Category Archives: Media

Flu, Podcasts, and Screaming into the Void: Weekly Round-Up 2/24/2013

I’m sure you’ve all been wondering where I’ve been. (you have, haven’t you? I’m not just screaming into a black, soulless void am I?) Let’s just say, don’t put your Flu shots off any longer then you have to, cause the flu sux balz.

So after a week filled with all the joys of the Flu, I can finally eat again and stay awake longer then 20 min at a time. The good news is that I can now get back to work on my neglected blog. The bad  news is that I’m really behind on posting. That said, this time I am really going to get caught up…really…I mean it this time!

 

 

Until then I want to leave you with something enjoyable, and that would be the second episode of the awesome new podcast I am involved in, CRM Archaeology. In this episode we talk about Open Access in archaeology and there are six of us on the podcast this time, including a special guest, Eric Kansa from UC Berkeley and the Alexandria Archive Institute.  Also, the podcast is now available on Stitcher as well as ITunes, or at the website link, whichever. (Stitcher is cooler.)

Anyway, look for our regularly scheduled blog posts to resume shortly, and check out the podcast while you wait!

Weekly ArchyFantasies Round-Up 12/2/2012

I know, it’s Wednesday…

So, Things I am reading…

I’m Re-reading Carl Sagan’s Demon Haunted World for our Skeptics group. I don’t like to re-read books very often, but this book is such a classic, you kinda need to. Anyway, read along with us!

Also just discovered Lois McMaster Bujold, with luck I’ll have more to say on this soon.

School Report:

Finals are almost here. They can’t be over quick enough.

Things with links:

Millions of Puppy Mummies in Egypt Labyrinth – I warn you, if you are a little squimish, this might not be the slideshow for you. Still, millions of mummified puppies are pretty damn cool looking, especially when you find out why the Ancient Egyptians did it.

Why you can all stop saying meat eating fueled evolution of larger brains right now – This is a blog post by David Despain and twitted by our fav DR. B.J. King at NPR. I wanted to tear this apart when I first read it, but then I browsed the comments section, and not only were other people pointing out the glaring red flags, but they were providing access to science that directly refutes this post.

What I love most about these two posts is how blatantly biased they both are. The best quote from King is:

“Do I agree with every last thing Despain writes? No. As a nutritionist, for example, he doesn’t recommend a vegetarian diet, and that I’d take issue with.” [King 2012]

Not to mention if you read King’s breif post, you are led to believe that Despain has definitive,  conclusive, evidence that we should all be grazing on grass, which is not even close to what Despain says. Though he might have been trying to get there, but you know…facts…

Despain tries to make an argument that humans couldn’t have evolved because of meat, because everyone knows brains are fulled by carbs. Which is, and isn’t true. This argument is addressed pretty aggressively in the comments, and I’m not going to re-hash it here. But he’s got a few gems himself.

“Although meat does provide some valuable micronutrients and essential fats, there may not be anything incredibly special about meat nutritionally except that it freed up carbohydrate calories for feeding brains that were roughly three times larger than chimps without the use of gluconeogenesis” [Despain 2012]

So, you know, besides providing micronutirents, essential fats, and allowing our brains to get more fuel, meat really didn’t have much to do with anything… Then after trying to debunk Greg Wray‘s research, Despain’s expert Peter Ungar says: (Evolutionary Anthropologist FIGHT!…not really)

“On Wray’s research, Ungar also added,

I’m not an expert on fueling the brain, but …” [Despain 2012]

This last bit is great, always shove the blame onto unspecified others:

“Is Wrangham suggesting redemption for raw dieting and vegetarianism as a healthy dietary approach in a modern world? Some people might think so.” [Despain 2012]

Some people? Who people? Be specific, oh wait, even the experts paraded out here in an attempt to back that up wouldn’t completely downplay the role of meat in our evolution. Because, as was stated in the beginning of the post:

“There’s little use challenging the evidence that meat, whether eaten raw or cooked, was “brain food” for our ancestors. The fossil record shows a clear correlation between the appearance of hominin meat eating some two million years ago — as evidenced by stone tools, cutmarked bones, and changes in hominin teeth structure — and the drastic increase in cranial size that continued until the agricultural revolution.” [Despain 2012]

You know, Facts…

The 10 Most Not-So-Puzzling Ancient Artifacts: Ancient Model Aircraft, Plus a Rant!

