It’s important that before we get started with this episode break down that I make it very clear; this particular episode provides no evidence of anything in anyway. It so lacking of anything resembling evidence that the show doesn’t even use the word ‘Evidence’ to describe the desperate straws it attempts to cling to, instead everything is called ‘Clues’ this time. This tells you that even the show knew it was dealing with a big bag of nothing, but still had to fill an hour anyway.
That said, let’s dig in shall we? As usual if you don’t want to read through the whole break down, feel free to skip to the In Summary section at the bottom, but as always, if you have a comment or question don’t be surprised if I tell you to read the whole post first.
We open with the wind hissing ominously through color distressed trees and ominous music telling us a serial murderer is lurking in the woods…Sorry, no, it’s a man using copper rods to divine the location of something. Big something’s, and two of them. What does this all mean?
Well after Scott Wolter tells us that History is wrong and gives us the opening spiel we are told that “Conventional History holds that the Vikings explored North America as far as Newfoundland in 1000 AD.” This is more or less true.
Next we are dropped into the Saker Farm in Twin Valley, Minnesota. Where we meet Roger Saker. He seems like a nice old guy, and he’s got a story/confession to give to us.
He tells us that he was looking for gravel to fill his basement wall in with, and he didn’t want to go buy any because of his cornfield, so he decided to dig for it.
I’ve already got a few questions here, but I really don’t know that much about gravel and wall building.
Saker tells us as he was digging for gravel he dug up some bones. He tells us that he dug of the femur of one skeleton and ribcages of the other two. Apparently they were buried at the feet of the first individual. He figured they were human so he notified the authorities, as you should do. Once the authorities came out, including a bone expert, a Native American Representative, and someone from the State Archaeologist’s office, Saker tells us that the bones were identified as being those of three individuals, one male and two females. Saker tells us that the bone experts commented on how large the femur bone of the male individual was. Here, however, is where things begin to go south, according to Saker.
Saker tells us that once the stature of the male was described as “Unusually large”, suddenly the State Archaeologist wanted to cover everything up and re-bury the bones. This seemed fishy to Saker, and so he now believes that there is a conspiracy to keep this male individual a secret. Wolter of course agree whole heartedly and straight up tells Saker that what he found was probably a giant, and not just any giant, but a Norse Giant, you know, cause all Norsemen were giants…
So let’s break down this statement and examine other reasons the State Archaeologist probably wanted the human remains re-buried.
1) Saker tells us a few things that really caught my attention, first that the area he was digging for gravel in was a known area for Native American Mounds. He mentions this briefly in the original statement at the beginning of the show, and then again when he shows the location to Wolter, and again later in the show. The last mention of this knowledge really got my attention because he admitted to knowing that the area he was digging for gravel in was a mound itself. This is all contradictory to the implied idea at the beginning of the show where he wants us to think he accidentally dug up human remains, the more that he tells this story, the more the story changes.
2) Saker was plainly told that the human remains he found were Native in origin. He is completely willing to believe that the female skeletons are Native, but for some reason he won’t accept that the male was too.
3) The language used to describe the skeletons is telling. Saker calls the females, tiny, petite, delicate, etc. He recognizes that they were placed at the feet of the larger individual, this obviously means something to him, I think he even suggests that they were sacrifices to the larger individual. When he talks about the male individual, his language is all about how big the guy was, how huge his bones were. The problem here is, if we are to take Saker’s account at face value, he only ever saw the ribs of the females and the leg bones of the male. These are not comparable bones for stature.
Firstly, our ribs are slender and delicate bones, they are flat and depending on the bone, rather small in comparison to our long-bones, to which our femurs belong. Ribs are not used to determine stature, or how tall you are. Long-bones can be, but there is a long, drawn out formula that I’m not going into. Basically, Saker is comparing two very different bones and trying to draw a conclusion that is not supported by that comparison.
4) The language used in the rest of the show to describe the male individual is also of interest. Though Saker and Wolter referred to the female individuals as Native American, they refused to refer to male individual as such. Any time they mention him it’s often to call him “Unusually large male” or just “The man”. They remove the identity of Native American given to his remains in order to apply their own identity as a Norse Giant. Again, there is no evidence to support this reassignment of ethnicity, and as we see later in the show, there is ample evidence to support his identity as a Native American.
Back to the show.
Wolter tells Saker that what he found was probably a Giant, and he knows that because he’s got a copy of an article published in the St. Paul paper from 1888 saying there was once a race of giants found near a place called Clear Water, MN. The article says they were 7-8 feet tall. He asks Saker if his guy could be that big, and Saker agrees that he could have been. Based on what? I’m pretty sure beyond the point where he “tore through” the skeletons while digging for gravel, he never handled those remains again. He certainly didn’t run the formulas to get their statures, so he’s basically just guessing and agreeing to whatever number Wolter throws out there. He even agrees that the Giant has to be a Norseman, because he’s done research into Norse burial methods and “All this is Norse technology”. What is? Is Saker saying that all these mounds in Minnesota are actually Norse burial mounds? Surly not, but I can’t figure out what other technology he’s referring to.
Wolter asks if he can see the location where Saker “Tore through” the burials and we now are on an epic walk past cornfields and whatnot accompanied by music worthy of a Michael Bay movie.
Once we get to the location we immediately see fresh dirt, and Saker tells us that’s about where he dug up the burials. That’s really fresh looking dirt, and the amount is worrisome, but we really don’t get to see much of the area so it’s hard to put it all into context. Given this show’s established love of wide panning landscapes, it’s kind of odd to have this area be so tightly shot and so noticeable under shown. It’s almost like they don’t want us to see something. (See, I can make conspiracy’s too.)
Wolter asks where the head of the individual is located and Saker points out a softball sized rock on the ground. He calls it a marker stone, and Wolter proceeds to measure from the stone all the way back to where the feet are supposed to be with a tape measure. Using this highly scientific method, Wolter gets a measurement of 8-9 feet long. This is neither the proper way to measure a skeleton, nor the proper way to measure a grave. Also, two more things that are bugging me here:
1) Why is there fresh looking dirt where the feet of the burials is supposed to be? Did this just happen like a week before this show was shot? Why is it all mounded up like that?
2) If this is a fresh dig, how the heck do we know where the head of the skeleton is? You can tell from the grass that the ground hasn’t been disturbed recently, so I’m left to conclude that either they never excavated the head of the burial, which would mean Saker is just guessing again, or this is an older occurrence and enough time has passed for the grass to grow back. If the second statement is true, why is there fresh dirt where the feet of the burials is supposed to be!?
About this point is where we get Saker retelling his story again with slight adjustments. When Wolter presses for exact statements, Saker gets really vague. We are really not given anything resembling a fact here, but we are told that Saker disagrees with the bone experts about this being a Native American site. He knows that there are “a lot of these people out here”, But he kept quiet about it when the experts were out. What people is he referring to exactly? Native Americans? Why yes, there are a lot of those people in Minnesota, there are a lot of those people all over the country, not that we are going to acknowledge that with this show. Maybe he’s referring to giants, specifically the Norse kind, that built all these mounds that are round here with their technology? That seems to fit the show’s agenda better, so we’re gonna run with that.
It also allows Wolter to invoke the Great Academic Conspiracy, where all of academia is trying to lie to the public by covering up not only the fact that giants are real, but that those giants are Norse! We are spared the usual tirade about how the man is keeping Wolter down this time thankfully.
Wolter finally get around to asking Saker knows how big this really big male is, and this is where the show just jumps the shark without blinking an eye.
Saker reveals to us he knows how big the male individual is because he brought out a friend who used divining rods to figure it out. Wolter is all over that, we even get a little dialogue box to tell us what “Witching” is. The dialogue box and Wolter’s voice over give us two very important tidbits.
1) In the dialogue box the statement is made that there is no scientific explanation for how Divining rods work. This is just left to hang there hoping that the unwary individual will make the assumption that diving rod do work. The reason there is no scientific explanation for how they work is because they don’t. Every scientific test that Diviners and Divining Rods have been put through, and there have been several including the ones done by The Amazing James Randi, they fail spectacularly. They are not scientific in any way. Now, I know there are those who will argue this point, even among archaeologist (two individuals come to mind), but the flat reality of it is, when put to an actual, scientific testing, Divining fails every time.
2) Wolter’s voice over tells us that “Even Einstein believed that it worked.” This is a blatant appeal to authority in the hopes of convincing the unwary of the validity of Divining. There is also the rather difficult issue of proving that Einstein actually believed this. Though it is easy to state, it is hard to find in writing any support from Einstein for Divining. Now, even if that evidence did exist, and it might, it wouldn’t change anything. Just because Einstein believed something, doesn’t mean they we should as well. Nor should we give it any more weight than it deserves. If it’s true that Einstein believe in Divining, then clearly he was wrong. And that is that.
Frankly from here on out this is just a desperate attempt to fill an hour worth of TV. Wolter has Saker bring out Leonard Engen who is a diviner and Wolter gives him a crappy test to see if Engen can locate Wolter’s knife that he sticks in the ground. Engen dose with easy, probably because he heard Wolter call out to him, and he could see the disturbed grass where Wolter stuck it. We discuss the not fact that there is a giant buried on the mound and since it’s a giant it can’t be a Native American (why not?), so it must be a Viking, somehow.
Wolter actually says something factual here, he says if there is a giant Norseman buried in the mound, then there must be other artifacts associated with it. This is true! Point to Wolter!
Wolter wants Engen to work his magic and find more Norse artifacts to dig up. Saker tells them that they can’t dig on the mound (while the cameras are rolling apparently), and he doesn’t want to disturb his corn, so they can go dig in his yard. Now, this is not exactly how one would go about finding artifacts that were associated with a site. As I mentioned, we have no context or scale for this burial, so we don’t know how far it is exactly from Saker’s yard, or even the corn field. It could be a few feet, it could be miles. Given this, we the viewers, cannot be sure of the context of anything that might be found. Context is how we know things are related to each other, so without it, we have no way of knowing if whatever Wolter et al will find will be related to the burial that Saker “tore through” earlier.
But we follow Engen around anyway, epic music playing in the background as he crosses and uncrosses his rods. Each time he points to something we put a pin flag down. Eventually we have a yard full of pin flags and it’s time for a commercial break.
As we come back from the break we are given our usual rundown of the evidence supporting the claims of the show, but this time it’s different. Instead of ‘evidence’ where calling everything ‘clues’. So far we have 3:
1) Alleged Giant bones – These have been identified as Native American remains, but like most of Wolter’s shows, we are ignoring the fact that Native Americans exist.
2) Old newspaper clippings – which BTW we are never really allowed to look at or read ad viewers of the show. We are just told what is in them and we have to accept that since we can’t read them ourselves.
3) Anomalies in the ground – I’m guessing he means the spots that Engen said was where things were?
After some color corrected images of the landscapes set to riveting adventure-time music, we are told that we are conducting an archaeological excavation. This is very sudden, we never talked about getting permits or doing background research or anything.
We meet Michael Arbuthnot, who is a Registered Professional Archaeologist (RPA) and qualified to lead an excavation in the state of Minnesota, I’m guessing (that’s usually what RPA means). He also owns an underwater excavation firm, so he’s should know his stuff. He gets point for not laughing out loud when Wolter tells him that he wants Arbuthnot to help locate evidence of a buried Norse giant. Arbuthnot tells him about L’anse Aux Meadows and how we do have actual evidence of Norse in America, but there is no evidence that they ever made it to Minnesota. Wotler tells Arbuthnot that it doesn’t really matter if there is evidence or not, everyone in Minnesota believes that the Norse came here, so therefore it’s true. Arbuthnot pulls a survival tactic I’ve watch most of Wolter’s professional guests use, the Smile-and-Nod. It’s a way of deflecting the nonsense without seeming to be rude. Unfortunately, it sometimes gives the impression that they agree with Wolter.
We get back to the Saker farm and Wolter gives Arbuthnot the run down about how giant Norsemen and how they found all this via divining. Arbuthnot doesn’t laugh outright, but he does giggle a little and tries to explain how modern archaeologists have better technology now. This is something Wolter should already know since we were shown him using Ground Penetrating Radar (GPR) in EP 2. Arbuthnot suggests using a simple metal detector, and proceeds to do things they way actual archaeologists do. Hey lays out a grid, marks everything down, and uses the metal detector to find actual anomalies. He flags these and records them.
We are never shown if Arbuthnot’s flags overlap with Engen’s flags, but dollars to doughnuts they probably don’t. However, we now have a grid and actual anomalies to investigate, and so Arbuthnot begins the dig. This is, well, it’s archaeology, and it’s methodical and repetitive, and takes longer than a few minutes to do. To spice things up we get to listen to Epic Digging Music and get random shots of various things that Arbuthnot is doing. At one point we find a bone, and everyone gets all excited.
Arbuthnot has already explained to us that finding human bone would be a very bad thing, despite the almost ghoulish way Wolter salivated over the hope of finding one now. It turns out to not be human and after that Wolter loses interest in the dig. Saker, then, comes over and tells him about a sword that was found in the 1900’s twelve miles from the farm. This seems to be the show’s M.O., Start with a shaky premises then spend the rest of the show pulling a National Treasure like goose chase to try and fill an hour.
There is really no point in going into the rest of the episode in too much detail. Basically the sword turns out to be mass-produced piece from the late 1800’s. The guy who tell us this is my Hero for the episode. Criag Johnson, a medieval weapons expert with the Oakenshot Institute in Minneapolis, MN., plainly tells Wolter there is no evidence to support the presence of Norse or Vikings in Minnesota. He straight tells Wotler the Kensington Runestone is fake. He even laughs right at Wolter. Gold star Mr. Johnson.
Along with the sword we are told about a possible runestone, so we have to go look at that, and there is a huge and pointless chunk of time dedicated to finding it. Turns out it’s not a runestone and is just a large fieldstone someone used for their house foundation. Even Wolter dismisses this one.
When we do get back to the dig on the Saker farm, Arbuthnot tries to show us the notes he’s taken, but Wotler wants to see the artifacts. Arbuthnot shows them to us, chert flakes, more animal bone, and lots of native pottery, thus supporting the State Archaeologist’s identification of the human remains as Native Americans. Unsurprisingly, there is no evidence for the presence of Norsemen or Giants. Yet we still have to go interrogate the State Archaeologist anyway.
Now, I don’t know the Minnesota State Archaeologist, Scott Anfinson, but I do know this man has massive amounts of restraint.
Wolter sets up this interrogation like something from a cop drama, lighting and everything. You can tell from the start that Anfinson is pissed. Wolter does nothing but be condescending, physically points his finger while accusing Anfinson of lying, smirks, and looks down his nose at Anfinson the whole time. He is simply stunning at how rude he is, I don’t know what kept Anfinson from telling Wolter where to stick it, but he did manage to keep his cool and answer Wolter’s stupid questions.
Wolter starts by stating that the bone expert wouldn’t talk to him (no, really?) and that she told Wolter to talk to Anfinson. So he accuses Anfinson of covering up the bones because they were so large. Anfinson tries to explain how evidence works to Wolter, and then states that the skeletons were not that large, they ranged in statures from 5’ to 5’8’. Hardly giant sized people.
Wolter then accuses Anfinson of calling Saker a liar. This isn’t even close to what was just said, and this is one of those wacky argument techniques used to throw people off the actual point of the argument. Anfinson doesn’t fall for it and again explains what evidence is, and that Saker probably does believe that there are giant Norsemen on his land, but it’s not supported by anything.
Then just to be contrary and prove that this conversation was a huge waste of everyone’s time, Wolter tells Anfinson that he didn’t really think that there are giants on Saker’s farm. So what was the point of this whole thing?
To end the show we go back to the Saker farm where Wolter basically tells Saker that Anfinson called him a liar (which never happened) and that Wolter still believes Saker (which he said earlier that he didn’t) and that Saker had to keep fighting the good fight. Then there’s the end credits with Wolter telling us that since everyone in the state thinks Vikings came this way, that makes it a fact, and we fade out to Wolter telling us how he proved the Kensington Runestone was real (it’s not).
The chunk you’re all waiting for.
Basically, this episode was a total waste of everyone’s time. We didn’t even start with an actual premises this time, just a bunch of fluff. Its so bad this episode that instead of calling our far fetched ideas “evidence“ this time, we called them ”clues“. Our clues are:
1. Already identified human remains that are Native American. This is not only supported by the State Archaeologist, a bone expert, and a Native American Representative, but also by Arbuthnot’s excavations done on this very show.
2. Old Newspaper clippings, from the 1800’s.
3. Divining results that were unverified by either Arbuthnot’s use of the metal detector or by ground truthing, where the marked areas are excavated to verify the existence of anomalies or artifacts.
4. The sword, which is no older than the late 1800’s.
5. The not-a-runestone foundation stone.
I don’t even need to break these down further, Wolter did a pretty good job of debunking his own ideas this episode.
Want more on this topic? Go to Reviews: America Unearthed.