Category Archives: Rants

Those Damn Victorians at it Again, or Why so Many Fakes in the 19th Century?

Those Damn Victorians at it Again

If you follow this blog or podcast for any amount of time you’ve probably noticed that a lot of the things we cover can be traced back to 19th-century ideas. I’m not saying we should blame the Victorians for everything dealing with pseudo-archaeology, but I’m not saying we shouldn’t either.

What was going on during the Victorian era. Times were changing, social structures were being challenged, Darwinism, and archaeology was blossoming into a legitimate field of academic study. Kind of.

Of course, with every great growth spurt comes growing pains. And I honestly think that’s what the 19th century was for archaeology.

This is mainly me speculating basing all of this on 10 years writing this blog, and five years of hosting a podcast about debunking bad archaeology. I think I have a little authority to speak from here when I say the Victorian era in the 19th century was a powerhouse for fake archaeology. Some of the most enduring hoaxes that still plague modern archaeology today were created in the 19th century.

Some of them have been mostly dealt with, things like the Cardiff giant and Piltdown man. Not even the ancient aliens people push either of those as being authentic anymore. I know there’s a late hanger-on every now and then who pops up. I know the Cardiff giant was recently brought up as evidence for giants by one of the obscure vlogs I watch. For the most part though these of been laid to rest, debunked by archaeology and archaeologists of the 19th century, and continually reinforced by modern archaeologists, most pseudo-archaeology theorists don’t even bother with these.

There are others that have such staying power that I must marvel at them. Things like the Newark holy stones, the Michigan relics, the Kensington Rune Stone, the Bat Creek inscription, and the whole mound builder myth. Most of these things are complete hoaxes. They are not accepted in any way shape or form by the field of archaeology, but they are staples in the pseudo-archaeology arsenal of alternative history buffs.

Why do so many fakes come out of the Victorian era in the 19th century? What was so special about this time period that fakes were being made left and right?

One of the most obvious reasons for there being so many fakes from this era is the lack of ability to fact check them. In our modern era were used to Google and Wikipedia. We’re used to being able to type in a search term and get hundreds if not thousands of results to answer a question. This isn’t how things worked over 100 years ago. I’m not saying that people weren’t capable of distinguishing a real from a fake. The Piltdown man and means the Cardiff giant are clear examples that science and archaeology of the time was more than capable of spotting fakes when presented with them. The problem here is the average citizen had even less access to information than they do today, and in general trusted individuals who portrayed themselves as authorities.

Also keep in mind times were changing. People were moving into the beginning of an era where information traveled quickly, comparatively to the time, and lots of interesting spiritualist ideas were starting to spread. Many of the ideas that archaeologists deal with as far as the concepts that ancient aliens put forward, or giantologists argue, or even the lost Atlantean people push, mostly originated during the 19th century. At the time there was less information to counter these arguments with, and there, of course, was the accepted social stance that a lot of these spiritualist ideas fit into. Yes, I’m talking about things such as ethnocentrism racism, classism, and all the other fun things that I rally against constantly on this blog. I’m not saying the Victorians created racism, but they sure as hell liked using it.

During this time archaeology was concerned mostly with discovering origins and finding the oldest – whatever. Add to that the socially dominant idea that Native Americans could not have been the first people in the Americas, for reasons that are pretty much only supported biblically and even then not really. What you got was a race to find the first evidence of a superior white race that predated the Native Americans. When evidence began to come up lacking to support this loose hypothesis, some people took to creating that evidence themselves.

It can be speculated that certain hoaxes like the Bat Creek inscription were placed maliciously to harm the reputation of the excavator in charge. Other hoaxes, like the Kensington Rune Stone, may have been placed in an effort to confuse and befuddle the “learned men” of the time. Other hoaxes were most definitely done specifically to raise money. The Cardiff giant was created specifically as a moneymaking scheme, and it kinda worked. We also have to look at hoaxes such as the Piltdown man, which was basically an exercise in nationalism, and the desire to prove that Britain was better than everyone else because it had “the first man” the quintessential “missing link” in the evolutionary chain.

And we’re just talking about the archaeological hoaxes that most people are aware of. There are hundreds if not thousands of fake artifacts in the cultural history and art museums across the country and around the world. Artifacts that were created specifically to sell to institutions, like the Smithsonian, to make a quick buck. Some of these artifacts remained in the collections for many decades before being discovered as fakes. I suppose the comfort is that almost all of them had some detractor or doubter of their authenticity, but on the whole were accepted as authentic.

But how could so many fakes and hoaxes get past institutions specifically designed to study ancient history and art?

Basically, the technology wasn’t in place to debunk these artifacts. Even though communications were growing and becoming easier during the 19th century, they are still a far cry from what we enjoy today. I can send a text to a colleague and have an answer within an hour or so. During the 19th century, that question could take months to receive an answer. During that time the fake artifact or hoax may have already been purchased and possibly displayed to the public.

