Posts Tagged With: archaeology

Unlucky Mummies Get a Bad Wrap.

 

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On episode 52 of the Archaeological Fantasies Podcast we talk about Mummies!

We all think we know about the story of King Tut, but a lot of it was embellishment at the time, as well as confusing the story of Tut’s discovery with stories of other mummies at the time. Ken, Jeb, and I talk about the reality of the Mummy’s curse, in this episode. We’re also able to sus out where some of the myths about the Mummy’s curse come from, who probably started them. We also make some possible connections between King Tut and Cthulhu (noting a trend?) and talk about the long term impacts of the idea of the mummy. It’s a great episode, go give it a listen!

Categories: Archaeology, ArchyFantasies Podcasts, Uncategorized | Tags: , , , , | 2 Comments

The Pyramids That Are Not, The Bosnian Pyramids.

Episode 29 of the Archaeology Fantasies Podcast is live. If you haven’t given it a listen, go do it now! I apologize ahead of time for the fact that I can’t say Sam Osmanagich’s name correctly.

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We’re talking about the Bosnian Pyramids.

For those who don’t know, the Bosnian Pyramids are not actual pyramids, they are a cluster of natural hills in central Bosnia and Herzegovina that started life off roughly pyramid in shape. I say they started that way because years of “excavation” on the hills has transformed them into what Sam Osmanagich, the ‘founder’ of said not-pyramids, wants them to be.

Osmanagich has decided that several of the hills in the range are actually pyramids and he’s renamed them as he sees fit. Visocica Hill, at 720 feet, is renamed the Pyramid of the Sun. Pljesevica Hill, at 350 feet, is renamed the Pyramid of the Moon. He claims there are others, a Pyramid of Love, A Pyramid of Earth, one to a Dragon, ect. I’m not entirely sure why any of them have the names that they do, but it made sense to Osmanagich, so we’ll run with it.

Osmanagich also makes the claim that there are labyrinths under the pyramids and long man-made tunnels. These tunnels supposedly connected the pyramids at one point and then filled in with sea water when the glaciers melted.

Let me state here that no professional archaeologist believes these are pyramids, calling it:

“A cruel hoax on an unsuspecting public [which] has no place in the world of genuine science (Bohannon 2006).”

That hasn’t stopped Osmanagich, who in true fringe style has tried to connect the names of actual archaeologist, geologists, and other scientists to his work. Most have either denied association with the project or been exposed as either unqualified or frauds (Rose 2006).

But what of the claims?

Aside from claiming hills are pyramids when they are clearly not, Osmanagich claims they are the oldest pyramids in the world. He says they are 12,000 years old putting their construction during a time when most of Europe was under a glacier and agriculture wasn’t really a thing yet (Woodward 2009). I’ve never really seen how he proposes prehistoric Hunter-Gatherers managed to build the largest pyramids on earth or why they would bother. He’s made a lukewarm argument that they are burial mounds, but there are no bodies associated with them.

What’s more, these incredibly advanced Hunter-Gatherers also apparently knew how to make and pour cement, and that is how they covered the sides of the pyramids (Woodward 2009). Never-mind that the geology of the hills matches that of the surrounding area, and the ‘cement’ Osmanagich is finding is actually alternating layers of conglomerate, clay and sandstone (Woodward 2009). Osmanagich’s cement idea is supported by French materials scientist, Joseph Davidovits, who also thinks the real pyramids in Egypt were made with poured concrete blocks (Woodward 2009). Because of this idea, Osmanagich instructed his workers to carve the hillside to create the impression of a stepped pyramid for the Pyramid of the Moon (Woodward 2009). So, like other fringe researchers in the past, he’s altered the area to fit his expectations, and then wants to pass it off as being authentic.

In this vein, Osmanagich has started digging in the ‘tunnels’ beneath the hills. Stating that he is going to widen these tunnels and extend them so that they will connect  witht the other pyramids (Woodward 2009),  never mind if they don’t currently. He claims that there are boulders that bear carvings that date back to 15,000 years ago, but that claim was challenged by a geologist and former employee who claimed the carvings appeared overnight, put there by another one of Osmanagich’s workers (Woodward 2009).

Yet Osmanagich is unapologetic in his blatant alteration of the area, and why shouldn’t he be?

Osmanagich says he plans to dig all the way to Visocica Hill, 1.4 miles away, adding that, with additional donations, he could reach it in as few as three years. “Ten years from now nobody will remember my critics,” he says as we start back toward the light, “and a million people will come to see what we have.” (Woodward 2009)

Osmanagich has official backing from the Bosnian Government (Woodward 2009). The Pyramid of the Sun Foundation, owned by Osmanagich, rakes in hundreds of thousands of dollars in public donations and thousands more from state-owned companies (Woodward 2009). He’s got copious amounts of attention from the media and was awarded a seat on a scientific council in Russia (Woodward 2009). Creating fake archaeology and history is quite lucrative.

All that said, Osmanagich still can’t answer basic questions about the construction of the site. Things like, where did the workers come from? Where did they live while they worked? Who fed them? How did they make the cement? Where are the mixing stations, the pouring platforms, the tools? Where is the trash from all these people living one place? Where is the graveyard for the workers that died? Who organized them? What compelled them to build? And so on, and so on, and so on.

As is so often with the fringe, they see something big and shinny, and don’t think about the details. The details that real archaeologists want, the details that are real evidence. The details that every actual archaeological site possesses. These are always lacking because they are overlooked. As Ken likes to say, you can fake an artifact, but you can’t fake a whole site. Osmanagich had already run up against this with the international archaeological community, and it’s starting to catch up to him at home as well. We’ll just wait and see were all this ends up, but I’m guessing it’s not going to end well.

In the meantime go listen to episode 29 of the Archaeology Fantasies Podcast and hear what Ken and I have to say on the matter.


