Category Archives: Media

Academic Odysseys with Assassin’s Creed. Archaeological Fantasies Podcast Ep 108

Today we talk with Dr. Jane Draycott @JLDraycott and Andrew Reinhard @adreinhard about the epic game Assassin’s Creed: Odyssey. We discuss the overall gameplay, how AC uses historical references to create more vibrant gameplay, and if this even worked. We talk about the use of real archaeology and pseudoarchaeology in the game storyline, and how that affects the overall game’s enjoyability, or not.

Where have we been? Check out the blog post:

What’s Going on in ArchyFantasies Land?

Show Notes:

Dr Jane Draycott
https://www.gla.ac.uk/schools/humanities/staff/janedraycott/

Andrew Reinhard
http://andrewreinhard.com/

ARCHAEOGAMING: An Introduction to Archaeology in and of Video Games
https://www.berghahnbooks.com/title/ReinhardArchaeogaming

Hashtags to follow:
#ACademicOdyssey
#archaeogaming
#ACOdyssey



We’re on YouTube again!

If you’d like to support the Podcast or site, consider donating to us on Patreon or buy us a  Ko-Fi. Either option helps us out.

Check out Jeb Card’s new book Spooky Archaeology :
Myth and the Science of the Past

And Ken Feder’s new book Archaeological Oddities: A Field Guide to Forty Claims of Lost Civilizations, Ancient Visitors, and Other Strange Sites in North America

Grab a t-shirt or coffee mug from our Swag Store on Zazzle.

Be sure to subscribe to the podcast on the blog and like and share us where ever you can.

You can follow us on twitter @ArchyFantasies, or look us up on Facebook. You can reach us by email at ArchyFantasies@gmail.com.

Contact us below or leave a comment.

Pseudoarchaeology is Aware of Racism, aka Let’s Talk about the R-Word.

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I repeat, Pseudoarchaeology is aware of racism.

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.


We’re on YouTube again!

If you’d like to support the Podcast or site, consider donating to us on Patreon or buy us a  Ko-Fi. Either option helps us out.

Check out Jeb Card’s new book Spooky Archaeology :
Myth and the Science of the Past

And Ken Feder’s new book Archaeological Oddities: A Field Guide to Forty Claims of Lost Civilizations, Ancient Visitors, and Other Strange Sites in North America

Grab a t-shirt or coffee mug from our Swag Store on Zazzle.

Be sure to subscribe to the podcast on the blog and like and share us where ever you can.

You can follow us on twitter @ArchyFantasies, or look us up on Facebook. You can reach us by email at ArchyFantasies@gmail.com.

Contact us below or leave a comment.

Question all the Pseudoarchaeology!

Would you believe I get asked a lot of questions?

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A lot of them kinda fall into the category of repeat things. “Have you seen X? What about Y lost civ? I found Z, is it real?” and “XYZ religion believes this thing, is it true?”

There’s always outsiders, but these are the categories for the most part. Normally I have seen/hear/read something about most mainstream fringe topics (didn’t think you’d see that phrase eh?) But every now and then I get something I haven’t, and I have to look into it.

The most challenging questions are the religious ones. I just want people to understand, you can’t debunk religious (or really any) beliefs.  I can’t tell you that your connection with ‘god’ or whatever isn’t valid. You wanna commune with nature, go for it. Honestly, as long as you’re not hurting anyone/anything or breaking major laws, I really don’t care what you believe.

What I do get testy about though is the use of archaeology and science to try and ‘prove’ religion. When I was first starting off as a YouTube channel, all them years ago y’all, I would constantly get pushback to my videos by Creationists, and well Mormons who wanted to use archaeology to either prove the earth isn’t as old as science says it is, or wanted to prove that there were advanced (white) Indians (Lost Tribes of Israel) in ancient America.

There are lots of problems with these claims, and I do question the purpose of such religious beliefs, but my point is, once you start to drag reality and facts into the discussion, you better bring evidence to back it up.

I’ve recently began looking over a new-ish religion using imagery of the Sacred Sun as an ancient, all-encompassing father cult that predates all other religions, and therefore spawned all other religions. They draw heavily from writers like Graham Hancock and his constant attempts to connect all ancient site together.

There’s a lot of underlying issues that are social and cultural in nature here, but the ones I really want to drive home is, there’s no archaeology to support such claims. In all reality, archaeology documents that cultures developed independently of each other, and connected with each other via trade, marriage, warfare, and diplomacy. Yes, we can see cultural traits passed down and adopted by others, but again, this only supports the idea of independence. Adapt, teach, learn. I harped on that in the last post.