Authenticating artifacts was difficult as well, mainly because there weren’t as many experts as there are today. Collections were still thin, museums still growing, experts still being created. It was easier to pass off a fake as an authentic artifact or to just create a culture whole cloth in order to sell an artifact because the ability to debunk these things didn’t quite exist yet. There was no chemical testing at the level that we have today, no infrared scanning of paintings to see what colors fluoresce and what colors don’t. There was no way to molecularly test an object to see what kind of varnish was being used to create the aged look on an artifact.

So why were there so many fakes that come out of the 19th century and the Victorian era? Essentially, because that time period was right for it. The combination of fevered interest in discovering the human past, combined with lack of knowledge and comparative samples created a perfect storm for the creation and the selling of fakes and hoaxes.

Which should be the real question here though is, why are these fakes and hoaxes still accepted today as fact? It’s one thing to look back at the 19th century and the Victorian era and understand that people weren’t necessarily gullible as much as they simply didn’t have access to the proper information because it didn’t exist yet. It’s another thing entirely to be in the modern era where these things can be checked at the top of the phone screen and yet there is still fervent belief in the idea of the mound builders myth, that the Kensington Rune Stone is a real Viking room stone, that the Newark holy stones prove the lost tribes of Israel were in the Americas before Native Americans, and that somehow giants are real.

On the one hand yes we have ancient aliens that’s run for 14 seasons on television and has spawned numerous similar shows on various channels. But at some point, we can only blame the media for so much. At some point, we need to sit back and ask ourselves, what are we missing, and how can we fix it?

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Hi! I’m an archaeologist who likes games, video games, gaming, horror, the supernatural, and debunking pseudoarchaeology. Check out my vids for more on the above topics, and toss us a coin if you like what I do.

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The Major Issues with Transoceanic Travelers (Hint it’s the R and S words)

The Major Issues with Transoceanic Travelers

So there’s a few unifying threads when it comes to certain pseudoarchaeology ideas — one of which being the concept of the Transoceanic Traveler. I recently finished reading a book called The Path of the Spiritual Sun. It’s a guidebook for a new religion that a gentleman named Beelzebub is trying to hype.

The central premise of Beelzebub’s argument in his book is that all religions stem from an ancient race of sun worshipers who existed before the biblical flood. That premises alone is a bit of a bag of worms to unpack, but then we start looking deeper into this mysterious vanished race, and what we find is not surprising at all. I did a podcast recently talking about my thoughts and feelings over the book itself. What I wanted to concentrate on here is the idea of the great white race of ancient ancestors who come bearing culture from across the oceans.

Now sometimes you see this theme, and it’s small scale-wise. It’s usually just one culture supplanting another. An example I can think of is the Lost Tribes of Israel coming to the Americas. (this did not actually happen.) Clearly, the Lost Tribes of Israel were not some great global master race, but according to some fringe theorists, they were the ones that brought civilization to the Americans. (again, this did not actually happen.)

A lot of times, you also see this concept of the Transoceanic Traveler echoed in ancient astronauts or ancient alien theories. If you have followed the Ancient Aliens’ TV series for the past ten years, you will probably know that one of the major linchpins of the ancient alien theory is that all Gods across all cultures are actually aliens. Prehistoric man assigned them the role of God because they were unable to conceive of anything else. I think the Ancient Aliens’ theory is probably the most extreme version of the Transoceanic Traveler simply because those culture bringers had to come across the vast sea of space.

Beelzebub brings this Transoceanic Traveler idea back to its ideological roots. That idea that prehistoric humans were incapable of creating their own culture and so required outside influence. Now, like most proponents of the Transoceanic Traveler idea, we don’t know where the original father race of people came from. Perhaps they grew out of the ground organically? Perhaps they are actually Gods? Who knows, no one ever bothers to provide too much of the back story for the fictional Transoceanic Traveler. What we do know is that these father races are almost always without exception a white race of men. I say of men because you very rarely see any mention of women when it comes to these theories.

Anytime women are mentioned in a Transoceanic Traveler story, it’s almost always as merely a vessel for the next generation. They’re simply there for the white man to have sex with and then bear sons to. On the very rare occasion, you will see some goddess relegated to the ranks of the enlightened father race, but it’s very rare.

So I’m sure at this point we can clearly see a few of the major issues with the Transoceanic Traveler idea. It is inherently racist in that it completely erases prehistoric cultures’ abilities to have agency over their own religion and culture and history. It also usually only applies to cultural groups that are perceived as being non-Caucasian, or more specifically non-Aryan (a term used verbatim in Beelzebub’s book). Now, unless you’re talking about a certain brand of wool, using the term Aryan is usually a red flag.

The Transoceanic Traveler it is also inherently sexist because it doesn’t include women at all unless they are a sexualized object, or merely a vessel of reproduction. This makes women nothing more than objects of the past, puts them in a position of being nonhuman. This seems to be a difficult idea for certain people to understand, that relegating women to a mear function is inherently sexist and dehumanizing. Not sure why that’s a hard concept for some, but apparently it is.