If you’d like to support this blog, consider donating on Patreon.
Want more on this topic? Go to: Mystery Sites That Aren’t.
Comment below or send an email to ArchyFantasies@gmail.com


Resources:

Bosnian Pyramids Website.
http://www.bosnianpyramids.org/. Accessed 2/19/16

Open Protest Letter to the Bosnian Government. written by the The European Association of Archaeologists – (EAA)
 http://www.robertschoch.net/bosnia%20eaa%20denounces%20semir%20osmanagic%20pyramid%20archaeology%20dowell%20ct.htm. Accessed 2/19/16

Woodard, Colin
The Mystery of Bosnia’s Ancient Pyramids. Smithsonian Magazine Online. December 2009. http://www.smithsonianmag.com/history/the-mystery-of-bosnias-ancient-pyramids-148990462/#6JECjwhBkxuU6aDb.99. Accessed 2/19/16

Rose, Mark
2006    Bosnian “Pyramids” Update. Archaeology Magazine Online. 14 June 2006.
http://www.archaeology.org/online/features/osmanagic/update.html. Accessed 2/19/16

John Bohannon, 2006 “Researchers Helpless as Bosnian Pyramid Bandwagon Gathers Pace”. Science. 314:1862. http://science.sciencemag.org/content/314/5807/1862.1 Accessed 2/19/16

 

Categories: Mystery Sties That Aren't, Podcast, Weird Archaeology | Tags: , , , , , , , , , | 7 Comments

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…

Categories: Archaeology, Blogging, Rants | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , | 6 Comments

Gen Con Wrap-Up: Archaeology, Skeptics, and Nerddom.

I had a great time at Gen Con this year. I got to play lots of great games, met some really cool people, got to glimpse Wil Wheaton, and re-launched the Skeptical Gamers. With all of the great costumes, the huge balloon Cthulhu, the balloon Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle, The Zombie Walk, Five Year Mission, Cardhalla, the scavenger hunt, and the massive maze that is the dealer floor, I had to narrow things down a bit. So let’s break down the event some shall we?

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Cthulhu, He’s eating my mind! Ai! Ai!

Archy Talks at Gen Con

This year I gave two talks, one was my basic Archaeology vs Psuedoarchaeology and the other was Archy vs Ancient Aliens. I probably wont be giving the basic talk again. I had a really low turn out for that one. Not sure if it was because it was on Thursday, or that people were confused because Gen Con moved my room around twice and didn’t list it in the guide book, or if people are just tired of hearing it. Either way, I’m kinda board with it and I want to do different topics next year anyway. I can only really commit to two talks if I want to have any time to play myself, so, we’ll box this one up for a while. 

The  Archy vs Ancient Aliens did really well, more like what I’m used to. Also the 12pm time slot seems to be good for everyone since it’s kinda in-between game slot times and lunch. The new projector I bought works well, except that it wont connect to my small laptop and I didn’t find that out till I got to the con. Learned that the hard way, other than that little snafu everything went great. 

 

Reintroducing The Skeptical Gamers. 

Some of you might remember back when I started talking at Gen Con I was with a group named the Skeptical Gamers for about a year. It was a good group of people who were interested in creating a skeptical track for Indy. We had people discussing cargo cults, general skepticism and such. It went over really well, but most of the members had life changes that forced the group to close in 2012.  Well, I’ve talked to the original creator of the group and I’ve got permission to restart the group!

This year at my talks I gave a recruiting shout-out to anyone who might be interested in doing something skeptical for next year. I got a pretty good response, more than I expected. So I’ve got some folks to talk to and a website to re-vamp and then we’ll be in full swing. If you think you might be interested in helping out next year, send me an email at archyfantasies@gmail.com.

 

Games and Groups You Should Check Out. 

Like I said earlier, I played some great games and watched some awesome shows this year. I highly recommend a few:

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Dorks in Dungeons player group, with the tallest dwarf ever who worships the sun.

Dorks in Dungeons – this was a fantastic improve group who are completely making fun of gaming. Seriously, they were the funniest show I saw all weekend and completely worth the time. They are native to New Hampshire, so if you live up there check them out. They really encourage audience participation and love interacting, and it’s funny. Also, they have a Keytar Dragon, nuff said. 

 

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The Keytar Dragon, rocking the Lame away.

 

 

Live Action Cthulhu , specifically Kettle of Fish‘s rendition of “Charlie Chonka and the Fudge Refinery”. It’s pretty much what it sounded like. I got to play one of the Parents, and well, it’s Cthulhu so you’re not really supposed to live, but as per the movie each child was picked off one by one, and we all pretty much died in the end. But my Ian, who’s such a bright boy, made it out alive, along withe the child who was apparently a clone on Hitler. The rest of us died in an elaborate ritual that allowed Chonka to continue his immortal life body-hopping from his dying body to the youthful body of an unsuspecting child. It’s Cthulhu, it’s not meant to be happy, but it was fun and the guy playing Chonka was simply perfect and amazing. Also, the players who got to play the Tcho-Tcho’s (the Oopa-lumas) did a really great job of singing and being extra creepy. 

Sixcess Core by Harsh Realities ran a fantastic game as always, and I highly recommend their table top system if you’re looking form something new and versatile. Plus the creators and the GM’s a supper friendly. I had a great time playing Steampunk in Space and running away from Flesh-bots who wanted to make me part of the living ship. Check out their store for their core book and keep an eye out for their upcoming Kickstaters. 

I played a few other things too, they were fun, but these were defiantly the top. 

 

School starts today and I am back at the O’l grind stone. Someday I will be done will all of this, and be better off for it. Until then, I must survive this test that is Grad School.

And Now Some Pictures of the event. 

 

Men with Horse Heads. I got nothing.

