A 12th Century Englishman in Arizona : Unearthed America Episode 2

Time for Episode Two! Again, there is just too much to cover here, so if you’re just looking for a brief rundown feel free to skip to the In Summary section at the bottom, but don’t be surprised if you ask me a question later I tell you to read the whole post. That said, let’s get to this.

This episode we begin with thundering percussions and the images of two zombies, or wounded men, stumbling along in what could be a desert. The music turns creepy, further enforcing the images of zombies, then one guy drops, apparently dead, and the other guy hoists him up and carries him off. Eventually the surviving man collapse in a cave and is given water by a wide eyed and fully decorated generic Native Man. Then we see the surviving man covering the dead man’s hand with dirt, and then, finally carving runes into a piece of stone with a metal chisel and rock.

This riveting bit of silent cinema pretty much presents the whole premise of the episode, but not in any way that is intelligible. In order to make sense of the scene we just witnessed, we need Scott Wolter.

We met Wolter in episode one, and if you want to recap his creds and such, go back and read the first bit of that post. Unless something new develops, I’m not going back over all that.

So now in episode two we catch up to Wolter in the modern day in his research laboratory in Minnesota. The whole scene is set up like something from the Da Vinci Code movies complete with mysterious adventure music, further hinting at some great mystery that is about to be revealed to us.

Wolter is sitting pensively at his desk and is apparently opening his daily mail, where he receives a handwritten letter. The letter tells Wolter of another American Runestone, this time in Arizona, and could Wolter come look at it since he worked on the Kensington Runestone? Well, of course we can!

So now we’re watching driving footage of Wolter set to riveting music as dry grass and barbed wire roll past. We’re heading out to the Mustang Mountains in Sierra Vista, Arizona.

Once we get there we meet Paul Weishaupt and Jim Cardamone, two local rock climbers from around the area. Honestly, I want to say, these guys are hard core. They are easily old enough to be my grandfathers, and they are still rock-climbing like teenagers.

Wolter asks them how they found the location of the runestone and Weishaupt mentions an old story he heard from a rancher about a missing archeological site. Then one day he and Cardamone were looking for new places to rock climb, I assume because they’ve already conquered the known mountain range, and they came on a cave with rock art and decided this must be the missing site. While they were looking around they noticed the stone outside the cave.

Wolter wants to know when they are going to take him to see it, and they give each other a knowing look. They tell Wolter that they’re going to take him up tomorrow, in 99 degree weather, up a slope that’s known for shifting underfoot. Wolter is, understandably, a little apprehensive about it, but the next shot we get is a clear 5am morning scene of Wolter packing in for the long hike. Seriously, 5am, 99 degree weather, slidey rocks, these dudes are hard core, I mean that with all sincerity.

Anyway, today we add a person to the crew. Steve Ross, he is the State Land Department Archaeologist for Arizona. He’s in charge of all the archaeological resources in Arizona, or his department is, and if his department is like mine, he’s got his hands full with day to day work. So it’s really nice of him to take time out to do this, though from the look of him he’s not unfamiliar with the terrain. Basically, he’s there to make sure nothing happens to the actual archaeological site and Wolter et al are about to hike into.

Ross explains that the cave and its art was recorded in 1984, and has been known by the state since. Apparently, Weishaupt and Cardamone called him about it when they discovered the site, which is the responsible and legal thing to do in pretty every state in the Union, just FYI. Now all we have to do is climb up to the site, and again Weishaupt and Cardamone lead the charge with pretty much everyone else lagging behind. Dudes are machines.

As we approach the cave though, the music and cinematography changes from Lord of the Rings to creepy horror music. We do get our first really glimpse of the stone though, and even with the brief and quickly panning shots of the rock you can tell it’s new. You can see every strike mark from the chisel, the lines are so fresh you can still see the edges, there is no weathering on the stone at all. You can see the disappointment on Wolter’s face when he sees the stone. It’s going to be hard to pass this off as an actual artifact, but it doesn’t take Wolter long to recover. Wolter tells us he knows a guy who knows runes, and so he snaps a picture on his phone and emails it off.

Ross tells us that when the site was recorded in 1984, there was no mention of the runestone. This, I think is what gets Wolter fired up again. I’ve noticed he doesn’t like “academics” telling him things. So Wolter makes an accusation that whoever located the site, purposefully didn’t recorded the runestone. Ross patiently explains to Wolter that everything present gets recorded on survey, no matter how recent or weird, Wolter doesn’t seems convinced.

Since they’ve climb all the way up there, and I presume it’s getting hot, Wolter decides to look around and pretty much everyone seeks shelter inside the cave. We get to look at the rock art, and Wolter again insists that the nested circles are spiral and so the art must be a starmap, and he tries to say something about Archaeoastronomy again. Ross assures Wolter that he knows what Archaeoastronomy is.

While we’re in the cave Wolter makes a comment about the walls of the cave showing evidence of having material removed. Ross agrees and he points out that the floor of the cave by the mouth of the cave has been removed. He tells us that this is a common Looting practice. For those who don’t know, Looting is where people come to known sites and try to dig them up without permission in order to find artifacts they want to keep for themselves or sell on the black market. It’s illegal and all around a lame thing to do. Don’t be lame, don’t loot.

Back to the show, Wolter decided that the looting is good news, because that explains why the stone looks so new. It originally must have been buried and the looters must have uncovered it. Then the looters left it to sit in the open instead of trying to take it with them? It is a big rock, but then again, looters are known for taking stone cutting saws to rock art in ordered to cut it from the rock face in order to sell it, so why this would have slowed them down I have no idea.

Here is also where my issues with Ross start. I know he’s trying to be nice, he’s trying to deflect the weird, and I think he’s trying to not set Wolter off. He obviously doesn’t agree with anything Wolter is saying, or continues to say, but he is trying to be way too diplomatic when dealing with Wolter. Because of this he almost comes off as agreeing with Wolter on many occasions. I’m not sure how much of this is accidental, on purpose, or how much is editing after the fact. If anyone has connections with Ross I’d love to ask him if he’d be willing to talk.

Anyway, about the time Ross is trying to convince Wolter that the stone is not that old, Wolter gets an urgent text. The text that he cuts Ross off to check, is from Mysterious Mike (my nickname for him) who is telling Wolter that the stone is a memorial stone. Wolter begins to chant “memorial stone, memorial stone”, as he continues to look around. He gets on a roll and begins creating links between things that are clearly not connected. Ross tries to explain looting again, but Wolter’s on a tangent about Cultural Diffusion, which Ross tries to nix without success.

Further exploration of the cave reveals a small passage that no one but Cardamone can apparently fit into. So Cardamone crawls into it with a head mounted camera, and we find lots of bees in a narrow stone passage that goes upward at an angle. Cardamone crawls out eventually and Wolter ask Cardamone if he thought a body would fit in there, and since Cardamone had just fit in there the answer was, yes. Energized by the prospects of the memorial stone and a crawlspace that a body fits in, Wolter starts asking Ross if they could excavate in the cave for a possible body and if he could sift through the looter’s backdirt pile. These requests make me even more convinced that Wolter has no clue how archaeology works.

Fortunately, Ross does and he gives a decent, if brief, explanation of the Arizona Antiquities act of 1960 and how the RPA (The Registered Professional Archaeologist organization) works. Basically, most states have an Antiquities Act that date around the 60’s or 70’s which makes illegal the random digging of historical and archaeological sites. They lay out the need for preserving significant sites and set up a series of requirements in order to get permission to excavate a site in order to protect them. One of these is usually having an archaeologist who is registered with the RPA. The RPA regulates professionalism in the field of archaeology and makes sure that those who are registered are qualified to lead excavations and do proper research. There’s a great podcast over at the CRM Archaeology Podcast that talks about the RPA.

Well, basically being told ‘No’ on the excavation doesn’t sit well with Wolter. He begins to speculate about the discovery of a body and how if that body was a European man then that would be a historic discovery. And Ross agrees that it would indeed be such, assuming Wolter found anything of the sort. So Wolter starts to list off all the forms of not-evidence he’s accumulated in mere hours of looking around. 1) Evidence of looting, 2) the lack of weathering on the runestone, 3) a hole a body could fit in. Let me point out, none of this is evidence of anything. Wolter really just seems to be trying to create a mystery out of whole cloth, I’m not entirely convinced even he believes anything he’s saying here.

I also want to point out that I don’t think Wolter believes Ross about there being laws against random digging. I think Wolter believes that he should be able to dig wherever he wants, and Ross is just being mean, or trying to withhold evidence or something like that. We’ve watched Wolter literally laugh in Ross face all episode, so I really think Wolter thinks Ross is just trying to stop Wolter personally from excavating. This also furthers my belief that Wolter doesn’t understand how archaeology works, even though Ross has explained it to him. None the less, Wolter keeps trying to convince Ross to let him dig and Ross is not budging. Then Wolter suggests using ground penetrating radar, or GPR, to get a look at what is under the dirt without having to dig. Honestly this is a great idea, and Ross tells him he can do that since it won’t disturb the site. This seems to appease Wolter and we finally are able to leave the cave for the day.

The next scene finds us in Wolter’s hotel room at night. We watch Wolter use an entire piece of paper to write a two line appointment, and then he moves to check his email. Conveniently, the email browser is open to an email congratulating Wolter on his book, and then we see that we have an email from Mysterious Mike. From this email we learn Mike’s last name is Carr, but nothing else. The email, classily titled ‘HOLY SH*T!’, tell us “The Inscription…I’ve got a name.” Apparently the name is too heavy to send in a mere email. This prompts Wolter to call Mike on his cell. Mike apparently confirms that the runes on the stone are 12th century Anglo-Saxon runes. There’s no evidence to suggest that they were carved in the 12th century, or that there is a body associated with them, but whatever. We also don’t get to know what the name of said non-body is. We’re saving that for after the commercial break.

The next time we are back at the cave we have added to our party Brad Goforth with GPRS : Ground Penetrating Radar Systems, INC. He’s here to run the GPS and translate the results for us. First however, Wolter has breaking news on the Runestone front. Wolter tells us that “The last time we were here we thought we had a body”, which is not true, the only one who thinks there’s a body here is Wolter. Still, he gathers everyone around so he can read the translation that Mike has sent him.

Now, this part is going to take a minute because there is a lot wrong with this stone and it’s translation.

The translation that Mike has given Wolter reads as follows:

“The Body(in contrast to the soul) fits/lays

Rough Hurech here

He enjoyed (entertainment, joy, merriment) the secret stolen

Rough Hurech’s body – fame and glory

Dust beyond Eden – Eden’s temple”

And then there is a ‘cross’ stamped into the bottom.

