Today we start a brand-new collaborative project with Archaeothoughts and ArchaeoRPG which is a podcast miniseries we are calling The Hunt for Secret Mysteries. This miniseries will focus on various paranormal TV shows as we are inflicted with them. My cohost will be Bill Auchter of Archaeothoughts and for our first series, we’re focusing on the new television show “The Secrets of Skinwalker Ranch”. We hope you enjoy this brand-new miniseries and hope you stick around for the full set.
Hi! I’m an archaeologist who likes games, video games, gaming, horror, the supernatural, and debunking pseudoarchaeology. Check out my vids for more on the above topics, and toss us a coin if you like what I do.
So I was scrolling on Twitter, as I do, and some fun tweets came across my feed.
As anyone who reads this blog knows, we are always rallying against the idea that aliens are the progenitors of all things prehistoric. A user name Renfamous put up a tweet pointing out the inherent racism in the show Ancient Aliens and also pointing out that ancient peoples had imaginations and were capable of re-creating what their imaginations came up with through art and other forms. I shared the tweet and enjoyed the conversation that sprouted from the thread.
Isn’t it kinda racist when Ancient Aliens is all “this ancient African/Pre-Columbian/Chinese civilization’s art was clearly influenced by actual alien visitors they met” like it’s just assumed these people weren’t capable of creating fantasy/folklore they knew wasn’t “real”?
WE FOUND A WEIRD LOOKING STATUE FROM PREHISTORIC JAPAN THAT DOESN’T LOOK LIKE A REAL PERSON SO THEY MUST HAVE MET WEIRD LOOKING ALIENS nah what if that guy just imagined something cool and made it? what if ppl in ancient Japan were capable of imagining things not found in nature?
After consideration I’m open to the idea that Ancient Aliens just thinks everyone born before 1900 was a helpless idiot and humanity as a whole would still be shitting in holes and eating rocks if not for alien intervention.
One comment, however, started its own thread, and I found it to be very poignant. The user KtO pointed out that, of course, it’s racist, suggesting that it was the result of removing art history from the classroom. They went on to argue some other things as well as creating a dichotomy between art and science that I don’t agree with, but their initial statement is something worth thinking about.
Of course it is racist. But, this is mostly the result of removing Art History education from core curriculums. Especially when it comes to pre-history. Science based or focused educations result in conclusions based on projecting modern understandings onto ancient humans. https://t.co/cIRHY3qVfo
Initially, I was going to write a whole defense about how anthropology and archaeology do acknowledge art and are very aware of art history. But that wasn’t the point, the point was that children aren’t being taught this. They’re not being taught how to look at artwork critically and to think about art, so when they are finally exposed to things like rock art, they make the “looks-a-like-is-a-like” fallacy.
I’m trying to remember if I had any art history classes when I was in grade school and high school. I think there was something art history like offered at one of the high schools I attended, but as far as grade school, I can’t recall ever having more than an hour of art class a week. My generation was the beginning of the culling of “nonessential” classes like art and music and humanities. And look where that’s gotten us…
Which has me agreeing with KtO on this. People don’t seem to understand that art history is more than just looking at pretty pictures throughout history. It is the critical connection of art with the viewer. Of trying to understand the mind of the artist who created the piece, what they were trying to communicate, and understanding the time an environment that the piece was created in. Sure there’s art out there where it’s simply just what it appears to be; sometimes, a cigar is just a cigar. But, many times artists are trying to create a deeper connection and meaning with their art through symbolism. This can be something as simple as having a small image in the painting somewhere to show a connection between the painting and the object, or it can be as complicated as the color scheme and choice of line weight.
I am not an art historian. I know what I know because I spend a good deal of time in art museums, and have had a brief introduction to art history because of my archaeology and anthropology degrees. I’m sure like any field, there is a great deal of back and forth, and theory, and all that good stuff. But in the end, art history really is another form of critical thinking, as are most humanities classes, and thus their loss from the classroom is a reduction in teaching critical thinking to our children.
And where does that get us?
Well, it gets us things like Ancient Aliens. Where ancient alien theorists go out and find random bits of ancient culture and then decide that it couldn’t possibly be what the archaeologists and historians have decided it is, it must be rocket ships, and airplanes, and alien people. Why else would things look the way they do?
