Where Are the Real Viking Women Warriors? With Chelsi Slotten Archaeological Fantasies Episode 105.

Not a real viking…

Welcome to Season 5 of the Archaeological Fantasies Podcast!
To start the year off we’re talking with Chelsi Slotten about Viking Women Warriors. What does archaeology say about women in Viking times? What are the controversies around the Birka Warrior? And why aren’t female warriors better accepted in academia?


Show notes:

Chelsi Slotten: @osteoarchaeo 

https://www.researchgate.net/profile/Chelsi_Slotten

Megan Fox to solve history’s greatest mysteries for the Travel Channel

Megan Fox Comes to Travel Channel in ‘Legends of the Lost’

Megan Fox fulfills her lifelong dream of becoming Indiana Jones in Travel Channel series

If by Indiana Jones you mean a fake archaeologist, then yes Megan Fox is the new Indiana Jones.

The Non-Mystery of Viking Women Warriors: Legends of the Lost Ep 2


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.

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Contact us below or leave a comment.

Myths are not Facts: Legends of the Lost ep 4

So here we are, the final episode of Legends of the Lost and after Episode 3, I needed a breather. Fox did not disappoint. 

This episode on the Trojan War was so factual I was truly confused. I had to watch it twice before I really understood what was going on, and Fox buried the lead so far down I’m not sure the casual viewer will understand it. 

We spend the entire episode touring around the Aegean region looking at possible locations for the mythological Trojan War. If she had seemed even a little bit excited about all this, it would have been a really great episode discussing classical archaeology.

We open watching Fox on a boat telling us how she doesn’t understand why people don’t accept myths as fact, especially when there is no evidence to support them, because one time archaeologists dug up the walls of Jericho and that was a real place with a real wall, so how come all myths aren’t treated as truth?

The problem here is that the walls of Jericho at the Tell es-Sultan site are nothing like they were described in the bible (see we’re back on biblical literalism again).

Carl Feagans pints out’s the flaws in Fox’s logic in his own review of the episode on his blog

” The reality was that the walls dated to about 8,000 BCE (about 6,000 years before the noisy Joshua) and were under 2 meters high on average. In fact, because there was a 8 meter wide ditch (almost 3 meters deep) that surrounded the wall, some think the wall may have been a flood control method. Or it may have been defensive. Either way, the Neolithic wall was more distant in time to Joshua than Joshua is to us! Other features within the Tell es-Sultan might be closer and there were walls built by the Hyksos people occupying the site and were of much larger size but unstable. They collapsed around 1,573 BCE during an earthquake, over 150 years before Joshua’s campaign against the Canaanites.” 

(Feagans 2018)

But Fox’s rant sets up the actual premise for the show. It’s not really about the Trojan War. It’s about Myth being Reality, if we just believe hard enough. 

To be completely honest with you, this episode is a little low energy, Fox looks like she’s just barely scraping enough ‘gives-a-shits’ together to not fall asleep when people are talking to her. Which is unfortunate since she once again has amazing access to things. 

We are treated to confusing voice-overs that make me think that Fox thinks Helen of Troy was real and really was the cause of massive multi-year war. I mean, sure? Since we’re also excepted to just accept as truth that the Trojan Horse was real, and Homer was an infallible wisdom keeper who preserved the Epics of the Greeks unaltered via oral traditions through the “Dark Ages”. (I really wish I was making this up.) 

Really the only thing she says that made my blood spike was the whole “The site of Troy was discovered in 1870.” Because no, Schliemann dug through it, declared a different level Troy, stole a bunch of the artifacts and ran off leaving the heavy lifting for his assistants to sort out. (maybe I will do that episode on Schliemann after-all.) Also this is not Fox’s direct fault, I just dislike Schliemann that much. 

Anyway.  

We do get to go see the site of Troy, and the other settlements that were built before and after it, and we meet Professor C. Brian Rose. Prof Rose wins the best quote of the episode award. As he is leading Fox around the site he tells her:

“Watch out for the centipedes, they wont kill you but they are poisonous.” 

And then begins to list off all the horrible insects, animals, and plants that are out to kill us. Srly folks, Archaeology has taught me that Nature hates us. 

We then jump to a talk with Dr. Eric Cline, who’s books I own, and he tells us about the influence of the Hittites, which almost excites Fox due to the biblical mentions of the Hittites.  But there’s no mystery here, and no real controversy that I am aware of. Cline points out the Hittites are a relatively new addition to the archaeological record, but since we have a huge collection of Hittite clay tablets, there’s no real debate that they existed. Most importantly here though we do learn that Alexander is a possible name for the Paris of Homer’s writings. 