Men with Horse Heads. I got nothing.

The Sea of Nerd, the ocean of Geek.

The Sea of Nerd, the ocean of Geek.

Five Year Mission opened the festivals Wednesday night. They Rock!

Five Year Mission opened the festivals Wednesday night. They Rock!

Spidy senses Zombies.

Spidy senses Zombies.

Balloon Raphael

Balloon Raphael

Cardhalla raised over $4,000 for Big Brother's Big Sisters this year.

Cardhalla raised over $4,000 for Big Brother’s Big Sisters this year.

Brain Burgers, Yum.

Brain Burgers, Yum.

Zombie Hogan. Oh yah brotha.

Zombie Hogan. Oh yah brotha.

A Giant Rabbit pulling a Man out of a Hat doing card tricks.

A Giant Rabbit pulling a Man out of a Hat doing card tricks.

Categories: Gen Con, Skeptical Gamers, Weekly News Round Up | Tags: , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Podcasts, Podcasts, Maker -Scouts: Weekly Round-Up 2/10/2013

I don’t really have a whole lot to report this wee, but not because nothing is going on. On the contrary, quite a bit is happening here.

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Chris Webber over at Random Acts of Science has invited me to be on his CRM Podcast . He’s re-worked the format for the podcast and there are several panel members, so there should be some great conversation about archaeology and the world of CRM. We’re actually recording the first episode today, so expect a giddy, self-promoting post in a few days! In the mean time check out Chris’ blog and enjoy!

I’m also working with my local CFI family group here to start our own Guild of Maker Scouts. We’re going to be coding and building robots before we know it, and many other science related things. I supper stoked about this. I really wish this had been available to me as a kid, but now I can provide this for other kids. My dad did the best he could with a chemistry set  and the computer, now it’s time to up the game and take Lego’s to the next level!

And school is still ongoing, I’ve got a ton more reading to do about GIS and planning projects, but I’ve almost got it down, just in time to write a midterm report! Yay!

So keep an eye out for the podcast and think about starting your own Maker Scouts Guild.

Categories: Weekly News Round Up | Tags: , , , , | Leave a comment

Ella Sophia Armitage – Mistress of The Norman Mottes

Ella Sophia Armitage

For our next early female archaeologist I want to introduce you to Ella Sophia Armitage.

Armitage was a particular challenge for me, as many of the women I will introduce you to will be, since there is so little known about her as a person, other than she lived. It’s aggravating  but this is the product of so many years of ignoring and downplaying the contributions of women in our society  All we can do is try to piece things back together and reconstruct what was forgotten.

Sadly, what we know about Ella is cobbled together through surviving correspondences, her academic writing, and notes.  Though we know she kept personal journals, they are lost to us. What we know we’ve pieced together from her husband’s journals, letters to her cohorts, and her apparently copious academic notes. What this gives us is a picture of a very sturdy academic mind, but very little personal information. Still, her contributions were very important in the area of Irish archaeology, in a time when the practice was in its infancy.

During the mid 91th cen in Europe there was a revival of medieval studies focusing mostly on castles from the Normand, English, and Welsh traditions (Counihan 1998).  The presence and history of Scottish and Irish castles were seen as fringe (Counihan 1998). This view caused quite the controversy in the academic community, one that Armitage weighed into fearlessly.

Ella Sophia Armitage was born Ella Sophia Bulley on 3 March 1841 in Liverpool, to Samuel Marshall Bulley, a cotton merchant, and Mary Rachel Raffles (Wiki). She enjoyed early education and encouragement to be a voracious student from a young age by her uncle Rev James Baldwin Brown (Counihan 1998), and she entered Newnham College in 1874 were she was the first ever research student (Counihan 1998).

Ella became Mrs. Armitage in 1874 when she married the Reverend Elkanah Armitage, and the couple had two children during their marriage. From 1877 to 1879 she taught history at Owens College, Manchester, and developed her interest in medieval earthworks and castles (Ogilvie 2000:54). She took copious and detailed notes during her time as a student and teacher, being recognized as an expert, her notes were  were archived by the Yorkshire Archaeological Socisites in Leeds after her death (Counihan 1998).

Armitage had a great love for Irish castles, referred to as motte-and-bailey castles, or mottes (Counihan 1998). In 1895 she and her husband along with their young son, Godfrey, took a trip to Ireland to visit Armagh, Sligo, and Dublin (Counihan 1998). Her husband was completely unimpressed with the area, but Armitage and her son spent the trip examining as many mottes as they could, returning after the trip to further explore. It was during this time that her first major paper was presented to the Society of Antiquaries of Scotland by her cousin Gerard Baldwin Brown on her behalf  as women were not permitted to to speak at this time (Counihan 1998).

She also compiled a list of  Norman mottes throughout Ireland from Goddard Orpen’s translation of “The Song of Dermot and the Earl” and Sweetmen’s “Calendar of Documents Relating to Ireland 1171-1307”, then sent her nephew Basil Stallybass to inspect 62 of them (Counihan 1998). Stallybass was an architect and well acquainted with earthworks and he sent her sketches and detailed descriptions of 32 of locations (Counihan 1998). She used these notes to write several articles on the mottes over a decade or so showing that the mottes were were not constructed until after the 1066 Norman conquest of England, so they were not the burghs of the Anglo-Saxon, as had previously been thought, but actual Norman Castles (Castles, Ogilvie 2000:54). She eventually collected these articles and published them in a two part article in “The Antiquary” in August and September of 1906 (Castels). Then in 1912 in her seminal work, The Early Norman Castles of the British Isles, was published along with Stallybass’ notes on his investigations.

