review | 🗉 = supplement/errata/note.
“The Origin of the Yeti in Tibetan Buddhism,” Sino-Platonic Papers [under review].
“The Wildman of China: The Search for the Yeren,” Sino-Platonic Papers no. 309 (2021): 1-17.
In ancient Chinese literature there are several mentions of hairy humanlike beings, and eyewitness reports of the yeren (“wildman”) in China have persisted into the modern era. Dozens of alleged sightings of the Chinese wildman in the forests of Shennongjia (northwestern Hubei) eventually prompted a large-scale expedition of scientists to investigate the region in 1977. This article discusses three possible explanations for the Chinese Wildman. It concludes that the yeren is not an unidentified or elusive animal species, as some have proposed, but rather that stories about the wildman probably originated in early encounters of the Chinese with bearded European peoples. In fact traditions regarding the wildman in China can be traced back to the Qin dynasty when Chinese first encountered Greeks in the Far East and, unfamiliar with their hairier physical appearance, originated stories about a semi-human being.
“The Real Treasure Island and the Kidd-Palmer Charts,” Shima [under review].
“Why is Plato’s Atlantis Story Fiction?,” New Classicists [under review].
“Roman UFOs and Atmospheric Optics,” Mammatus Journal 1 (2023) [in press].
“Nessie and Noctilucent Clouds,*” Coolabah 34 (2023) [in press].
*A Meteorological Explanation for Some Loch Ness Monster Sightings
Since the 1930s there have been over a thousand recorded sightings of monsters in Loch Ness, Scotland. The consensus of experts is these reports of mysterious creatures (known in Scottish Highlands folklore as Nessie) have mundane or prosaic explanations such as hoaxes, wakes, mirages, misidentifications of floating objects (e.g., natural debris, boats) and known native fauna (e.g., deer, otters, diving birds), opposed to extraordinary or unusual explanations such as exotic fauna, escaped animals from traveling circuses, relict plesiosaurs and unknown or elusive species (e.g., ‘long-necked’ pinniped, giant eel). After providing an overview of the different hypotheses and a history of the search for the Loch Ness Monster – the author of this paper argues a rare meteorological phenomenon might explain some monster sightings in the loch during twilight hours between May and August – reflections of noctilucent clouds (NLCs).
“A New Suggested Site for Troy (Yenibademli Höyük),” AJHIS 8, no. 1 (2022): 81-98.
Abstract 🔓 ✓
Nearly all archaeologists identify the remains of Troy with Hisarlik. This article in contrast looks at some alternative suggested locations and finding them to be implausible suggests a Bronze Age site – Yenibademli Höyük – on the North Aegean Island Imbros (Gökçeada). The popular identification of Hisarlik with Troy is questioned and doubted. It is argued on the basis of an ancient tradition Hisarlik cannot be the site of Troy and reveals descriptions from the Iliad are not compatible with Hisarlik.
“The Wrong Approach to Atlantis,” Amphora 2 (2021).
Abstract ✗ 🗉
Proponents of Atlantis as a real place cannot agree where the island was located. Atlantis location hypotheses include: Azores, Bolivia, Crete, Cyprus, Iberian Peninsula, Ireland, Lake Copais (Greece), Lydia (Turkey), Malta, Morocco, Sardinia, Sicily, Thera, and dozens, if not hundreds more. This article argues this is a wrong and futile approach. Although the author defends the view Atlantis is a fictional rather than real place, he shows how the island (albeit with extremely low probability) could have been real without identifying it.
“A Checklist of Hypotheses for the Yeti,” Academia Letters no. 2845 (2021): 1-12.
Abstract 🔓 ✓ 🗉
This paper provides a checklist of 35 hypotheses concerning the identity of the yeti – a hairy creature in Sherpa folklore, Tibetan literature, and cryptozoology. Most scientists dismiss the idea the yeti is an unidentified animal and instead suggest known animal misidentifications such as bears (e.g., Ursus thibetanus thibetanus) to explain yeti stories by the Sherpa as well as reported sightings of the creature at high altitudes in the Eastern Himalayas. Reports of yeti tracks in the snow have been explained by many different animals.
“Atlantis and the Minoans,” Rosetta 25 (2020).
Abstract ✗ 🗉
In the 1960s and early 1970s it was fashionable among academics to identify Atlantis with Minoan Crete or Thera (Santorini) in the Aegean Sea. This Minoan hypothesis or Thera-Cretan theory was proposed in 1909 but did not attract much attention until it was popularised by three books in 1969. However, the hypothesis was criticised and arguably refuted in the late 1970s. Today there is consensus among archaeologists Atlantis never existed. This article details the background, heyday, and demise of the Minoan hypothesis, furthermore, it looks at why the Thera-Cretan theory collapsed.