“It looks like a man operating sophisticated spaceship dials to me, not the depiction of the man’s soul leaving his body,” to paraphrase Von Daniken’s arguments. Is he a Mayan specialist? Does he know much about the Mayan culture? Has he spent years, if not decades studying the artistic representation of the Mayas and their complicated image-based language? That would be a no on all accounts. Von Daniken simply looked at a picture one day and decided that it looked like a guy in a spaceship to him, and never thought any more critically about it after that. And yes, I feel comfortable calling Von Daniken out on this.
Art history is critical thinking, and this is an argument I’m comfortable making. Many things that on the surface appear frivolous are actually there to make us think about things at a deeper level. Why do we do philosophy and logic, so that we learn how to break down arguments and understand the difference between evidence and feelings. Why do we do math, so that we can understand procedure and the logical flow of one thing to another. Why do we study music, because it’s a useful way of learning how to interpret our surroundings and allows us to be critical both socially and politically. And again with art, why must we learn about art? Because our eyes cannot be relied on to give us the truth at all times, we must learn to engage critically with things that we see and hear and experience to understand what is real and possible versus what is fanciful.
So maybe next time you hear a great school talking about removing another humanities class from the roster to make room for teaching to the test, even if you don’t have kids, maybe weigh-in and ask them not to remove it. Yes, you can take these sorts of classes as adults, retrain your brain, technology, or weaknesses in critical thinking and strive to build that muscle much like a bodybuilder. But wouldn’t it just be easier if we taught this from the beginning? Isn’t that what school is supposed to be doing anyway? Shouldn’t they be teaching us to think and to engage, to be critical of the world around us, to make logical arguments and be able to actually have an argument that doesn’t result in name-calling and personal attacks?
So yes I think KtO is correct, a loss in art history and art education, in general, has contributed to the popularity of Ancient Aliens, and the spread of their frankly racist message. Will art history as adults fix this problem? As adults, we have to make a conscious effort to recognize there is a problem and then work towards correcting it. So it really comes to a person by person basis for identifying a shortcoming and choosing to overcome it. I suppose the answer to this question then comes to how strong is your faith in humanity? And also we should put our education back in the schools.
Hi! I’m an archaeologist who likes games, video games, gaming, horror, the supernatural, and debunking pseudoarchaeology. Check out my vids for more on the above topics, and toss us a coin if you like what I do.
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.
Have I mentioned I’m doing my thesis lately? I feel like maybe I haven’t…
What this really is, is an excuse for is so that I can read all these books I have piling up in more depth. I’ve put them in some order, ish, and I’ve decided to share my thoughts with you all as I go.
I started with Lost Tribes & Sunken Continents; Myth and Method in the Study of American Indians by Robert Wauchope. I’m enjoying this book as it’s written openly and conversationally. Also, the little hints of 1960’s sexism amuse me. I think the most important aspects of this book are how everything is just on a cycle of rinse, later, repeat when it comes to the fringe and pseudoarchaeology — keeping in mind that my printing of the book is from 1962 – reading the stories and issues that Wauchope shares rings a familiar bell.
In the first few chapters, Wauchope talks about lost tribes and Lost cultures. He starts with the Maya and the exciting idea that some people in the late 1800’s had that the ancient Mayans actually traveled to Europe and thereby populated it. He focuses early on Augustus Le Plongeon the French amateur archaeologist from the late 19th century. The comparisons between Le Plongeon and modern-day writers like Graham Hancock, Eric fund and again, and Scott Wolter is probably more striking than it should be. The writers above directly reflect the fervent obsession that Le Plongeon shows to his theories. Even though their writing almost 150 years between each other.
I feel like Wauchope did an excellent job of pointing out the ideas and “theories” that Le Plongeon and his cohorts held and argued over. I will say that Roberts language at times is not what we consider polite anymore. Wauchope seems to take to the idea of combating pseudoarchaeology with ridicule and humor. He does, however, mention several times the damage that pseudoarchaeology goal claims like these can have. His words nearly verbatim what modern archaeologists say today. I suppose the significant difference between Wauchope writing in the 1960s and archaeologists writing about pseudoarchaeology today is that the damage of pseudoarchaeology the Wauchope was speculating could occur, as come to pass. We, the archaeologists of the 2020s, now have to deal with most of these ideas that Wauchope brings up, being mainstream “theories” that get more air time and media exposure than real archaeology could hope for, at least here in the Americas.