This translation makes no sense. I mean, yes it’s a bunch of words that refer to a body and apparently a name, but beyond that what is it telling us? And here are the other issues with the ruenstone and this translation:

  1.  We’re told that the runes are 12th century Anglo-Saxon runes. But in the 12th century it would have been more common to see plain Old English, Latin, or French written with an alphabet that looks very similar to our modern English alphabet. As in, you could probably recognize the letters, even if you couldn’t understand the word they spelled.
  2.  As far as I can tell these are not Anglo-Saxon runes, 12th century or otherwise. These appear to be a mix of both the Elder Futhark and the Younger Futhark, seeing as the Sowal rune (the ‘s’ or lightning bolt shaped runes) is represented in both forms.
  3.  The runes themselves don’t spell anything. I, like a lot of people, have some experience with runes and runic translations and frankly, the ‘words’ that are spelled out on the stone are nonsense. The runes as I can see them are “ksils-ss-sudins-peiss-runsns-psshks-sst-msys-emens.” They don’t spell any words in Old English, Latin, French, or modern English for that matter. Also, there is no evidence of any word that would line up with the name Hurech on that stone.
  4.  Also there are 9 words on the stone compared to the 20+ Wolter reads off. I know that sometimes in translations one word can become two, but nine to twenty? That’s more than a 2:1 ratio.
  5. Who the hell is Mike? We are never properly introduced to him and Wotler never tells us why we should believe anything the man tells us via his cryptic emails and text messages. I did a brief search for Mike Carr, and yes there is a man who works at the University of Edinburgh and he has studied the medieval period, there is also a Michael Carr who is a Templar theorist who likes to push the idea that other Europeans made it to America before Columbus. Not to mention every other Mike Carr who lives around the globe.
  6. We’re also never given the Old English translation, just the modern one. Again, we just have to take Wolter’s word for things, there is no actual evidence presented.

Wolter gets all worked up over the name and Ross tries once again to bring reason to the conversation but Wolter just laughs at him and dismisses him, silly academics, what do we know?

Fortunately at this point we move on to the GPR, and Goforth explains how the GPR works. It’s a great explanation which is basically, the GPR unit projects radar waves into the ground. Those waves bounce back and the unit uses those to create an image of what’s below the surface. The images do take a bit of knowledge to translate, but even the untrained eye can usually see where the differences in soil density occur. Goforth does show us what the data look like after one pass, and tells us that more passes are needed. So we spend some time watching Goforth wrestle the GPR over the cave terrain accompanied by epic struggle music. I am a little leery of the results from the GPR, mainly because of how uneven the ground was that was being surveyed, that can affect things, but not so much.

After the initial demonstration we never see the GPR output again, so we have no clue what it looks like, but Wolter and Goforth do appear to find an anomaly. Ross seems to notice it in the data too. Wolter immediately  tires to argue that this could be the location of the body since it’s right under the runestone. Ross asks how big it is and we learn that it’s roughly 3 or 4 feet and is about 2 feet below the surface. It’s a little short for a full grown man and very shallow for a grave. Ross tries to point this out, but Wolter keeps trying to use this as a way to convince Ross to let him excavate. Ross tires to explain to him again how the excavation process works, and then Wotler gets another urgent Text message.

I know that the show is staging these texts and that they are trying to use them as a way to impart urgency, but really what all this does is make Wolter look incredibly rude for interrupting actual conversations to check information on his phone that could wait till he’s done talking to people. These are all staged texts anyway, I wonder if the producers didn’t time the texts on purpose to interrupt Ross so people couldn’t hear him explain to Wolter why he legally can’t excavate the cave? That’s me speculating though, don’t take that too deep.

Either way the text message is this:

“Soctt,
I traced the Hurech surname to medieval Staffordshire, England. If you go there, you might find more clues to the mystery.

One more thing…before you leave the southwest, you NEED to check out the Gila Mounds

There could also be a connection there…
-Mike”

To this new bombshell I say, Oh really? You traced an Anglo-Saxon surname all the way back to medieval England? No, Really? (Read the sarcasm.) This is one of the points where the misrepresentation in the show just really got to me. There is absolutely nothing special about finding an Anglo-Saxon surname ANYWHERE in Europe. Wolter, however gets all giddy about it, because English names in England are really …um…rare?

This pretty much wraps up our time at the cave. The current crew is dismissed and Wolter announces that we’re going to go to the Gila Mounds before we head to England. All I can think at this point is that the History Channel is rolling in the dough.

A few tidbits on the Gila Mounds. They are attributed to the Mogollon peoples who lived in these cliff dwellings from between 1275 and 1300 AD. These dates become important later on. The Gila Mounds are the only location that contains Mogollon sites. These dwellings are very impressive because they are built in and from the surrounding caves, and they look like miniature cities inside the cliffs, like ships in bottles. This is where we find Wolter after the commercial break.

While Wolter is examining the dwellings from afar we get to meet Steve Riley who is the superintendent for the Cliff Dwellings and he tells us a bit about them. They were used for about one generation and then apparently abandoned. Wolter tells Riley about the dead English man and Riley calmly tells him that there’s no evidence of European contact at the dwellings. The only connections the dwellings have is to the Native peoples of the area. Once we’re done talking with Riley we get lots of images of Wolter looking around the dwellings while pseudo-native sounding music plays in the background. However, when were done with that, we’re told that the connection between these sites and our dead Englishman is unknown. Never fear gentle reader, there will be a connection.

To find that connection we travel all the way to Kinver Edge, Staffordshire, England. We get to watch more footage of Wolter driving to epic music…we love watching Wolter drive. once there we meet Alan Butler who is the author of the book “The Goddess, the grail and the lodge”. Butler is a Knights Templar conspiracy theorist and apparently a close friend of Wolters, as we find in the awkward banter between them when they meet.

Now, Butler is apparently up to speed on what Wolter’s been up too with the 12th century English man and tells us he’s been doing some research at the records office. He didn’t find anyone named Rough Hurech, but he did find a Peter Hurech, and has concluded that they are the same man. Why? Honestly, there is no reason to connect the two, but Butler tries anyway. Butler tells us that back in the day people didn’t go by their birth names very much, they all had nicknames and those nicknames were often used in legal documents. What this has to do with anything, I have no clue. Butler goes on to tell us that Peter, who in his opinion must have been Rough (who knows why), got the nickname because he was one of the guys who wrestled buffalo with his bear hands. How do we know that? We don’t. Butler goes on to tell us that whoever was with Peter when he died in the cave in Arizona (again no evidence of this exists) that person must have only known him by his nickname, and so that was what he carved in the stone. Wolter loves all this and completely agrees with it and as with so many things on this show, hearsay becomes gospel and we all just have to accept it.

Butler also wants to show us something, and we hike along till we get to a very neat location. We see before us one of the famed Kinver Edge Stone Houses. These houses are famous and are simultaneously built into and out of the the sandstone cliffs surrounding them. Butler looks at Wolter as they arrive and says “look familiar?” Well, no, not really. One is carved out of the sandstone, one is built inside the cave. One is literally solid rock, the other is made of stacked stone and mud dab. The Gila Mound cliff dwellings were built in the late 1200’s, the Kinver Edge stone houses weren’t formally recorded until the late 1700’s , but we’re not told any of this in the show.

Butler does say that the houses only date as far back as the 1500’s but argues that it’s possible they were inhabited as far back at the 1200’s. That’s a significant margin of error and as I understand it currently, there is no evidence to support that claim. But Butler also doesn’t try to offer any, he just says it, therefore it’s true. Wolter does mention how the time difference in the dwellings bother him, but he concludes that it’s the academics who are wrong about the times, not him. Wolter then decides that it looks “so much like what we find in New Mexico” and launches into a flight of fantasy deciding that Peter “Rough” Hurech is now the one who brought the idea of living in caves to “the Natives” insinuating that the natives peoples couldn’t have been smart or creative enough to create these dwellings on their own, they have to be taught this by white men.

Butler has one more surprize for us, and takes us on another walk to what is apparently Peter Hurech’s old house. Which it must be noted is a traditional English manor style house turned into a pub, and is not part of the Kinver Edge rock houses nor does it appear to be built into any type of rock. It’s known that the rock houses passed from generation to generation inside of one family, so where is Hurech’s rock house? Fortunately the house is now a pub, and Butler and Wolter decide to have a pint. This is our wrap up scene where the two go over all their not-evidence to make the case that Peter Hurech was Rough Hurech, and Rough Hurech is buried in the Arizona desert. Just as we think there can’t be anymore not-evidence added to the growing pile, Butler gets an urgent text and it’s from the lady in the records office. We find out that there is no record of the Hurech family after 1200. I must ask at this point, does she mean just Peter Hurech’s line, or all Hurech’s everywhere just dropped off the planet in the 1200’s? What about a change in the spelling of the name? What about marriage out of the name? Butler doesn’t ask these questions, neither does Wolter, they just take it as the final piece of evidence that Peter and Rough are the same person.

The two men finally reminisce about all the coincidences in their not-evidence, even though I’ve seen no coincidences in any of this, and then ask why would Hurech go all the way to America? They settle on either he was prospecting minerals/metals or that he was just an adventurous guy. They don’t ask how he got there, who was with him, why there’s no other evidence of their travels, or any other relevant question. We’re left with this nugget form Wolter, “this bolder with his name on it is the only evidence we have that he made this trip.” and then we toast Hurech with a pint and we’re out.

Honestly, this episode is just simply astounding at the amount of unrelated randomness they try to string together. Not to mention, I got the feeling several times during the show that Wolter didn’t even believe what he was saying.

In Summary:

The evidence listed randomly throughout the show is this:

  1. Runestone with 12th cen runes. – As stated above, there might be a few 12th century runes sprinkled in the gibberish that is trying to get passed off as a runic inscription, but thats it. The inscription itself means nothing, it’s basically a bunch of ‘s’s with a few other letters added for show. It forms no words that are recognizable. Not to mention, if the stone was carved in the 12th century, it would be far more likely to have been written in Old English, Latin, or French and written with an English alphabet, not a runic alphabet. Also, the translation of the inscription is very suspect. It’s makes no linguistic sense, and what’s more, the translation has far to many words to have come from the nine ‘words’ that are visible on the stone. Also suspect is this Mysterious Mike guy. Who is he? Where does he come from? How is it that he got such a weird translation? Why can’t we see the original Old English translation before it’s translated into Modern English? How do we know he’s an expert? Why is he never properly introduced in the show? I get that he could be busy and not have time to make an appearance, but why doesn’t Wotler explain his credentials to us? Why is he always just, “Mike?”
  2. A name on the stone, Rough Hurech – As said above, there is no apparent word or words that matches up with the name Rough Hurech. Mike’s translation is dubious at best, possibly completely made up.
  3. A possible body – We’re offered two choices for the location of a possible body. One is shoved up the vertical shaft in the back of the cave, and the other is buried in a 3-4ft anomaly at the front of the cave. Keep in mind that anomalies correspond with a density shift in the surrounding soils. This can be caused by a variety of things and it takes someone familiar with the GPR to decipher what the anomaly really is. I’ve seen graves on GPR data, the very brief look we had the data didn’t look anything like a grave, but it was also incomplete and we were never shown the complete data in the show. I think it should be noted that neither Goforth nor Ross, who did see the data, said that the anomaly could be a possible grave. Ross did his best to tell Wolter that it was too small and too shallow. I think Wolter knew this, but tried to press his point anyway.
  4. GPR showing a small anomaly – See above.
  5. The Gila Mounds Cave dwellings of the Mogollon peoples – Here’s where things start to get weird, and I think Wolter and company begin to lose track of their dates. The Gila Mound cliff dwellings date from the late 1200’s to the early 1300’s. Now if you’re not paying attention, this sounds like it lines up with a 12th century English guy right? Wrong. The 12th century ranged in dates from the 1100’s up to the 1190’s. The cliff dwellings dates place them in the 13th century, and at the tail end of that century at that.  That’s a huge difference in time. Also, there is no evidence of any European contact, period.
  6.  Peter Hurech – I’m sure there was a guy named Peter Hurech who lived in the 1200’s. I don’t doubt his line died out for any number of reasons in that same time span. There is absolutely no reason to connect Peter to our imaginary Rough. 1) Unlike Peter, we have no evidence of Rough being anything more than fantasy. 2) Even if Rough was real, there is no reason to connect him to Peter other than a last name, and if Rough was real, there is no reason he couldn’t have been a sibling, a cousin, or just someone with a similar name. Also Peter lived in the 1200’s, which puts him in the 13th century again. This does line him up with the cave dwellings, but not with the 12th century runes.
  7. The Kinver Edge Stone Houses – These beautiful and impressive structures weren’t formally recorded until the late 1700’s. I’ll buy that they existed before that. I’ll even buy that there was some kind of structure there 200 years before they were recorded. But 500 years before? In their current condition? That’s stretching it a bit for me. Especially since there’s no evidence supporting that claim. Even Butler has to make an allowance just to get the dates to fit, and he’s already stretching the truth a bit to get them to 15oo. This is also another place where math gets us a little messed up. If we’re trying to say that Peter Hurech was the guy who took the knowledge of the stone houses over to the poor natives in America and is the same as the 12th century Englishman in the Arizona cave, we not only have to age the stone houses back an extra 600 years, we have to knock Peter back two centuries, and then explain why it took two centuries for the Mogollon peoples to decide to use the knowledge that Hurech apparently gave them to create the cave dwellings. It doesn’t add up. At some point both Wolter and the show began to confuse the 12th century with the 1200’s, and those two things are not the same.

