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

critical tv
The Canadian Broadcasting Corporation (CBC), show “The Nature of Things” is going to air a documentary Friday that claims to prove the Solutrean Hypothesis true. This problematic hypothesis tries to claim that the first humans in America came not via the Bering Strait Land Bridge from Asia, but across the ocean from Europe. This episode has already aired in Canada
 
Of course, this has immediately come under fire, as it should.
 
Professionals in the field of paleoanthropology call this episode “Extremely Irresponsible” (Brean 2018). Personally, that’s putting it politelyThe reasons for this may not immediately appear evident, unless you run in select social circles. One preoccupied with proving America is a “white homeland” and the others actively disproving such crap.
 
The Problems with the Solutrean Hypothesis.
 
Originally, the problems were completely academic. When the hypothesis was first put forward by Bradley and Stanford, it was not warmly received. In the 20+ years since, things haven’t changed. I want my readers to understand, Doctors Bruce Bradley and Dennis Stanford are both respected archaeologists. Both are authorities in Paleoindian topics, including stone tool technology. Dr. Bradley retired from his teaching positions at the University of Exeter in the UK. Doctor Stanford works with the Smithsonian National Museum in the department of anthropology. It is their hypothesis that is being critiqued here, not the men themselves, and I will not encourage any negative feed back against either man. 
 
What was originally put forward as the ‘Solutrean Hypothesis’ in 2012, essentially suggested that an ancient European culture group, identified as the Solutrean, who are only located in areas now identified as France and Spain, somehow made it to the Americas before the currently oldest identified culture group, the Clovis. Bradley and Stanford’s hypothesis has several issues that have never been satisfactorily addressed. Some parts have been effectively debunked, yet are still pushed as evidence. I think it would be a good idea to look into this in greater detail, but in this post I want to stay focused on the CBC show.
 
Now, the proposal of a group making to the Americas first isn’t the issue. There has been talk of Pre-Clovis peoples for decades. The problem is the lack of good solid evidence to prove it.
 
Issues with the Solutrean Hypothesis as put forward by Bradly and Stanford are many, but the highlights are;
  • Dubious existence of the Ice shelf that would have been necessary for the Solutrean people to cross in enough numbers to populate the area (O’Brien et al 2014). Which makes all arguments stemming from that difficult to defend.
  • Solutrean subsistence patterns suggest that they were opportunistic hunters, and not in possession of advanced foraging skills necessary to supply food for a journey like this (O’Brien et al 2014).
  • The issue of radio-carbon dates not overlapping as they should, as well as tool production technologies not showing progress as we would expect (O’Brien et al 2014).
The biggest academic issue, however, is linked to the rhyolite biface that was recovered in 1970 by the dredging vessel Cinmar off the Chesapeake Bay (O’Brien et al 2014). The biface, named the Cinmar Biface, according to Bradley and Stanford, is evidence of a Solutrean presence in America. As the biface is stone, and there is as yet, no effective way to date stone, the date for the Cinmar Biface is assumed to be the same as the associated mastodon tusks that were found with the point (O’Brien et al 2014). There is a whole controversy surrounding the recovery of the biface and the tusks and the reliability thereof. There are a whole lot of other issues around the biface itself, and we should tackle them in another post.
 
What my point is here, is that there are a plethora of academic issues with the Solutrean Hypothesis. These existed before the alt-right and other white nationalist groups got ahold of it, and began throwing it around like it was a sold theory.
 
Now, unfortunately, the Solutrean Hypothesis has been adopted by such groups as mentioned above, mixed with an erroneous idea of how genetics works, to create a strange and convoluted “theory” that attempts to prove America is really a ‘white homeland’ that was invaded by outsiders (Brean 2018, Head et al. 2017). These ‘outsiders’, we are meant to believe, are the ancestors of modern-day Native Americans. This revisionist narrative is meant to prove that there is a white claim to America. That non-whites are the interlopers, and that somehow that means white heritage is superior. This is something we’ve encountered a lot on this blog and on the podcast. Aside from the clearly racist overtones of this, the illogic of it is baffling.
 
It’s also a well-known problem among professionals in archaeology who are aware of the Solutrean Hypothesis. Well known enough that the CBC, having archaeologists as advisors on the subject, should have known better than to try to push a racist agenda with their TV show.
And here is where the issue is.
 
CBC’s upcoming episode “Ice Bridge” not only ignores all previous professional criticisms of the Solutrean Hypothesis, it’s Director, Robin Bicknell completely ignores the larger problems of the racist issues as well. Bicknell takes no responsibility for the airing of supremacist ideas. In her interview with Carol Off in the CBC ‘As It Happens’, Bicknell says: “If white supremacists want to view this theory through their lens and place on their version of history on people of the past, then there’s nothing I can do about it (Off 2018).” I argue there was a lot that could have been done, like not making the episode in the first place.
 
Bicknell waves off any criticism from Indigenous groups implying that since the team worked with Huron-Wendat in making this episode, all other voices are null (Off 2018). In reality, indigenous people are upset. It doesn’t matter if one group participated, the objections of other groups should be heard. Especially when the hypothesis you’re pushing is basically being used to wipe out their history.
 
Bicknell’s interview did her no favors, in my opinion, and I have further comments, but basically it sounds like CBC and Bicknell were too busy chasing ratings from sensationalism to stop and think about what message they were putting out there. Bicknell’s callous dismissal of the social issues surrounding the hypothesis, and now the show, are unhelpful as well. It seems like nothing more than an attempt to dodge responsibility.
Haplogroup X, we meet again. 
Of course we haven’t seen the show yet here, but the National Post did an fairly thorough break down of the episode. From this, we can address some of the issues we know will come up. Many of which we’ve debunked on the podcast before (Head et al 2016a, 2016b).
 