The real battle over Irish Mottes begin with the 1902 publishing of T.J. Westropp‘s paper in the “Proceedings of the Royal Irish Academy” on the ancient forts of Ireland (Counihan 1998). His  conclusions didn’t sit well with Goddard Henry Orpen, and the two began a debate in print, into which G.T. Clark was drawn (Counihan 1998). Clark’s comments drew the attention of Armitage and John Horace Round and the war of words began (Counihan 1998).  This “battle in print that spanned the Irish sea (Counihan 1998)”, apparently solidified Orpen’s and Armitage’s alliance and friendship and the two went on to collaborate and associate the rest of her life (Counihan 1998).

According to the Wiki, Armitage went on to be the assistant commissioner to James Bryce on the Royal Commission on Secondary Education to investigate girls’ education in Devon in 1894, and apparently led a full and seemingly rewarding life.

It would have been more rewarding to have a more personal look at Armitage, but I think we can draw a pretty complete picture of her from the surviving letters and notes from her. It took a very strong and forward thinking woman to not only step into a man’s world, but to challenge him in his own arena. She was certainly no shirking violet as she confronted Westropp, and others, when she believed they were wrong. She proved herself competent as a researcher, not only in college but in directing her nephew in their joint investigations of the Irish mottes. She was also not afraid to publish her own views and research, eventually proving her own ideas to be correct.

She also advocated for women’s education. She not only trail blazed with her own acceptance to Newnham College, but continued to work for the education and advancement of women though her own professorship and appointment to assistant commissioner. Her notes are still preserved for research, and her book The Early Norman Castles of the British Isles, is lauded as being one of the most important works on Normand Castles.

Ella Sophia Armitage, certainly left her mark on the world of archaeology, for that I am happy to call her a Mother of the Field.


 

For more in this series check out Mother’s of the Field.

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

Resources:

Counihan, Joan.
1998   “Mrs Ella Armitage and Isish Archaeology.” Anglo-Norman Studies: XX. Proceedings of the Battle Conference in Dublin 1997, Edited by Christopher Harper-Bill. The Boydell Press Woodbridge, Suffolk. http://bit.ly/XCJC40.  Retrieved Jan. 19 2013.

Ogilvie, Marilyn
2000   “Armitage, Ella Sophia A (Bulley) (1841–1931)”. The Biographical Dictionary of Women in Science. London: Routledge.

The Castle Studies Group
Nd      “Ella Armitage” The Castle Studies Group. http://www.castlestudiesgroup.org.uk/page93.html. Retrieved Jan. 19 2013.

Categories: Mothers of the Field, Women in Archaeology | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

How did the Easter Island Statues Get There? They Might Have Walked!

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While doing research for my Remote Sensing project I happily stumbled across an entry in the book, Satellite Remote Sensing for Archaeology by Sarah H. Parcak, that I just had to look up. Once I got into it, I knew I had to share, since more than a few have asked about this very topic. Specifically,  how the Easter Island Statures were moved. Well researchers Dr. Carl Lipo and Dr. Terry Hunt might have an answer, using Remote Sensing!

Moai set in the hillside at Rano Raraku

First, What are the Easter Island Statues? Officially called the Moai, they are stone monoliths depicting giant human figures with extremely large heads. The stone they are carved from is called  Tuff, which is an easily carved,  compressed volcanic ash [Radford 2012]. The tuff quarries are located in an extinct volcano called Rano Raraku on the northeastern part of the island [Radford 2012]. Experts, and locals, attribute them to depictions of ancestors and great leaders. Others, attribute them to, yes, Aliens and the like.

Before we get into what they found let’s look over some of the alternative theories out there.

The site called The Hidden Records is kinda typical of the kind of ideas Ancient Alien Theorists get. I like this one, mainly because it’s written by a guy named  Wayne, who likes to refer to himself in the first person. This amused the Archy, so the Archy decided to peruse the Wayne’s entry on the Moai.

I’m not going to lie, I skimmed this site. It took a while for the Wayne to get to the point, which was that the Moai are somehow connected to an ancient global cult who worshiped bird-headed spacemen, as shown by the dubious claim that the statues are aligned with the “Sol-Star”. Also, carved onto the bodies are both the symbol ‘O’ and ‘M’ which, other than being two of the most simplest symbols to form, also connect the statures to the global Space-BirdMan cult.

The Wayne did throw a few questions out there, and a couple really caught my attention, manly because they were so easily answered. Not that this will impress the Wayne, he’s sure to point out, he’s never heard a satisfactory explanation for the correlations he sees, but that’s a true believer for you. These questions are pretty common among any conspiracy/true believer I’ve encountered.

“How strange is that just for starters? The first expedition unearthed them and documented the breaking discovery pictographic[sic] evidence, didn’t make it public in a big way at all, then for unknown reasons, buried them again! This is insane! What could have been so shocking for them to have been completely covered up again?”

This comment comes after a ramble about the excavation of the a few of the Moai statues. They were indeed excavated, and they do possess detailed bodies beneath the ground, but this comment shows the Wayne’s lack of understanding of how archaeology works. It also makes several assumptions that are not validated.

Firstly, The Wayne assumes the statues were originality buried. What the Wayne doesn’t seem to understand is that really heavy objects sink over time, especial when they are sat on bare ground. We see this a lot with headstones in cemeteries. The weight of the stone forces itself to sink into the ground over the years, especially in regions where there is rainy weather that softens the ground seasonally.

Secondly, it’s not so shocking that the archaeologists would have reburied the statue, it’s actually a very common practice that helps to preserve a site or object. Nearly everyone does it, especially when we’re looking at things that we are not intending to remove or if a dig takes more than one season. For some reason the Wayne thinks that all archaeologists do is dig things up, rip them from the ground, and then scamper off to a museum. Lots of things get left in-situ for prosperity and because the point was to examine them, not abscond with another culture’s artifacts.