Honestly, this episode was ridiculous and painful to watch. The only good things that come from it were the two Rock Climbers and the use of the GPR.  Everything else was completely irrelevant and not even remotely connected. That runestone was an obvious fake, and the translation was probably made up. The rest of the show was just drawing random lines that never actually connected. And this is only the second episode.

Notes of Interest:

Some of you may know that Jason Colavito also does review of the America Unearthed show, he’s been doing them far longer than I have so he’s more up to date on the show. That said, I do know they are out there, but I DON’T read them until AFTER I’ve written my own blog. I don’t want to be influenced by anything he may say or know that I don’t.

That all said, as I was reading his second review of the second episode, I was struck by the apparent non-existence of even Peter Hurech. I highly recommend you go read this post as well, it makes me dislike this show even more.

—-

Want more on this topic? Go to Reviews: America Unearthed.

Categories: America Unearthed, History Channel | Tags: , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Mayans in Georgia: America Unearthed Episode One.

Here we are, I got the first episode of America Unearthed watched, and wow, just wow. Where to begin exactly? This post is super long because there is just so much, um, stuff…in it. I’m going to summarize things at the bottom for you to make following all the claims in the show easier, but I really can’t not break this massive pile of…not evidence…down. If you don’t want to read the whole post just skip to In Summary at the bottom. Don’t be surprised though, if you ask me a question, I refer you to read the whole post.

Let’s start with Scott Wolter .

As the show will tell you, frequently, Wolter is a self proclaimed Forensic Geologist. Now, I personally was very excited to hear this, Forensics are a pastime of mine. Sadly, this show didn’t really show us much of what a Forensic Geologist does, maybe in another episode? Wolter however, presents himself as an authority on a variety of topics including pyramids, ancient rock carvings, and driving while talking on a phone.

His actual credentials are a Bachelor’s degree in Geology he received in 1982 from the University of Minnesota Duluth. He is an avid fossil hunter, and owns the company American Petrographic Services. Under the Services tab there’s a link that explains some about the forensics his company does, which is kind of cool.
Now there is some controversy over whether or not Wolter has an Honorary Masters Degree in Geology presented by UMD. Honestly, whether or not this is true is irrelevant. The only thing this reflects on is Wolter’s character, not his expertise. An honorary degree is not the same as an actual degree. Honorary degrees are symbolic and reflect a variety of things, including donations to the school, life achievements, and the gaining of credibility to the school by handing these degrees out to well known celebrities. It’s like getting a gold sticker because someone likes you. Sure it’s awesome, it’s probably really freaking awesome, but it doesn’t make you an expert in the field.

As to Wolter’s character, we can get a better feel for this by watching the show that’s basically about him, reading his blog, and seeing how he handles negative comments and criticism. Wolter addresses the current nonsensical controversy over his honorary degree by telling us about personal tragedy. I do feel sorry for him, but everyone I know has some deep personal tragedy in their lives, that’s not a defense against criticism. Also, his responses to legitimate criticisms about his methods are problematic at best, (see the comments section in this post), though to cut him some slack, the amount of anonymous posters in the comments section was annoying.

So, on to the actual show.

The intro gives us the creepy flashing pictures and eerie music one would except from a horror flick, or a Supernatural episode. We get a brief explanation about a mysterious archaeological site investigated in 2000 inside Georgia’s Chattahoochee National Forest. Then we’re given our first claim of the show, which is that “Controversial Evidence has since emerged linking the site to Mayan prophecy.”

We’re also told, as music swells and we pan to an angry Scott Wolter storming from the forest to his vehicle, that in “June 2012 federal authorities prohibit access to the site.” This becomes a recurring theme in the episode. It’s also not made clear why at any point, since the area Wolter was going to is a National Forest and therefore open to the public for free. A quick check of the Chattahoochee National Forest website, dealing specifically with this episode of American Unearthed, tells us that “Track Rock Gap is open to public visitation and no fee is charged. We have several suggestions to enhance your visit.” They even have hand downloads and directions to help you find the place. They do have a highlighted box there that explains what the Archaeological Resources Protection Act (ARPA) is and what it does. One notable line from the box reads “If someone wants to conduct research, they must get a written permit from the USDA Forest Service after it has consulted with other agencies and Tribes. Careful guidelines and restrictions must be in place before the research begins.” So, if it is true that Wolter was asked to leave the Chattahoochee National Forest, it might have been because he was trying to work without proper permission. This is just a guess though.

So after a riveting scene of Wolter speeding away from the Forest while talking on his cell phone, we’re transported to Wolter’s lab in Minnesota where we meet Jon Haskell. He’s simply introduced to us as a photographer, but Haskell has also worked as a media producer creating work for the History Channel dealing specifically with the Track Rock Gap and trying to tie it to both Mayan and Totonac influences. After hearing Wolter’s story about how the Feds won’t let him into the Track Rock Gap site, he offers to show Wolter his footage from the filming he did there in 2011. When Wolter asks how Haskell got into the site to film, Haskell replies, “I had a permit”. We get a few fleeting glimpses of stacked stone walls, and nothing else. Haskell describes other structures, some ceremonial and some having to do with irrigation, but we’re not shown any of this, we’re just meant to take Haskells word on it, and we’re not told why we should trust him. How do I know I can trust his interpretations of the structural remains as a ceremonial structure? How do I know that he knows the difference between an irrigation system and a wall trench? Maybe he does know, but were not told why or how, or why we should trust him. All we know is that Wolter does, and when Haskell mentions a flat stone foundation, Wolter immediately suggests is a pyramid base.  Haskell for his part doesn’t seem convinced, but agrees anyway. This also seems to be a running theme in the show, people not sure how to react to the things Wolter says to them.

Well, after  not seeing much of whatever it is that Haskell wanted to show Wolter, Haskell suggests we go talk to a man named Richard Thornton. He is presented to us as a Maya/Georgia researcher and an expert on “Creek Natives of Georgia” (shows words, not mine). Thornton is a writer at The Examiner.com, and apparently has an ebook for sale, but beyond that has no real credentials.

So after some more footage of Wolter driving to epic music, we get some random shots of back country road signs and a ‘Beware of Dog’ sign posted on a random poarch. This again, is more like a Supernatural episode where the monster comes and eats you, than a documentary. Thornton eventually comes out and greets Wolter and straight off the bat tells him that there is definitely a Mayan/Georgia connection, and the Academics are trying to keep the truth from all of us, but refusing to discuss it. This gets Wolter all riled up again about not being able to go to the Track Rock Gap site and they both have a moment of hate on the academic world. In these moments I think Wolter forgets that he’s trying to portray himself as part of that world, and that he’s got several connections in it with people I know. So I find these tirades humorous.

Eventually Thornton offers to show us some evidence of the Mayan/Georgia connection. The evidence that is provided is hearsay for the most part. He says there are cultural and linguistic connections, and similarities between the building construction. He even has some more pictures of the area where Wolter was not allowed to go. (Seems everyone but Wolter could get in, this makes me wonder what exactly Wolter did to get blacklisted, or did he even really try to go?)  This gets Wolter thinking, and he suggests Archeoastronomy. We get a quick blurb on the scren about what that means, and it’s not a complete definition. It’s much more indepth than just “The ancient practice of aligning buildings with celestial bodies.” There’s reason for ancient peoples to do so, and it concerned real world applications like agriculture, not just a random whim. We’re also told the site is radiocarbon dated to 1000 AD, but the significance of this is not given. Thornton seems to back up what Haskell said about ceremonial structures and then adds that there are agricultural terraces, but fails to mention the irrigation channels or the pyramid base slab.

Thornton doesn’t actually provide any real evidence of anything. Yes, he shows us a few pictures of possible stone walls, but it’s very brief and they really could be anything. He claims this is what Mayan sites look like before they are restored by architects like him, but even Wolter is underwhelmed by Thornton’s evidence. He then provides a 3d map of the area showing the locations of some structures and possible terraces based off elevation data that we don’t know how he got. Again, as neat as this image is, it doesn’t prove anything except that there is indeed a site of some sort there, and we already knew that. He provides no linguistic evidence, no cultural evidence, nor any reason to trust his word over that of “some professors who have never seen the site.” Thornton randomly says there are some markers that have to do with Archeoastronomy, which has become the word of the day, but makes no effort to show them to us or explain why they are markers. His crowning piece of evidence is a circle that he’s labeled ‘Spring’, and were told it feeds the terraces, but again, nothing is provided as explanation. To make matters worse, the 3d graphic the show begins to use here sets up the map to look like the spring has something to do with Archeoastronomy, which we’re never clear on if it does.

So at the end of this visit Wolter again wonders why he can’t go see the site himself, and by now I am beginning to notice how much like Erich von Daniken he sounds like. Von Daniken has always resented that he can’t just walk into any archaeological dig he wants, regardless of safety or security issues. Wolter is beginning to sound the same, and I’m seriously doubting the validity of his claim at this point. But since Wolter can’t see the site with his own eyes, he’s going to do the next best thing, LiDAR!

At this point were 10 minutes into the show…just letting you know.

The LiDAR crew gets exciting and dramatic adventure type music as we soar over the area that is presumably the site in question in an airplane. Chris Guy and Jamie Young are our LiDAR experts, and Guy gets to be the one to explain how the machines work. He also gets to be the one Wolter explains to that there are Mayan Pyramids down there and that he’s sure the LiDAR is going to pick them up and prove him right. Also, he can’t go down there himself and look because the Feds won’t let him. Guy looks less than impressed with Wolter’s ideas, but manages to get through it.