Also, by insisting that all of the great minds throughout history are direct descendants of these white male Transoceanic Travelers also erases any contribution of anyone who does not fall into that category. We see this with Ancient Aliens fairly frequently. Their claim that the great men throughout history are either the hybrid byproducts of male-alien / human-female interbreeding or the direct result of alien genetic manipulation.
It erases cultural achievement, cultural agency, and cultural independence, and pushes the narrative that male is best.

The truly insidious part of all of this is, however, that most people, I believe, who promote this idea of a Transoceanic Traveler culture bringing father race, are not themselves actively racist and sexist. I believe they just lack the tools to see the issues in this fanciful idea. For whatever reason, the Transoceanic Traveler story holds a lot of power over some. Perhaps it is the idea of mystery, the idea of a suppressed past, the Everyman myth where the average guy outsmarts the educated elite. Maybe it’s a small combination of all these things. But when you look past the romanticized adventure of the idea of travelers from another world, and you start seeing the inherent issues with an idea like this, and the problems that arise trying to make a statement like that true, you have a hard time being able to accept Transoceanic Travelers at face value.

Putting aside the fact that there is absolutely no archaeological evidence to support Transoceanic Travelers at the level of culture bringing father races. Yes, there is evidence that there was trade among many different ancient cultures going further back than written records were kept. Again this should not be something surprising, if two groups share a cultural border that is easily crossed, they’re going to cross it. But to see one culture completely supplant another, especially over a distance such as the oceans during a time where vessels were not built to go that far, that’s never been seen in the archaeological record. I could make the argument that historically it doesn’t hold up either outside of myths and legends, but I’m not that familiar with every historical text ever.

I call Transoceanic Travelers an idea over a hypothesis because it is not built in the formal way of a hypothesis, and therefore can be neither a hypothesis nor theory. It’s merely an idea that some choose to cling to in the absence of evidence and in the presence of problematic issues like sexism and racism. One must choose to accept Transoceanic Travelers. There is no evidence to compel us to accept it as fact. And I think once people understand that better, and examine within themselves why they need the transoceanic traveler idea to be true, I hope many will abandon the idea, and perhaps look at what archaeology actually tells us about the rich histories of the variety of human cultures around the globe.

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What’s Going on in ArchyFantasies Land?

whats going on

Hey everyone, First, I want to thank everyone for the words of support over the last few months. We love our fans, and it’s been nice to have a bit of positive vibes in my in-box.

For those who aren’t in the loop, I don’t want to overwhelm you with too many details. I do want to explain some things.

Before April, I (Sara), began taking better care of my mental health, and it has been good for me. I encourage everyone to go and get your head checked. I began a medication regimen and though it’s been a huge help, it had a massive adjustment period. I apologize for the time away from the blog and podcast, but it just, unfortunately, was a casualty of getting back to a baseline.

Also around this time, we (my co-hosts and I) decided on some changes to the Archaeological Fantasies podcast format, which also affected the posting of episodes. It’s nothing bad I promise, it’s acutely very positive for both Ken and Jeb to be working on other projects. Unfortunately, it will cut into the time they have on the show. We wish them the best, and thank them for their contributions.

The podcast will continue to have all the pseudo goodness you’re accustomed to, but you may hear a few new voices from time to time talking about some expanded topics. As the fringe tries to science-up themselves, we’ll be taking them to task.

We are trying a few new things, including video reacts to TV shows and YouTube videos. We’ll also be trying a few more Curious Archaeology videos with Forensic Detective Inspector Bragnir. Also, look for my collaboration with Digital Hammurabi later this year to learn some basic history about the field of Archaeology.

Lastly, this is my final semester in my Masters’ degree, which means … THESIS TIME!!!!!

I will probably blog about what all I’m doing, mainly because my thesis is about pseudoarchaeology so it’s basically an excuse to create blog and podcast and video content. Woo.

So, to everyone out there reading this, Thanks again for all the support! You’re all rockstars in my book!

TL;DR wrap up:

  • Podcast will be back in September (9/2/19)
  • Look on YouTube for Archy Fantasies brand vids, including video reacts, aka watch me watch TV…
  • I’m working on my Master’s thesis this semester, thanks for bearing with me ahead of time.
  • Mental Health is important, thanks for the support!

 


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In Search Of Pseudoarchaeology.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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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.

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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!

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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 its 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 miss-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, let’s 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 tells 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. This 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 must have been genetically programmed 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 tells 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 it 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.

What’s 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 real people to Tsoukalos and Von Däniken?

Anyway, Von Däniken sends Tsoukalos away for 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 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 nowhere else.

*All images are screenshots from the show.

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

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Hi! I’m an archaeologist who likes games, video games, gaming, horror, the supernatural, and debunking pseudoarchaeology. Check out my vids for more on the above topics, and toss us a coin if you like what I do.
Twitter – @ArchyFantasies
IG – @ArchyFantasies
Emai – ArchyFantasies@gmail.com. 

 

Blogging Archaeology, Good, Bad, Badder…

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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!

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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…