It is fascinating to me to know that someone was dropping warnings about the effects of pseudoarchaeology back in the 1960s. It’s not that pseudoarchaeology didn’t exist before this point; however, it is a little disheartening to know that we were being warned and not enough people listened.
It’s also good to see how Wauchope immediately takes the pseudoarchaeology topics he tackles in his book to task over their racism. He calls out to this particular trait in the first chapter of his concise book. The reason it’s so interesting to me is that the inherent racism of pseudo-archaeological claims is a major focus of debunking efforts these days. To see that it was being addressed 60 years ago kinda tells you something. It means archaeologists recognized the wrongness of the hyper-diffusionism idea of a parent race/culture early and were sensitive to the implications of such a claim.
It’s also interesting to see Wauchope talking about Le Plongeon and other not-yet-fringe archaeologists in the same way that archaeologists today talk about our own fringe and their ideas.
I guess the best way to put it is it’s like hearing a Justin Berber remake of a Queen song, then hearing his fans accuse Queen of ripping off Justin Berber. ( and if you don’t think that happened boy do I have a story for you). It’s a little surreal seeing something that you deal with on the daily, being talked about as a clear issue 60 years before your own interactions with the topic.
My other goal in reading this book is that I’m finally starting to understand where some of these pseudoarchaeology ideas originated like in the case of Le Plongeon and his theory of Mayan and Egyptian similarities.
Interestingly enough, Le Plongeon did not suggest that Egyptians came to the Americas, but rather that Mayans made it over to Egypt, thereby making American natives the culture bearers to the Egyptians. I find that to be an interesting twist to an old story, but then have to remind myself that Le Plongeon was among one of the first to start promoting such things.
Wauchope also hits on the concepts of lost tribes, Hebrew Indians, and both the sunken continents of Atlantis and Lemuria/Mu. I know Jeb has talked about the Mu stones more than once, and I’ll link those podcast episodes down below. Wauchope, however, talks about the origins of the idea of Lemuria/Mu. The purpose of this particular islands came into being not for any supernatural reason, but because an early German biologist, Ernst Jaekel, insisted that old world monkeys must’ve evolved on a now-vanished island in the Indian Ocean because otherwise the diversity of the lemur couldn’t be explained. Ernst was unfortunately wrong, and when presented with evidence showing such, he dropped that idea.
However the island of Lemuria/Mu lived on, and though it’s not as popular as Atlantis, even today, it’s still just as mysterious.
I am only about halfway through this book because it takes forever to read anything when you’re reading it for school. I am looking forward to the future topics in the book though, especially Chapter 8 titled “The Righteous and the Racists.”
I’m looking forward to seeing how little concepts and ideas in pseudoarchaeology have changed over the past 60 years. This, despite being continuously confronted by not only skeptics but professional archaeologists and scientists too.
They’re not entirely sure when something is racist, or why archaeologists call them out on it constantly, but they know it’s a thing that exists and it’s probably bad.
Why do I say this? The two most visible personalities in alternative archaeology/history right at this moment are probably Scott Wolter and Graham Hancock. As many know, I watch and read their shows/book and review them critically. It’s actually part of my thesis, so I guess they both get what they claim they ultimately want, recognition by the academic community. Just not the way they wanted.
To be clear I am not calling Wolter or Hancock (or anyone here) a Racist. What I am saying is the things they write/say/do are racist, probably unintentional, and need to be examined and criticized.
Both Wolter and Hancock have had their claims about archaeology/history critiqued and the racist parts pointed out to them over the years. I’ve watched both men develop their ideas, reacting to the criticism. Of course, there is the initial outrage (“I’m not Racist!”), who wants to be called a racist? But then, both of them tried to adapt their theories to make them less racist, and both have completely missed the point.