Of note is the genetic evidence that will be presented. This evidence will show the presence of the genetic marker for haplogroup X, found in 3 of the 40 teeth offered for analysis. We’ve had Jennifer Raff on the podcast before, and plan to have her back again, to discuss her and her co-author, Deborah A. Bolnick’s, work (Head et al. 2016b).
In 2015 Raff and Bolnick produced a paper examining Haplogroup X and if it was evidence of migration to the Americas (Raff and Bolnick 2015). Around the time we interviewed her for the podcast, Raff also put up a blog post, ‘Responses to some questions about our recently published paper on haplogroup X and North American prehistory’. She outlines her and Bolnick’s work and states:
 
“Quite simply, we found that mitochondrial and genomic data do not support this migration hypothesis as the most plausible explanation for X2a’s presence in North America. Instead, the most parsimonious interpretation of the genetic data continues to be that haplogroup X2a had the same migration history and ancestry as the other founder Native American mitochondrial lineages (i.e., from Siberia). Based on the current evidence, we feel that there is no need to invoke a distinct origin for individuals bearing this lineage (Raff 2016).”
 Which begs the question, why was this even brought up in the CBC show in the first place?
Raff and Bolnick’s research and opinions are not in the minority, and any cursory amount of research would have found that out. So why is the show pushing that as the lynchpin evidence they have to “prove” the Solutrean Hypothesis true? Especially, as Bicknell and Bradly have both admitted knowing the racist issues with the Solutrean Hypothesis. Why would they present genetic evidence, that can be explained in ways that fit the current accepted theories (Raff and Bolnick 2015, Brean 2018), as evidence of Europeans in America? All without any commentary or refutation of racist ideologies? That is irresponsible.
We will be watching the episode when it becomes available, and we will be talking with Raff again afterwards. To say we’re going to have a critical eye on it is an understatement. We also know that our voices are not the only critical ones aimed at CBC and The Nature of Things. Going forward we hope they hear this outcry and maybe listen to reason before airing something like this again. Or maybe they wont, sensationalism breeds ratings. Lets hope that’s not all they’re after
TLDR?
  • The CBC upcoming episode of The Nature of Things is pushing the unaccepted and unsupported Solutrean Hypothesis, put forward by Bradley and Stanford. 
  • The Solutrean Hypothesis is highly controversial and has no substantial evidence to support it.
  • The Solutrean Hypothesis is often used in conjunction with the misunderstanding of the genetic marker haplogroup X to support racist and white supremest ideas.
  • Neither the CBC nor director Robin Bicknell take responsibility for pushing such ideas, even though they were aware of them, or for giving such ideas national recognition.
  • We find this to be irresponsible at best, and hope that the CBC recognizes this going forward.

If you’d like to support this blog, consider donating on Patreon.
Comment below or send an email to ArchyFantasies@gmail.com

Resources:

Professor Bruce Bradley.  http://humanities.exeter.ac.uk/archaeology/staff/bradley/ Retreived 1/15/18

Dennis Stanford, Ph.D.Dennis Stanford, Ph.D. Retreived 1/15/18

Brean, Joseph
2018    CBC under fire for documentary that says first humans to colonize New World sailed from Europe. National Post.com. Jan 11 2018
http://nationalpost.com/news/canada/cbc-under-fire-for-documentary-that-says-first-humans-to-colonize-new-world-sailed-from-europe Retreived 1/15/18

Head, Sara
2016    DNA in Archaeology with Jennifer Raff. ArchyFantasies. https://archyfantasies.com/2016/09/09/dna-in-archaeology/ . Retreived 1/15/18

Head, Sara, Kenneth Feder, and Jeb Card
2016a    The Solutrean Hypothesis – ArchyFantasies Episode 31. https://www.archaeologypodcastnetwork.com/all-shows/archyfantasies-31.  Retreived 1/15/18

2016b    DNA in Archaeology with Jennifer Raff – Episode 50. https://www.archaeologypodcastnetwork.com/archyfantasies/50. Retreived 1/15/18

Lee, Craig M.
2012    Book Reivew of Across Atlantic Ice: The Origins of America’s Clovis Culture by Dennis J. Stanford and Bruce A. Bradley.  http://www.paleoanthro.org/media/journal/content/PA20140470.pdf Retreived 1/15/18

Raff, J. A., & D. A. Bolnick
2015    Does Mitochondrial Haplogroup X Indicate Ancient Trans-Atlantic Migration to the Americas? A Critical Re-Evaluation. PaleoAmerica, 1(4), 297–304. https://doi.org/10.1179/2055556315Z.00000000040 Retreived 1/15/18

Raff, Jennifer
2016    Archaeological Fantasies and the genetic history of the Americas. Violent Metaphors. https://violentmetaphors.com/2016/08/15/archaeological-fantasies-and-the-genetic-history-of-the-americas/  Retreived 1/15/18

O’Brien, Michael J., Matthew T. Boulanger, Mark CollardBriggs Buchanan, Lia Tarle, Lawrence G. Straus, & Metin I. Eren
On thin ice: problems with Stanfordand Bradley’s proposed Solutrean colonisation of North America. Antiquity Publications Ltd. ANTIQUITY 88 (2014): 606–624 https://www.academia.edu/5119515/On_thin_ice_Problems_with_Stanford_and_Bradley_s_Solutrean-Clovis_hypothesis.  Retreived 1/15/18

Off, Carol
2018    Director defends documentary that claims Europeans could have been 1st humans in North America. As It Happens. CBC Radio. http://www.cbc.ca/radio/asithappens/as-it-happens-friday-edition-1.4484878/director-defends-documentary-that-claims-europeans-could-have-been-1st-humans-in-north-america-1.4484883. Retreived 1/15/18

ArchyFantasies’ 2017 in Review

I’ve been told these are a hot item on the blogosphere. But it’s been a slow year here on the blog. We’ve focused a lot of effort on the Podcast over on the APN, and in August I went to Grad School for a masters in CRM. Things got busy.