From there we jump to the Istanbul Archaeological Museum to meet Veysel Donbaz. We get to look at a 350,000 year old clay tablet, that is the Peace Treaty of Alexander. The same Alexander that Cline told us was Paris. So I guess that proves that Paris was real? I think? 

We then go to meet Dr. Naoise Mac Sweeney to see Sivri Tepe which is not the tomb of Achilles. I think Fox was trying to use this bit to prove that you can use mythological texts to 1) find real world locations and 2) prove mythical persons did exist. This falls a bit flat when Sweeney points out this isn’t an actual tomb to anyone, let alone Achilles. 

However there is some un-excavated areas around Sivri Tepe, and so we go meet Mehmet Unal – who is the drone guy this episode. He does a drone scanning of a field where there is supposed to be possible tombs or graves. He get’s the data and now we wait. 

While we do that we go see Dr. Rustem Aslan who I think was at Çanakkale Onsekiz Mart University? I didn’t see a location tag for this. He shows us some metal (bronze?) arrow points and a messenger’s seal that apparently allowed for safe passage between Troy and other lands. Neat as this was, I have no clue how this supports her argument. We’re about 90% sure Troy was real, and this really only compounds the evidence Fox has already presented, so…cool? 

Our last stop is to meet Dr. Colin Barras an academic Journalist as the show says. He tells us about the Luwians, which I guess was the cultural group the Trojans belonged to? So…great? He also calls the Trojan War, World War Zero, so that was catchy. No offence to Barras, but the episode lost all steam after it went to Troy VI and it’s trying desperately to coast to an ending. 

The big finale for the show is going back to the remote sensing data. Sure enough, there’s something that looks like it might be a man-made mound but we’re not going to investigate it so whoopee? To be fair, I don’t think Fox could pull the strings necessary to get digging permits to investigate it, so that’s not really on her.  

Still, showing how little Fox actually cares about this is when she says, “Anyone could  are there.” When the whole point was to find Achilles, hearing that tells us Fox really isn’t invested in the outcome anymore. 

In Conclusion: 

The point of this episode was veiled as being an investigation into weather or not the Trojan War was a real event, recorded in myth. I spoke with Catherine B. Scott about this on Twitter because, I don’t know much about Troy or Aegean archaeology. She was kind enough to walk me through it:

“So for a lot of antiquity, and particularly for the Greeks and the Romans, the Trojan War was considered a historical event. It was written about in a variety of texts that discussed it from a variety of angles (e.g., the Iliad is about a specific conflict between Achilles and Agamemnon that took place during the 10th year of the war; Euripides’s play “Trojan Woman” talks about what happened immediately after the Greeks took the city; the Aeneid is about survivors leaving and founding Rome; etc.).

It is my understanding that at some point in the middle ages, people stopped believing that it was a real thing that happened. Then, when Schliemann “found” Troy and started excavating it in the late 19th century, it reignited the discussion about whether the event as described in these texts actually happened.

The current thinking is that the stories about the Trojan War were first written down during the Archaic period (c. 800 BC), but they actually describe events that took place during the Late Bronze Age (c. 1400-1200 BC). (Scott 2018)”

According to Scott, the currently accepted idea is that the Trojan War as described by Homer didn’t happen, but there is evidence that there were military conflicts going on in Western Anatolia. 

So much like Fox’s Wall of Jericho, the Trojan War might indeed have a grain of truth to it, but it’s not the massive conflict that she’s pretending she wants to prove. 

I say this because this episode wasn’t about the Trojan War at all. It was about proving Myths real. Fox rounds out the episode telling us that if the Trojan War is real, then we can ask which other myths are true as well. The problem is, she didn’t actually prove the Trojan War was real or true, she just proved that Troy was probably real, and there were conflicts between the Trojans and others in their area. 

Scott picks out the flaw of this quite nicely: 

“I think where the pseudoarchaeology comes in is when you take loose evidence that the myth of the Trojan War might have been based on something historical, and apply that logic to other myths that don’t have the same kind of historical evidence.”

(Scott 2018)

What other myths or fanciful civilizations might Fox be trying to prove? Well whether she doesn’t come out and say what, but we can guess since we know she believes in giants, magic, lost civilizations, biblical literalism, and Graham Hancock. 

Season Conclusions:

Ok, so, it has been pointed out that Legends of the Lost wasn’t the complete dumpster fire it could have been. Perhaps that was the calming influence of Megan Fox, or her status as the first female host of a pseudoarchaeology show on any major network. Either way, if you just watched the first 20-30 minutes of each episode they were fairly solid, showing actual archaeologists and historians doing actual archaeology and history. Fox’s show had a much more gender diverse cast of authorities than…well any other pseudo show I’ve watched. The second half of the show usually just lit itself on fire and sat calmly drinking tea. 