I’ve watched both carefully police their language over the years to not mention color or nationality as much as possible. But the mentioning of Blacks or Whites isn’t what makes what they say and sell racist. It’s the implications of what they’re trying to push as correct history. Both men have an idea about how culture got to and developed in America. Granted Hancock’s is a little more world-encompassing, but it’s still the basic, “Super Father Culture brings civilization to lesser people, mostly non-whites.”
For Wolter, it’s his strange Celtic-Viking-Templars, for Hancock it’s his psychic lost civilization of all-gods. It doesn’t matter who they are though, because the idea is the same, this mysterious group came to America and bequeathed all culture and society to the unfortunate clueless people already here, who then worshiped them as gods/heroes. Both theories completely ignore or erase native accomplishments and reassign them to the father race. And if you don’t see the issue there, we need to talk.
What’s been most interesting to me over the years is watching these two, and others like them, try to correct for the racism of their ideas, without changing their actual ideas. They think just changing the words they use will erase the implications, but miss the greater issues with their arguments. Then, when called out on it, they both do what can generously be called Virtue Signaling to try and show that *they* aren’t racist themselves.
The thing that struck me the other day reading Hancock once again get upset over his misconceptions of Native American and Archaeologist relations (there are issues, just not the ones he’s on about), is that they don’t see or understand their own racism. We can point it out to them all day, it won’t matter. Neither man thinks they are capable of being racist. Wolter even goes as far as to do the whole “I have Native American Friends” thing and Hancock just constantly tells us how angry he is for Native Americans (then dismisses their whole history in a handwave).
I don’t doubt that Wolter has friends in various tribes, or that Hancock is really upset. But that isn’t a pass to then turn around, treat all Native Americas as one amorphous group of people, or break them down into “advanced” and “primitive” societies based on arbitrary traits that really just reflect how little either man understands about archaeology and culture.
The only good thing about this is that it opens up the discussion of racism in and around archaeology. Archaeology and anthropology have very dark origins and history. It’s ugly sometimes, and those of us in the field not only learn about this, we’re taught to counter it as much as we can. The sad truth is, we’re still very white, male-dominated, eurocentric fields.
Are things getting better? Yes, definitely. Could they be a whole lot better than they are, Absolutely!
Reading Hancock and watching Wolter, as frustrating as it is, opened my eyes to the reality that is both the public perception of archaeology and reminds me of the issues we still have to correct for in our own field. It also reminds me that we as professionals can’t have these discussions in the dark, away from public eyes. That’s how we got here in the first place, checking out of public discourse and letting pseudoarchaeology take control.
We need to take our narrative back, we need to be real, and we need to counter things when we see them.
Now I’ll get off my high horse and go get ready to watch Wolter tell me how the Phoenicians were the first Europeans in America.
I think many people who interact with pseudoarchaeology have similar origin stories. We all come to archaeology through a lense of curiosity, that was kindle in some part by the pseudo-information that was out there when we were growing up. I’ve spoken about my roots in role-play, especially D&D, but I also had a decent steeping in the Norse religious revival in the US.
I once dreamed of learning Old Norse and translating mysterious Runic scripts and learning the secrets of the old ways. Archaeology changed that for me. I went into archaeology as an extension of my fantasy rich image of the past and came out with a much different, yet far more interesting view.
I learned that magic, as cool as it seems, was unnecessary for peoples of the past. They had something much better, they had knowledge and ability. It’s what makes the human species so successful, our ability to adapt, teach, and learn. It’s also how we keep progressing from one cultural achievement to another. Adapt, teach, learn.
Got a new way to chip stone to make tools? Adapt, teach, learn.
Got a new way to make pottery that makes it more desirible somehow? Adapt, teach, learn.
Got a new cultural norm that benefits the population somehow? Adapt, teach, learn.
Logically these don’t always have to be beneficial, we can all probably think of things that weren’t that became issues in the past…lead for example. But the reality is, even those things were improvements of some kind at some point.
What else that’s important to keep in mind is, all of these adaptations, however simple they look to us today, were pretty important in their time. Some even revolutionary.
It’s these two basic principles of the past that get lost by the Fringe. They want to classify things as ‘primitive’ and ‘advanced’ when it’s really more of a “do we need this?” situation.