Yet, I owe you all something for sticking with me this year, so perhaps rather than dwelling on the negative things that happened over the last year, maybe let’s look forward?

Next year, We’re going to try some new things with the Podcast, and here at the blog. We’re also leaving several thing in place. Check the blog for updates, and keep listening to the podcast to find out more as we go forward.

Mainly I want to play around with merchandise and new formats for reaching out. We’ll experiment with Audio-blogging, YouTube (again), and with guest blogging and podcasting.

Also on the list: Not going insane from grad school and getting my work done.

So, there it is, My round up. Like I said, not a lot there right now, but probably more to come.

Happy New Year everyone, let’s hope 2018 is less of a dumpster fire that 2017 was.

Two Years of Archeological Fantasies!

img_20170104_113357_processed-01

 

That’s right! This will be year three of the Archeological Fantasies Podcast! We’ve got two years behind us and we haven’t run out of material to debunk yet.  It helps that new stuff pops up almost daily anymore, even if it is all recycled.

We decided to christen the New Year by rehashing the goals of the podcast and letting ourselves react a little to upcoming 4 years.  Ken,  Jeb,  and Sara have a few moments of political ranting and explaining why it’s even more important now for a show like ours to be on the air.

If you haven’t given our first recorded show of the year a listen yet,  click on the link to do so.  Let us know what you think!

Atlantis at Last! In Search of Aliens S01, E01

Nothing like starting off a new series with a tired topic. But seeing as Ancient Aliens is now in it’s 7th season, this is par for the course for Giorgio A. Tsoukalos. Mr. Tsoukalos is the main character for this new show that is going to investigate, um, stuff about, things…and Aliens! And we’re launching this new series with one of the oldest stories of time…Atlantis!

We start off with some riveting music and images of Tsoukalos dressed up like adventurers dress when out looking for lost cities and the like. He forgot his whip and fedora at home, but did remember his satchel. Points for a good costume! After the intro credits we’re ready to be reminded that Tsoukalos is an Ancient Alien Theorist, it says so under his name. Tsoukalos wastes no time in telling us how evil ‘mainstream scholars’ don’t want you to know the truth about things and how he’s here to fix that problem. He’s going to give you all the information you need, to realize that everything is Aliens.

Also, there was this guy Plato who once wrote a couple of books that mentioned a place called Atlantis. Therefore the place is real, as was everyplace Plato ever wrote about. I mean, we all know where the Republic is right? Right?

Tsoukalos tells us that Atlantis has to be a real place because as a child he believed it was, and also Plato was very descriptive of the place. This argument also means that Hogwarts, Narnia, Wonderland, and Lothlorien are real too, awesome!

But enough snark, lets get to the meat of the show.

So we begin our quest for Atlantis and Aliens in Athens, Greece. This is the best place to begin since this is where Plato wrote Critias and Timaeus. I’m just going to link you to the texts because we don’t really have time to go into them deeply. Briefly though, in Critias, Socrates asks his students to imagine a culture that was more advanced than his imagined utopia in the Republic, and then send the two cultures to war. Critias, for whom the book is named, imagines the Atlanteans. He sees them as a great warlike people who crush all the other cultures around them, until they encounter the brave and noble Athenians, and are finally beaten in battle. He also spends some time describing the city of Atlantis, thinking it would be best to flesh out the culture before sending them to war.

This backstory is slightly important to the plot of the show. You see, once upon a time, the gods of Greece split up the lands and gave a portion to each god. Poseidon, God of the seas, was given the lands of Atlantis, where a young woman lived with her parents on a mountain, until her parents died. Once that happened, Poseidon made his move and got her pregnant five times with five sets of twin boys. So now, he’s got all these kids and they need something to do, so he divides his own lands up into ten kingdoms and sets his sons to rule over them.

We learn all this from the conversation Tsoukalos has with Sandy MacGillivray Ph.D. a Classical Archaeologist at the British School at Athens as we’re told by the letters under his name. Now, Joseph Alexander MacGillivray is a real archaeologist, and is well known for his work with Minoan Cultures. He’s not working for the British School at Athens, as far as I can tell he’s basically retired and writing up his notes on his past excavations. But any amount of street cred the show can give him is great because Dr. MacGillivray says something very strange as he’s telling us about Poseidon’s five sets of twins. Out of the blue he tell us that it sounds like genetic manipulation to him.

A little bit of digging on Dr. MacGillivray and you find that he is very well respected in his field, which is not genetics. If you dig deeper you will find that he is known for making strange remarks like these. Which distresses me a lot, since he offers no evidence to support such an outlandish claim or even explains why he said something so random in the first place. I would like to talk to Dr. MacGillivray, specifically about his remarks, but I can’t find any contact information for him. So if someone reading this can connect us, that would be awesome. Until then I can only go with what I found.

Probably the least surprising thing about Dr. Gillivray’s comment is how Tsoukalos preens with it. Finally a ‘mainstream scholar’ who tells him something he wants to hear. Nevermind all the others who show him evidence and facts that go counter to the whole Alien thing. No, this one guy agreed with him, so that makes everything right.

We move from Greece to Spain and from a respected archaeologist to a retired ad executive. Peter Daughtrey whose only real claim to fame is a book he wrote called ‘Atlantis and the Silver City’ where he makes the claim that Atlantis is really where Silves, Portugal is today. He says that Plato left behind 100 clues to find Atlantis, and that Silves fits over 50 of them. We’re never told what those 100 clues are, probably so we’ll go buy his book, but we do spend the majority of the show with him. One interesting thing we do get to see, besides the scenery, seriously this place is beautiful, is a great stone egg.