Most importantly, we don’t see unifying cultural traits that we would expect to see if all religions/cultures were connected and decent from one super group. Seeing similarities between one group or another (the Maya and Egyptians for example) is often in the eye of the beholder and usually doesn’t stand up to close scrutiny.

Does this invalidate personal religious beliefs? No. Personal religious beliefs are personal. Does that make them good/right/virtuous? Again, up to the person/society, you’re in. Do I have to believe what someone else does? Hell no. Do I have to put up with it? Often times yes.

But when said group wants to try and drag archaeology into their beliefs and use it to further/support their beliefs (I’m looking at you Ancient Aliens and Hancock), you’ve moved out of the realm of Personal and into the realm of Facts. I can meet you there, you can show me your evidence and we can discuss it, and If you’re making some weird ass claim about super races and father cultures, it’s not going to be a fun meeting for you.


If you’d like to support the Podcast or site, consider donating to us on Patreon or buy us a  Ko-Fi. Either option helps us out.

Check out Jeb Card’s new book Spooky Archaeology :
Myth and the Science of the Past

And Ken Feder’s new book Archaeological Oddities: A Field Guide to Forty Claims of Lost Civilizations, Ancient Visitors, and Other Strange Sites in North America

Grab a t-shirt or coffee mug from our Swag Store on Zazzle.

Be sure to subscribe to the podcast on the blog and like and share us where ever you can.

You can follow us on twitter @ArchyFantasies, or look us up on Facebook. You can reach us by email at ArchyFantasies@gmail.com.

Contact us below or leave a comment.

How Culture Works: Adapt, Teach, Learn.

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.

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Cover of the Poetic Edda translated by Lee. M. Hollander.

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.


If you’d like to support the Podcast or site, consider donating to us on Patreon or buy us a  Ko-Fi. Either option helps us out.

Check out Jeb Card’s new book Spooky Archaeology :
Myth and the Science of the Past

And Ken Feder’s new book Archaeological Oddities: A Field Guide to Forty Claims of Lost Civilizations, Ancient Visitors, and Other Strange Sites in North America

Grab a t-shirt or coffee mug from our Swag Store on Zazzle.

Be sure to subscribe to the podcast on the blog and like and share us where ever you can.

You can follow us on twitter @ArchyFantasies, or look us up on Facebook. You can reach us by email at ArchyFantasies@gmail.com.

Contact us below or leave a comment.

 

Pseudoarchaeology Issues, Creating New Oral Histories.

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Joan of Arc in Philadelphia, PA. Image via Christopher William Purdom 

 

In his most recent episode of America Unearthed, Scott Wolter came to my new home state of Pennslyvania. I’ll admit, I got a little thrill from seeing the state being showcased, especially since the images he used were really cute and complementary. It did strike me though, I live in the oldest continuously occupied city in the United States. (There’s a distinction there to be aware of.) It gives good old Philly a neat layer cake of history and it’s really impossible to touch on all of it in any one post, tv show, or hell, even a movie probably.

Two things the third episode of America Unearthed did bring to light though, were Pennslyvania’s history of secret societies, and it’s participation in the Underground Railroad.

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Philly Masonic Grand Lodge. 

Pennslyvania was home to several old societies, both fraternities, and sororities, and many originate out of Philadelphia. It’s natural as the city itself is 400 years old. Our Masonic Lodge is one of the prettiest (fight me) and we have some of the oldest, still operating structures in the country. Also, we have the liberty bell, and liberty hall, all Masonic, if you listen to the locals.

Which brings me to an interesting point, the intersection of ‘formal’ hisotry and oral history.

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Wiliam Still’s historical Marker in Philly, PA. and yes those are Pride flags, happy Pride Month everyone!

William Still was a focus in America Unearthed episode 3 when Wolter appeared to run his secret society thread into the ground. He switched his focus to the Underground Railroad and William Still. This was because he’d found a cave that he couldn’t quite pin down the uses for, and decided to run with an Underground Railroad theme. I say that because there’s nothing to connect the cave with the Underground Railroad or William Still, but due to the way Wolter and the show present his ‘research,’ it creates the illusion that there is.

 

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1898 image of William Still, abolitionist

What’s more, Wolter basically tells two gentlemen on the show that their caves are definitely linked to the Underground Railroad, and in the case of the main cave, links initials he thinks he sees in the cave wall with two former slaves written down in William Still’s journal. What we witness here in this episode isn’t just the passing on of unlinked information as fact, but the creation of and participation in, oral history.