Once we get back to the ground, Young helps us go over the data that was recovered by the LiDAR and sure enough, some structures start to pop up. Again, we already know there is a site down there, so the fact that we’re seeing man-made structures really shouldn’t be a surprise to anyone. However, LiDAR images are really cool to look at, so we can forgive Wolter for being so excited by them. Wolter again explains the Mayan thing, and Young expertly doges the whole conversation, well done sir.

I’m also noticing how much money the History Channel has to throw around here, and I would really like them to give me a show where I can go head up a real archaeology dig and actually afford to use all the cool toys and get all the post excavation data analysis done. Seriously.

Anyway, we’re finaly at a commercial break here, and the show kindly sums up the evidence we have so far. 1) Piles of unidentified rock that could be anything, 2) Archeoastronomy, because things line up with stuff in the sky. Is it random? We don’t know, and 3) Terraces, which aren’t evidence of anything beyond the possible practice of agriculture.

We also randomly decide to go to the Forsyth Petroglyph in Athens, GA., because it’s a possible stone clue. Clue to what, I have no…ah…clue.

Anyway, while we’re here watching Wolter get really personal with a large chunk of rock (seriously, it’s a little creepy), we meet Gary C. Daniels, author of ‘Mayan Calendar Prophecies‘. Daniels appears to be another tv content producer who has worked with History Channel in the past on more Mayan Doomsday related stuff. Also, there was something about him doing a masters thesis for a website, but I’m pretty sure that was just poorly worded, since otherwise, it makes no sense. Anyway, both men agree they like the look of wet rock, and then discuss the meaning behind the rock, kind of. Daniels tells us that the rock is a Starmap that recorded an event in 536 AD which was apparently a comet impact. Also, the Maya and the Creek peoples used the same symbols to record the same event. Other than a few shots of nested circle symbols that Wolter insists on calling spirals for some reason, and a few shapes that look like teardrops (but we see them so briefly they could be anything,) we don’t get any explanation for the rock or the symbols on it. We’re just expected to accept whatever Daniels says without reason. I’d like to know how Daniels know the symbols represent a comet impact, which ones are the stars? WHich one the comet? and which ones look like Mayan symbols over not Mayan symbols?

The best description I can fond of the Forsyth Petroglyph is on the Eastern State Rock Art Research Association website.

Visitors to the University of Georgia in Athens will find two petroglyph boulders on the campus grounds. One is located next to the Museum of Art. The other is within an enclosed garden at the School of Law. These petroglyphs were removed from their original locations in the 1960s. The original location of the stones was near Cumming, Forsyth County, Georgia. The petroglyphs are carved on coarse crystalline granite. Design elements include concentric circles, stick figures, and cupules. Archaeologists believe that the petroglyphs were made by ancestors of the Creeks or Cherokees dating back to Late Woodland period (c. AD 1000).”

So the Forsyth Petroglyph actually predate the Creek culture, therefore the Creek and the Maya couldn’t have “used the exact same symbols to record the exact same event.”

Since we’re on a random tangent about petroglyphs, Wolter decides now is a good time to mention Mayan Blue. Not because he has any around, but because now seems like a good time. Daniels agrees that he knows what it is, and Wolter claims the Mayan’s were getting the clay used to make Mayan Blue from Georgia, because…we don’t know yet, and Wolter isn’t telling.  Just to keep on topic, Daniels mentions that he knows of a Falcon Dancer Plate that was found somewhere in Georgia and that it matches another relief in Chichen Itza. Also, somewhere in Georgia there is one skull that shows signs of cranial deformation, the practice of shaping the skull of babies to achieve a flattened look in adulthood, which was practiced by Mayan Elites, and also other peoples. This is a very random segment in the show where we’re just throwing things at a wall and seeing what will stick. In reality none of this is evidence of a Mayan connection, as most of it is again hearsay. To Wolter’s credit, he’s not claiming aliens for any of this, so points to him on that.

However, both Daniels and Wolter degrad into a tirade about academics and their evil pains to keep the truth from real researches, like him and Daniels. Daniels makes a joke about how science changes one death at a time, and Wolter exclams that he’s not going to wait for these guys to die off, he’s getting answers now! I’m forced to reflect on if Wolter has asked any questions yet? Mostly he’s just told us what he wants us to believe and paraded an array of unaccredited men in front of us, telling us to believe them too for no reason. Then he rants about ‘armchair’ academics who don’t agree with him or who constantly point out his lack of evidence. I’m forced to wonder if Wolter actually understands how archaeology works, and judging by his constant misconceptions and criticism I’m guessing he doesn’t. I find this weird because I know that he knows some very good archaeologists who have explained how all this works to him before.

But were off to Ocmulgee Mounds in Macon, GA., where we’re told we’re “visiting a related site.” Daniels shows us one particular mound that looks to be tiered. Wolter says its a spiral mound and Daniels makes a strange claim here that the only other one in the world is located in Xochitecatl, Mexico. Daniels also explains that the Creek peoples still practice their Snake Dance on this mound, where they walk around the mound in procession till they reach the top. Since were only shown the site from a forested trial, and bearly for more than a minute, and then it’s covered up by Wolter comparing it to a photo image, we can’t really tell where we are. Also, we don’t get very close to the mound either, and its a really bad angle. It makes me suspicious as to why they chose to use such a crappy shot of this spiral mound if it’s so special. But if we are where they say we are, then the mound they are looking at is part of the Lamar Mounds and Village Site, and the particular mound they’re looking at is Mound B. This mound is completely round in shape and has a spiral ramp going all the way up to the top. Dr. Mark Williams, the investigating archaeologist of this location, believes that the ramp plus other evidence suggest that the mound was in the process of being expanded when it was abandoned. What’s most important about this mound is that it, again, predates the Creek culture to which Wolter and Daniels need to it fit in order for their Mayan/Georgia idea to work.

We also spend some time looking at a reconstructed earth lodge that faces the rising sun. We’re told this is also evidence of Mayans because no one else ever in the history of the world would ever have thought to build a mound that faced the rising sun, ever. At this point the not-evidence that is being pushed as evidence is getting, as Wolter likes to say, Silly. This doesn’t slow Wolter down though. He decides if he can fly to Mexico and find one thing there that looks like something here, he’ll have proven the Mayan/Georgia link, academics be damned!

So now we’re off to Chichen Itza in Yucatan, Mexico. This time the drive footage is Wolter in the back seat, but we still get the epic adventure music.

Once we’re there we meet Alfonso Morales and actual Mayan Archaeologist. For real, this guy is an actual academic archaeologist with 30 years in the field. He’s also a huge debunker of the whole, Mayan Prophecies crap, so I have to wonder what the show told him in order to get him to be on it?

Well anyway, once in Chichen Itza, Wolter makes an almost profound statement. He say that “Many people think the Mayans died out completely, but they didn’t.” He’s right, the Mayan people still exist, they are a living, breathing, marginalized, ignored, and rightfully tick off people. Things like what Wolter is trying to do here, kind of tick them off, but no one ever goes and asks their opinions of this kind of stuff, so on with the show. Morales handles Wolter with grace and ease. Wolter tells Morales about his whole Mayan/Georgia connection thing and Morales agrees that it could be possible, which surprises Wolter so much he actually replies with “Oh, so you agree with the speculation, then?”

Wolter also mentions the LiDAR images to Morales and says it’s similar to what we sees here. I have no idea what that means, and from Morales look, neither does he, but rolls with it anyway. He seems to sum up his stance on Wolter’s idea by smiling and saying “Maybe if you could find a Mayan up there or we can find a Georgian down here.” He seems to be implying that Wolter needs evidence to back up these claims. Wolter goes on about the Forsyth Petroglyph, comparing the nested circles to the obvious spirals on the temples. Then Wolter brings up the whole 2012 thing and Morales patiently explains why Wolter is wrong.

One thing that is interesting is the Falcon Dancer and the Bird Man motif. Morales shows Wolter relief on one of the temples that looks similar to the supposed bronze plaque he got from Daniels. The reason for this is trade. There’s been known trade routes from Mesoamerica to America for some time now. Nothing direct, but slow, hand over hand trade moving goods and ideas from one end of the continent to the other, but I don’t think Wolter knows this.

Finally, Wolter brings up Mayan Blue and Morales takes him to see a sinkhole that is a sacrificial pit for children to the rain god. He explains to Wolter how the Ancient Mayans possibly painted the children blue, before sacrificing them to the gods. Thus there is a large amount of Mayan Blue clay at the bottom of the sinkhole, along with the remains of the victims. I’d like to point out here, the whole time Morales is explaining this to Wolter, we’re being shown images of ‘savage’ Mayans, killing and ripping out the hearts of other unidentified ‘savages’. It’s very predictable, disrespectful, and an extremly tired trope. Can we please move past this crap imagery of native peoples? Anyway, Wolter explains to Morales how he thinks the clay used for Mayan Blue comes from Georgia, and at this point Morales seems to be so used to Wolter explaining stuff to him, he just smiles and nods.

Once that was over, we’re magically back to Wolter’s lab in Minnesota, where Jamie Young is explaining LiDAR again. He shows us the data that his company recovered from the flyover of Track Rock Gap (remember that place?) and tells us how it matches up with Thornton’s 3d map. This shouldn’t be a surprise since Thornton’s map was created using elevation data, so all it really does is prove Thornton’s data was good data. Remember, we already know there is a site there, so this isn’t proving or telling us anything we don’t already know. There’s also data from a flyover of Mound B from the Lamar Mounds, but again, nothing new here.

So with all his not-evidence piling up, Wolter decides the linchpin in his assemblage will be proving that Mayan Blue is made with Georgia clay. We’re introduced to his young lab assistant Adam, and we spend several minutes watching Wolter make Mayan Blue while CSI style music blares in the background. During this time Wolter makes another claim, “If the Georgia clay in my samples matches x-ray results of real Mayan blue, then we have a hard geological link between the Mayans and Georgia.” Which, if I may say, No you don’t. The only thing this test is going to prove is that, chemically, Georgia clay is similar or identical to the clay used in making Mayan Blue. This is not the same as saying, Georgia clay is the only thing that could have been used to make Mayan Blue. You see, this is where a huge discussion about Soils and, soil composition and association should have occurred, but it didn’t. It is incredibly misleading to even suggest what Wolter is saying here and as a geologist, Wolter should know better. Especially after he admits that there are known sources for the clay used to make Mayan Blue in Mexico.

But we go to the X-ray Defraction Lab of the University of Minnesota anyway with a sample of the clay. At this point it becomes evident that we didn’t really need to make the Mayan Blue, because what we’re testing here is the clay itself, not the finished product. We meet Nick Seaton who is a Defraction Specialist at the University, and he doesn’t seem all that thrilled to have Wolter there. Wolter gives Seaton the whole Mayan/Georgia connection and the camera spends a lot of time not showing you Seaton’s face when Wolter is talking because Seatan is having a hard time not looking either board or ticked off. However, we do run the sample and compare it to actual Mayan Blue, and low and behold, it’s a match. I’m not even a little surprised, because again, this proves nothing except that the chemical makeup of the Georgia clay is similar to that of the clay used to make Mayan Blue. Again, this is not the same as saying that Georgia clay is the clay used to make Mayan Blue.  (I know this is going to be a sticking point). Despite all of that, Wolter is thrilled and immediately begins crowing about how he was right all along and how he’s proven academia wrong.