Technically it’s classified as a standing stone by the Lagos National Museum, but that’s a ‘mainstream’ classification. Daughtrey explains to us that it’s really a celestial egg and the relief carvings on it are actually DNA strands. He also tells us that Bronze couldn’t have carved the stone, which is true, but also not how the Greeks carved stone anyway, so it’s a misleading and useless point to make.

Tsoukalos seems to like the stone egg, and begins connecting it to every reference he’s ever heard of eggs. There’s no reason for him to be doing this, there’s no evidence to connect these things, but he’s on a roll. Tsoukalos also gets wrapped up in the DNA thing, even though the relief doesn’t look anything like a DNA strand. It looks like a bunch of ovals strung together that get smaller as they taper down the stone, and there is a line connecting them all through their centers. Last I checked DNA was a helix and didn’t have a line running down the middle of it.

 

stone egg screen shot

 

All this DNA talk gets Tsoukalos talking about Aliens and he explains to Daughtrey that Gods aren’t really Gods, they’re Aliens, and Poseidon mixed Alien DNA with Human DNA to make, um, Humans. Then he tells us that the Anunnaki (who are really Aliens) modified Homo Erectus DNA to make modern humans so we could be slaves. Daughtrey agrees and says that we much have been genetically programed to worship the God/Anunnaki/Aliens and then they tried to kill us with a flood (ala biblical flood) when they let the planet. And isn’t it weird that all the coastal cultures have Great Flood Myths? That’s so weird right? No way it could be because they all live near big bodies of water that tend to flood in yearly cycles, that wouldn’t make any sense at all, it must be Aliens.

After Daughtrey tell us about his suspicion of sunken cities along the coast of Portugal, for which he has no evidence, were off to see Erich Von Däniken himself!

We meet Von Däniken in what Tsoukalos calls ‘Mystery Park’ in Switzerland, an educational park that von Däniken’s uses to bring enlightenment to the world about Ancient Astronaut Theories. What it really is, is a failed ancient astronaut theme park that opened in 2003 and closed in 2006 due to a lack of income. Today it’s just a kiddie park called Jungfrau Park and is only open during the summer. Von Däniken gives talks on Thursdays when the park is open, according to the website.

Still were treated to a long talk between Tsoukalos and Von Däniken where they talk about Aliens altering the human genetic code by changing “One Base” in the code and then implanting it in a human woman. The child would be completely human, except not, and so then would be what? I asked my Geneticist friend what “Changing one Base” would do. They said that would be like changing one letter out of an entire book. It wouldn’t be noticed and wouldn’t do anything anyway. So what would be the point? My friend went on to explain what you would have to do to really change a genetic code, then asked me why I was asking, and then left the room laughing when I told them it was aliens.

Whats more important is there is no evidence to support this idea of genetic manipulation. Also, Von Däniken and Tsoukalos can’t seem to decide if the genetic manipulation happened before or after we become fully modern humans. They also can’t seem to tell us why the Aliens would do it in the first place.

Also, why are the Aliens always male? Why are women only ever mentioned as being incubators for alien babies? There were/are Goddesses too, are only Gods Aliens and Goddesses are not real at all? And what about human women. All they do is give birth, all the ‘great people’ that come from being alien-human hybrids are men. Are women not a real people to Tsoukalos and Von Däniken?

Anyway, Von Däniken sends Tsoukalos away fro the last leg of our journey, and we end the show on the islands of Santorini. If you don’t know much about the lovely island of Santorini, what you need to know is that there was a giant volcano that blew up the island around 3600 years ago at the height of the Minoan civilization. It probably wiped out the Minoans living on the island of Crete by causing a massive Tsunami and it blew a giant crater in the middle of the Santorini island making it three islands instead of one. There is some debate that this incident is the source of the legend of Atlantis, as the Minoans on Santorini were very wealthy and very sophisticated for their time. They had flushing toilets and possibly hot and cold running water, but I’m to a point now where I don’t put much past the ancient Greeks anymore. Still, there is no evidence for this to be true either.

Tsoukalos spends the rest of the show musing over whether or not Santorini was literally Atlantis, and even has a friend show us some frescos from the archaeological excavations. One Fresco in particular catches his attention and he sees four figures dressed in long cloaks. He says the cloaks look like they are made of feathers, but they could easily be made of hair, grass, or even fish scales. Tsoukalos tells us the figures are males, but there is no reason to think this as there are no gender markers one way or the other. Still, Tsoukalos concludes that these are men and are depictions of the Anunnaki/Aliens.

 

feather cloaks

 

In the very last five minutes of the show we are treated to Tsoukalos’ favorite Atlantis theory of them all. That Atlantis wasn’t an island at all, it was a spaceship full of genetic manipulating aliens that would land periodically to spread genes and culture and then fly away to someplace else. That’s why no one can find it, because it’s a spaceship.

This whole show we’re not offered one bit of actual evidence of anything. Tsoukalos and company do nothing but speculate and postulate, without offering anything to support their ideas. Tsoukalos spends most of his energy in the the show trying to convince us that we’re all just Alien-Human hybrids, but can’t tell us how he knows that or why it would be true in the first place. He reinterprets everything he comes across to be Aliens without explaining why it should be that over the actual explanation. I mean, there really is no substance to the show. There are no facts to dispute because there are no facts. And the ideas Tsoukalos puts forth are not theories, they are just fantasies cooked up in his spare time. Theories are built on facts and evidence, neither of which were presented in this show.

So where is Atlantis? It’s in two books called Critias and Timaeus and no where else.

*All images are screenshots from the show.

Want more on this topic? Go to Reviews: In Search of Aliens

Blogging Archaeology, Good, Bad, Badder…

blogging-archaeology banner

The Archaeology Blogging Carnival rolls along!

If you don’t know what the Blogging Carnival is click the link to go to Doug’s Archaeology blog and read up on it. You can catch up in November’s questions and answers here.

This month we’re asked to reflect on the Good, the Bad, and the Ugly of blogging archaeology.