Wolter is set on the trail of the Underground Railroad and Stills by simple word of mouth informants. This isn’t unusual for the show, Wolter’s hunches rely heavily on random, unverified information given to him by informants. He then takes this information and passes it on to the landowners in two incidences, creating a story that links their caves to the Underground Railroad. Both owners seem delighted by this, and who wouldn’t like to think their ancestors were Abolitionists vs Slave Owners?

The problem is, Underground Railroad stops are notoriously hard to pin down by their very nature as secret hiding spaces. Many were simply parts of functioning houses and homesteads, that were used for various purposes over the lifetime of the homes. This muddles the archaeology, as what exactly would we expect to see archaeologically in an Underground Railroad stop, vs what we expect to see in the course of normal daily life? Unless the space stands out, a literal secret room or something like that, we have nothing to tie certain spaces to the Underground Railroad.

That doesn’t stop people from thinking or claiming their homes, homesteads, and ancestors were part of it. And who knows, they may be right, but often these accounts are family or local oral history. There’s the issue, oral histories are often unverifiable and have to be taken at face value. They’re also particularly tricky because, even if there is evidence to support or contradict them, the oral history is often tied into the personal identity of an individual or community. This is what makes oral histories tricky, we don’t want to look like we’re attacking personal identity. Usually, we’re not, we’re just following the evidence, translating it as best we can at the time, and documenting as much of it as we can for future generations to look over and learn from.

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Many of the ‘secrets’ Wolter has discovered over the years. 

Which is the problem with shows like America Unearthed and Wolter’s perceived authority. Wolter isn’t preserving anything, he’s not following evidence or translating things. He’s forcing things into his own perceptions, shoehorning things to fit a narrative he’s already decided on. Then, once he’s done twisting and shaping things to fit, he passes his new story on to others, creating a new oral history that often overrides that of others.

At best it’s disruptive, at worst, it’s blatant erasure of other cultures. It’s also why we need to speak up against this kind of thing. Correct it where we can and continue to find new ways to communicate oral histories with the public. We need to preserve things, and not allow others to appropriate, colonize, and erase other cultures for their own ends.


If you’d like to support the Podcast or site, consider donating to us on Patreon or buy us a  Ko-Fi. Either option helps us out.

Check out Jeb Card’s new book Spooky Archaeology :
Myth and the Science of the Past

And Ken Feder’s new book Archaeological Oddities: A Field Guide to Forty Claims of Lost Civilizations, Ancient Visitors, and Other Strange Sites in North America

Grab a t-shirt or coffee mug from our Swag Store on Zazzle.

Be sure to subscribe to the podcast on the blog and like and share us where ever you can.

You can follow us on twitter @ArchyFantasies, or look us up on Facebook. You can reach us by email at ArchyFantasies@gmail.com.

Contact us below or leave a comment.

 

In Search Of Pseudoarchaeology.

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I wasn’t around when In Search Of was on the air, but my dad loved this show. He liked it so much he watched the reruns when I was a kid, and that got me hooked. To be fair, it didn’t take much to get me hooked on something sci-fi and fantasy-ish. I like to tell people I’m a second generation gamer, my parents teaching me how to play DnD at a very early age, and I was fed a steady diet of 80’s and 90’s SF/Fantasy movies, TV, books, and comics. I regret nothing.

Oddly enough though, my dad didn’t buy into anything he watched in these shows. I’m pretty sure he believed alien life was out there, somewhere, but here on earth? Nope.

I also remember wanting to own a whole set of those Time-Life Book series The Enchanted World and Mysteries of the Unknown. I still love this stuff (and still want a full set of both) but I don’t believe any of it. I think that’s a gift of my early exposure to role-play and my parent’s critical love of SF/F (and horror, thanks mom).

Today, I have the delightful hobby of still watching shows that build off the success of In Search Of, and tearing them apart like a rabid raccoon.

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It’s usually pretty entertaining to me, and as I’ve grown with it over the years, I moved from simply making fun of the things that “clearly don’t make sense, dude,” to wondering why people believe in the things they do and how I can tap that to try and change things. It’s a mental shift and I suspect one tied to gradual maturity.

Thomas Jefferson supposedly said,  “Ridicule is the only weapon which can be used against unintelligible propositions.” But what makes Accent Aliens unintelligible to me, and so damn believable to others? Why are so many people, oft of a certain demographic, so desperate for White Europeans to be the first to the Americas? Why do people believe the original Shakespeare manuscripts are buried on Oak Island?

More importantly, can they articulate their reasons for their beliefs, or are they amorphous, out of focus, beyond their own understanding? If that’s true, is it fair for me to simply boil it down to Racism, Colonialism, and Ignorance? Ugly words for ugly concepts, but does that make me wrong? How can I explain this to people, about their beliefs, getting them to think about it and without offending them?

I don’t know, which is why I enjoy this. It’s mental exercise for me, keeps me honest, makes me question myself, my own beliefs and the world around me. Also, there’s a not-so-small part of me that just loves the ridiculousness of it all, and well, it’s funny in a laugh-or-you’ll-cry way. I swear….


If you’d like to support the Podcast or site, consider donating to us on Patreon or buy us a  Ko-Fi. Either option helps us out.

Check out Jeb Card’s new book Spooky Archaeology :
Myth and the Science of the Past

And Ken Feder’s new book Archaeological Oddities: A Field Guide to Forty Claims of Lost Civilizations, Ancient Visitors, and Other Strange Sites in North America

Grab a t-shirt or coffee mug from our Swag Store on Zazzle.

Be sure to subscribe to the podcast on the blog and like and share us where ever you can.

You can follow us on twitter @ArchyFantasies, or look us up on Facebook. You can reach us by email at ArchyFantasies@gmail.com.

Contact us below or leave a comment.

Sop’s Arm is also not Vinland — ‘America’s Lost Vikings’ Episode 2

The official title of America’s Lost Vikings episode 2 is “Mystery of the Sea Raiders,” never mind that the Norse weren’t raiding the coast here, they were exploring and settling. Regardless, this episode isn’t actually looking at any particular mystery, it’s supposedly looking to see if there’s any way to connect Newfoundland with Vinland. Since the last episode, Blue Nelson and Mike Arbuthnot agreed that L’Anse aux Meadows wasn’t Vinland, so they’re on the hunt for a new location, and they get a tip that there might be a potential site near the community of Sop’s Arm.

What’s of interest here are several long pits dug into the landscape that appear to be man-made. These have been examined in the ’60s by first Helge Ingstad and later by Helen Devereux. Both seem to agree that these were pitfall traps, a type of hunting trap recorded all over the world, characterized by deep pits dug into the ground, into which large game were driven by hunters. Ingstad believed the pits were Norse in nature, but Deveraux argued they could have been for mineral exploration, and attributes the pits to the Indigenous people of the area.

Nelson and Arbuthnot are looking at the pits to see if they can find any evidence they’re connected to L’Anse aux Meadows and/or are Norse in origin. They seem to be drawing from the article Falling Into Vinland: Newfoundland Hunting Pitfalls at the Edge of the Viking World , which is co-authored by Bjarni F. Einarsson, mentioned in the first episode and credited with suggesting that L’Anse aux Meadows was inhabited for hundreds of years, and Kevin McAleese, who we’ll meet later in the show.

They spend some time looking at the pitfalls, and Nelson takes some measurements and uses a tablet in the field. It’s nice to see the tech in use because there is a slight push to start using more digital tablets in the field and move away from paper. Archaeology is trying to go high-tech.

While Nelson takes notes, Arbuthnot talks to McAleese, who says there’s no evidence that the Indigenous people were using pitfall traps to hunt. I’m a little confused, because there are several references I can find that state that Indigenous peoples used pitfall traps. Even in the Kristjánsson et al paper, the authors refer to the 1966 excavation led by Devereux that suggested the pitfalls were of indigenous use for hunting, although the authors do point out there seem to be no other occurrences of pitfall hunting in Canada. So Norse or not, if these are pitfalls at Sop’s Arm, then this site is significant for that reason alone.

Unfortunately, Kristjánsson et al found no artifacts at all in the pits, Norse, Indigenous or otherwise. They attempted to take radiocarbon dates but got mixed results. Not that the radiocarbon dates would have proven a Norse presence, but it would have given a time period for the possible construction of the pits. Even with these results, the authors, including McAleese, chose to argue that the pits are probably Norse in origin, since pitfall traps like these are not known to the Indigenous people in the area. Again, a confusing statement, but I can’t find any definitive papers that counter that.

So what does all this get us? Inconclusive results leaning heavily towards Indigenous origins due to lack of anything saying otherwise. The show adds nothing to this really; Nelson and Arbuthnot were not able to excavate or investigate the pitfalls beyond taking some notes and measurements. So, other than being interesting, there’s no hard evidence to tie these pitfalls to the Norse.

Nelson goes back to his Found roots and goes to look at the Viking Museum curated by the late Kent Budden. In his museum, Budden kept many objects he collected over the years, thinking they were Norse in origin. He’s even published a paper on his explorations and conclusions into Norse occupation of Sop’s Arm. With Budden’s death, the museum’s collection has passed into the care of a committee of some kind, and Nelson managed to get permission from them to see it. When the camera pans over the collection, it’s clear to me that the objects Budden has collected are historical in origin.

Nelson is fascinated with a few of the objects, giving the misleading comment of, “This could be a thousand years old, or just a hundred.” Which — no, just, no. Nelson gets oddly obsessed over a nail from the collection. It looks identical to a square cut nail seen on pretty much every historical site in America that foraged its own nails. Nelson seems to think it has a good chance to be Norse in origin and goes about trying to convince the current keepers of the museum to let him take it to be tested.

Which leads to a scene that is confusing on several levels. Nelson eventuality gets his nail in the mail and takes it out with a pair of gloves, saying he doesn’t want to contaminate the sample, even though he’s already been shown handling the nail bare-handed. Then he takes out a portable PXRF machine, which, 1) is actually really cool, and 2) why didn’t he just take the PXRF machine to the museum and test all the things there? It’s portable, and he’s doing this test in what looks like his hotel room. If it could have gone there, why all the drama of getting the museum to part with the artifact for testing?

Anyway, the nail comes back as being made of nearly pure iron. Nelson did a good job of telling us that if it had been made from bog iron, he’d expect a lot of impurities. The nail didn’t demonstrate that. It would have been even more impactful if he had also done a sample of the bog iron for comparison, but we’re left with just the nail. This is a neat thing, more tech in the field, but this is also not a common tool in a field kit. It also doesn’t help prove that Sop’s Arm is connected to the Norse, and to Nelson’s credit, he doesn’t try to shoehorn it into fitting.

And that wraps up the more traditional archaeology for the show, with Nelson and Arbuthnot saying they’ve pretty much done all they can at Sop’s Arm. Nelson says something about him discovering that the sea winds would have been stronger on one side of Newfoundland than the other. I’m not really sure what that was meant to do other than segue to the second half of the show, where Nelson and Arbuthnot are looking at Norse ships in a Viking shipyard in Copenhagen, Denmark, and then sailing one for a speed test.

Yes, this entire segment is neat and fun and Norse ships are impressive. If you ever get a chance to go see one up close, especially one of the reproductions, I highly recommend it. Aside from just showing off these awesome ships, and having Arista Holden, the captain of the Polaris, demonstrate how a Norse Sunstone works, there’s no real point to this bit.

What it does do is feed a fear of mine that I expressed for the last episode, that America’s Lost Vikings is going to devolve into two dudes doing stuff and then saying things like, “Well if we can do it, the Viking’s could have, too!” Which is not the point. Lots of culture groups had the ability to do things like voyage to new lands. The point is, there’s no evidence they did.

Still, Arbuthnot says, “It [the ship’s speed] could mean the Vikings made landfall in the Cape Cod area of Massachusetts,” and, “I think we’ve demonstrated conclusively that they had the technology and the capability.” Again, this is currently irrelevant because there’s no evidence to support the claim that they did do it.

Overall, this episode was better than the first, especially with the presentation of negative evidence. The show demonstrated archaeology more and even showed some tech in use in the field. Nelson and Arbuthnot seem to accept their lack of evidence with aplomb, but they do try to make it sound like there’s still possibly something out there.

Arbuthnot: “We’re still lacking the physical archaeological evidence.”

Nelson: “It just means you haven’t found it yet.”

I mean, guys, sometimes the absence of evidence is evidence of absence.


If you’d like to support the Podcast or site, consider donating to us on Patreon or buy us a  Ko-Fi. Either option helps us out.

Check out Jeb Card’s new book Spooky Archaeology : 
Myth and the Science of the Past

And Ken Feder’s new book Archaeological Oddities: A Field Guide to Forty Claims of Lost Civilizations, Ancient Visitors, and Other Strange Sites in North America

Grab a t-shirt or coffee mug from our Swag Store on Zazzle.

Be sure to subscribe to the podcast on the blog and like and share us where ever you can.

You can follow us on twitter @ArchyFantasies, or look us up on Facebook. You can reach us by email at ArchyFantasies@gmail.com.

Contact us below or leave a comment.

America’s Not-Lost Vikings, or Picking Fights with The Science Channel.

When AiPT! asked me to review the new six-part Science Channel series, America’s Lost Vikings, I was apprehensive, but a little hopeful. First, it was on the Science Channel; that’s safe, right? Also, it’s headed by two archaeologists, Blue Nelson and Mike Arbuthnot.

I don’t know either man, so I did a little digging. Blue Nelson is an archaeologist, who appears to work in Cultural Resource Management and has been on a TV show prior to this on the History Channel, called Found. I dug a little into that show, and despite being on the History Channel (with everything that brings), Found seems to be a pretty solid show about archaeologists looking at the weird stuff people find in their yards and helping them accurately identify the items. I’ve seen one episode and was pretty pleased with it.

Nelson played a very small part in the first episode of Found, but I’m sure he’ll pop up more as I go through it. Most importantly to me was that Nelson didn’t seem to be playing into any weird pseudoarchaeology ideas like Minoans in America or Transoceanic Travelers or the European-First claims that tend to go hand in hand with “Vikings” in America.

Michael Arbuthnot is another story altogether. Arbuthnot is an archaeologist who specializes in underwater archaeology and used to run a company called Team Atlantis, which he described as, “A multidisciplinary research outfit whose mission is to explore archaeological mysteries with an emphasis on those enigmas associated with underwater contexts.”

In a 2013 reprint of a 2005 publication, The Disinformation Guide to Ancient Aliens, Lost Civilizations, Astonishing Archaeology, and Hidden History,Arbuthnot acknowledges the possibility that Atlantis could be a real place on Earth, but stated it wasn’t his primary focus of research. No, his work was to discover how the Americas were really populated. Arbuthnot then proceeds to argue for completely unsupported ideas of cultural diffusion to the Americas via prehistoric European migration by boat or raft.

I do not have the space here to explain why this is not an accepted archaeological theory, other than there is no evidence to support it and the implications of such a theory are problematic, to say the least.

So, with this unfortunate information now in my head, I watched the first episode of  America’s Lost Vikings.

Right off the bat, I’m struck with how this show will be following the format of others like Unearthed America, The Curse of Oak Island, and Legends of the Lostby using splashy graphics, epic music, and choppy editing to create a narrative that supports the show’s premises. I’m also struck with how Vikings‘ chosen audience is clearly men, given how far it went to not mention women at all.

The main focus of the first episode is the well-researched and documented site of L’Anse aux Meadows, the only confirmed Norse settlement site in the Americas. L’Anse aux Meadows was investigated in the 1960s by archaeologists Anne Stine Ingstad and her husband Helge Ingstad. The majority of what we know about L’Anse aux Meadows is because of the Ingstads, and continuing work in the 1970s by Birgitta Wallace, archaeologist emerita for Parks Canada.

Not that Nelson or Arbuthnot mention any of that. They attribute everything to only Helge Ingstad, effectively erasing Anne Stine Ingstad and Wallace from the picture. (There’s literally a monument at L’Anse aux Meadows for both of the Ingstads. They have to walk past it to see the site.)

Anyway. The rest of the first segment is Nelson and Arbuthnot walking around the site, looking at the reproduction of one of the longhouses, and in general talking about the particulars of the site.

There’s evidence that  L’Anse aux Meadows was home to somewhere between 60 -180 people, including women. Again, this is blatantly ignored. Why? Maybe they just didn’t have time to add in the word “woman” between Nelson making observations like, “This place must have just reeked of Man” (said of the longhouse), and, “This here, this is the Man’s room” (said of the sleeping closet).

Arbuthnot does spend about 30 seconds explaining that the Norse get a bad reputation as being Vikings, and really were mostly merchants, craftsmen, and farmers. The show follows this up with images of violent Vikings and passive women. So, way to clear up that misconception.

Arbuthnot also brings up the relatively short habitation period at L’Anse aux Meadows. It’s thought, via the Ingstads’ and Wallace’s research, that the site was only occupied for 3-5 years. In the long scheme of things, that is rather short, but Arbuthnot’s question of, “Why would they build so much for such a short stay?” is misleading. There are only eight structures identified at the site. Only three are housing. Eight buildings between 60-180 people doesn’t seem like “so much” to me.

It’s another subtle way the show is trying to build up the mystery of the site. Calling the houses “monumental” when they are not, saying it would have taken a long time to build, when it wouldn’t have, claiming there’s a huge number of structures when there isn’t. It’s exaggerating the facts to make it seem like more than it is.

L’Anse aux Meadows is an amazing site, but it’s not a wonder of the world or the most mysterious place in America. Pretending that it is takes away from the importance of the site, and the actually interesting things we’ve learned about it.

Arbuthnot touches on some of that a little by bringing up the controversial idea from Bjarni Einarsson that the site was used for hundreds of years, not just five. It’s the first big idea the show latches onto, and here we get to see some actual archaeology, however briefly.

Arbuthnot brings out a drone that he uses to take images of the site so he can then stitch them together into a 3D model of the footprints of the structures at the site. He makes a neat map out of the images and uses them to check the elevations of the footprints.

Not to be mean here, but honestly, as cool as it was to see this all in use, it was unnecessary. The building footprints are clear to the naked eye, and these are hardly the first aerial photographs of the site. You can find many online by simply Googling them.

Arbuthnot then compares the footprints of the buildings from L’Anse aux Meadows to other sites in Iceland. He’s doing this because he thinks he can “age” the buildings on the site this way.  The major problem with this is there are radiocarbon dates for the L’Anse aux Meadows site, and those are slightly more accurate than the stylistic footprints of buildings that could vary for any reason, from regional variation to the purpose of use. It’s interesting, and a neat trick, but not really hard evidence.

From here we kind of abandon “traditional” archaeology and start doing things that might generously be called “experimental archaeology.” There’s merit in doing experimental archaeology, but some of this I think is just an excuse for Nelson to dress up like a Norseman.

They go to Toronto’s Climate Lab, where there’s a giant freezer that can reach extreme temperatures, and they dress Nelson up in the best reproduction of Norse clothes they can find. Then they stick him in and monitor his vitals as the freezer drops to 7 degrees Fahrenheit, or -13.9 Celsius. Nelson says he was not too uncomfortable while in the freezer, and that’s nice and all. What this was proving, I don’t know. We already knew the Norse could live through the winters at L’Anse aux Meadows. They did so for about five years.

We then go to Reykjavik, Iceland to the Arni Magnusson Institute for Icelandic Studies. Nelson and Arbuthnot get access to early written-down sagas, and they want to see if L’Anse aux Meadows is possibly mentioned in the Icelandic Sagas. You see, there’s an argument that L’Anse aux Meadows is actually Vinland, mentioned in the Vinland sagas, but it in no ways matches the description of Vinland.  The researcher they talk with mentions it might be Leif’s camp, also mentioned in the Vinland saga, but there’s really no way to know or prove that. So, fun idea, but not really helpful.

We then take a detour to go to the apparent childhood home of Leif Erikson. Honestly, I have no idea why we’re here, other than to let Nelson and Arbuthnot have a moment to be wowed that they’re standing in the same spot as the first European to set foot in America, which is important for some reason.

Lastly, we head back to L’Anse aux Meadows to figure out why anyone would want to live there. L’Anse aux Meadows is a little strange in that there is apparently no evidence of agriculture or animal husbandry beyond foodstuffs. Even the food that is found there appears to be brought in from other places. We do know there was an iron smithy there, and that the people at L’Anse aux Meadows were harvesting bog iron and working it.

Nelson again decides he’s going to be the one to go learn how to harvest bog iron and drops the wonderful gem as he’s scraping mud barehanded from the creek bank, “While the Indigenous people of America were still using stone, the Vikings were extracting iron ore.”

Three things:

  • Seriously, Blue Nelson?
  • The Indigenous people of America were also mining and working copper, lead, and gold, harvesting oil, carving stone, crafting pottery, weaving, and building earthworks, among other things.
  • Am I really supposed to believe that people that figured out how to cross an ocean, work iron, and cut sod for houses, hadn’t figured out how to make and use a shovel? I think the guide was just screwing with Nelson here.

It’s possible this was not a typical settlement colony and more of a resource colony. Eleanor Barraclough at Durham University has even suggested that the site was a stop-over for ships, a place to possibly build and repair them. This idea is one Arbuthnot appears to repeat, commenting on the number of nails found at L’Anse aux Meadows, and comparing that number to known shipyards in Iceland. Honestly, that’s the first convincing thing I’ve heard all episode, and the originator of that idea isn’t even mentioned.

Nelson and Arbuthnot wrap up the episode with some stirring dialogue about how they’ve only just begun to investigate the Viking presence in America. But before they go off to chase wild geese, they have to have a drinking party with people dressed up as Vikings.

Overall, this episode didn’t really say anything flashing-red-lights “wrong.” The premise of the whole show, though, is an issue because of the loaded implications in the idea that Europeans were in the Americas in prehistoric times. That’s often used as a way to deny Indigenous culture and land rights, usually by claiming something is not actually Indigenous and assigning it to a different group. In this case, for example, Vikings.

L’Anse aux Meadows is the only verified Norse site in the Americans, and it’s not like people aren’t looking. I really hope that America’s Lost Vikings follows the pattern of Found, where they go and examine Viking claims, then effectively debunk them. I have this bad feeling it’s going to be six episodes of two guys doing wacky crap, then saying something like, “Well if we could do it, then Vikings could too!” And the problem there is the same problem with all Vikings-in-America claims — there’s no evidence.