Seeing Fox as a host was interesting. She wasn’t portrayed as rugged or daring or particularity knowledgeable in any topic. No Forensic-(insert profession here) or made up titles for her. She rarely was seen doing anything for herself, constantly being driven, shipped, or guided to locations. She was handed things, had things explained to her, and in general was a passive observer who parroted back what was said to her. It was an interesting contrast to the image she seemed to think she was portraying, as evidenced in a few comments she made in the Viking Women episode and her Laura Croft inspired outfits throughout the show. 

Jason Colivito tracked the ratings of the series and noticed it’s extremely low ratings, which crashed with this final episode:

 Jason Colavito‏ @JasonColavito

The final episode of “Legends of the Lost” did not rank in the Nielsen Top 150 shows for Tuesday. The only Travel show to rank had just 270,000 viewers, suggesting that the finale of “Legends” had almost no viewers.2:16 PM – 28 Dec 2018

https://twitter.com/JasonColavito/status/1078731317158776832

So will we see a second season? Only the Norns know. If we do, it will be interesting to see what changes Fox makes to the format, topics, and her image.

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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.

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

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You can follow us on twitter @Archyfantsies, or look us up on Facebook.

You can reach us by email at ArchyFantasies@gmail.com.Contact us below or leave a comment.

No, Native Americans are not Giant Hybrids: Legends of the Lost Ep 3

Bronze Statue at the Smithsonian Natural History Museum.

Oh man, what to say here, what…to…say.

I want to skip the play by play here mainly because the issues Fox brings up in this episode are just…infuriatingly stunning. 

Again, when I comment here on Fox, it’s based purely on what she’s saying and how she’s saying it, and not on her gender, appearance, or the stereotypes around her past professions. 

Up to this episode we’ve learned a lot about Fox and her opinions and beliefs about American and World History. We’ve learned that she deeply believes in new age style spiritualism, to the point of being a religious tourist as often as possible, shopping various religions and cherry picking what she wants to take away from it. We know she buys into the idea that myth is fact, and if the bible says something, then it must be true (this becomes painfully apparent in this episode). We know that she views know archaeological hucksters as authorities in topics they are simply not qualified in (nor have they attempted to become qualified in). And we know that she starts each episode off with a bias and tries to hammer facts into her preconceived conclusions.

This episode on Giants, because that’s what it is, is no different. 

I know I usually do a play by play, So here’s the show in brief. 

Fox begins in Pennsylvania at the Meadowcroft Rockshelter learning about the (still) debated idea that there is evidence for human settlement dating to pre-Clovis times. Yes, this is a real archaeological debate, and yes there are people on both sides. I’m not going into it here, but just be aware, there is a debate.

The Meadowcroft Rock Shelter archaeological site.

We then jump to San Diego, CA. Qualcomm Institute and their simply bad-ass lab there and we get to see all the cool things acrchaeology can do and investigate with proper funding and new technology. We learn about the 130,000 year old skeleton that was recovered from an underwater cave, and I have to wonder out-loud, WHY AREN’T WE PUTTING OUR OWN PROGRAMS ABOUT THIS OUT THERE?! THIS IS FREAKING AWESOME!

Cerebro is real.

Ok, over it.

We jump to the Channel Islands to the Bella Luna and the researchers that pilot her looking for evidence of the earliest occupations of America. And again, yes there is a lively discussion in archaeology on how exactly the Americas became populated. Jennifer Raff has come on the Archaeological Fantasies Podcast several times to talk about genetic evidence and what it tells us about the peopling of the Americas. So yes, there is a kind-of controversy here as well, not that Fox spends any time trying to discuss it, or examine it, or interact with it at all.

No, she’s too busy trying to claim credit for “discovering new evidence” for things she didn’t and also didn’t spend any time trying to understand. 

Then Fox jumps off the deep end and takes us all with her.  It’s also here that I completely lose my cool with the program.

Fox goes to Malibu, CA. to meet with two people she advertises to us as Native Americans, and I’m really sorry folks but there is no easy way to do this…

Problems with the above statement:

  • Two Native Americans do not speak for the 2.6 million Native Americans who live in the United States alone. 
  • One Native American tribe’s oral tradition is not the same oral tradition for the 562 Federally recognized tribes in the US alone. 
  • Even if we believe what Riverwind says and agree that there are a whopping 3 whole tribes that have giants myths in their oral traditions, you still have 559 who apparently do not. So that kinda negates that whole “All Native Americas have myths about giants” argument right there. 
  • And then, of course, there is a the Riverwind’s themselves. 

Chief Joseph Riverwind is listed on a skeptical watchdog site, New Age Frauds and Plastic Shamans, as being a New Age fundamentalist who pushes religious/Ancient Alien ideas, like Native people believing in Nephilim/giants that apparently came to Earth from the Pleiades and Orion’s belt (Colavito 2017).