The Good

I went into some of this in November’s question, but Doug wants us to go a little deeper.

What has been good about blogging? Well, to focus mainly on my blog and my YouTube channel before that, on top of getting to meet people from all over the world I get to hear stories from people who are really excited about what I do. For example when I went to DC. for the Reason Rally in 2012 I met several people who told me they loved what I did, and they liked that there was someone out there debunking pseudoarchaeology. Needless to say that felt really good, and it was weird to be recognized by total strangers, but fun.

Also, I recall some of the nice comments on my Mary Anning post. Apparently, one of her descendants had gotten a hold of my post and really liked what I said, and how I presented it. That felt really good.

Also, I enjoy talking with people who have questions about the topics I cover. It often leads to a back-and-forth and a few times I have learned something new.

Probably the best part was when one of my past professors told me he was teaching a “Lost Civilizations” class and he’d like to have me in the class. He’d read my blog and liked what I did. He’s even referenced me a few times online. That’s pretty damn cool for me.

Mostly though I just like doing this. I loved all this Ancient Alien, Lost Civilizations, History Mysteries, and Forbidden Archaeology as a kid. I ate it up, never missed an episode. It might have influenced me to become an archaeologist; it could have just been Harrison Ford’s chiseled jaw. Either way, this was a natural fit for me. I love looking at the mysteries, love hearing the stories, love thinking “What if?” Then I like to indulge my other great childhood passion, the Great Detective, and tear into the mysteries to find the truth (maybe that’s more X-Files).

Sometimes things don’t turn out the way I expected them too, and those are the things I really like. Take the Antikythera Mechanism for example. I was pretty convinced that it was going to be a fake, but when I researched it I found it’s quite legit. It’s also incredibly interesting to learn about, and who doesn’t like learning new things?

The Bad

What’s bad about blogging? For me it’s the opening myself up to public scrutiny.

Recently I was accused of being anonymous on my blog, which is mostly true, but there are reasons for my half-hearted attempt at anonymity. When I started ArchyFantasies I originally was making videos for YouTube, which is not a kind place to be in the first place for anyone. Now imagine being an uppity woman telling people Aliens aren’t real. Your hate mail gets pretty graphic pretty quick, and it all pretty much revolves around how you look and what kinds of adult favors you can perform, oh and rape.

So when I decided to make a blog out of the channel, because I was basically too lazy to make videos and for some reason thought it’d be easier to write a blog (silly me), I wanted to have a little more control over what people could know about me, and what they could say about me. Which is why I don’t have a picture of myself on the About page and I moderate all comments on my posts.  I still get occasional comments that are NSFW, but I have more control over them than I did on YouTube.

The Ugly

The Ugly part isn’t so ugly really. It is, however, something that irks me. The reactions I get when I mention my blog are mot always good. Mention pseudoarchaeology to some archaeologists, and you’ll be lucky to even get a funny grin. It makes it difficult to defend ‘mainstream’ archaeology to those who buy into pseudoarchaeology, when their main complaint is basically that academia is rude to them when they ask questions. People want information, and they’ll take it from wherever they can get it. Often not knowing how to spot bad sources.

I have been told that everything I am trying to do with my blog is a waste of time and that there is no point in reaching out to people who have questions about pseudoarchaeology because there are plenty of professional journals out there that deal with real science that people should be reading instead. This incredibly insulting and privilege-blind comment is something I am encountering more and more the longer I do this. These are not always aimed at me, but they almost exclusively come from those in academia and are often accompanied with the comment “I don’t like Blogs/Blogging/Bloggers.”

What’s not being taken into consideration with this kind of comment is that the average person does not have access to professional journals. Even if they did, most don’t have the education to understand what they are reading in the journals. They also don’t have the connections to simply call a professor or PhD and ask them questions about a paper with their name on it.

However, they do have access to popular books on Atlantis and poorly written ‘news’ articles on archaeological discoveries that glance over important details and sensationalize falsehoods.  They have access to Discovery and History channel and entertaining shows like American Diggers and Ancient Aliens. They have access to popular magazines that produce professional looking articles for “Forbidden” archaeology, which are glossy and exciting. They can afford to attend Cult Science conferences talking about mysterious artifacts that baffle modern archaeologists.  The average person doesn’t have access to professional archaeology, but they do have fake archaeology practically shoved in their faces.

I know I’m beating a dead horse here, but this is exactly why we need to be more active in debunking pseudoarchaeology, even if it’s just a one off post on a professional blog, or a whole channel dedicated to it. Also, we need to become more comfortable as a profession at dealing with non-academics and the public. I’ll stop here…for now…

 

Debunking, Blogging, and Public Outreach: Blogging Archaeology Carnival 2014!

blogging-archaeology banner

Sadly, I won’t be making the SAA‘s in Texas next year. Neither will my friend Doug over at Doug’s Archaeology, but he came up with a great idea for those of us who can’t make, something called a blogging carnival and he’s hosting the first round of questions for November (Which is also Movember, so get to growing guys).  If you’re a blogger focused on archaeology, you should definitely head over to his post about the carnival and join in. As for me:

To Blog or not To Blog.

I’m not sure I’ve ever done a whole post explaining this. It’s kind of hidden all over the blog in the About sections and such.  I started this blog 4 years (going on 5) ago now because I got really excited about the Skeptical and Atheist movements on the internet. I started with making videos on YouTube, which take a lot of time to make and edit. I didn’t really like it, and personally, the Atheist and Skeptical communities on YouTube started having issues and I didn’t really want to be part of the in-fighting, so I bowed out. I’m a writer anyway. Blogging just seemed like a natural choice to jump too.

When I made the decision to open this blog I realized I had to revamp the way I was doing things. I original wanted to create a space where people could come and get solid information on topics that are often avoided or not thought about by professional archaeologists.  Blogging is a great place for this; citations appear in-line, references are written out, you can link to important sites, also the text of the blog is searchable, and you can link things together easier. Blogging was just the better medium for a topic as difficult as debunking.