Third, The Wayne assumes, as many alternative theorists do, that there is some great academic conspiracy that every “mainstream” researcher is in on. Therefor the researchers who worked on the Moai dig kept their findings quiet and then tried to hide the evidence because it’s so shocking. The reality is that there is a lot of academic research on the Moai and it’s very accessible to the public. Including the site the Easter Island Statue Project which is a great resource for those with questions about the Island and it’s ancient culture. They have links to their expeditions,  excavations, and artifact logs. Dr. Hunt also makes his research accessible to the public via his personnel page.

Moai facing inland at Ahu Tongariki, restored by Chilean archaeologist Claudio Cristino in the 1990s

But the Wayne goes on. This time about how he can’t possibly figure out how two civilizations develop independently of each other.

“By chance having two individual civilisations[sic] on opposite sides of the planet, one located in the middle of an ocean, having the same obsession with massive stone carvings and showing the same symbols, story, style and entity appearance is absolutely mind blowing!”

This is actually called Convergent evolution and applies easily to cultures as well as species. What I don’t understand is why people don’t get that we are all humans and each of us just as capable as the other. So why is it so hard to grasp that two different cultures can come up with the same idea? Especially when they live on the same planet, encounter the same natural forces, look up at the same sky, and share the same biological needs? The Wayne seems to be amazed that multiple cultures could look up at the starry sky at night and come up with constellations completely independent of one another. That idea confuses him, but a global Space-Bird Cult is completely reasonable.

It’s also a very sad statement how intellectually poor The Wayne, and most that think along these lines, think our ancestors were. Apparently our ancestors were so intellectually deficient that they couldn’t possibly figure out how to carve stone, make symbols into words, and have their own cultures without Spaceman helping them out. It’s terrifically insulting to ancient cultures, and vaguely racist. As usual, the Wayne is very white, and well, the Rapa Nui (who are the descendants of the Moai culture) are kinda brown-ish. It’s more of a micro-aggression then full-blown racism, but it’s a common thread in these “ancient people were visited by aliens” theories, and people need to be aware of it.

Anyway, I could spend all day breaking down the Wayne’s arguments, but I think we all get the idea. There are people out there who think the Moai were either built by aliens or for aliens.

So how did these huge Stone statues get from their quarries to where they are now? Well, they walked. According to the History Channel’s excellent mockery of a documentary called Ancient Aliens, when the Spacemen came down and had the statures carved to fit their egos, then they animated the statues so that they would walk to locations the would be found at.

The “Walking” Moai, via NBCNews.com

But the History Channel may not be as wrong as they usually are. This time there is a bit of meat to this idea. Hunt and Lipo reproduced the “walking” of the statues by having three teams maneuver the statue using ropes [Boyle 2010]. It’s more fun if you watch this video:

[Boyle 2012]

But honestly, that’s not the coolest part for me. The coolest part is that Hunt and Lipo also have used infrared-satellight images to identify the very roads that the statures were probably walked down. These roads have been set upon by the natural processes that occur over time, but that’s whats so damn cool about using remote sensing, you can see the scars left behind by ancient peoples on the landscape!

“Figure 1. A panchromatic 70cm resolution QuickBird satellite image showing an ancient road section leading west-south-west from the Rano Raraku statue quarry (A). Statues that surround the quarry are easily visible in this image (B) as is the modern parking lot (C). The ancient road (D) is visible primarily as a horse trail and as a line of vegetation that runs from the north-east to the south-west corner of the image. This feature likely reflects sediment compaction with greater water retention and subsequent vegetation growth. Multiple large statues (moai) line this road near the quarry (E). The satellite image was provided by RADARSAT, Inc and DigitalGlobe, Inc.” [Lipo and Hunt 2005]

That’s pretty darn cool to me. You should be able to click through the image to get to the full paper. The picture is much nicer in the pdf version.

I was really excited when I saw this little tidbit, and I really wanted to share it with you. The more I learn about remote sensing the more I am stoked about learning to use it to aid in archaeology. Especially since I know this paper was used to help Lipo and Hunt form their “Walking Statue  hypothesis  which led to the testing of it, which aids in the debunking of sites like The Wayne’s.

Dr.s Lipo and Hunt [Boyle 2012]

I want to leave you with one last quote from the Cosmic Log article because this really drives home the damage that racism of the Ancient Alien theorists cause:

“So did the statues rock, or roll? The debate over the two scenarios surrounding Easter Island’s past could well continue for generations. But it’s clear which scenario is preferred by the islanders themselves.

“The young people … they’re celebrating. I don’t think there’s any other word for it,” Hunt said. “One came up to me and said, ‘It’s so important for my generation to know we’re not failures.’ That brought tears to my eyes.” [Boyle 2012]

Resources:

Boyle, Alan

2012  How Easter Island’s Statues Walked. Cosmic Log, NBCNews.COM. http://cosmiclog.nbcnews.com/_news/2012/06/19/12302614-how-easter-islands-statues-walked?lite. Retrieved Nov. 8 2012

Lipo, Carl P. and Terry L. Hunt

2005   Mapping prehistoric statue roads on Easter Island. Antiquity vol 79: 158-168. http://www.anthropology.hawaii.edu/people/faculty/Hunt/pdfs/lipo&hunt%202005.pdf. Retrieved Nov. 8 2012

Radford, Ben

2012   Did Aliens Visit Eater Island? Discovery News. http://news.discovery.com/history/tv-show-aliens-visited-easter-island-120915.html. Retrieved Nov. 8 2012

Van Tilburg, Jo Anne and Cristián Arévalo Pakarati

2012  The Easter Island Statue Project. http://www.eisp.org.  Retrieved Nov. 8 2012

Categories: Ancient Astronauts, GIS and Remote Sensing, Weird Archaeology | Tags: , , , , , , , , , | 8 Comments

Between the Nazca Lines: What are the Nazca Lines?