This appears to be more of a category than an individual artifact, it seems to cover a couple of different artifacts that share the common thread of vaguely looking like flying objects. Or at lest that’s what you’re supposed to think. Two major items stand out in this category, The Saqqara Bird and the Tolima Artifacts, though it can also be said that flying carpets, winged chariots, and dragons also belong here (more on this later).

Let’s start with the Saqqara Bird.

The Bird in Question

The Saqqara Bird is an actual artifact kept in an actual museum, it was uncovered by actual archaeologists and studied by same. The Bird’s existence is not in question and not disputed. It’s the Bird’s function that people want to debate, and by people I mean the Fringe.

The Bird was discovered in 1898 by Dr. Khalil Messiha during an  excavation of the Pa-di-Imen tomb in Saqqara, Egypt (Fitzpatrick-Matthews 2010). It is made out of sycamore wood and appears to have a falcon shaped head, complete with Horace like eyes. It’s exact function is unknown but it is mostly accepted that the Bird was part of a mast-head used on sacred boats like those used during the Opt Festival, of which we have documentation (Fitzpatrick-Matthews 2010, Orcutt 2001].

Please note bird images on the masts of the ships.

Now, some will have you think that the Bird is a scaled down replica of a glider. There are several issues with this, mainly that, if you faithfully replicate the Bird to a larger scale, it will not fly. I know most of us have seen the Ancient Aliens episode where they make a model, and then fly it, but they also make several modifications to it, none of which have any evidence of existing. To be a final nail in the glider coffin, others have tried to replicate the models and have found them to be lacking. Larry Orcutt points out in his article “Model Airplane?” talking about the Bird:

“The requirements for a Free Flight model glider to be automatically stable in flight are that it should:

  1.  Balance somewhere between 25% and 60% of the wing chord back from the leading edge. The wing chord is the average width of the wing, measured from front to back. A glance at the bird shows that the body is made from a single piece of wood whose proportions are such that the balance point is at or behind the trailing edge of the wing. The bird’s head region has clearly never had a weight attached to it or buried within it. Such a weight would be needed to bring the balance point forward into the range given above.
  2. Have a horizontal tail surface of around 20 – 25% of the wing area. Despite some claims to the contrary, no such tail surface currently exists and there are no traces of a tail plane’s attachment point on the bird’s fin or rear body. The fin is the vertical tail surface that forms the rear of the bird’s body.
  3.  Be shaped to provide spiral stability. The presence of a large fin at the rear of the body must be balanced by a dihedralled wing if the bird is to glide without tipping over sideways into an terminal spiral dive. A dihedralled wing is one with the tips raised above the center of the wing like virtually all passenger planes and model aircraft. The bird has the opposite wing arrangement. Its wing tips are drooped to give anhedral, which would only serve to increase the bird’s spiral instability.

 As can be easily seen, the bird meets none of these requirements for flight, so it is quite unlikely that it ever flew or that accurate replicas could fly. [Orcutt 2001]”

He also shows several examples of the mast mounted birds that look very much like the Bird, and has a link though to a report on the replication and attempted flight of the Bird.

Next, let’s look at the Tolima Artifacts.

One of several small animal totems.

Again, these are another set of real artifacts recovered in real digs and displayed in real museums. It’s the interpretation of said artifacts that is disputed. Not by anyone who knows anything about them, or the Tolima people, but by Ancient Alien theorists and such. These little gold charms are so low-key you’ll be hard pressed to find anything academic on them. However, you can go see them in several museums around America, including the Smithsonian in DC and The Field Museum in Chicago. To the Ancient Alien people though, these small gold artifacts are hard evidence of ancient Jet fighters.

I really can’t even begin to tear this one apart because it’s just so ridiculous to me. Where the Fringe sees an airplane, I see fish and moths. Maybe it’s because I understand that ancient peoples took liberties and stylized their interpretations of their world, especially when it came to ritual items. Maybe it’s because these things don’t look a damn thing like airplanes or jets. IDK.

Da Plane Boss, Da Plane!