Blogs also allow for better organization of topics. I handle several reoccurring topics here, the two biggest being Women in Archaeology and Weird Archaeology which both branch into subtopics like Mother’s of the Field and The 10 Most Not-So-Puzzling Ancient Artifacts. I can group all of the individual posts together to make them more readable as groups, not something easily done on YouTube at the time.  I also have more control over the blog. I can moderate the comments better, respond quicker, and in general have better conversations with my readers.

You Haven’t Left Yet?

Why am I still blogging? Because I feel I am filling a gap in the archaeological community.

We archaeologists tend to forget that there are people out there who are not archaeologists, and who don’t understand why we say the things we do. There are a lot of blogs out there in the topic of archaeology and CRM that mainly focus on discussing the topic among educated archaeologists. I learn a lot about sub-fields and new research techniques, all of which is perfectly understandable to me because I’ve done this a while now. But if you’re just a random person with an interest in archaeology and you don’t want to be talked to like a 1st grader, there isn’t a whole lot out there aimed at you.

I’m not knocking websites and organizations that try to teach kids about archaeology, I even do it in my spare time. But a 30 year old isn’t a child.

Carl Sagan mentioned in his book Demon Haunted World how he got picked up at the airport by a driver who was completely ignorant of science, yet loved the topic. The only sources of information on the topic of science this driver had access to were pseudoscience and woo. Sagan didn’t blame the driver for his lack of formal education, he blamed the scientific community for not providing better access to real science to the lay person.

We have a very similar problem in the Archaeological community. Because we are not more accessible to the public we have issues with aliens, Atlantians, ethnocentrism, looting, and validating our field of study to governments. The other side of this coin is that we so rarely prepare students and professionals to talk with members of the public. We’re great talking to each other and presenting papers and posters, but when was the last time you genuinely explained to an individual outside of our community why we don’t dig for dinosaurs or pan for gold? People don’t know how we know what we know, and they are earnestly interested. I’m not saying things aren’t improving as time goes on, but it’s not where I think it should be yet.

Kenneth Feder in a recent article in the SAA’s membership magazine made a call for archaeologists to really step up to the plate. He took the responsibility of knowing bad archaeology from good away from the lay person and placed it squarely with us. We need to answer the awkward questions about the unintentional racism in ‘alternate  explanations’ for the building of Native earthworks. We need to answer the strange questions about ancient alien technology. We need to explain simple terms and concepts to  lay people because they don’t know what we do. We need to do this with a touch of humor and a lot of solid information, people like information.

So that’s why I’m still here. I like tackling psuedoarchaeology, it’s always entertaining and it’s a great way to teach critical thinking. I like talking about women archaeologists because it’s a giant hole in our history and it helps show people that there is more to archaeology then a bunch of stuffy old white guys (nothing against the stuffy old white guys in archaeology).

I’m going to keep at this too, for basically the same reasons, expanding the focus of this blog as I go. I’m thinking T-shirts…

Why it’s Hard to Debate the Scientifically Uniformed.

*Another catch-up article for me. Enjoy!”

——–

I’ve been wanting to write this entry for a while, since it’s a growing area of concern for me, I am of course talking of the decline of Scientific Literacy in America, and specifically the Midwest, since that’s where I’m from. I feel that we as a country are racing towards a dark age of our own, where ignorance is seen as a virtue, and education is look down upon. I see this in the rejection of “Elites” and “Scientists” and the constant attacks on legitimate scientists by people who barely understand the concepts being discussed. I see feelings and beliefs trumping facts and evidence, and I see misunderstandings of facts and evidence being used as attacks against scientific fields.

This is a hard article to write because of the people I know who will read this and feel that I am speaking directly to them…which I am…but what I have to say isn’t really friendly.It is difficult to have discussions about scientific fields with people who are not educated. The reason is because those who are not scientifically educated can’t understand the basic concepts of science. This becomes very aggravating when these same people insist that Scientists and science are wrong.The knee jerk reaction is to be unpleasant to these people, and as rewarding as this may seem, it’s not the best reaction. So what is the alternative? How do you discuss things with those who can’t understand? How you debate the merits of a theory, when the other party doesn’t understand what a theory is? This is my dilemma.

We could spend time educating our opponents. We could lay information at their feet, send them videos, talks, books, papers, but it won’t matter if they can’t understand what is being said. We could attempt to go back to the basics with them, but personal experience has shown that this usually upsets people because they view this as talking down to them. It seems like a huge waste of time, but something must be done, so what?

A few sites on the web have attempted to address this problem. Some are aimed at making science accessible to the general public, some are more like support groups. Richard Dawkins and the Amazing James Randi both started educational foundations, Dr. Jeff Goldstein created a blog to be used by teachers to help with student education on the Universe, Hank Campbell, has created a site to promote what he calls Science 2.0, and there are several forums like the League of Reason and Science Blogs that give individuals a space to create a scientific dialogue. Whatever the reason for going to the sites, I think anyone can start to delve into the world of science and self educate. I am a big supporter of self-education, not only does it show that a persona has recognized a weakness, but they’ve taken action to fix it.

Still, many will not go to these sites for one reason or another, but still feel they have a right to be part of the dialogue. What then? How do you debate with the willfully uninformed? I offer Dawkins’ solution, he simply doesn’t.

Cold? Yes. Necessary? Yes.

I wouldn’t go to my mechanic and argue with him on the ways to repair my car. I wouldn’t go to a construction site and tell them how their building is wrong be cause I feel it is so. I don’t understand why so many feel they can enter a scientific dialogue as an equal, when they have no idea or education in the topic being discussed.