Let’s continue with our re-look at the Nazca Lines!

Photo care of Don Proulx’s Website

Let me tell you, there is a lot of crap out there about the Nazca Lines, and I do mean crap. Everything from linking them to 2012 to, of course, Aliens. Surprisingly, Aliens are not the #1 explanation for the lines, it seems, from the sites I’ve seen, that the general consensus is that they are spiritual in nature. The Spiritual-ness is so broad and varied that I’m not going to even try to tackle it here.

The nitty-gritty of what the lines are made of is that the lines are glyphs that were “etched” into the southern Peruvian desert floor by the removal of the darker, oxidized brown rocks, revealing the whiter rocks below. The contrast of the lighter rocks against the darker rocks is what creates the lines, which form everything from animal glyphs (boimorphs) to geometric shapes [Proulx 2000]. Though the majority of geoglyps are dated to the Nazca Culture, some are even older [Isla 2007, Proulx 2000].

Maria Reiche

Perhaps the popularity of the lines came in the 1920s when commercial flights between Lima and Arequipa, Peru become available [Hall 2010]. Other than speculation, no real research was apparently done on the lines until a German-born teacher named Maria Reiche made the first formal surveys of the lines and figures [Hall 2010]. This was sometime after World War II and Reiche continued her surveys and conservation until her death in 1998 [Hall 2010].

Of course Reiche had a hypothesis on what the geoglyphs represented, and in her surveys seemed to find evidence supporting it. Reiche hypothesized that the geoglyphs represented settings on an astronomical calendar [Hall 2010]. This particular and perhaps first formal hypothesis is still one of the most popular, despite being mostly discredited by modern survey and research [Hall 2010].

One such modern survey was called The Nazca Lines Project. In which Dr. Donald A. Proulx, a Professor of Anthropology at the University of Massachusetts, participated from 1996-2000. The project was dreamed up by one David Jonson, who believed he had found a strong spatial correlation between the location of puquios (an old system of aqueducts native to the area), wells, and the geoglyphs [Proulx 2000].

Photo Care of Don Proulx’s Website.

He present the hypothesis that :

“…trapezoids lay directly over what he calls veins, but which more accurately are zones of higher permeability materials consisting of coarser gravels associated with distributary[sic] channels in the alluvial material. Johnson claims that the width of the trapezoids defined the width of the zone capable of transmitting ground water. A zigzag pattern located along the boundary of a trapezoid indicated there was no water and defined the boundary of the water flow. Triangular geoglyphs pointed to sources of water. The last correlation that he noted was that there were always archaeological sites affiliated with geological features, puquios and wells.” [Proulx 2000]

In what was to become Johnson’s hypothesis, he and Dr. Proulx further refined it.

“These observations led to a new working hypothesis for the function of the Nazca lines that was different from any previous idea: geological faults and alluvial gravels provide pathways for ground water flow, and they transmit water as a zone of concentrated flow into the valleys. These geological features collect water in one part of the drainage and conduct it across and down the valleys to locations where it can be reached by digging puquios or wells, or to locations where the water table is high enough for springs or seepage to be present on the surface. The ancient people realized they could find a reliable source of fresh water at these locations and that is where they established their habitation sites. Johnson claims the ancient Nazca marked the flow of subterranean water with geoglyphs. He argued that there are five factors that are consistently found together: geological faults and/or higher permeability sands and gravels with the alluvial fans, archaeological sites, an aquifer, a source of fresh water (spring, seep, puquio, or well), and the geoglyphs that mark their location. Where one or more of these features are found there is a high probability the others are present.” [Proulx 2000]

In the end, after thorough investigation and evaluation of the data, there were some favorable association with particular glyphs, but no concrete association overall.

It’s important to note here that this doesn’t completely invalidate Johnson’s hypothesis, but it does show that the original needs to be reworked in light of the new evidence.

Still, even with this extensive piece of research and survey, that I recommend people read over and follow associated links, the Alien proponents still hang on. Without conclusive evidence to the contrary (and even with), those who want to believe will, as Von Daniken shows us over and over. Even with the most recent and most comprehensive research into the lines done by Johny Isla, who Von Daniken mentions by name in his newest book, and Dr. Markus Reindel.

From what I can tell, Von Daniken seems upset because Isla led a team that has produced the most concrete explanation for the lines with some very in-depth insights.

Johny Isla is the director of the Andean Institute of Archaeological Studies. Published several times and is co-director of the Nazca -Palpa Project, with Dr. Markus Reindel of the Dutch Institute of Archaeology.

Dr. Markus Reindel’s focus on the project was photogrammetric mapping of the sites using photogrammetric reconstruction. Basically, they take a whole lot of high res pictures along with GPS points and then merge the data together to produce very detailed, practically 3D images. He published his teams work in “New Technologies for Archaeology, Multidisciplinary Investigations in Palpa and Nazca, Peru” in 2009.

So, back to the Project…

Archaeologists are using high-resolution digital images to create detailed maps of the lines, shown here in orange, made by the Nazca and Paracas cultures. (Photo: Courtesy Prof. Dr. Armin Gruen, ETH Zurich, Institute of Geodesy and Photogrammetry)

The Nazca-Palpa Project: Photogrammetric Reconstruction of the Geoglyphs of Nazca and Palpa, was extremely extensive, rather than list all participants I’ll just link you to the projects paper. It’s a bit of a read, with lots of good stuff, but the best is in the results, where they not only show you the awesome pictures they produced, but their written conclusions.

First they were able to date the geoglyphs, all of them. From their data, glyph making started in the Late Paracas times at about 400 BC [Isla 2007]. At this time motifs normally engraved on rocks and boulders (petroglyphs) were transferred to the desert surface and the hillsides surrounding the valleys. These earliest figures were much smaller but still observable from far away and consisted of human shapes [Isla 2007].