“An Alternative Site for Troy on Imbros (Gökçeada),” Kerberos 2, no. 2 (2020): 61-70.
Abstract 🔓 ✓
Nearly all classicists identify the legendary city of Troy with Hisarlik, Turkey. However, this location is not proven, nor universally accepted. This article proposes an alternative location hypothesis for Troy about 45 miles northwest of Hisarlik on the island Imbros (Gökçeada), and further identifies the Trojan citadel (Ilios) with the archaeological mound Yenibademli Höyük.
“In Search of the Pillars of Heracles,” Kerberos 1, no. 3 (2019): 69-76.
Abstract 🔓 ✓
The Pillars of Heracles were columns ancient Greeks regarded as marking the boundaries of the furthest west. In Greek mythology, Heracles laid down the columns when sailing to the island Erytheia at the edge of the world. It is argued the original columns were located during the time of Homer (late 8th century BCE) and Hesiod (c. 700 BCE) at Epirus (northwestern Greece) but were relocated to the south Iberian Peninsula in the 630s BCE, when Greeks expanded their geographical horizon and began trading with Tartesso Iberians.
“Hesiod and Geomythology,” Logoi 1 (2018): 1-11.
Abstract 🔓 ✓ 🗉
The ancient Greeks had a myth about five successional kinds (ages) of mankind: gold, silver, bronze, heroic and iron. While most classicists accept the last three kinds have some basis in historical truth (interpreting them as the archaeological sequence of bronze and iron metalworking), the silver or gold kinds are instead treated as metaphorical or symbolic. In this article it is instead argued for a geomythological interpretation; the first two metals as a folk memory of the Neolithic, when deposits of these metals were discovered.
“Nekromanteion of Acheron,*” NEO: The Classics Students’ Journal 1 (2017).
Abstract ✗ 🗉
In the 1960s, the archaeologist Sotirios Dakaris identified the site of the Necromanteion (Νεκρομαντεῖον)
“The Atlantis Story: An Authentic Oral Tradition?,” Shima 10, no. 2 (2016) 10-17.
Abstract 🔓 ✓ 🗉
The story of Atlantis appears in Plato’s Timaeus-Critias (c. 355 BCE) as an oral tradition Solon acquired in Egypt and adapted into an epic poem, but which he left unfinished. Nevertheless, Solon told the story to his family relative Dropides, who passed it orally to his son (Critias the elder), who in turn told it to his grandson (Critias the younger). Either this oral transmission actually took place, or Plato was the fabricator. If the latter, the entire tradition (including the island of Atlantis) is likely to be fiction. This article shows there is a lack of evidence for the Atlantis story being an authentic oral tradition and highlights problems with the transmission. Supposing oral retellings of the tradition did take place, it is seemingly impossible to distinguish fact from fiction in the story since the tale of Atlantis must have been garbled as it was retold over generations; reciting a tradition by word of mouth is unreliable.
“James Mavor’s Voyage to Atlantis,” (2014).
“Atlantis as Troy? A Rebuttal of Eberhard Zangger’s Hypothesis,” Damysos 1 (2012): 4-9. ✓
“Atlantis in Thessaly,” Damysos: Roehampton’s Classics Journal 1 (2012): 1-3. 🗉 ✓
“Roman Phantom Ships and Superior Mirages,” Rosetta [under review]
“Lusca and Blue Holes: A Folk Memory of Hurricanes,” Mammatus Journal 1 (2023) [in press].
“Atlantis, Lake Tritonis and Pharos,” The Robert Graves Review 1, no. 1 (2021): 207-209. 🔓✓
“Chariots and Soldiers in the Sky: Judaea (66 CE),” SUNlite 14, no. 4 (2022): 11-12. 🔓
“Ancient Observations of Ball Lightning,” Strange Natural Phenomena 1 (2019): 4-7.
“Alternative Location Hypotheses of Troy,” Fate (June 3, 2022). 🗉 🔓
“Greek Myth and the Relict Hominoid Hypothesis: Satyrs and Neanderthals,” The Open University Classical Studies Postgraduate WiP Day, Milton Keynes (May 9, 2019). 🔓
“Atlantis: Fact or Fiction?,” University of Roehampton, London (April 24, 2013). 🗉 [abstract]
The Robert Graves Review, Volume 1, Issue 1 (Oxford: Robert Graves Society, 2021). 🗉
Atlantis in Greece (Morrisville, NC: Lulu Books, 2014).