Where does this idea that by simply reading a half-assed synopsis of an elaborate scientific paper now gives someone all the knowledge they require to challenge career scientists come from? Just because we live in the Information Age, doesn’t mean you can now know everything just by googling it. Some things require focus and education. Things like advanced concepts, require study before they are understood completely. Sometimes things will never be entirely clear, and often the ability to distinguish those from things that are clear needs to be learned as well. Some theories are not up for debate, and some are. Unless you understand how theories are made and tested, you can’t distinguish between the two.

The point here is not to tell those who don’t know how to talk about science that they can’t ask questions, or attempt to learn. The point here is that you should take the time to become educated in the topics you wish to discuss. Some will be easier to learn than others, the Scientific Method is a pretty simple concept, as is the formation and testing of a theory. However, like Chess, it’s easy to learn and hard to master. Some topics will take years, and hours and hours of study just to begin to understand the basics. You may need to read books, watch videos, and talk to experts in the field. This is the process of education, and education always leads to better understanding.

However, reading a brief synopsis off a news blog, or non-scientific website (I’m looking at you NPR), doesn’t mean that now you’re all ready to go toe to toe with someone who has dedicated their whole life to the study of a topic. Trust me, this will lead to many uncomfortable and embarrassing arguments, that will probably end in name-calling and ad-hominen attacks.

So, to end, I want to leave with a few suggestions:

1) Do the research first, and don’t just stop with one source. Look up as many as you can find. Read them all and take notes. Also, keep track of your sources, people will ask for them and evaluate them for validity.

2) Understand the difference between a good source and a bad one. Do they cite? Are they qualified to talk about the topic? Are they on/in a reputable website/publication? Do they have a reputation for being a good source or not? If you craft your argument based on bad sources, it’ll show.

3) If you have questions about something, find someone to ask. It’s been my experience that professional and experts love to answer questions, as long as you come to them openly and not in a hostile manner. It might take them a while to get back to you, but most of the time they will when their schedule allows. I mean, they do have jobs too.

4) Don’t assume that you know everything about a topic after reading one article, or had a friend tell you about it, or you heard it on Coast-To-Coast. Pretty much every-time you’re  not getting all the information, it’s colored by personal opinion, or they’re just trying to bamboozle you to boost ratings. Don’t fall for this, see #1-3 and repeat as necessary.

If you follow these few suggestions, in time, you’ll find your conversations will become more productive, informed, and result in less logical falsies (I hope).

Absence of Evidence

*In the long absence created by my return to school, I thought I’d finish migrating my old posts to this site. So, enjoy!*

“This impatience with ambiguity can be criticized in the phrase: absence of evidence is not evidence of absence.” ~ Carl Sagan

The first time I heard this quote was in field school. We’d spent the majority of the summer excavating the residence of Dr. J.H. Ward and found about nothing…though I did learn that a claw hammer will totally own century old cement…When asked what he was going to say about the residence since we’d had such a lean collection of artifacts, Dr. Mullins (go read his awseome bolg on material culture) told me, “absence of evidence is not evidence of absence.” This was quickly followed with a rather comical debate over what a particular artifact really was to which I was told, “When you hear hoof beats, think Horses not Zebras.”I took both quotes to heart, often repeating them to myself when faced with questions in the field. I still like both, even though recently I learned that the Carl Sagan quote is actually a misquote. The full quote is listed above and can be found on Wikiquote…or better yet in his book Demon-Haunted WorldTo put it in context, Sagan uses this phrase in his “Baloney Detection Kit”. He uses it as a tool to identify and reject an “appeal to ignorance”. The phrase appears in Chapter 12, “The Fine Art of Baloney Detection” in the “The Demon-Haunted World”

“appeal to ignorance – the claim that whatever has not been proved false must be true, and vice versa (e.g., There is no compelling evidence that UFOs are not visiting the Earth; therefore UFOs exist – and there is intelligent life elsewhere in the Universe. Or: There may be seventy kazillion other worlds, but not one is known to have the moral advancement of the Earth, so we’re still central to the Universe.) This impatience with ambiguity can be criticized in the phrase: absence of evidence is not evidence of absence.”

So, this quote didn’t mean what I thought it meant. What Sagan appears to be doing here is pointing out that absence of evidence IS evidence of absence.

What does this have to do with archaeology you ask? Oh my, so much. Especially when you are dealing with pseudoarchaeology.

I’ve been doing research for a video that will be on Ancient Astronauts building the Pyramids, not a topic I was familiar with, and frankly the more I “learn” the more my brain hurts. What I’ve been finding is that Ancient Astronauts supporters use the appeal to ignorance to support their claims, up to the point of quoting Sagan. This tells me is that not only do they not know anything about ancient Egyptian civilization / building techniques, they also have never read Sagan. This bothers me since in both cases they are speaking as if from positions of authority, and five minutes on the internet can blow their arguments out of the water.

I blame von Daniken for this. The man simply refuses to see fact, even when it’s place right before him. He is also a prolific author on the topic of pseudoarchaeolgoy, claiming that professional archaeologists either don’t know what they are doing, or are purposefully covering up the “truth”. To him I ask, what do we have to gain by hiding the truth?

Daniken likes to point to known artifacts, hieroglyphs, and paintings, claiming that Archaeologists translated them incorrectly, that they are really ancient depictions of aliens, or even parts of a spaceship. He goes as far as to say that everything we know is wrong, and we have something to gain by not telling the lay public the truth. Daniken apparently never had the benefit of someone telling him to think Horses not Zebras.

To all this I say, Ancient Astronauts supporters: you have no evidence, you have no facts, most damningly, you have no practical applied experience. When you misquote Sagan, you show you have no grasp of basic concepts. As in all things, Occam’s Razor comes into play, and since your extraordinary claims cannot be backed with extraordinary evidence, you really should let it go. Have a little faith in your own species, we really are a very clever and capable ape.