The dog whistles for this are clear when Fox interviews the couple. Joseph Riverwind making blanket statements about all Native Americans. His twisting of clearly biblical stories and dressing them up with native sounding concepts, to make it seem like there is a lost Christian element to all Native American oral traditions. Laralyn Riverwind calling giants another ‘species’ that inhabited the Americas before Native American ancestors. The concept of giant ‘Hybrids’ that were evil. 

And so on, and so on…

What you are actually hearing is Transoceanic Master Race drivel and Ancient Alien racism being dressed up as Native American oral tradition. Fox is banking on no one doing research into the Riverwinds, their work, or their claims, and hoping that if she show you that these two Native Americans believe in giants, then all Native Americans do and therefor giants must be real! 

I wish I could say this was the low point for the show, but it’s not…oh it’s so not. 

We go from the Riverwinds to Jim Vieira from Search for the Lost Giants, to listen to him try and sell us all on the idea that there is evidence of giants. He provides nothing that hasn’t been debunked by other people on other shows and again reiterates the biblical tie-ins of giants. 

Then he brings up Denisovans. Vieira is impressed that there is a small percentage of Denisovan DNA in Native American DNA and I really need to get Jennifer Raff on to explain all this. But basically Vieira throws a bunch of buzz words at Fox who nods along eagerly and it sounds very science-y. So then…Fox says:

“50,000 years ago, a large human like species called Denisovans populated the Asian landscape these ancient giants migrated into the Americas and interbred with humans creating giant hybrids, and in fact traces of Denisovans genetics have been found in Native Americans” (Fox 2018)

That is a direct quote from the show. 

I just…don’t have words. 

The last bit of the show goes over the whole Cerutti mastodon from California again. It overlaps with the Solutrean Hypothesis that I’ve addressed before and am not going to rehash here. (Links below in the Resource section.) 

In conclusion:

If you can’t tell from the tone of this article, I’m not ok with the statements of this show. The show starts off as the others have, showing us actual archaeology with dubious voice overs hinting at what Fox is planning on twisting the show into. Then it just jumps off the deep end with both feet making unjustified claims based on no evidence whatsoever and presenting people in positions of authority who have no business being there. 

Fox is either ignorant of the implications of the claims she is making in this episode, or she is aware and is fine with them. Suggesting that Native Americans are somehow in-human because they are a giant/human hybrid is something straight out of the colonial era. It’s that exact kind of thinking that led to the atrocities that Native Americans faced at the hands of settlers and then the US Government. To hear that kind of racist rhetoric coming from a TV show in 2018 is beyond upsetting. I could rant for pages on this, and I’m really tempted to, but the reality is, there are too many people who are now watching this show and thinking “Oh archaeologists think giants predate Native Americans and also Native Americans are a different species than white people.” And no, that’s not hyperbolic, if you think that then you haven’t been paying attention. 

Anyway, before I go off the deep end. I have nothing nice to say about this episode. Thank you for reading. 

Resources: 

Colavito, Jason

2017    Did The Nephilim Build the Pyramids or Were They Woolly Mammoths? http://www.jasoncolavito.com/blog/did-the-nephilim-build-the-pyramids-or-were-they-woolly-mammoths. Retrieved 12/2018

Archaeological Fantasies Blogs and Podcasts: 

No CBC hasn’t proven that ‘White’ Europieans made it to America ‘First’.

CBC, The Solutrean Hypothesis, and Jennifer Raff – Episode 92

The Solutrean Hypothesis – Episode 31

DNA in Archaeology with Jennifer Raff – Episode 50

Olmecs and Ancient DNA with Jennifer Raff – Archaeological Fantasies ep 98H

Fringe Archaeology and Giants – Episode 3

Giants! With Andrew White – Episode 6

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

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

You can follow us on twitter @Archyfantsies, or look us up on Facebook.

You can reach us by email at ArchyFantasies@gmail.com.Contact us below or leave a comment.

The Never Ending Mystery of Stonehenge: Legends of the Lost Ep 1

After last week’s marathon post, it’s kinda nice to be able to have short one this week. Why, you ask? Because two-thirds of this episode is pure woo and spirituality. It has nothing to do with archaeology, and honestly has little to do with science, so…my job here is basically done after the first 20 min.

First, I want to talk about the obvious cutting and remixing of the first 30 seconds of the show though. The way it’s cut makes it look and sound like professional archaeologists are agreeing with topics that they were never even asked about in the show. I mean, yeah, who only watches the first 30 seconds of a show and not the rest? But it’s also the promo clip so it’s all some people may see, like a commercial. So, yeh, seeing something being dishonest like this bugs me.

But onto the show.