The geoglyphs continued until the end of the Nazca era (after AD 600) when the neighboring Wari empire from the eastern highlands extended its influence down the south coast. The deposition of pottery on the geoglyphs continued for a 200 years more and then ceased all together [Isla 2007].

The project concludes that the Geoglyph complexes were probably related to kin groups who shared land rights [Isla 2007]. Members would gather on different occasions to create new geoglyphs, or remodel existing ones. During ceremony they may have walked along the geoglyphs depositing ceremonial goods like ceramic vessels containing food or beverages, field crops, textiles, Spondylus shells etc. All these goods were in some way or another related to the concepts of water and fertility which were critical to the worldview of the ancient inhabitants of Nazca [Isla 2007].

Oyster (Spondylus) shells were crafted into ornaments and left as sacrifices in Nazca water rituals. (Photo: Andrew Curry)

In this way the geoglyphs become part of the cultural landscape of the valley, creating massive gathering points for kin groups for ceremony or possibly just show. They helped establish group identity and status [Isla 2007].

The project results concludes:

“It is important to note in this context that in a common effort vast stretches of the desert were marked at large-scale and thereby integrated into the cultural domain of the valley-based society. Thus, like never before or later, the hostile desert was converted into dynamic and vibrant cultural space. However, the geoglyphs bear not only integrative, but also competitive elements. Visibility studies clearly show that intervisibility was an important aspect in geoglyph placement and order. Though the geoglyphs themselves were usually not easily discernable from neighboring sites, posts erected on them and people moving around them certainly were. Geoglyph sites therefore assumed a stage-like function, and group activity upon them raised awareness of group identity among members as well as outsiders. Thus, geoglyphs played an important role in defining group status. At the same time, geoglyph-related activity was somehow independent of changing societal circumstances down in the valleys. Distribution patterns of geoglyph sites proved to be much more stable than that of settlements, cemeteries and other cultural features. All in all, geoglyphs can literally be understood as common ground for all members of Nazca society.” [Isla 2007]

I highly recommend people reading over this report. I’m not sure what Von Daniken found fault in beside his paranoid ramblings about how he wasn’t allowed to walk all over the sites whenever he wanted. Besides, the technology they used to photography the areas is pretty cool.

So in my own conclusion, though you’ll never find a scientist willing to say that the Nazca lines are without a doubt simply cultural and ceremonial in nature, the research speaks for itself. Even the original hypothesis by Reiche merely suggested the glyphs were aligned with seasonal constellations and celestial activity, she never went as far as to suggest more than simple utility.

There is no need to make these lines more than what they were. They were tools, maps, and group markers made by humans to aid humans in their everyday lives. They are still amazing in their size and scope. They speak to human ingenuity and group co-ordination. Let’s not make less of our ancestors, let’s admire them more.

Resources:

Hall, Stephen S
2010 Spirits in the Sand: The ancient Nazca lines of Peru shed their secrets. March 2010 http://ngm.nationalgeographic.com/print/2010/03/nasca/hall-text

Proulx, Donald A.
2000 The Nazca Lines Project (1996-2000) http://www-unix.oit.umass.edu/~proulx/Nasca_Lines_Project.html

Isla, Johny
2007 Nazca-Palpa Project: Photogrammetric Reconstruction of the Geoglyphs of Nasca and Palpa January 2007 http://www.photogrammetry.ethz.ch/research/peru/index.html (link appears to be broken)

http://www.dainst.org/medien/de/nasca_reindel-gruen-final.pdf (This link send you to a copy of the paper produced from this project.)

Curry, Andrew

2009 Rituals of the Nazca Lines. Archaeological Institute of America. Volume 62 Number 3, May/June 2009www.archaeology.org/0905/abstracts/nasca.html Retrieved September 18 2012.

Categories: Ancient Astronauts, Between the Nazca Lines | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

The 10 Most Not-So-Puzzling Ancient Artifacts: The Baghdad Battery

Ah the Baghdad Battery, such a simple, yet confounding object…or is it?

Let’s start at the beginning…or should I say beginnings?

The story starts with one German artist/archaeologist Wilhelm Konig who either unearthed the vessel during an excavation in Khujut Rabu [2], or found the object in the basement of the Baghdad Museum when he took over as curator [6]. Now, Konig was a real person, he was appointed Assistant Director of the Baghdader Antikenverwaltung (the Baghdad Antiquities’ Administration), becoming its Director in 1934 [1], and he appears to have published a paper on the Battery but I can’t find a copy [2, 4].

So let’s ignore the two conflicting origin stories and move on.

When the vessel was examined there was evidence of an acidic substance being present, and a copper cylinder and a metal rod, all held in place with an asphalt plug. Konig supposedly said this was a battery and was used for electroplating items with gold or sliver leaf, and ever since the pseudo-archaeology world has run with it.

So here are the red flags:

Red Flag #1 – Multiple Origin Stories.

Anytime I see this I get suspicious. If it was a real discovery of a real object of this much importance, there would be a record to certify its authenticity.  We’re lacking this here. Konig was a real person, but he wouldn’t be the first in history to have his identity abused to further a fantasy.

Red Flag #2 – Dating The Pot Itself.

This little tid-bit doesn’t pop up until research begins to be done on the pot. You see, the original age of the pot is said to be from the Parthian era, 250 BC – 225 AD [6, 2]. Yet if we look at the artistic nature of the pot itself we find they are made in the style of the Sassanians People, who lived from 250 AD – 650 AD [6, 2]. This is an 900 year difference.