If you’d like to support the Podcast or site, consider donating to us on Patreon or buy us a  Ko-Fi. Either option helps us out.

Check out Jeb Card’s new book Spooky Archaeology : 
Myth and the Science of the Past

And Ken Feder’s new book Archaeological Oddities: A Field Guide to Forty Claims of Lost Civilizations, Ancient Visitors, and Other Strange Sites in North America

Grab a t-shirt or coffee mug from our Swag Store on Zazzle.

Be sure to subscribe to the podcast on the blog and like and share us where ever you can.

You can follow us on twitter @ArchyFantasies, or look us up on Facebook. You can reach us by email at ArchyFantasies@gmail.com.

Contact us below or leave a comment.

Remix – Atlantis in Sardinia with Dr. Emily Holt – Archaeological Fantasies ep 107

Nuraghe Santu Antine in Torralba
Cristiano Cani picture via Wiki Commons.

Note: there was an issue with the Audio file. This is a repost of episode 107.

Today we are talking with Dr. Emily Holt from Miami University in Ohio. We learn about the Nuraghe civilization, the fantastic towers they built, and how all this is connected to Atlantis. Dr. Holt also gives us details on her summer field school, which focuses on CRM techniques, that is open for enrollment.

Dr. Emily Holt:

Twitter: @Emily_M_Holt 
and @ScholarOutreach

School Bio Page:
https://miamioh.edu/cas/academics/departments/classics/about/faculty-staff/holt/

Personal Blog:

ERRANT: letters from an itinerant archaeologist

Ask an Archaeologist: Dr. Emily Holt, Zooarchaeologist

Contact Dr. Holt if you are interested in participating in her feild school this summer. holtem2@miamioh.edu

Field School Link to Apply:
Miami University Field Methods in Archaeology: Pran’e Siddi Landscape Project

Articles on Atlantis in Sardinia:

Was Sardinia home to Atlantis? – by Sarah Griffiths on Daily Mail.

Was Sardinia home to the mythical civilization of Atlantis? – by Florence Evin on the Guardian website.

Review of Ancient Aliens S13E08 “Island of the Giants” by Jason Colavito

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Check out Jeb Card’s new book Spooky Archaeology : 
Myth and the Science of the Past

And Ken Feder’s new book Archaeological Oddities: A Field Guide to Forty Claims of Lost Civilizations, Ancient Visitors, and Other Strange Sites in North America

Contact us below or leave a comment.

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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.
 
 
 
 
 
Twitter – @ArchyFantasies
 
IG – @ArchyFantasies
 
 
Emai – ArchyFantasies@gmail.com. 



Asteroids, Micro Diamonds, and the Younger Dryas with Jens Notroff: Archaeological Fantasies Ep 106

Today we talk to Jens Notroff about a recent report about a newly discovered asteroid crater under the Greenland Glacier. How is this connected to the Younger Dryas? What is the Younger Dryas? And is this evidence of Gobekli Tepe being older than it seems? (You can probably guess the answer for that one.)

Show Notes:

Jens Notroff:
@jens2go

Persnpal Webpage

Letters From The Field

THE TEPE TELEGRAMS

Göbekli Tepe, Bad Fox, No Comet – Episode 73

Articles:

Ice Age Asteroid Crater Discovered Beneath Greenland Glacier by Nicholas St. Fleur

A massive crater hides beneath Greenland’s ice by Carolyn Gramling

An asteroid impact on Greenland left a massive crater under the ice by CBC Radio

The Younger Dryas:

https://www.ncdc.noaa.gov/abrupt-climate-change/The%20Younger%20Dryas

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Younger_Dryas

‘Younger Dryas Impact’ hypothesis

Arguments against Younger Dryas Impact Event

Colavito post on these articles

Colavito post on strife and non-strife between Andrew Collins and Graham Hancock on the Younger Dryas

Colavito’s various Younger Dryas posts


If you’d like to support the Podcast or site, consider donating to us on Patreon or buy us a  Ko-Fi. Either option helps us out.

Check out Jeb Card’s new book Spooky Archaeology : 
Myth and the Science of the Past

And Ken Feder’s new book Archaeological Oddities: A Field Guide to Forty Claims of Lost Civilizations, Ancient Visitors, and Other Strange Sites in North America

Grab a t-shirt or coffee mug from our Swag Store on Zazzle.

Be sure to subscribe to the podcast on the blog and like and share us where ever you can.

You can follow us on twitter @ArchyFantasies, or look us up on Facebook. You can reach us by email at ArchyFantasies@gmail.com.

Contact us below or leave a comment.