Thankfully at this point the show is over, and we’re basically wrapping up the not-evidence and as Wolter is going over his list he says there has to be a Maya/Georgia connection and “Whatever it was it must have involved archeoastronomy.” This is perhaps one of the most nonsensical things he’s said all episode, especially since he spent no time making any argument of the sort. It’s just a random throw away statement that proves to me that Wolter has not clue what archeoastronomy is, he just likes saying the word.

In Summary

The evidence Wolter provides thorough out the show is as follows:

1) Ruins – Before we go further, let’s understand that there is a known archaeological site in Track Rock Gap. It was examined by Dr. Mark Williams at the University of Georgia, and has been written and cited in several papers authored by Dr. Williams. Understand also, that the Track Rock Gap area is open to the public and is free to access, so basically anyone can got here. Wolter’s claim that he was denied access was either because he failed to get proper permission to be on a protected archaeological site, or he tried to sneak in and endangered the site. All other ‘evidence’ presented to support the site being of Mayan origins was hearsay, poorly presented, and never verified. The singular exception being the 3d map provided by Thornton, which was made using elevation data, and all that happened there was the map was verified by LiDAR data. Nothing new was learned or provided.

2)  Archeoastronomy – It is clear to me after watching this episode that Wolter doesn’t understand the concept of archeoastronomy. I’m not sure what he thinks it actually is, as he never really provides us with any idea. He just throws the word around a lot and people just nodded when he said it. The one exception to this being Morales, and Wolter basically talks over him the whole time he is there. The reality is that archeoastronomy was used by most ancient cultures because they were agriculturalists and relied on knowing when the seasons were changing so they could get the best results from their crops. This translated into complicated religious cultures, with seasonal ceremonies and important buildings that aligned with certain celestial bodies during certain times of the year. This is common across almost all agricultural cultures and is not evidence of any one culture being the originator over another.

3) Terraces – What the hell did terraces have to do with anything Mayan? This is never explained. Yet it’s still touted as being evidence of something.

4) LiDAR – All the LiDAR data did was verify the location of the site and the validity of the data used to create Thornton’s map. As we don’t know where Thornton’s data came from, this is all moot.

5) Petroglyphs – These predate the Creek culture, so as Wolter’s claims stand as presented in this episode, invalidate them as evidence. Also, they don’t even begin to match the Mayan symbols seen at Chichen Itza. Also, how does Daniels know how to read these glyphs?

6) The Falcon Dancer – First, the exact discovery location of the Dancer was never stated. It was ipled that it was found near Track Rock Gap area, but it wasn’t. Second, this is a very common image found all through the southern area. Third, and this should be of little surprise, there were well known trade routes reaching from Mesoamerica into the area. We know this, we’ve known this for decades. It’s kinda what archaeologists do. When we find similarities like the Dancer, we track them down and find out where they came from and how they got here, and most of the time it was trade. Please quit thinking of ancient peoples as being backward and ignorant. They were intelligent, resourceful, active people, who liked trading things.

7) Linguistics, Culture, etc. – Again, any evidence provided here was all hearsay and never presented in real life or verified. Most of it was mentioned in passing and never really looked at in the first place.

8) Mayan Blue – This was a massive red herring Wolter used to give a science-y edge to the show, complete with a Mr. Wizard meets CSI montage. It literally means nothing of importance and proves nothing of substance.

Overall, Wolter paraded a variety of men before us. Most of whom we’re meant to believe outright, without question. None of them provided any actual evidence, nor proved any actual controversy. That’s the most confusing part of this whole thing, there is no controversy. It’s never explained to us why we should care about this Maya/Georgia connection, we’re just told that we should. Who cares? What changes if this is true?

Finally, Wotler’s explicit disregard for the actual Creek, Cherokee, and Mayan peoples is simply shameful. The Creek and Cherokee even created a video helping to debunk the whole Mayan thing. And the Mayans? What does Wolter seem to think about them? I think the way he treats Morales and portrays the Mayan sacrifices speaks volumes

—–

Want more on this topic? Go to Reviews: America Unearthed.

Categories: America Unearthed | Tags: , , , , , , , , , | 5 Comments

Atlantis at Last! In Search of Aliens S01, E01

Nothing like starting off a new series with a tired topic. But seeing as Ancient Aliens is now in it’s 7th season, this is par for the course for Giorgio A. Tsoukalos. Mr. Tsoukalos is the main character for this new show that is going to investigate, um, stuff about, things…and Aliens! And we’re launching this new series with one of the oldest stories of time…Atlantis!

We start off with some riveting music and images of Tsoukalos dressed up like adventurers dress when out looking for lost cities and the like. He forgot his whip and fedora at home, but did remember his satchel. Points for a good costume! After the intro credits we’re ready to be reminded that Tsoukalos is an Ancient Alien Theorist, it says so under his name. Tsoukalos wastes no time in telling us how evil ‘mainstream scholars’ don’t want you to know the truth about things and how he’s here to fix that problem. He’s going to give you all the information you need, to realize that everything is Aliens.

Also, there was this guy Plato who once wrote a couple of books that mentioned a place called Atlantis. Therefore the place is real, as was everyplace Plato ever wrote about. I mean, we all know where the Republic is right? Right?

Tsoukalos tells us that Atlantis has to be a real place because as a child he believed it was, and also Plato was very descriptive of the place. This argument also means that Hogwarts, Narnia, Wonderland, and Lothlorien are real too, awesome!

But enough snark, lets get to the meat of the show.

So we begin our quest for Atlantis and Aliens in Athens, Greece. This is the best place to begin since this is where Plato wrote Critias and Timaeus. I’m just going to link you to the texts because we don’t really have time to go into them deeply. Briefly though, in Critias, Socrates asks his students to imagine a culture that was more advanced than his imagined utopia in the Republic, and then send the two cultures to war. Critias, for whom the book is named, imagines the Atlanteans. He sees them as a great warlike people who crush all the other cultures around them, until they encounter the brave and noble Athenians, and are finally beaten in battle. He also spends some time describing the city of Atlantis, thinking it would be best to flesh out the culture before sending them to war.

This backstory is slightly important to the plot of the show. You see, once upon a time, the gods of Greece split up the lands and gave a portion to each god. Poseidon, God of the seas, was given the lands of Atlantis, where a young woman lived with her parents on a mountain, until her parents died. Once that happened, Poseidon made his move and got her pregnant five times with five sets of twin boys. So now, he’s got all these kids and they need something to do, so he divides his own lands up into ten kingdoms and sets his sons to rule over them.

We learn all this from the conversation Tsoukalos has with Sandy MacGillivray Ph.D. a Classical Archaeologist at the British School at Athens as we’re told by the letters under his name. Now, Joseph Alexander MacGillivray is a real archaeologist, and is well known for his work with Minoan Cultures. He’s not working for the British School at Athens, as far as I can tell he’s basically retired and writing up his notes on his past excavations. But any amount of street cred the show can give him is great because Dr. MacGillivray says something very strange as he’s telling us about Poseidon’s five sets of twins. Out of the blue he tell us that it sounds like genetic manipulation to him.

A little bit of digging on Dr. MacGillivray and you find that he is very well respected in his field, which is not genetics. If you dig deeper you will find that he is known for making strange remarks like these. Which distresses me a lot, since he offers no evidence to support such an outlandish claim or even explains why he said something so random in the first place. I would like to talk to Dr. MacGillivray, specifically about his remarks, but I can’t find any contact information for him. So if someone reading this can connect us, that would be awesome. Until then I can only go with what I found.

Probably the least surprising thing about Dr. Gillivray’s comment is how Tsoukalos preens with it. Finally a ‘mainstream scholar’ who tells him something he wants to hear. Nevermind all the others who show him evidence and facts that go counter to the whole Alien thing. No, this one guy agreed with him, so that makes everything right.

We move from Greece to Spain and from a respected archaeologist to a retired ad executive. Peter Daughtrey whose only real claim to fame is a book he wrote called ‘Atlantis and the Silver City’ where he makes the claim that Atlantis is really where Silves, Portugal is today. He says that Plato left behind 100 clues to find Atlantis, and that Silves fits over 50 of them. We’re never told what those 100 clues are, probably so we’ll go buy his book, but we do spend the majority of the show with him. One interesting thing we do get to see, besides the scenery, seriously this place is beautiful, is a great stone egg.

Technically it’s classified as a standing stone by the Lagos National Museum, but that’s a ‘mainstream’ classification. Daughtrey explains to us that it’s really a celestial egg and the relief carvings on it are actually DNA strands. He also tells us that Bronze couldn’t have carved the stone, which is true, but also not how the Greeks carved stone anyway, so it’s a misleading and useless point to make.

Tsoukalos seems to like the stone egg, and begins connecting it to every reference he’s ever heard of eggs. There’s no reason for him to be doing this, there’s no evidence to connect these things, but he’s on a roll. Tsoukalos also gets wrapped up in the DNA thing, even though the relief doesn’t look anything like a DNA strand. It looks like a bunch of ovals strung together that get smaller as they taper down the stone, and there is a line connecting them all through their centers. Last I checked DNA was a helix and didn’t have a line running down the middle of it.

 

stone egg screen shot

 

All this DNA talk gets Tsoukalos talking about Aliens and he explains to Daughtrey that Gods aren’t really Gods, they’re Aliens, and Poseidon mixed Alien DNA with Human DNA to make, um, Humans. Then he tells us that the Anunnaki (who are really Aliens) modified Homo Erectus DNA to make modern humans so we could be slaves. Daughtrey agrees and says that we much have been genetically programed to worship the God/Anunnaki/Aliens and then they tried to kill us with a flood (ala biblical flood) when they let the planet. And isn’t it weird that all the coastal cultures have Great Flood Myths? That’s so weird right? No way it could be because they all live near big bodies of water that tend to flood in yearly cycles, that wouldn’t make any sense at all, it must be Aliens.

After Daughtrey tell us about his suspicion of sunken cities along the coast of Portugal, for which he has no evidence, were off to see Erich Von Däniken himself!

We meet Von Däniken in what Tsoukalos calls ‘Mystery Park’ in Switzerland, an educational park that von Däniken’s uses to bring enlightenment to the world about Ancient Astronaut Theories. What it really is, is a failed ancient astronaut theme park that opened in 2003 and closed in 2006 due to a lack of income. Today it’s just a kiddie park called Jungfrau Park and is only open during the summer. Von Däniken gives talks on Thursdays when the park is open, according to the website.

Still were treated to a long talk between Tsoukalos and Von Däniken where they talk about Aliens altering the human genetic code by changing “One Base” in the code and then implanting it in a human woman. The child would be completely human, except not, and so then would be what? I asked my Geneticist friend what “Changing one Base” would do. They said that would be like changing one letter out of an entire book. It wouldn’t be noticed and wouldn’t do anything anyway. So what would be the point? My friend went on to explain what you would have to do to really change a genetic code, then asked me why I was asking, and then left the room laughing when I told them it was aliens.