Red Flag #3 – Electroplating

Konig suggested the batteries were for electroplating, but again, there is no real evidence to support that [2]. To start, the method used by Mesopotamians is believed to be fire-gilding, using mercury [1]. Not to mention the  only scientist to supposedly able to use the batteries for electroplating, didn’t make any records of her experiments.

Dr Arne Eggebrecht, a past director of Roemer and Pelizaeus Museum in Hildesheim, supposedly experimented by connecting several replica Batteries together and used grape juice as her acid. She claims to have deposited a very thin layer of silver on an object [2]. Other scientists dispute this, due to a lack of records and that no one has been able to replicate her experiment [2].

In an interview with the BBC, Dr. Bettina Schmitz said, “There does not exist any written documentation of the experiments which took place here in 1978… The experiments weren’t even documented by photos, which really is a pity,” she says. “I have searched through the archives of this museum and I talked to everyone involved in 1978 with no results.” Dr Schmitz is currently a researcher based at the Roemer and Pelizaeus Museum.

Red Flag #4 – The Actual Construction of the Battery.

A Modified “Baghdad Battery”

The clay pot is roughly five inches long, with a copper cylinder inside and an iron rod all held in place by an asphalt stopper. Testing suggests that there was some kind of acidic substance inside the pot at one time [5]. Things start to fall apart when we examine the battery further.

The vessel and the metal innards all resemble artifacts found elsewhere in the region, in Seleucia on the Tigris river, which were used to store papyrus [4,5]. The acidic residue in the pots could easily have been decimated papyrus [4, 6] and since the batters were supposedly left to the elements, it’s not unthinkable that this is indeed the case [4].

Also, the asphalt cap used to seal the battery completely covered the metal pieces [4], so there would have been no way to actually connect the battery to anything [1,4]. Even if there had been a way, there have never been any wires to suggest such a connection, or any devices that would require electricity, found associated with the batteries [2, 4].

Red Flag #5 – Archaeologists Familiar with the Region don’t Think it’s a Battery, When They Think About it at all.

Elizabeth Stone, Stony Brook University archaeologist and professor of archaeology, talked about her dig in Iraq, the first in 20 years [3]. During the interview on NPR’s Science Friday she received a question from a caller asking about the battery. She replied that she didn’t know a single archaeologist who believed the Battery was a battery [3]. Dr. Stone is considered an authority on Iraq archaeology, and if anyone knew anything about the Batteries, she would. Her null answer, speaks volumes on the topic.

Building a Baghdad Replica.

The Anatomy of a “Baghdad Battery”

It is true that, with some modification, you too can build a Battery that works, as has been proven by the Mythbusters and several academic projects [6]. There are even directions on the wonderful site Instructables on how to build your own. However, sticking a probe into a lemon will provide more of an electrical current then the Battery, and is much cheaper to constrict [5].

So what are the Baghdad Batteries?

They are simply clay vessels that housed copper cylinders. Such cylinders are known to have held papyrus scrolls.The majority of Archaeologists agree with this interpretation. I’m going to invoke Occam’s Razor and go with the the archaeology here, that supports the vessels as being scroll jars.

I know that’s not as Hollywood as electrical batteries or evidence of alien contact. But it is closer to reality and the majority of the evidence supports it, where there is none to support the other ideas.


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Want more on this topic? Go to Reviews: The 1o Most Not So Puzzling Ancient Artifacts.

Comment below or send an email to ArchyFantasies@gmail.com

 

Resources:

[1] Bad Archaeology. “The ‘Batteries of Babylon’.” http://www.badarchaeology.com/?page_id=208#   Accessed 6/22/2012.

[2] BBC News. “Riddle of ‘Baghdad’s batteries’.” BBC News Science and Enviroment. 2/27/2003. http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/science/nature/2804257.stm#story Accessed 6/22/2012.

[3] Science Friday. “Archaeologists Revisit Iraq.” 3/23/2012.
http://www.sciencefriday.com/segment/03/23/2012/archaeologists-revisit-iraq.html. Accessed 6/22/2012.

[4] Skeptic World. “The Baghdad Battery”. http://www.skepticworld.com/ancient-artifacts/baghdad-battery.asp Accessed 6/22/2012.

[5] Temples, Tombs, and Spaceships. “The Baghdad Battery.”  Oct 12th, 2010. http://sites.matrix.msu.edu/pseudoarchaeology/2010/10/12/the-baghdad-battery-and-ancient-electricity/. Accessed 6/22/2012.

[6] The Iron Skeptic. “The ‘Baghdad Battery’.” http://www.theironskeptic.com/articles/battery/battery.htm. Accessed 6/22/2012.

Categories: 10 Most Puzzling Ancient Artifacts, Weird Archaeology | Tags: , , , , , , , , | 40 Comments

Women in Archaeology : Mothers of the Field

I’ve been working on this series for a long time, but untill recently, I didn’t have much of a direction beyond telling you about all the great women out there in the world of archaeology. However, while going over my notes from school, I realized something, most of the men credited with forming and practicing archaeology had wives who were with them on their expeditions, so where were their stories? Since the field of archaeology was so undefined untill recently, surely these women were equally founders of the field? So what about them?

This raised an interesting challenge for me, could I recreate the history of archaeology from the women’s perspectives? I will admit, there isn’t a whole lot out there for many of the first mothers of the field, but I won’t let that slow me down. I’ve found some interesting things just by doing this research, and I think things will get easier to research as I move to more modern times.

So with a new plan in the wing, and a new direction to move in, let’s get this series back on track!

To start I want to back up to Mary Anning, who was invaluable to the field of paleontology.  Just follow the link and read up on this incredible woman. Then I want to move forward from there and re-examine Archaeology from the female perspective.

For more in this series check out Mother’s of the Field.

Categories: History of Archaeology, Mothers of the Field, Women in Archaeology | Tags: , , , , , | 2 Comments

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