On the ArchyFantasies side, we moved the Podcast to an independent platform, reached out to several new guests and hosts, really launched our Pateron and in general really liked the way the podcast and the blog have expanded.
It thought it might be interesting to look back at the past year and see what our most popular articles and podcast episodes were. I was expecting a fair amount of overlap, but there was a kind of divide between my podcast and my blog.
I’m glad to see such a variety of topics being enjoyed by folks on the podcast. Everything this year from our first episode to the emerging study of Archaeogaming. There’s a pretty wide variety there too, one I don’t really see in the blog.
The 10 Most Not-So-Puzzling Ancient Artifacts series is still going strong, and frankly, I blame Ancient Aliens. But hey, they’re driving people to my blog so…
I am glad to see criticism of Legends of the Lost is doing well too. They’re the top posts by almost double the others. That’s hearting.
Keeping it brief here, I like the way things are going here, but I can also see clear trends that people appear to want, given the medium. So saying, I’ve got several new and, hopefully, exciting new things to try with the podcast and blog, but we won’t be losing our staples either.
All that said, into the New Year we go! Thanks to everyone who has supported us this far, stick with us for more Archaeology, outreach, and plain old fun!
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Today, Dr. Jennifer Raff is back with us to talk about some recent articles on genetics in archaeology. Particularly the discovery of a new genetic ancestor to early Americans and new evidence about the migration of early Americans.
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!
Episode 50 of the Archaeological Fantasies is live, and Ken and I were able to finally sit down with someone who knows quite a bit about the use of DNA and genetics in archaeology. Jennifer Raff, who’s covered all this wonderfully over at her own blog Violent Metaphors, was just the podcast guest I’ve been looking for to help us sus out all the ins and outs of genetic evidence in archaeology.
I’m not going to rehash all of this in this post, Jennifer has done the lion’s share on her blog and paper, and then again on the podcast. I suggest you go give it all a read and a listen. It really clarifies questions I had about ancient genetics and prehistoric DNA.
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Episode 30 has dropped ( a while ago now) and it’s chocked full of Ken and I ranting about how important Myth, Oral Traditions, and even local lore can be to archaeologists and archaeology as a field.
I know that I harp a lot about the misunderstood and misused records of Native American mythology, but there’s a good reason for it. Too often the fringe likes to turn to the myths and oral traditions of a random tribe in order to try and support a story they are trying to sell. The problem they inadvertently run into is taking a myth or oral tradition out of context.
Context, as we know, is Queen, much like the GPS is God. When you chose to ignore context, you can make up anything you want and probably find something out there to support it. That doesn’t make it true or correct, and the refusal to see that is just insulting at best. I’ve lost count of how many times I’ve seen or read some fringe theorists spouting off about how they know more about what a Native tradition “really meant” than the living decedents of that tradition. What’s more is by trying to force traditions that aren’t yours to fit your favorite story, you’re missing out on actual information that is being conveyed via these rich and varied traditions.
So give the episode a listen, or a second listen, and let us know what you think!
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.
Here on the blog we’ve just started to dip our toe into the waters of Oak Island. However, there is one recent detail that has popped up that we just can’t wait to discuss. That topic is the Roman Sword that was supposedly found off the coast of Oak Island in a shipwreck.
According to the Daily Mail;
” Researchers, led by Jovan Hutton Pulitzer, claim they have evidence that Roman ships visited North America ‘during the first century or earlier.’ (Zolfagharifard 2015)”
Sounds cool! So what’s the evidence?
Pulitzer claims that he’s found a Roman sword that is “100 per cent confirmed (Gadd 2015, Zolfagharifard 2015)” and that is “the smoking gun to his theory (Gadd 2015, Zolfagharifard 2015)”. He says that the sword was discovered in a shipwreck just off the coast of Oak Island, and apparently made this announcement on the History Channel’s show Curse of Oak Island (Gadd 2015, Zolfagharifard 2015).
It doesn’t take long for this claim to start unraveling though, and unraveling in such a spectacular way at that.
First, the discovery of the sword is not exactly well documented. In Pulitzer’s own words in his interview with the Boston Standard last year:
“Pulitzer explained: “Some years ago, a man and his son were scalloping off Oak Island, which sees them hang rake-like object off the back of their boat. When they brought this up, the sword came up with it.
“The father kept it for decades, and when he died it went to his wife, then his daughter. Then when she died many years later it went to her husband. It was he who came forward to the island and said ‘I think you should know about this and where it was found.” (Gadd 2015)”
This is not the way to find reliable artifacts. We’ve gone over this many times on this blog and on the podcast. Context is King, Queen, and God. In order for an artifact to be valid it must be documented. Pictures, diagrams, documents, etc. This doesn’t exist with this sword. Even if it was a true artifact, the value of it beyond being cool looking is lost and it is by no means viable as evidence of anything by this point. So, this is the first problem, and frankly, for me, it’s a death knell. But there’s more…
One of my favorite things that Andy has done is gotten his hands on several other copies (he’s up to 10 now) of the exact same sword that Pulitzer has tried to put forward as 100% real. So far Andy has created a database of the copies, and made point by point comparisons showing that the swords are all related to each other. He’s created a time-line of sorts using the differences on the sword hilts. He’s made his research and findings accessible to the public at large, so you can go look at the work he’s doing to debunk this now famous Not-Roman artifact. Andy’s pretty much stuck a fork in the topic.
Pulitzer for his part has tried to offer up more “evidence” for Romans in Canada. The Boston Standard lists a few of these, so lets have a look shall we?
Pulitzer claims that the originating shipwreck is still off the coast of Nova Scotia and that it is undisturbed, which is clearly not true since he supposedly has an artifact from it. He says that his team have “scanned it” whatever that means (Gadd 2015) and that it is definitely Roman (Gadd 2015). He’s not released these scans to anyone to see, so we have to take his word for it. In the exact same paragraph though, he makes mention that the wreck hasn’t been seen first hand yet, because the Nova Scotia government is hesitant to send an actual archaeological team down there (Gadd 2015). I can only assume they are even more hesitant let treasure hunters down there.
Pulitzer also tries to used DNA evidence to prove his point, saying that;
” “The Mi’kmaq carry the rarest DNA marker in the world which comes from the ancient Levant (the eastern Mediterranean). You can’t screw with DNA.” (Gadd 2015)”
No, but you can grossly misrepresent it and not actually understand what’s being shown. Jason Colavito covers this pretty succinct on his blog;
” He [Pulitzer] also alleges that the Mi’kmaq have Levantine DNA, which is a claim based on the fringe history DNA Consultants’allegation that the Mi’kmaq’s Haplogroup X links them to the ancient Near East, something that DNA experts dispute. (Colavito 2015)”
Pulitzer also claims that there Mi’kmaq petroglyphs in the surrounding area showing Roman legionnaires (Gadd 2015). Just looking at the offered image it’s clear either those are the longest swords ever made, or their something more like spears. Which I’m sure the Mi’kmaq peoples were and are familiar with. See, we don’t need a legion of Europeans to explain Native petroglyphs, Native people are capable of explaining themselves. I wonder if anyone has bothered to asked them about their petroglyphs?
Just for good measure Pulitzer tries to tie in linguistics, which is almost never accurate when used by the fringe as Colavito points out:
” He [Pulitzer] further argues that the Mi’kmaq preserve 50 Roman sailing terms, though he identifies none. Since the Mi’kmaq have a long history of interaction with French sailors, and French is a Romance language, if there are Latinate borrowings, he would need to prove these were not mediated through French. (Colavito 2015)”
He’s also offered a variety of Roman items that are not found on Oak Island, but around Nova Scotia as a whole. None of which are particularly impressive and all of which are without context. They are neat to collect, but not actual evidence of anything.
Lastly, Pulitzer tries to argue that the Romans brought an invasive species of plant with them on their voyages to help them fight scurvy (Gadd 2015). Said plant is now found all over the area. But plant he points to is called barberry (Berberis vulgaris) and was brought by the Europeans during the colonial period (Colavito 2015). Which would make sense since all the shipwrecks in the area are dated between 18th and 19th centuries (Gadd 2015).
Pulitzer has been proclaiming quite loudly that he’s going to produce a White Paper. No one has seen it, except maybe the Boston Standard. Much like no one has seen the shipwreck scan, or like how no one gets to see the “original” Roman sword for actual research purposes.
All and all, in my opinion, this issue is a modern fraud. I for one am glad to see how quickly archaeologists like Andy and his supporting community have risen to the clarion to debunk it.
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This episode Ken and I chew over the Coso Artifact. It’s a fun episode since, as per the blog post on this topic, we already know what it really is. We still look over the origin story and the impact this little Oopart has today.
On an important note, The Archaeology Podcast Network is looking for people willing donate time to edit all of our wonderful and informative podcasts, including this one. If you’ve got the know-how to edit a .wav file and create a cohesive show out of our run-on sentences, drop Chris an email at email@example.com and make sure to put “Show Editing” in the subject line.