But honestly, let’s look at the larger issue with this whole ancient airplane thing, Where are the remains of these planes? Where are the parts, the broken bits, the actual plane themselves? Where is all the stuff associated with flying planes? Where are the airports, the air towers, the luggage claim racks…

If man was making them, where are the production sites? If Aliens flew them down, why is there no physical evidence? What did these things run on? Jet fuel is an expensive, complicated, explosive mix. How did our ancestors make it and not kill themselves?

This brings us to the more imaginative part of this entry, the whole idea that flying carpets, dragons and winged chariots were really ancient man’s way of interpreting ancient flying machines. In order for these ideas to work we have to make several assumptions that no one should be comfortable making.

First, we have to assumes that the mythologies of ALL ancient peoples are accurate and true.

Second, we have to assume that whenever the ancients said “God or Gods” they were really  talking about aliens, they just didn’t know it.

Third, we have to assume that our ancestors were too ignorant of the natural world to understand a non-natural object, and instead of faithfully representing the actual object in story and art, they took artistic liberties to create winged chariots, flying carpets, and yes, Dragons.

Fourth, we have to ignore that our first assumption and our fourth assumption are in opposition.

Fifth, we have to never ask what happened to all the physical evidence advanced machinery would have left behind, or where these “Alien Gods” went to, or why they came or left in the first place.

In order for the Saqqara Bird and the Tolima Artifacts to be real, all these questions and assumptions need to be addressed. Evidence needs to be produced, and reality itself has to shift. I’ve yet to hear anything resembling a reasonable answer to the logical objections to the idea of ancient airplanes. If one could be provided, it would be the first.

Reinterpreting the Known World.

Another thing sticks out here that is of  some interest, and that is the reinterpreting of actual artifacts. It’s something I’ve noticed the Ancient Alien theorists do often. They take known discoveries and try to make them fit the Alien narrative. They reject documented and researched interpretations by experts and substitute their own, that are often based on nothing more than observing a photograph. I’m often left wondering why? What makes a non-professional individual reject the accepted opinion of a professional and supplement a much less informed opinion instead? Why do they think these two opinions are equal in validity?

This has nothing to do with intelligence, I want that to be clear. It has everything to do with experience and education. All three of those things are separate and are not actually dependent on each other, so none of this “they’re stupid” talk. Irrational? Perhaps. Uniformed? definitely. But not stupid.

Whatever the answer to those questions might be, we in the “Mainstream” will continue to be plagued by weird reinterpreting by the “Fringe”. Which leads to the other problem I have with this kind of thing, misinformation.

Regardless if the misinformation is being distributed knowingly or unknowingly, the biggest problem is that they can put that bad information out there faster than most people can fact-check. Which creates confusion in a normal, rational, individual. What can be done about that?

Critical articles like these, critical arguments, critical thinking, and access to open, honest facts, are the only way to combat this barrage of misinformation. People need access to factual information so that it can be used to counter the bad information. People also need to be taught how to think both skeptically and critically, something a lot of people think they are doing, but in reality are not. I feel that these goals are being met to some degree. Open Access is a huge thing among scientists today, and I think it will only continue to become the norm. That thought gives me hope.


If you’d like to support this blog, consider donating on Patreon.
Comment below or send an email to ArchyFantasies@gmail.com
If you want more on this topic, got to: 10 Most Not So Puzzling Ancient Artifacts.

 

Resources:

Fitzpatrick-Matthews, Keith

2010 “Egyptian ‘aeroplane’ models?.” Bad Archaeology. http://www.badarchaeology.com/?s=Saqqara+Bird&search=Search Accessed July 9th 2012.

Orcutt, Larry

2001 “Modle Airplane?” Catchpenny’s Mystries of Nacent Egypt Explained. http://www.catchpenny.org/model.html. Accessed July 9th 2012.

“The 10 Most Puzzling Ancient Artifacts.”http://www.ancientx.com/nm/anmviewer.asp?a=75. Accessed April 2 2012.

Between the Nazca Lines: Evidence vs. “I Wanna Believe”

Well, we now know what a Cargo Cult is, and we are now up to date on the recent research into the Nasca Lines. What I haven’t brought you completely up to date on is the actual Ancient Alien Theory explanation of the Nazca lines. The History Channel sums it up pretty succinctly:

Great Images being deliberately misinterpreted by the History Channel.

“The Nazca Lines
 

Etched into a high plateau in Peru’s Nazca Desert, a series of ancient designs stretching more than 50 miles has baffled archaeologists for decades. Along with simple lines and geometric shapes, they include drawings of animals, birds and humans, some measuring more than 600 feet across. Because of their colossal size, the figures can only be appreciated from way up in the air—and there is no evidence that the Nazca people, who inhabited the area between 300 B.C. and 800 A.D., invented flying machines. According to ancient alien theorists, the figures were used to guide spaceships as they came in for a landing, and the lines served as runways.”[History 2011]

Never mind the screamingly obvious problems with the description, it does do a good job of summing up what most people think of the Nazca lines, inaccuracies and all.

(Trapezoid Line)

This idea that the lines were used as landing strips seems to come from the presence of the long trapezoidal geoglyphs and the supposed evidence of a leveled mountain top. Von Daniken mentions this in his books, but I haven’t found reference to it, or concern about it, in any of the research. Still, these ideas persist.So, the theory goes that the lines were laid either by man or alien in order to direct and provide a location for space ship landings. Tying this into the Cargo Cult connection; after the Aliens stopped coming to earth with their cargo, we humans began to build a religion around them, attempting to bring our alien saviors back to earth with misinterpreted ritual.

Websites abound on the Internet and even the History Channel, which has produced two seasons of a show called Ancient Aliens, tout belief in and even evidence of aliens. You can find lots of people who are ready to explain the Ancient Alien Theory and tell you all about the evidence supporting it. Not too surprising the Nazca lines fall into this category of evidence.

Even after the modern research mentioned in my last post, these sites still claim that the lines cannot be explained, that scientist still search for an explanation to the cause of the lines, even though this is not true. The reality is that we do have both really good explanations and building methods that require little more than a stick and some string.

(The actual Condor geoglyph)

Well known Skeptic, Joe Nickell, was able to reconstruct the geoglyphs in a remarkably short time using basic, simply reproduced, and most certainly available instruments for the time. Nickell’s, his two cousins, a friend, his 11-year old nephew, and father reproduced the 440 foot long Condor in just over a day and a half (baring time off due to rain) [Nickell1983]. They used merely a knotted rope, stakes, and a T-square they constructed from two pieces of wood. I really recommend the article; it’s a pretty good example of how the Nazca and their ancestors could have produced the geoglyphs without alien help.

(This is the Condor re-produced by Nickell et al. [Nickell1983])

So, now we know how the glyphs were probably made, we have a pretty solid theory onwhy the glyphs were made, we even know a fair bit about the culture of the Nazca (though I haven’t touched on that here). We’ve got the How, the Why, the When, and even the Where. At every point we know humans did this, and not once is an outside force required to accomplish any of it.

Nickell also makes a point about the whole “They can ONLY be seen from the SKY” statement:

“It is frequently asserted that the Nazca drawings are recognizable only from the air. That is not quite true, certainly not of the smaller figures, such as the effigy of a fish, which is only 80 feet long (Reiche 1976). Neither is it true of some drawings — attributed to the Nazcas’ predecessors — that are found on hill slopes (McIntyre 1975; Isbell 1978, 1980). Here, seemingly, is a clue to how the Nazcas could have been confident of the accuracy of their method of enlargement. Once a technique was found to be successful for producing large drawings on slopes, where they could actually be viewed from the ground, the same technique could be expected to consistently yield good results — wherever figures were drawn and whatever their size.” [Nickell1983]

This point was also made by The Nazca-Palpa Project in 2007 [Isla 2007], where they not only dated the geoglyphs and gave sequence order to the deposition, they remarked that the smaller glyphs could be seen from a short distance, like from a slope [Isla 2007].

I would hope at this point that I’ve provided enough evidence to remove aliens from the picture. I can show that the geoglyphs were most probably a cultural tool used to create a sense of community and possibly served ritual purposes dating from about 400 BC till sometime after 600 AD [Isla 2007]. I have shown that they could have been created using nothing more than a sketch, knotted rope, and T-square [Nickell1983], all of which was available in that time period. There is also the well known C-14 dates of the pottery sherds and burials associated with the lines, which help us put the lines into context [Isla 2007, Nickell1983]. There is no need to add aliens to the mix, they are unnecessary. They create a complication that is not needed since everything has a simple, human explanation.

As I say in all my presentations, if you are a True Believer, there isn’t a damn thing I can provide to change your mind. All the evidence in the world will be wasted on you, but if you came to this looking to have a few questions answered, I can help you there.

References:

The History Channel
2011 Evidence of Ancient Aliens? The History Channel website.http://www.history.com/shows/ancient-aliens/articles/evidence-of-ancient-aliens.Accessed Jan 25, 2011.

Nickell, Joe
1983  The Nazca Drawings Revisited: Creation of a Full-Sized Condor. Skeptical Inquirer MagazineVolume 7.3, Spring 1983.http://www.csicop.org/si/show/nazca_drawings_revisited/Accessed Jan 25, 2011.

Isla, Johny
2007 Nazca-Palpa Project: Photogrammetric Reconstruction of the Geoglyphs of Nazca and Palpa. January 2007 http://www.photogrammetry.ethz.ch/research/peru/index.html Accessed Jan 09, 2011.

The New York Times and Spike TV Love American Diggers, Hate Uppity, Educated Women.

So this lovely piece of journalisum came across my twitter feed today…TV Digs Will Harm Patrimony, Scholars Say by Bill Carter.

First, props to Mr. Carter for using big words in the title, no props however for making it sound like the archaeologists of the world just want to take away all the fun from poor Ric Savage and his wrecking crew of “Relic Hunters.”

For Mr. Savage, it is more a matter of earning money. Digging up artifacts is how he makes his living, though for him it is also a labor of love. Long before he wrestled, when he was growing up in Virginia as Frank Huguelet, Mr. Savage developed a passion for history.

“I’ve been a digger my whole life,” he said in a telephone interview on Monday. “But I never had the funds to get the right kind of detector or the time to go out and do it.” After he retired from wrestling more than a decade ago, he devoted himself to digging.

“When you find something of value and hold it in your hands, that’s what it’s all about for me,” he said. “It’s about touching history. You can read or watch history, but the only way you can touch or feel it is to dig it out of the ground.”

Awe, it’s a labor of love, that he’s just trying to make a quick buck at. Poor guy! He loved archaeology and history so much he decided to go into pro-wrestling and forgo an education that could have allowed him to study professionally the things he loves so much!

Keep an eye on the language used here, that’s the sticking point for me, “Labor of love”, “He Devoted Himself”, “Touching History”, and other such emotionally charged imagery to describe the poor, put-upon Mr. Savage.

This is not how the archaeologists are described, starting with the insinuation that Susan Gillespie, head of the American Anthropological Association, is more intimidating then any pro-wrestler has ever been. Mr. Carter also points out that we “argue”, we “accuse”, we only point out the negative, we only want to write papers and achieve tenure somewhere.  We have boxes of artifacts that we don’t even care about anymore, just sitting around! We won’t even put them on display so people can see them! We are SO MEAN!

But sweet Mr. Savage understands us, he makes sure to do all his homework before he digs anywhere, he just wants to touch history too, and then sell it to the highest bidder. He’s so cool, he even agrees to give the property owners a cut of the money he says he’s going to make selling artifacts. He is so awesome! I am so mad at myself for ever thinking that this was a bad idea. Mr. Savage is like, an ex-wrestling, relic-hunting, angel of mercy! I was so blind!

Not to mention we archaeologists are trying to stand in the way of Spike TV’s ability to prove that all men are basically 5 year old’s, and should be treated and entertained as such. Which could be why the successful, educated, female, Dr. Gillespie is so intimidating. I mean, a woman who doesn’t stay home, make babies, and cater to her husband/boyfriend’s every need? Who does she think she is? Doesn’t she know her husband is only capable of doing the things 5 year old’s are? For shame!

The best part is the end, where Mr. Carter makes it sound like Dr. Gillespie, and other “professorial diggers” are trying to step on Mr. Savage’s Rights as an American Citizen. Making sure that his readers know that Mr. Savage has all the God given right of any true American citizen to dig holes all over this country in order to line his pockets, or so says Spike TV.

I’d kinda given up on the New York Times as being anything more then a yellow-rag a long time ago,  especially when it comes to it’s online content. This article just renews that for me. Not only is is obviously one-sided, it’s sexist to both men and women, and insulting to anyone with more then a high school degree. Thanks for not changing for the better, New York Times, keep it classy!