The show opens with Fox being driven out to Stonehenge by her local guide, Mark Conroy. Fox gives us this fluffy, woo-full voiceover with some actual facts about Stonehenge. The only real tidbit I take issue with is this awe she expresses at the age of Stonehenge and how amazed she is at celestial alignment: “2000 years before the science of astronomy was invented, at least as far as we know.”

This is an interesting turn of phrase for two reasons. First, it’s that whole “primitive people couldn’t have done this because I don’t understand how they could have” argument. It’s one the fringe dearly holds onto because it sets up the next implication of this statement, that there must have been someone else who did build it. You’ll see how this comes to the forefront later.

Ok, so the first 20 mins or so of the show is pretty if you ignore the woo language. We meet Si Cleggett  a project manager at Wessex Archaeology. Wessex Archaeology has a great page on their Stonehenge project here, and a fun twitter @wessexarch .

Cleggett does as a fantastic job of explaining what archaeology can tell us about Stonehenge and takes to see some of the things found here.There’s  also human remains, again, so points off for that. By Cleggett is very careful with his language and doesn’t feed into any pseudo ideas about Stonehenge, which is nice and how a show about Stonehenge should be.

We transition from Wessex Archaeology to talking with Timothy Darvill. He gives us his ideas about where the Blue Stones at Stonehenge came from, and show us an interesting thing about the sounds the stones make when struck. Fox records these sounds because she thinks they have magical healing powers, and that’s where all the archaeology ends.

From here is just Fox getting her head scanned while listing to tones and the banging noises, then going to Avery to talk a druid about Ley Lines.

There is a bit of dowsing, and really can’t help but point out how you can see Fox’s hand bending to make the dowsing rod move. See first  Maria Wheatly, the druid in question demonstrates the dowsing and clearly shows where the energy bands are first, even touch the stones to point out nice clear landmarks.

So it’s not surprising that Fox easily retraces the Bands locations, tilting her hand to get the rods to move.

Probably the only other moment of any interest to us is when Fox goes to see her personal hero and mentor, Graham Hancock.

I’m just gonna leave this bit from Wikipedia here because it pretty much sums up Graham Hancock.

Graham Bruce Hancock (/ˈhænkɒk/; born 2 August 1950) is a British author and reporter. Hancock specializes in pseudoscientific theories[1] involving ancient  civilizations , stone monuments or megaliths, altered states of consciousness, ancient myths, and astronomical or astrological data from the past.

One theme of his works proposes a connection with a ‘mother culture’ from which he believes other ancient civilizations sprang.[2]An example of pseudoarchaeology, his work has neither been peer reviewed nor published in academic journals.[1][3][4]

Hancock spends his time on the show basically hawking his most recent book and repeating his  unsupported about his mysterious ‘mother  culture’ (Atlantis) who were wiped out by a global climate event (the younger dryas) and the  survivors then spread out all over the world creating  culture and building all the megaliths in the world.

There is so much wrong with Hancock’s theory I could write a book, but I’m trying to keep this short

The last bit of the show we get a call back from Bartsch who tells Fox something about how her brain responded to the knocking sounds on the stones and it was something about Alpha waves. We fade out here here and see a barrage of images of foggy landscapes and Fox hugging rocks.

There’s really not a lot to unpack here because the archaeology is solid, not on any part of Fox’s other than there doesn’t appear to be much deceptive editing here. She does start the show with the premise that Stonehenge is some kind of prehistoric hospital, and that the stones have magical healing properties. One part of that statement might be supported by archaeology (its the first half if you couldn’t tell) but the other half is just spiritualism and feelings. 

After reviewing the first episode of Legends of the Lost about Viking Women and watching Fox sit out on a spiritual quest, now seeing her walk around Stonehenge and Avery, hugging stones and feeling energy waves, I do want to talk about Fox’s Religious Tourism here. Fox is using this series, so far, to indulge her desire to go to ‘spiritual’ places and have ‘religious’ experiences. Personally, I find it disrespectful to the religions she’s dipping her fingers in, and knowing what’s coming up in the series (giants) I’m already cringing inside. 

Jason Colavito also did a review of the show, you can read it here

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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.

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

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

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

Contact us below or leave a comment.


The Non-Mystery of Viking Women Warriors: Legends of the Lost Ep 2

So before we get into this, please understand we will not be critiquing this show based on Megan Fox’s looks, gender, sex, or her career before this, other than to say she is not a professional archaeologist or historian, has no formal schooling in the subjects she is speaking on and is not recognized as an expert in any capacity by the archaeological  or historical communities. That said, there is plenty here to criticize.

People who are familiar with shows like Scott Wolter’s America Unearthed will recognize the format here. After a long and flashy intro with plenty of stimulating music, Fox makes a claim that she will try to prove during the show, and then there’s lots of traveling and exciting music to accompany it. Unlike male-hosted shows, we don’t see Fox driving herself around or doing anything scientifical herself, but she’s also not claiming to be a forensic anything or pretend to have credentials she doesn’t. I will say that she’s cast in a near child-like role of barely interested host, asking lukewarm questions and repeating back what experts tell her.  However, she also doesn’t come off smug and angry and seems to at least tolerate the people she talks to.

Basically, the premises here is that Legends of the Lost needs a strawman argument for their second episode, (the fist is supposed to be about Stonehenge but I guess they played them out of order from some reason?) so they decided to create a controversy about Viking women, aka Norse women. The argument is, as Fox reminds us every 15 mins or so, is that History wants us to believe that Viking women were just passive submissive housewives who were ruled with an iron fist by their bloodthirsty patriarchal husbands. But Fox knows this can’t be true so she’s off to prove it…using actual history and archaeology that already says this isn’t true.

So first we head to the Midgard Viking Center in Borre, Norway.

midgard viking center.jpg

Here we meet Marianne Moen who is said be simply ‘archaeologist’. Dr. Moen is an expert on gender in archaeology, specifically focused on Viking age burials and gender in the Viking age.  She’s been producing work since at least 2011, which is important to understand since one of the claims of the show is there’s no research on women in the Viking age.

Dr. Moen shows off the very impressive reconstruction of a Viking mead hall. Moen is careful to tell us everything is a reproduction put together based on what we know about Vikings that we’ve learned archaeologically. Which is directly opposed to a later claim the show makes that “We know very little about the Vikings.” But I’m getting ahead of myself.

Fox, who apparently is going to compare everything to a tv or movie referenced, say the Mead Hall looks like “A really cool Game of Thrones set.” To which I say, Have you never seen Lord of the Rings! but let’s not start Geek Wars.

Moen tells us basically that the Vikings would describe themselves as peaceful people, and this wouldn’t have been inaccurate. We know from archaeological excavations that Vikings were like any other society at their time economically. They farmed, they crafted, they were above average tradespeople, and well yes, they had a reputation for raiding. Which leads us to a rather uncomfortable moment in the show when Moen tells us outside of Viking culture they were known for their raping and pillaging, to which Fox replies:

“Well, when you’re trying to conquer the lands it’s hard to do it in a kind and gentle way.”

And this basically sets the tone of the show. Even though it’s been shown and told to Fox that the Vikings weren’t just murder machines, this is the aspect she chooses to focus on. Which is a trait of the fringe that has always bothered me. This hyper-focus on violence and dominance, especially towards women. It colors the way they see everything historically and actually explains most of Fox’s misconceptions of the Viking past.

She moves through the show constantly talking about how “History tells us that women were subservient to men in Viking society” even though this is demonstrably not true. But for Fox and the fringe, it is true because they refuse to see the past in any other way than brutal and savage, male-dominated, where women and children play a role only as victims or prizes. Even when presented with evidence to the contrary, they cling to this image, because it’s necessary for other fringe narratives to be true.

This is evident when Fox says, “I think when most people think of the Vikings, myself included, we picture a very patriarchal society. Do you agree with that?”

And No, Moen doesn’t agree.

We cut to commercial to a flurry of epic music and return to the same with Fox telling us, “For decades many people have believed Viking women were just subservient housewives.” (Have you even read the Sagas?)

And now we move onto an actual controversy in archaeology, the Birka Warrior. From the abstract of the paper A female Viking warrior confirmed by genomics, published in 2017:

“The objective of this study has been to confirm the sex and the affinity of an individual buried in a well‐furnished warrior grave (Bj 581) in the Viking Age town of Birka, Sweden. Previously, based on the material and historical records, the male sex has been associated with the gender of the warrior and such was the case with Bj 581. An earlier osteological classification of the individual as female was considered controversial in a historical and archaeological context. A genomic confirmation of the biological sex of the individual was considered necessary to solve the issue. ” (Hedenstierna‐Jonson et al. 2017)

It is true that the Birka Warrior’s sex has been a topic of discussion for some time now, and being now genetically confirmed, has caused a stir academically. I mean yeah, there are a lot of people who seem to not be able to wrap their heads around the idea that one of the coolest Viking burials ever uncovered was for a woman. And yes, there have been a lot of laughable excuses offered up to explain why a woman would be buried with objects that were so clearly male. Yes, this is blatant sexism and yes it is occurring at the academic level. But this is not the simple “She’s a Woman” conversation Fox breaks it down as.

We know two facts about the Birka Warrior:

  1.  This is a Viking warrior grave, saying it’s anything else is frankly delusional. and
  2. The Birka Warrior is biologically female.

That’s it. Those are the facts.

“But the paper says she’s a woman!”

NO!

The paper said it was a biologically female person in the grave. We have no idea how that person was perceived or gendered by their society at the time, other than they were clearly revered as evidenced by their lavish grave. So, send me your hate, but thems the facts and that’s all I’m willing to say about it at this point.

This is where the weird not-sexist-sexism really begins to get noticeable. Fox goads Moen into making jokes about killing their husbands because they made at them. Because threats of violence against our spouses is funny! Haha…

This need to prove that women can be just as violent as men is weird. I mean it’s like the whole point of the show and it’s just fucking weird ok. Yeah, women can do just about any violent, cruel, mean thing a man can, but why is that so important to Fox and the show?

but anyway…

We’re on to Frojel, Gotland to see an active archaeology dig led by Dr. Dan Carlsson. This was apparently part of his field school that he leads up and you can go read about some of their finding on the site’s lovely website.

Carlsson tells Fox a little about the site and brings out a box of grave goods for her to look at. (props to Carlsson for not parading human remains on TV.) First, he hands her a lovely gold and silver box broach recovered from the woman’s grave, and Fox looks like he’d just handed her a dead cat. He tries to explain to her how this is a symbol of wealth and status and Fox looks like she couldn’t care less.

box borach.jpg

Then he hands her a piece of crystal and she gets this childlike awe about “it looks like magic!” It’s the first time we’ve seen her really show excitement, and it’s all about ‘magic’.

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Carlsson then tries to explain that there is a lot of evidence for trade in the graves he’s excavating, and he shows her a metal weight for merchant scales that was recovered in the woman’s grave. Fox’s mind is apparently blown. She reminds us that in her version of the past, Viking women were supposed to be home minding their families not off doing stuff, like making money.

Fox tries to stick it to Carlsson by telling him all he does is really just guesswork anyway so why can’t there be women warriors? Carlsson tries to politely explain that some people have preconceived notions about the past and that clouds the way they view things…

But now we’re on to Oslo, Norway, to the Viking Ship Museum to meet Leszek Gardela. Dr. Gardela is a researcher on the topic of Viking women with a heavy focus on women and weapons. He’s got a nice video explaining how grave goods are used to tell the apparent gender of the occupant here and talks about his current project,  Amazons of the North: Armed Females in Viking Archaeology and Old Norse Literature. He also has an interest in magical staves, which comes into play in a bit.

The first thing Dr. Gardela shows us is the truly impressive ship burial. Garela tells us that this burial held two skeletons, both woman. There were also a huge variety of artifacts found in the ship with the women, including weapons and an iron staff.

magic staff.jpg

There’s an interesting exchange here where Fox compares it to Professor Snape’s wand:

MF: “It’s like Professor Snape’s wand from Harry Potter”

LG: “Or like Gandalf’s staff,

MF: “Yeh…like Gandalf’s staff sure…

I’m just saying, what does she have against Lord of the Rings?

Now we cut away and Fox starts telling us stuff about magical staffs that I highly suspect came out of Gardela’s mouth and is not being attributed to him. She also 100% misses that ‘Volva’, what Norse female shamans are called, means ‘staff carrier’ or ‘bearer of the magic wand’ and shares the root word for the word for wand…its like where the whole concept of calling a magical staff a wand seems to come from and Fox just doesn’t even bring that up…it bugs me because it kinda shows how little research went into this episode.

She then completely mischaracterizes what Viking runes are, but I mean, most people don’t get that right. Still…it rankles.

Then she gets all creepy into the idea of a magic staff.

“Don’t you wonder who the first person was to decide that there was something magical about a staff and why? and maybe there was something magical about that first staff because they believed it?”

Gardela seems visibly uncomfortable with this conversation, probably because of how into it Fox seems. He tries to change the subject to Beserkers and I’m really supposed to believe that Fox has never heard of Viking Beserkers? Really?

This leads to a discussion about ‘magical herbs’ and the power of women that gave them unrivaled power on the battlefield, and I have a realization that … Megan Fox thinks magic is a real thing. Like really real, and she’s going to try and bend everything into something ‘magical’ in order to make it real.

Gardela tries to warn her that archaeology is always finding new things and looking at things differently, but we have to go to commercial break so meh…whatever…

We come back from the break to hear Fox, again, repeating this idea that women were just subservient housewives. She needs this to be true for this weird narrative of her’s to work (it’s not), and she’s decided that we need to turn to Viking Oral traditions to get to the truth of things.

We meet Maria Kvilhaug who is presented as a mythology expert. She basically sits down with Fox and tells her that women in the Eddas and Sagas are not painted as being “subservient housewives” and that there are several that are warriors, goddess, queens, volva’s and so on.