The Loss of Aaron Swartz, the Need for Open Access, and a Comment on Depression.

Hey everybody! I know, it’s Tuesday…I’m behind…yah…I’ll get to fixing that.

Before I do, I wanted to talk a little about Open Access and Aaron Swartz. There isn’t a whole lot I can add to the discussion. What happened to Swartz, and what was going to happen to him was, in a word, horrible. It’s horrible that MIT and the US Government hounded him to an early grave, it’s horrible that he was sentenced to more prison time than a serial rapist or mass murderer, and it’s horrible that all this was over the access to and sharing of academic information.

We, those of us who are part of or participating in academia, should be ashamed of ourselves, because We are the ones that allowed this to happen. Fortunately, WE are also the ones who can change it.

Many others who are much better informed on this topic have talked about it, and instead of ranting on here, I thought it would be better to link articles and quote the parts that stuck out to me. I encourage you to read the articles in full and follow the links in them. I also encourage you to do what you can to push for the free and open publication of academic papers.

Carl Sagon urged that ideas and information be free and open to all, to do otherwise would create a “priesthood” of professionals and encourage the dissemination of pseudoscience in an information starved would. He’s right, as anyone who is aware of the Anti-Vaxer movement can attest too, or anyone trying to combat the idea of ancient alien visitors knows.  One of these is simply annoying, the other is deadly, both could be remedied by open access and the education of the public.

So, please read the articles, and feel free to comment. I’ll see you later this week with our regularly scheduled postings.

RIP, Aaron Swartz by 

Not gonna lie, this is really hard to read, manly for the end where the author discusses Swartz battle with depression.

Most people think they have depression, but they don’t . They have blue days, and they’re stressed, but real depression is more than that. It’s not easy to shake or to think clearly when you’re in the grips of it. And you are in the grips of it. It’s a living, breathing thing that holds onto you and won’t let go. You don’t just “get over it”, and you don’t just have a happy thought and suddenly life is all good again. It sneaks up on you, it ambushes you, it isolates you, and it lies to you. I’m not “puzzled” as to why Swartz did what he did, I am sad that he did, but I understand.

Archaeology, Open Access, and the Passing of Aaron Swartz by Eric Kansa

“We have to remember, we, as a discipline work in the public interest.” (emphasis mine)

“There are many excellent reasons to promote Open Access in archaeology, summarized in this recent issue of World Archaeology dedicated to the subject. But the Swartz case helps to highlight another. Professional society reluctance (in the case of the SAA) or outright opposition against Open Access (AIAAAA) puts many researchers at risk. Many researchers, particularly our colleagues in public, CRM, and contract archaeology or our colleagues struggling as adjunct faculty, either totally lack or regularly lose affiliations with institutions that subscribe to pay-wall resources like JSTOR. Many of these people beg logins from their friends and colleagues lucky enough to have access. Similarly, file-sharing of copyright protected articles is routine. Email lists and other networks regularly see circulation of papers, all under legally dubious circumstances. Essentially, we have a (nearly?) criminalized underclass of researchers who bend and break rules in order to participate in their professional community. It is a perverse travesty that we’ve relegated essential professional communications to an quasi-legal/illegal underground, when we’re supposedly a community dedicated to advancing the public good through the creation of knowledge about the past.”

“It’s time we also start seeing the ugliness in the current dissemination status quo, where the information outputs of archaeology become privatized, commoditized, intellectual property. This status quo carries the baggage of a legally oppressive system of copyright control, surveillance, and draconian punishments. Rather than dismissing Open Access off-hand, we have an ethical obligation to at least try to find financially sustainable modes of Open Access publication (see Lake 2012,  Kansa 2012 [pay-wall][open-access pre-print]).”

Fred Limp (SAA President) Responding to Open Access in Archaeology by Eric Kansa and Fred Limp

“However, the SAA is but one publisher. Even if its publication costs are relatively low, archaeological discourse takes place across many, many titles, typically managed by expensive commercial publishers. Legally accessing these requires institutional affiliations to get e-Journals, JSTOR and all the rest. Though you may get a few titles with your SAA membership, researchers lacking academic affiliations are still cut-off from the great majority of scholarly discourse. Most of them are stuck with extra-legal workarounds, putting these researchers in dire legal jeopardy. While I can understand Fred’s concern over financing SAA publications (and motivating membership), accepting the dysfunctions and legal dangers of pay-walls and strong intellectual property does not advance the interests of archaeologists or archaeology.”

Archaeology, Open Access, RIP Aaron Swartz

“I was at the Society of Historical Archaeology’s conference last week and in a panel discussion the issue of access to resources was brought up. Again, the time worn excuse that “we can’t go open access because then no one would join our society was used”. What I then said was, “well, have you polled your members to actually see why they join your society? The SAS polled theirs and found only a small percentage joined because of the journal.”

“What I wanted to say (and what did say later in a heated discussion about it) was, “Are you a fucking society trying to better mankind or fucking publisher in it for profit????” While societies do many great things I am starting to get real tired of them protecting the high salaries of their employees at the expense  of the rest of us, when, unlike a for-profit company, they are suppose to be helping us.”

I know it seems easy to vilify the SAA’s, but I want to strongly caution against it. Fred Limp at the SAA, to my current knowledge, is the only society representative to respond to this. That should actually give credit to the SAA because they are willing to participate in the discussion openly, whether you agree with them or not. This took guts, good for them.

Anyway, I am a strong advocate for open access and public access. I am also aware that there are aspects of this discussion I am not privy too, mainly because they are behind closed doors where I don’t have access. I also know that there are some valid reasons for not opening the flood gates and letting anyone and everyone have access to academic research. However, there is a middle ground, and it’s high time we find it. We didn’t need Aaron Swartz to prove that to us, but I hope something good will now come out of what he did.

Powered by WordPress.com.

Up ↑

%d bloggers like this: