The Book about Archaeology that isn’t about Archaeology.

The intriguingly named Evil Archaeology by Heather Lynn Ph.D., was a book I was looking forward to.  Who doesn’t like a nice spooky book on archaeology? So I happily paid $10 for it on Kindle and waited for its release, which kept getting pushed back. Finally, in April of this year, I got my copy, just in time for a very long train ride to Albuquerque. 

Now, I read this on the train in about two days and took several notes at the time, and then a bunch of stuff blew up, and I had to put this review on the back burner.

However, with Halloween rolling around, and the month of October being my favorite spooky time of the year, I thought I’d dust this off again and give it a second go. My opinions haven’t changed, but fresh eyes did see a few more things about this book. Mainly how vague it is.

Lynn commits a major cardinal sin in my opinion and that is, she cites just about nothing in the book. When she does she’s using sources that are incredibly old, out of date, and not supported by modern sources. Yet she still speaks in an authoritative voice throughout, constantly flipping back and forth between being an Archaeologist and/or Historian. The Historian part I can almost understand, the Archaeologists though? She never displays that.

With the exception of occationaly saying “archaeologists think/found/theorize” she never addresses archaeology. There is none in this book, like, none. I think she just used the work Archaeology to put a buzzword in the title. There is no archaeological theory, methods, results, comparisons, or even just a run of the mill discussion. There’s precious few pictures of anything resembling an artifact and even those are not presented archaeologically.

Add to that, I can’t really tell what the overall premise of the book is. I think it’s Lynn trying to say demons and demonic possession are real, without hardcore saying she believes it. She constantly syas she’s a skeptic, and then clearly states biases and opinions that suggest she isn’t. Like when she says she isn’t religious, then outlines her religious upbringing in Catholicism, and then reduces every entity in the book to the catholic idea of “Demon”. I mean, sure, she may not currently be religious, but her opinions in this book are clearly informed by her catholic background.

And then there’s the constant shoe-horning of all things pagan into the category of “demon”. Lynn spends a good chunk fo the book ‘othering’ people and practices. She regales us with several over-the-top gory recountings of human sacrifice, none of which are cited or supported by archaeological evidence, and then turns around and makes Christianity sound so perfect and pristine in comparison. Need I point out to Lynn that the old testament is full of human sacrifice and Yahweh acting like a war and blood god, and let’s not even talk about the crucifixion.

Beyond all that is the way Lynn tries to Science-up the various ghost and horror stories written in the book. She briefly touches on the very controversial and sort-of defunct branch of archaeology called Cognitive Archaeology. I’ve done a breif amount of reaserch into this and really can’t find any mentios of it past the late 90’s early 00’s. It’s hey-day being in the 80’s and it seemed to lose favor fast as a field of archaeology, mainly because it’s untestable and relies heavily on the bises of the researcher…so it’s not really a science.

This isn’t an issue for Lynn apparently and she lumps it and ghost hunting together. She even claims that ghost hunting is scientific now because it uses electronic recording devices and sensors. Look, Data doesn’t make something science. Sure you get ‘readings’ from an EMF, but what does it mean? How is it being compared? Is there a chart that classifies different readings? and how do you know the space isn’t contaminated with electrical fields you’re not aware of, but that are perfectly normal? Most importantly, what’s the hypothesis the EMF is evaluating?

Don’t get me wrong, I love a good ghost hunt, but it’s not science.

All of this leads to the conclusion of the book where Lynn kinda admits that she thinks demons and possession are real, but not really. She does, however, leave us with a handy checklist for identifying a demon, and suggestions on how to obtain an exorcism in case you might think you’re possessed. Life hacks.

Oh yeah, and then there this one point where she tries to suggest that maybe Demons are really just advanced beings from somewhere else and their ‘magical’ powers are really just advanced technology. So basically they’re aliens.

This shouldn’t be too surprising when we find out that Lynn is a ‘historical consultant’ for the Ancient Aliens TV show.

Actually, once we know that, none of this is surprising. The vague language of the book, the lack of citation, the publisher…it’s a publicity stunt in book form.

I’m most disappointed that this book took a perfectly interesting topic and did a crap job of not even touching it. I feel like someone else needs to grab topic again, and write a much better book…oh wait…someone has.

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