Now we’re off to meet a group of modern-day Volva’s, because this a religion and there are modern practitioners. There isn’t a lot to say here because this part is all about Fox going on a vision quest in the woods, and I mean…cool? But what does it have to do with proving her point that Viking Warrior Women are real?

So skipping this we go back to Oslo, Norway to the National Library of Norway to meet Kim Hjardar. Dr. Hjardar is an expert on Viking studies with a heavy interest in the Vikings at war.

For once, the amazing access to artifacts and history Fox has enjoyed this entire show seems to have some impact on her. As Hjardar shows her Byzantine accounts of Viking women warriors and shows her one of the oldest books to have accounts of same. Fox reads to us a passage from Saxo’s book. There’s an awkward moment when Fox tries to play the “I’m not like other women” card and then she gets flustered because “What’s frustrating to me is, what do we know about history for sure?”

megan fox reads to us.jpg

Hjardar tries to explain to her that history requires comparative sources to be considered valid. Fox then asks that if we have graves that show women with war goods that date to around the time Saxo was writing, then what does that means. Hjardar says that means that Saxo might have sources that convey objective truth. Fox looks unimpressed.

We then get treated to this voiceover, “Viking graves, Norse mythology, and now these texts are challenging everything we thought we knew about Viking women.”  No, these are literally how we know what we do about Viking woman, which is already everything you’re telling us. You are simply reporting what we already know and lying to make it sound like we don’t. *deep breath, deep breath*

Another commercial break and we’re back to hear Fox telling us ” I have discovered that Viking society isn’t the male-dominated patriarchy our history books have led us to believe. ” and yeah…I’m about done…This post is getting long.

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Ok, so we now meet Cat Jerman an archaeologist working on a Viking mass grave in England and she tells that of the ~300 individuals in the graves, 60 have turned out to be female. That’s about 20%. Also, this grave is full of people who have signs of violence from combat on their bones, so it’s pretty clear the females in the grave were there as fighters. Fox says some crap about women warriors changing everything and blah…at this point I get it, the show REALLY needs this to be true so they’re just going to keep repeating it till it is.

Then Fox says, “Were women part of the war machine or were they sent to the slaughter because they weren’t really respected warriors at all?” and again there’s a discussion about gender vs sex here but I don’t think Fox cares.

We’re taken to Saint Winstons’ Church because somehow it having very old catacombs answers the question of if women warriors were fodder or not.

We close with Fox again telling us “History books have said that Viking woman only adhered to conventional gender stereotypes”…actually they have clearly stated the exact opposite. Then “Human history is not written in stone.”

I mean…it kinda was for the Norse….(bad runestone joke).

In Conclusion:

If you’ve made it this far, gold star!

There was a lot of stuff in Legends of the Lost that bugged the crap out of me. But more, the show itself really bugged me. It’s almost the traditional formula of other shows like it, with one major expectation. Megan Fox is the first female face on these kinds if shows in my generation and it’s clear the directors wanted a certain image for her. In past shows, like America Unearthed, we’ve seen the male hosts be very active. They drive (a lot) they climb, they hike, they touch things, they examine things, they actively draw their own conclusions.

Fox is painfully not shown in this way. She’s taken places, told things, is very passive in her interactions with the professionals. It’s clear that Fox isn’t meant to be a driving force in the show, she’s meant to be a passive observer.  It’s a noticeable break from the formula, and I wonder if it will impact the show.

This one is also a little different because most of the on-screen authorities were actually authorities. They were also predominately women, which is a small miracle on its own.

Still, the show managed its own form of sexism, while trying not to be sexist, and it came off strange. Fox keeps bashing housewives like it’s something awful in favor of trying to push the narrative that a woman had to be masculine and violent to be respected. She missed entirely the story of the Volva’s and the merchant women, or that two well-respected women were evidently great leaders based not on their killing abilities, but quite possibly their perceived magical ones. She clearly never touched an Icelandic saga or the Poetic Eddas and so missed countless accounts of Viking/Norse women who were strong priestesses, guardians, goddesses, and mothers. She, and the show, had to make up a narrative of passive decorative women that doesn’t fit Viking lore in order to even have a show in the first place.

I know this is the only episode of the series that is going to be this palatable. Mainly because I know what the other topics area. I wish a topic like this hadn’t been handled in this way, because the life and activities of Viking and Norse women are very interesting, and there is a thriving body of work waiting to be tapped and tell all about them. The things Fox was able to get access too and see were amazing and wonderful, but it fell flat being shoe-horned into a very false narrative. Fox didn’t seem to appreciate the level of access she was given to artifacts and sites, only perking up when the possibility of magic was suggested.

But here were are, the first episode into the new Legends of the Lost, and we know what to look forward too.

 


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