Take for example stone tools. Both Graham Hancock and Scott Wolter will waffle back and forth on whether or not these tools are ‘advanced’ or not. Depending on the narrative they’re building, the stone tools can be an example of how advanced a group is in their opinion, or how far behind they are compared to another group. This isn’t really how any of that works.
To put it simply, very simply, human beings really only change when there is a need to do so. Then they adapt, teach, learn. Why didn’t the early Native Americans have metal weapons like some contemporary European cultures? They didn’t need them, stone worked just fine.
Even within the states and various early Native cultures, we see this same process. Get out to the East coast before a certain time period and you won’t find a lot of Native pottery. Why? Because they had soapstone and they worked that into vessels. Other groups knew how to weave fiber or treat skin to make cooking and storage vessels. So they solved their problems in different ways and stuck with these techniques until they either needed a better one and adapted it, or they encountered a better way of doing things and adopted it. Adapt, teach, learn.
The dangerous error here though is considering one technique or cultural trait superior to another. Even Blue Nelson in the recent America’s Lost Vikings made the mistake of comparing ‘primitive’ stone tools to the more ‘advanced’ iron tools of the Vikings. That’s not how that is, one is not ‘better’ than the other unless you’re talking about how it works in the context of the culture it’s being used in. (And if you really want to get into Theory discussions, I can recommend some books…) As I said then, and I stand by it now, Nelson, as a trained archaeologist, should know better than to make that comparison.
Wolter and Hancock, they don’t have the benefit of being taught to step outside their own Eurocentric worldview to try to consider things from another cultural group’s viewpoint. It’s also why things like stone stools, megaliths, and earthworks seem like magic to them. They don’t understand how a ‘primitive’ group of people could have conceived of and then built such things. Then at the same time, they want to compare each group to each other, usually ignoring time-lines, culture change, and distance, and they want to rank all these groups as ‘primitive’ and ‘advanced’ judging those with more recognizable and understandable technology as being superior.
Then when they learn about something they consider ‘advanced’ being done by a group they think is ‘primitive’, they usually begin fantasizing about vastly more ‘advanced’ lost civilizations that must have given that advanced technology to the primitive people. It’s predictable to the point where you can watch or read just a little of either man’s argument, and know where they’re going with it. Yeah, I can dress it up by breaking down the absurdity of it “Australian Denisovans in South America,” or “Celtic Norse Templar Freemasons in Ancient America,” but it all comes down to, each man has picked their mysterious advanced culture group, and then sends them to bequeath technology and culture on the less advanced, usually Native Americas.
What’s most telling though is neither man sees issues with this. This is the only way they can conceive of a ‘primitive’ group of people learning to do ‘advanced’ things (both are arbitrary concepts btw). So they spend hours and pages trying to bend and stretch archaeology and history to match their narrative.
Eventually, though, even that has to break. I’m here to tell you, as I’m sure many other archaeologists will, that early Native people didn’t need to have culture and technology bequeathed on them from some supper group. They were quite capable themselves and managed to not only survive but thrive.
Adapt, teach, learn.
That’s how you got here.
Adapt, teach, learn.
Because ancient people didn’t die out.
Adapt, teach, learn.
And just because you can’t understand today how they did things in the past,
Adapt, teach, learn.
doesn’t mean Lost Civilizations or Aliens exist.
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One of the things my professor said offhandedly in class one day that still sticks with me was “The past is a foreign country, they do things differently there.” It took me a while to find out that the quote was from a 1953 novel by L.P.Hartley.
The impact of that quote on me is hopefully what my professor wanted, as I’ve never read the book. However, taken literally, this is a fact about the past I think is missed by most people, especially those in Alternative/Pseudo/Fringe/Mavric Archaeology. Things were different in the past. Things we take for granted today were not part of the past. I don’t just mean big noticeable things like flushing toilets and AC. Smaller things too, like zippers, buttons, toilet paper.
More importantly, society and social norms were different. Those of us alive today, especially in Westernized countries, have a lot of privileges and rights we would not have had in the past. The absence of these, informed the way society worked, and the way people thought about things. Obviously, things change, but we as Archaeologists have to think about this when we try to interpret things about the past.
Especially the deep past, prehistoric, ancient past.