Whats more important is there is no evidence to support this idea of genetic manipulation. Also, Von Däniken and Tsoukalos can’t seem to decide if the genetic manipulation happened before or after we become fully modern humans. They also can’t seem to tell us why the Aliens would do it in the first place.

Also, why are the Aliens always male? Why are women only ever mentioned as being incubators for alien babies? There were/are Goddesses too, are only Gods Aliens and Goddesses are not real at all? And what about human women. All they do is give birth, all the ‘great people’ that come from being alien-human hybrids are men. Are women not a real people to Tsoukalos and Von Däniken?

Anyway, Von Däniken sends Tsoukalos away fro the last leg of our journey, and we end the show on the islands of Santorini. If you don’t know much about the lovely island of Santorini, what you need to know is that there was a giant volcano that blew up the island around 3600 years ago at the height of the Minoan civilization. It probably wiped out the Minoans living on the island of Crete by causing a massive Tsunami and it blew a giant crater in the middle of the Santorini island making it three islands instead of one. There is some debate that this incident is the source of the legend of Atlantis, as the Minoans on Santorini were very wealthy and very sophisticated for their time. They had flushing toilets and possibly hot and cold running water, but I’m to a point now where I don’t put much past the ancient Greeks anymore. Still, there is no evidence for this to be true either.

Tsoukalos spends the rest of the show musing over whether or not Santorini was literally Atlantis, and even has a friend show us some frescos from the archaeological excavations. One Fresco in particular catches his attention and he sees four figures dressed in long cloaks. He says the cloaks look like they are made of feathers, but they could easily be made of hair, grass, or even fish scales. Tsoukalos tells us the figures are males, but there is no reason to think this as there are no gender markers one way or the other. Still, Tsoukalos concludes that these are men and are depictions of the Anunnaki/Aliens.

 

feather cloaks

 

In the very last five minutes of the show we are treated to Tsoukalos’ favorite Atlantis theory of them all. That Atlantis wasn’t an island at all, it was a spaceship full of genetic manipulating aliens that would land periodically to spread genes and culture and then fly away to someplace else. That’s why no one can find it, because it’s a spaceship.

This whole show we’re not offered one bit of actual evidence of anything. Tsoukalos and company do nothing but speculate and postulate, without offering anything to support their ideas. Tsoukalos spends most of his energy in the the show trying to convince us that we’re all just Alien-Human hybrids, but can’t tell us how he knows that or why it would be true in the first place. He reinterprets everything he comes across to be Aliens without explaining why it should be that over the actual explanation. I mean, there really is no substance to the show. There are no facts to dispute because there are no facts. And the ideas Tsoukalos puts forth are not theories, they are just fantasies cooked up in his spare time. Theories are built on facts and evidence, neither of which were presented in this show.

So where is Atlantis? It’s in two books called Critias and Timaeus and no where else.

*All images are screenshots from the show.

Want more on this topic? Go to Reviews: In Search of Aliens

Categories: In Search of Aliens, Rants | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

In Search of Sanity, er, I mean Aliens…

I’ve gone on about TV a lot on this blog, but I never really broke any one show down before. This is probably an issue since I do debunk pseudoscience and pseudoarchaeology and currently there are far to many shows on the air that fall deep into these categories. Ancient Aliens is in it’s 7th season, Diggers has its second season coming up (though I’ve been told it’s cleaning up its act a bit, no more illegal digging for them! I am a bit skeptical though), America Unearthed wrapped up it’s second season this spring and there is the newcomer to the scene, In Search of Aliens. With this rich smorgasbord of…entertainment… how could I resist?

Honestly, I don’t usually watch a lot of TV. I don’t really have the time, and when I do have the time I don’t like to waste it hurting myself. But then something hit me the other day when a coworker was asking me about something Scott Wolter said on America Unearthed. I realized these shows are what the average person is watching and where they’re getting their information. I need to know what they’re talking about so I know how to counter it. Which brings me to this new venture.

I’m going to watch these shows for you. I’m going to watch them and then fix them. I’m going to debunk TV, for you…

I figured I’d start with In Search of Aliens and the first season of America Unearthed. If I don’t have a misinformation induced stroke, I might get caught up before the next season of these shows start next year.

So that’s the plan anyway, stay tuned.

Want more on this topic? Go to Reviews: In Search of Aliens or Reviews: America Unearthed.

Categories: America Unearthed, In Search of Aliens | Tags: , , , | 1 Comment

Nina Frances Layard – Something Indeed for a Lady to Have Done.

Today we’re going to talk about Nina Francis Layard and also to some degree her partner in life Mary Frances Outman. Though Mary seems to have played a traditional wifely role to Nina’s more outgoing and adventurous stereotypical male role, I do not want to downplay Mary’s contributions to Nina’s work. Before we get too far I wanted to be understood that Mary transcribed a great deal of what Nina wrote. This is not to say that Nina’s work was not her own, it’s just to say that Nina would not have accomplished as much as she had without Mary’s help. That said, there’s not much known about Mary Frances so the little that I do know I have found through my studies concerning Nina, who by all accounts deserves the reputation that she worked so hard to achieve.

Nina appears to have been quite the renaissance woman. She was born in 1853 in in Stratford, Essex, England, into a wealthy family with a long pedigree antiquarians. She herself never achieved more than a dame’s school education (White and Plunkett 2005: 4), yet throughout her life she made connections with some of the greatest names of early archaeology in England. She became the student of these great names and learned from them how best to do her own archaeology (White and Plunkett 2005: 6).

As a child, Nina, had an interest in shell and egg collecting which a later blossomed into the collecting of fossils (White and Plunkett 2005: 6). In 1882 she struck up a friendship with an unnamed basket maker who lived in a rock shelter along the banks of Bradford on Avon canal, who taught her how to identify and collect fossils (White and Plunkett 2005: 6). She began to discuss her finds with naturalist Leonardo Bloomfield and later with Sir John Ellor Taylor (White and Plunkett 2005: 6). She benefited from both mens tutelage and began writing academic papers. She became the first woman to have a paper presented in front of the Victorian Institute. Though this paper was delivered through a male colleague, it was received very well. This reception allowed for her to become the first woman to present her own paper to the British Association in Leeds later on (White and Plunkett 2005: 6).

Though Nina apparently showed no interest in traditional Victorian marriage, she still found a life partner in Mary Frances Outman. The two women met in 1894, when Nina was in her 40’s,  and they became both cohorts and cohabitors for the rest of their lives (White and Plunkett 2005: 7). There is no real ambiguity to their relationship, making Nina and Mary the first confirmed lesbian couple we’ve looked at.

Mary appears to have had many connections in the antiquarian community through her own family, and those connections later served both women well (White and Plunkett 2005: 7). It’s interesting to see the combination of Nina and Mary’s contacts and ambitions working so well together. Their collaboration is reminiscent of the  Dieulafoy’s where they appear to be working as equals, both with a firm interest in archaeology, building each other up for a unified success. It does seem, however, that Nina was more comfortable publishing and lecturing, which is probably why more is known about her then her partner.

Nina seriously began her study of archaeology in 1890, becoming friends with many of the larger names in archaeology in the day.  One such gentleman was Hamlet Watling, who became a major supporter of hers until his death in 1908 (White and Plunkett 2005: 6). They met in Ipswich, England, and it was here that Nina performed her first investigations at the Blackfriars and Whitefriars sites (White and Plunkett 2005: 6). These two sites were of great significance at the time because they produced evidence of both prehistoric and saxon occupation by locating walls of medieval buildings and human remains (White and Plunkett 2005: 6). Her handling of the investigations and her reports on the same helped bolster her reputation, and in 1899 she was recruited by the Suffolk Institute of Archaeology (White and Plunkett 2005: 7).

During this time that she did a great deal of artifact identification either by mail, or she would go and visit them and identify the artifacts there (White and Plunkett 2005: 7). She became a recognized expert in her area and continued to grow her connections within the archaeological community. Both of these helped to continue to grow her reputation which allowed her many opportunities not available to the average woman at the time.

In 1902, when she was nearly 50, she began her excavations at the Fox Hall Road site. This excavation and her work with the flint tools found there would become the work she was best known for and would take her more than a decade to finish. It would become one of the most important excavations of her career, and because of her use of modern techniques and attention to detail, the information from the site would set her career in archaeology (White and Plunkett 2005: 8). She presented the first of three reports on the Fox Hall Road site to the Royal  Association and they accepted her work for publication in the Journal of the Anthropological Institute for Great Britain and Ireland (White and Plunkett 2005: 7). This set of reports solidified her reputation in the archaeology community and allowed her to network with a core group of highly respected figures (White and Plunkett 2005: 7).

Nina manage to work on several different locations during her decade at Fox Hall. One significant location was the Hadleigh Road site, which was a prehistoric pagan cemetery that was being exposed due to a road widening project. Over 159 graves were located and the remains were sent back to the museum at the Ipswich Museum (Moir 1927: 160). The site was a wealth of information about the peoples buried there. This site was significant because Anglo-Saxon remains were rare in the Suffolk and the amount of recovered grave goods outnumbered similar sites found elsewhere (Moir 1927: 160). She was told at the time of this excavation that she would have an honorary curatorship over the remains she had recovered at the Ipswich Museum, however when it came time for her to do post excavation analysis, the museum tried to block her. It took the intervention of the honorific president Sir. Ray Lankester to finally get her curatorship fully recognized. By this time, however, she and the official curator were not on speaking terms (White and Plunkett 2005: 9). Though it does appear but she managed to repair her relationship with the official curator, she refused to leave the rooms that were given to her for curation or hand over her collections at the museum until he retired.

Nina also continue to lead two other excavations while she worked at the Ipswich Museum. She lead excavations at Larkin valley in West Suffolk, White Park Bay, and Lough Larnie in Ireland, the later lead to a joint excavation with W. J. Knowles (White and Plunkett 2005: 9). This later excavation led to the discovery of a raised beach which produced several  examples of “older series” Irish tools (White and Plunkett 2005: 9). All this work allowed her amass a large collection of comparative samples for prehistoric materials, which helped in analysis of other sites. She was also instrumental in raising popular awareness of archaeology in Ipswich by reaching out to the public and making archaeology more accessible to them.

Probably the second most important excavation of Nina’s career was the excavation at Stoke Bone Bed (Moir 1927: 106). In the 1840’s the city of Ipswich was trying to tunnel through Stoke Hill and found a large bed of fossilized animal bone. Nina was able to get permission to expose a small section of the fossils and collected a large sample (Moir 1927: 106). The fossils turned out to be the remains of rhinoceros, lion, and, mammoths among other animals as well as a large amount of worked flint (Moir 1927: 106). The discoveries at Stoke Bone Beds allowed for a new understanding of the ecology and climate of prehistoric England.

During her life, Nina accumulated many firsts, she was one of the first four women to be admitted as Fellow of the Society of Antiquaries of London in the first year of admission, and was admitted Fellow of the Linnean Society in the second year of women’s admission. She was the first woman to be President of the Prehistoric Society of East Anglia (Trowlblazers 2013). She was the first woman to present to any professional body in England. She was the first woman to publish in the Journal of the Anthropological Institute for Great Britain and Ireland, and she was the first woman to curate at the Ipswich Museum. She accomplished a great deal in her long life, leading several important excavations that have had lasting impacts on the understanding of prehistoric life in England. Her methods were quite modern and very detailed, making her one of founding mothers of modern archaeological techniques (White and Plunkett 2005, Trowel Blazers 2013). This attention to detail and use of unconventional, but desirable, methods for the time gained her a reputation that served her well in her professional career.

Nina passes away at the age of 82 in her and Mary’s home in Ipswich. It’s unclear if she outlived Mary, but it is clear that the women lived together the rest of their lives, having 40 long years together, collaborating and deeply influencing the archaeological world.

 

Resources:

 

Moir, J. Reid
1927    The Antiquity of Man in East Anglia. Cambridge University Press.  http://books.google.com/books?id=hVWyAAAAQBAJ&pg=PA160&lpg=PA160&dq=Nina+Layard,+Hadleigh+Road+and+Ipswich+Museum&source=bl&ots=4ZVjgEUcjG&sig=5g_nQ3xxz8k9WJ1E25KJw6cvPSg&hl=en&sa=X&ei=zZuHUo3EN5et4AOgxIHwDg&ved=0CDMQ6AEwAg#v=onepage&q=Nina%20Layard%2C%20Hadleigh%20Road%20and%20Ipswich%20Museum&f=false. Accessed 8/28/2014

White, Mark and Stephen J. Plunkett
2005    Miss Layard Excavates: a Palaeolithic site at Foxhall Road, Ipswich, 1903–1905. Western Academic and Specialist Press, Liverpool.

Trowel Blazers
Nina Layard (1853-1935): Flint Hunter, First Class. TrowelBlazers. http://trowelblazers.tumblr.com/post/50651881952/nina-layard-1853-1935-flint-hunter-first-class. Accessed 8/28/2014

Categories: Mothers of the Field, Women in Archaeology | Tags: , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Why We Believe Weird Things and How to Address it. Pt 1.

Last Fall I took an exciting class by Dr. Larry Zimmerman, called Lost Tribes and Ancient Astronauts. It was an absolutely excellent class and a good end to my last semester in college (for a while). I took it mainly so I could better address this blog, and I got good feedback and good ideas on how to expand the scope of the material here. So with that, let’s start with another look at why people believe weird stuff.

Here’s the secret to this question; we all believe some weird stuff. Each and every one of us has some strong belief, unsupported by facts, that we believe about the world, ourselves, or the unexplained. It’s a natural human state. Michael Shermer argues that it’s an evolved trait to keep us alive. Neurologists see it as faults in our brains. Anthropologists see it as a way of creating group cohesion and society. There’s probably a bit of truth to all of those as they can all produce verifiable evidence to support their ideas. Where the belief in weird things becomes an issue is when those holding the beliefs refuse to modify said beliefs in the face of facts and evidence.

So why do people hold onto weird beliefs when all else is stacked against them?

There are a variety of reasons, from the flippant (It’s fun, makes them feel special, provides escapism, allows a rich fantasy life, etc) to the more serious (Mistrust or misunderstanding of science, poor or improper education, willful ignorance, cultural or societal pressure, blatant lies and purposefully misleading information, etc). The more flippant reasons are hard to address because they are personal and individual choices. Often I’ve noticed these are attached to one person or small group of people. Many times the believer is aware they have a weird belief and can weather social pressures to change it because it’s a choice to believe and they’ve accepted it. They respond with humor, or by ignoring the questioner, sometimes they do respond with anger, but not often. Examples are the beliefs that the Cubs will win the World Series in my lifetime, or the Bears will ever go to the Super Bowl again, I believe it can happen…someday.

The second set of reasons, the more serious ones, are easy to address but very hard to correct. These lead more into the identity of an individual, so by questioning the belief you are attacking the individual. This almost always gets a angry or hostile response because no matter how delicately you try to word it, nonacceptance of the believers’ belief is equivocated with nonacceptance of the believer as a person. Again, we’ve all been here, rejection is not a pleasant feeling, especially when its based on something that we hold important to our idea of Self. Challenges to an individual’s religion, political persuasion, belief in the supernatural, or a particular conspiracy almost always result in an angry response. These are often a long lecture on why the individual believes such things, and why you are the one who is wrong for even questioning that in the first place. These individuals I call True Believers, because in my experience there is nothing that will be said that will ever change their mind, often they are happy to be confrontational and make a show of the disagreement.

These two sets of reasons for belief can and often do overlap. It can complicate how to respond, but more and more often a response is needed. Sometimes it’s easy to just shrug and say, Live and Let Live, increasingly it is not. The difficult part is learning to tell the two situations apart, and this often comes down to personal choices.

That said, there are definitely correct ways to respond and wrong ways. When we engage the True Believer, it is tempting to get angry and try to point out their errors with sarcasm and snark. Its irritating to answer the same question over and over, it’s insulting to have your credentials questioned, I get it, I do. There are several replies to comments on my blog where I gave in to that urge. But, as relieving as it was, it’s not the best way to respond.

The reason for this is that I’ve found that no matter how you respond to a True Believer, they will nit-pick your words and twist them in any way possible to fit their needs. The best response here is to simply stay cordial, and when the times comes (you’ll know when you get there), disengage with grace. The worst that is going to come from this is the True Believer will crow about how they’ve beat you with their logic, the best that will come from it is you being nice to someone with an honest question.

This latter part is the most important!

There is so much bad information out there these days, and there are lots of individuals who are out there simply to take advantage of the misinformed by presenting themselves as authorities (*cough cough History Channel cough cough Graham Hancock *). This creates a situation where people with honest questions are trying to find answers and they are turning to people who they think they can trust. Those people are often us, we the “educated”, we the “professionals”, we the “authorities”. When we respond to these questions with arrogance and snark, it turns people away and they turn to other sources of information, often getting sucked down a rabbit hole of bad reasoning and no evidence. So be nice, answer honestly, and if you don’t know, just say so. We don’t know everything.

Is it ever ok to respond with Sarcasm?

Well…yes, and no.

See, I have a very low opinion of the media right now. So if there was ever a time I would say “Go forth and Snark thy Enemies” it would be when dealing with reporters et al. The problem here is that they will repeat what you say and publish it for everyone to see. They will blow it way out of proportion and make you sound like an arrogant jackass. If you’re good with this, then go forth! If you’re not, then hold your tongue and either turn down the interview (best option IMO) or try to give the most innocuous response possible. Keep in mind, whatever brush the media paints you with, they paint us all with, just fyi.

This all said, it is important that we begin to aggressively address misinformation and pseudoscience. The Age of Information is also the Age of Misinformation packaged as actual information. It’s difficult for us as busy professionals to combat the crap that TV and popular books spew at the curious and uninformed. However, it is also the exact reason we need to combat it! So let’s blog, let’s tweet, let’s podcast and You Tube and Tumblr! Let’s get out there and reach out!

—-

If you want to reach out with questions or comments you can email us at ArchyFantasies@gmail.com or @ArchFantasies on twitter.

Categories: Skeptical Topics | Tags: , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Tiny Plastic Indiana Jones Would Blog and the Blogging Archaeology Wrap-up.

blogging-archaeology banner

 

Since I missed the February question for the Blogging Carnival I figured I should try and make the March one…who cares if it’s actually April?

Doug asks us a question this month that reaches into the future of archaeology in the digital world. He asks; “Where are you/we going with blogging or would you it like to go?”

 

cropped-phpswf56zpm.jpg

 

 Where am I going with this blog?

I originally intended for this to be a kind of tongue-in-cheek blog poking a little fun at the crazy theories out there.  The longer I do this, the less I make fun and the more I seriously break things down.  There are people out there who really believe this stuff, and as mind boggling as that is, you can’t just make fun of them, you have to reach out and try and correct those misperceptions. I’ve worked more towards that end the last few years, with varying degrees of success.

I also notice a severe deficit of information out there about women in archaeology and their contributions to the field, and rectifying that has become a side project of the blog for a while now. I don’t have as much up there as I would like, but I already have more than a lot of academic sites (which I find very sad.)

More forward than Back.

So to answer Doug’s question, I’m going to do more of that, moving forward. I’m out of school for the time being, I’ve got lots of free time (which a blog eats btw), and I’ve got lots of plans.  I’d also like to build a community around addressing pseudoarchaeology and its kin. I’d like to host it here at my blog. I’d like it to be tolerant, but factual. The trick is finding other archaeologists and academics that are willing to address it.

You Crazy Kids and Your Blogs.

As to the larger question of where is the archaeology community going with this blogging thing? Full steam ahead! This Carnival has been a great thing and has shown how much of a community there is out there not just talking about weird stuff in archaeology, but also technical questions, academic questions, and various other dead things. It’s great, I want more of that! I want to send folks to other blogs and know those bloggers are not crackpots and they have solid facts, and I can.

I’d also like to see blogs et al more accepted within the academic community. I’ve got two professors that blog and that’s it. I am the only person in my graduating class that blogs, tweets, or anything. There is not enough engagement here, there needs to be more. I know it’s getting better slowly, but social media changes so rapidly that by the time we drag the majority of our academics into the digital world, the world will have moved on, and we’ll be right back where we started. So let’s get them blogging now, get them tweeting, Tumblr-ing, YouTubeing, Podcasting, etc.

Tiny Plastic Indiana Jones would blog...if he reach the keys.

Tiny Plastic Indiana Jones would blog…if he reach the keys.

I propose approaching your favorite Prof or Academic and offering to team up. Offer to help, offer to host, or ask to just interview them fairly. Don’t give up easily, it only takes seven days on average to learn a new technology, ask them to try it for a week, a month, a year, and then let them bail (I bet they won’t at that point).

Anyway, that’s where I see my blog and where I’d like to see the community as a whole go. If you’re interested in helping out or just getting started, email me at archyfantasies@gmail.com or if you can go blog with ArcheoWebby at his new Blogging Collective  , it’s more field related and less pseudoarchaeology related. Send your professors, your class mates, your students, your crew chief, and your fellow field techs!

 

Categories: Blogging, Blogging Carnival | Tags: , , | 1 Comment

When the Chinese Didn’t Discover America – Fusang.

1792 French Map indicating Fusang to be about where British Columbia was. Image via Wikicommons.

When examining the claim of the Chinese in pre-contact America, you quickly realize that all of the evidence to support this claim is interconnected in a way that, if you can prove one piece wrong, it pretty much proves all the evidence wrong. Still, we need someplace to start, and a mythical island somewhere in the ocean is as good a place as any. No, not Atlantis, though it might as well be, but a new land named Fusang.

Fusang has an origin story, as most myths do, and just by looking at this story I see several red flags. Keeping in mind, the legend of Fusang is part of Chinese culture, I cannot express strongly enough that we are not going to debunk Chinese culture here, it’s not even close to our intention. However, we are going to critically examine the myth and the modern claims surrounding it, and it’s those modern claims that we are going to challenge.

So, The story of Fusang begins with a mystical monk named Hui Shen (Feder 2011:126). No, I cannot find a mention of Hui Shen outside of a book from the 7th century called the Book of Liang by Yao Silian. In this book Yao recounts Hui’s explorations around the globe to known and unknown lands, where upon he finally returned to China and told of his discoveries to the royal court (Feder 2011:126).

And this is where the red flags start.

Red Flag #1: The Book of Liang was compiled in 635 and was mostly made up of Yao’s father’s accounts (Wiki). So at best this is a third hand account, and worst, who knows. It does sound a bit like the origin story of Atlantis though doesn’t it? The only account we have of Atlantis is in two of Plato’s stories, and then the story is describes as being handed down through several mouths till it’s finally written down. Not to mention it was also all part of a thought experiment where the students were asked to make it up…but I digress.

Red Flag #2: In the book Hui describes encountering a living people who we can classify as being well into the bronze age at the time of the story from the description given of them (Wiki). If Hui had made it to the Americas, as is claimed by some in the Cult Archaeology world, then he wouldn’t have encountered people who worked metal with the skill he mentions.

Red Flag #3: Traditional Chinese maps place the location of Fusang on the Chinese coast, as per Hui’s description of the location (Feder 2011:126). It doesn’t seem to have migrated off the coast of China until European mapmakers came along. Once that happened, Fusang began popping up everywhere.

Red Flag #4: Hui was said to have carried holy relics and texts with him and five other monks accompanied him as well (Wiki). They were kinda like missionaries in this aspect. That being said, why is there no evidence of them ever having set foot and encountering local Native American peoples?

Red Flag #5: Hui describes other cultural practices of the people he encountered in Fusang (Wiki), namely the domestication and milking of deer (a tradition known of the Mongolians and their reindeer) and the domestication of horses (which didn’t exist in North America until they were reintroduced after European contact, but did flourish in and around China).

So, if we take the account of Hui Shen at his word,  there there is no real reason to link Fusang with the Americas or any other location not in China, except for possibly, Mongolia.

That’s never stopped anyone has it?

The story of Fusang doesn’t stop there, like wine it gets richer with age, and new and mysterious details pop up every year, regardless if they are part of the original story or  not. These new details get forced into new shapes in order to support the idea that the Chinese made it to America first. Once you really look at them, however, they don’t hold up well. They do pop-up in a lot of places, being repeated over and over as if repetition alone could make them real. Let’s just examine a few. These are things I’m seeing a lot on random websites testifying to the reality of the Chinese discovery of America.

  1. Hypothetically there are ocean currents that move around the continents of Eurasia, and if you were so lucky as to hitch a ride on them you could, hypothetically, drift all the way around the world and back again.  Now, I know currents exist, and I know that sea fairing peoples were aware of them as far back as sailing was invented. That doesn’t mean that this scenario ever actually happened, or is actually possible given the technology of the day. I’m not even sure you could do it today, since most of these currents run deep in the ocean and aren’t usually accessible to the ships that float atop. But if you can prove me wrong here with actual evidence, feel free to. Do keep in mind however, just because you can do it, doesn’t mean it did happen.
  2. I see lots of vague and uncited accounts of “ancient Chinese artifacts” found all over North America and “known interaction” between the First Peoples and the Chinese.  None of these are reputable, and the few I can manage to find are either known fakes or actual artifacts being reinterpreted in a way to try and make them support the narrative. We’ll touch on a few of these as we go further in the series, but for now please be aware there are no authentic ancient Chinese artifacts found in America.
  3. I also see several attempts to identify the plant Hui calls Fusang, from which he named the area because of their abundance. There is no reliable way to do this, therefor, anyone telling you that they have identified the plant is wrong. They may have a convincing story or even a convincing set of “like” traits, but this proves nothing, and definitely does not identify any particular location as the location of Fusang.
So with that said, let’s wrap up a bit.

The original story of Fusang is ancient and is mostly a written account of an oral tradition. This alone should make it suspect.  Once we look over the accounts as it’s written we see that Hui is describing a living group of, at lest, bronze age people who have very similar traits to the Mongolian peoples. I’m not saying they are the same, I’m just that these cultural characteristic were not as foreign to Hui as we are lead to believe. The Chinese themselves located Fusang off their own coast and this location didn’t change until White Europeans got a hold of the story sometime around the late 1700’s early 1800’s. Combine all that with a severe lack of evidence of any actual archaeological remains, and Fusang becomes an important Chinese myth, that has nothing to do with America.

We’ll certainly be coming back to Fusang often as we move forward with our investigation of claims that the Chinese discovered America first. It’s a reoccuring theme that almost ties everything together.

Want more on this topic? Go to  Columbus was Second-ish: Who Discovered America Anyway? or When the Chinese Didn’t Discover America for more on this series.

Resources:

Feder, Keneth

2011    Frauds, Myths, and Mysteries: Science and Pseudoscience in Archaeology. Seventh Edition. McGraw-Hill. New York, NY.

Wikipedia

Nd.    Fusang. Wikipedia. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fusang

Categories: Columbus was Second-ish: Who Discovered America Anyway, When the Chinese Didn't Discover America. | Tags: , , , | 16 Comments

Tequesta Village, Giza Vandals, and America Unearthed. Weekly Round Up 2/21/14

Yesterday was my mother’s birthday. I don’t think she reads my blog, but Happy Birthday none – the – less!

A lot had happens in the past week! In the news mostly, but still, it’s made for fun and interesting reading. The most entertaining of which has been the ongoing comedy that is the vandalism of the Giza Pyramid. Not that the vandalism is itself funny, no, that’s awful. However, the slowly unfolding story about why the vandalism occurred is becoming a comedy of errors. Also, the press can’t decide if the vandals were trying to prove Atlantis or Aliens. I’m going to let you read these two articles yourself, because there is bigger news to discuss.

The Giza Necropolis image vis Wikicommons

The Giza Necropolis image vis Wikicommons

 

Giza pyramid vandalized to prove ‘alien theory’

German conspiracy theorists vandalize Great Pyramid to prove it was built by Atlantis

Many of you might know that there was a Tequesta village site found recently in Miami, Florida. This site is now considered one of the most significant Native American sites in the world and it’s proponents are working to get it recognized as a national heritage site. This of course is severely irritating the construction company that paid for the dig, because they just wanted someone to officially tell them they could build their repetitive hotel/movie theater there. Fortunately, the CRM firm working on this site won’t give in that easy, and they’ve in the big guns to help save this site. Good luck to them.

The middle of downtown Miami, archaeologists excavate a site holding evidence of a more than 1,000-year-old Tequesta Indian village. Image via NPR.

Miami historic preservation board moves to protect Tequesta site

This article gives a good account of what’s been going on so far at the site. It also includes how the public is raving to the find. I like this quote the best:

The testimony from 11-year-old Bella Greenberg, a student at Miami Country Day School, may have best captured the prevailing sentiment over preservation of the eight circles and other features at the site.

“Really, a hotel?’’ Geenberg said. “What’s more important? You’re cheating a generation by cheating us of our history. Please don’t destroy them just to see a movie or stay in a fancy hotel.’’

Another good quote which is very telling of shady nature of the development firm involved:

Board member Jorge Kuperman challenged MDM’s claims of financial hardship, nothing the developers were aware from the beginning that they were buying property in a designated archaeological zone, took a “calculated risk,’’ and now should be responsible for safeguarding the archaeological finds.

“MDM knew precisely what they were buying into,’’ he said.

Fox News, of course, took a slightly different view of things. Still, they gave a great look onto the minds of the developers.

I’m not sure if Fox is trying to help Stearns it here, or if they want him to look bad, but these were maybe not the best quotes to try and win a case with:

“Let’s be honest with each other,” said Eugene Stearns, the attorney representing MDM Development Group, which owns the property and is eager to move forward with construction. “Every great city is built on the shards of a former great city.”

MDM has spent $3 million conducting an archaeological review and is now anxious to continue construction. Stearn said all of the planned commercial space has been leased and half of the residential units have been sold.

“There are enormous financial obligations and commitments that have to be met,” he said. “And they need to go forward.”

Stearn obviously has never had to fight for his own cultural heritage before. And we are to judge him solely on theses quotes, he’s Moore’s concerned about getting paid than he it’s about doing the right thing. This could just be a result of Fox’s stellar reporting style though and not the man’s real objective.

Also, I’ve begun watching a new TV series. Well, it’s in it’s second season, but it’s already as bad as Ancient Aliens. You may have seen it already:

It’s…something…and I have a hard time watching it all the way through.

Recently though, I watched an episode with Tim Baumann in it, and well, it made it a little funny for me. Dr. Baumann taught at my field school last summer so I know the guy a little. I also know that he does not support the Bat Creek Stone as being “authentic”. You could tell from the video that he was kinda angry at the guy interviewing him, so I’m trying to reach out to Dr. Baumann to see if he’s like to give a response to the episode. So keep an eye here for more on the Bat Creek Stone.

Lastly, but not leastly, the #AchaeologyChat(s) are back on Twitter! Yay! If you’re a little behind you can catch up on the ones I managed to put on Storify, and read the latest one, where we discuss Looting among other things.

First ever #ArchaeologyChat!

#ArchaeologyChat for 11/20/2013

#ArchaeologyChat for 2/20/14: What Can Archaeologists do to prevent looting?

——

Click HERE For more Weekly News Round-Ups.

Categories: America Unearthed, Media, Weekly News Round Up | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

When the Chinese Didn’t Discover America.

The mythical identity and legacy of Admiral Zheng He, a Chinese navigator and also supposedly a Muslim during the Ming dynasty, grows every time I look him up.

Another hopeful contender for the title of ‘First in America’ is the Chinese. This discovery is supported by a variety of evidence, including a Chinese Saga mentioning a land called Fusang, a questionable map showing the supposed coastline of California, a massive earthwork in the shape of a horse, and the an intrepid Admiral whose reputation grows everytime I look him up. Next time I Google him I bet someone claims he sailed to the moon first too.

We’ll look at each of these claims in detail, evaluating the claims. We’ll keep them all filed under the category When the Chinese Didn’t Discover America, for easy reference.

However, is there any actual evidence to suggest a Chinese discovery of America?

The short, and unfortunately the long, answer is, No.

There is currently no archaeological evidence to suggest the Chinese made it to America before Columbus or the Vikings. I know that’s a really unsatisfactory answer, but it’s all I got for you sadly. However, there is a lot of “evidence” offered up by the Cult Archaeology world, and we are going to delve into that with gusto in the upcoming weeks. Some of this evidence is just fanciful, but some of it gets close enough to fact that it can almost pass, and then some of it is just repeated over and over in the hopes someone will believe it. However, most of you have been here long enough to know how to spot red flags, and we’ll be testing those skills as we look at the fascinating stories of when the Chinese didn’t discover America.

Go to  Columbus was Second-ish: Who Discovered America Anyway? or When the Chinese Didn’t Discover America for more on this series.

Categories: Columbus was Second-ish: Who Discovered America Anyway, When the Chinese Didn't Discover America. | Tags: , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Blog at WordPress.com. The Adventure Journal Theme.

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 1,093 other followers