Often we’re dealing with cultures and societies we don’t ourselves have direct connections with. We can only ever be outsiders looking in. And just because something looks one way to us (looks like an X to me!) doesn’t mean that’s really how it was.
We see this a lot with pseudoarchaeology shows, books, and blogs. Hancock’s current book, America Before does this a lot. I’m floored by the number of times Hancock just starts interpreting ancient historic things in his own way based solely on how things ‘look’ to him. He’s using his modern white feels, and he’s constantly coming up with a lost civilization that left no trace because that makes sense to him!
Well, it might make sense to Hancock, but it doesn’t make sense to the cultures and societies he’s dismissing and ignoring. It’s why archaeologists insist on evidence, and why we’re constantly going back and forth on our theory and interpretations of the past. Another thing Hancock doesn’t understand, science and theory change, and we’re ok with that. He might not be, but most (I would argue all, otherwise they are not professionals) professional archaeologists understand the past is not black and white, it’s just 50 shades of Munsell Neutral.
I’ll be having more thoughts like this as I work through the Tomb that is Hancock’s newest book, which I think will work better than any single review. But this is the thing that sticks out most right now. Check the categories below to follow along as I post these.
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Chapter 10 in, The Lost History of Ancient America, opens with the mysterious Professor Julia Patterson seeming to answer a comment from a reader of Ancient America named Tamara Szalewski. Szalewski mentions an anomaly they’ve discovered while looking at Google Earth and other maps. Szalewski mentions how she wonders if the anomaly is already recorded due to Frank Joesph’s reporting on Lemuria and Atlantis. The area in question is a portion of the Juan De Fuca Plate in Cascades Subduction Zone, 12 miles off the coast of Oregon, between the Coos and Winchester Bays. Since the article is missing any actual pictures of the area in question, I went to Google Earth myself and got some images. Don’t get me wrong, Google earth is a great product, and it can be useful in a number of situations, but it can also be miss understood easily and won’t give a full picture of an area.
This is true even of high resolution satellite or LiDAR images. Because of this, archaeologists who use these images also implement Ground Truthing, which for us means going to the area in question and looking at it. Either we survey it, or excavate it, even underwater. We don’t just take an image at face value.
Unfortunately, the Google Earth images above are only a guess of what Szalewski might be talking about. There is no image provided of the area in question, only a very computer generated one of something looking like a pyramid and has absolutely no context as to what it is or where it is supposed to be.
Patterson does give us some idea of the location, and that’s what I used in Google Earth. To be honest, I don’t see anything that looks like a underwater city. This isn’t to say that there aren’t archaeological sites that have been found underwater, or drowned cities for that matter. But this area, and the Cobb Seamount mentioned in Patterson’s article, don’t appear to be either of those.
Patterson makes the claim that there is physical evidence of a sunken civilization off the coast of Washington State, but fails to cite this or provide any actual evidence in the article itself. This is odd considering Patterson is a professional archaeologist. One would think this would be second nature.
Patterson brings up the Cobb Seamount discovered in the 1950’s. Its mentioned in tandem with David Hatcher Childress and his book, Lost Cities of North and Central America. Patterson makes a reference to a citation that is supposed to be in this book. An article written in 1987 in the Seattle Times. I have tried to find this articles and can’t find anything on it, even in Childress’ book. If anyone can send me copy, that’d be great.
The article is attributed with the claim that there were man-made artifacts found in the sunken mountains. Artifacts dating to 18000 years before present. Plus the mummified corpses of porpoises and whales. I don’t know what one is supposed to do with the other, but there it is. What’s more, no explanation on how the date of 18000 years is reached. Finlay, and this is a repeating error in the book, BP and BCE are not the same thing, and later in the article Paterson swaps the two. Patterson isn’t the only author in the book to make this mistake, but as a professional archaeologist, she would know the difference.
After all this vagueness and lack of connections, or evidence, Patterson makes a astonishing series of statements:
“Perhaps, Washington State’s Cobb Seamount treasure trove of ancient materials is related to Oregon’s underwater feature, which suggests the layout of a huge population center. If so, both sides belong to a high culture that flourished on formerly dry territories, until melting glaciers at the end of the last ice age unleashed catastrophic flooding that elevated sea levels worldwide by 390 feet. (Patterson 2017:78-79)”
“As such, geology is in accord with archaeology when dating the Cobb Seamount artifacts to 18,000 years ago. (Patterson 2017:79)”
The problem is none of what Patterson is trying to conclude is supported by anything in the article. Most of the above statement is unsupported speculation. At no point has anything been provided to even build up the possibility of these claims. Her final claim that geology is in accordance with archaeology is simply out of the blue. Nothing has been provided to back it.
This article is almost exactly like chapter 9, where nothing is provided but speculation. Responsibility for this speculation is passed off onto others via the vague repeating of either a past article or the short retelling of a comment. It’s not an attempt to explain or answer, but to speculate. I’m not overly impressed with this at all, and it’s not at all helpful for building the book’s overall argument for transoceanic travelers in America.
Chapter 9 of the Lost History of Ancient America, is titled, Drowned Village of the Ancient Copper Miners, by Wayne N. May. It may as well be presented as a report of an article May read once.
This article is simply a retelling of a 2012 article from Ancient America, about a 2011 discovery by Scott Mitchim, where he claims to have found evidence of a now underwater copper workshop. One he somehow dates to about 4100 to 3200 years ago. Where these dates come from is not revealed to us in this article, so we’re just supposed to take it on faith that this is correct. Sadly, these are the least of the problems here.
May tells us that Mitchim claims the workshop is littered with artifacts both stone and copper. May tells us that these dates connect the artifacts to the elusive Ancient Copper Barons, who May believes were busily mining and shipping raw copper from the American continent to the Mediterranean to fuel the Bronze age. The same Ancient Copper Barons that we’ve never had any reason to accept as real, yet are as treated as fact here. Not only does May not bother to give any evidence to support these claims, he plainly, tells us that the location of said site is secret and unknown to any but Mitchim.
Published with the article are pictures of random, unidentified rock piles that look a lot like those supposedly under Rock Lake in Wisconsin. They also look a lot like the rock piles Mitchim tried to show to Scott Wolter in the first season of America Unearthed. In that episode even Wolter saw they looked modern, and basically fake. With no actual way to identify the murky photographs, at least none provided in this article, there’s no way to tell if any of this is real. I can speculate, and even my speculation runs that this is fake, but there’s no way to validate anything based on this article. Not my speculation, nor May’s insistence that it is real.
There’s not even a decent break down I can do about the article. It’s literally a “I read this article this one time and it said…” with one citation to an article published in Ancient American Magazine. There is no evidence provided, nor is it even offered. The images could be anything, and with the way the article is written, it could simply be putting words in the mouth of Mitchim, we have no way of knowing!
This has been the most disappointing of the articles so far. There isn’t even the appearance of providing evidence here. It’s like trying to argue there isn’t an invisible teapot orbiting the sun.
In the briefest of introductions, Joseph outlines the purposes of the Section III.
“Our pursuit of Upper Michigan’s Copper Barons…” (Joseph 71)
So, among other things, we’re still looking for transoceanic bronze-age travelers.
We’ve already met two of the three authors from this section. Wayne May provides a second article about a possible underwater village in Wisconsin, and the mysterious Julia Patterson tells us about a sunken civilization in near Oregon.
Added to this is Andrew E. Rothovious (1919-2009). He is one of those rare individuals who is actually pretty interesting to learn about in his own right. An extremely prolific writer, he has potentially 4000 articles written across numerous publications, including Ancient America, Fate, and other alternative history/archaeology magazines. He was verbosely interested in a wide range of topics that included religion, Lovecraft, and Celtic visits to the New World (Magnus N.d). Rothovious had no formal education in archaeology or history from the sounds of it, but he did appear to be self informed, and as such drew some interesting conclusions about American Prehistory. Honestly though, beyond warm words and the occasion reference to his work, I can’t find anything out about the man or his actual writings.
Joseph erroneously refers to Rothovious with the title of “Sage of Providence” (Joseph 71). I can only find Lovecraft himself referred to by this title, though there is one reference to Rothovious as “The Sage of Milford” (The City 2010), so perhaps that was just a typo as Rothoviuous appears to be a dedicated fan of Lovecraft’s.
Then we are thrust into the articles of Section III: