Tag Archives: Egypt

Everything New is Old, The History of Psuedoarchaeolgy and Archaeology.

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Have I mentioned I’m doing my thesis lately? I feel like maybe I haven’t…

What this really is, is an excuse for is so that I can read all these books I have piling up in more depth. I’ve put them in some order, ish, and I’ve decided to share my thoughts with you all as I go.

I started with Lost Tribes & Sunken Continents; Myth and Method in the Study of American Indians by Robert Wauchope. I’m enjoying this book as it’s written openly and conversationally. Also, the little hints of 1960’s sexism amuse me. I think the most important aspects of this book are how everything is just on a cycle of rinse, later, repeat when it comes to the fringe and pseudoarchaeology — keeping in mind that my printing of the book is from 1962 – reading the stories and issues that Wauchope shares rings a familiar bell.

In the first few chapters, Wauchope talks about lost tribes and Lost cultures. He starts with the Maya and the exciting idea that some people in the late 1800’s had that the ancient Mayans actually traveled to Europe and thereby populated it. He focuses early on Augustus Le Plongeon the French amateur archaeologist from the late 19th century. The comparisons between Le Plongeon and modern-day writers like Graham Hancock, Eric fund and again, and Scott Wolter is probably more striking than it should be. The writers above directly reflect the fervent obsession that Le Plongeon shows to his theories. Even though their writing almost 150 years between each other.

I feel like Wauchope did an excellent job of pointing out the ideas and “theories” that Le Plongeon and his cohorts held and argued over. I will say that Roberts language at times is not what we consider polite anymore. Wauchope seems to take to the idea of combating pseudoarchaeology with ridicule and humor. He does, however, mention several times the damage that pseudoarchaeology goal claims like these can have. His words nearly verbatim what modern archaeologists say today. I suppose the significant difference between Wauchope writing in the 1960s and archaeologists writing about pseudoarchaeology today is that the damage of pseudoarchaeology the Wauchope was speculating could occur, as come to pass. We, the archaeologists of the 2020s, now have to deal with most of these ideas that Wauchope brings up, being mainstream “theories” that get more air time and media exposure than real archaeology could hope for, at least here in the Americas.

It is fascinating to me to know that someone was dropping warnings about the effects of pseudoarchaeology back in the 1960s. It’s not that pseudoarchaeology didn’t exist before this point; however, it is a little disheartening to know that we were being warned and not enough people listened.

It’s also good to see how Wauchope immediately takes the pseudoarchaeology topics he tackles in his book to task over their racism. He calls out to this particular trait in the first chapter of his concise book. The reason it’s so interesting to me is that the inherent racism of pseudo-archaeological claims is a major focus of debunking efforts these days. To see that it was being addressed 60 years ago kinda tells you something. It means archaeologists recognized the wrongness of the hyper-diffusionism idea of a parent race/culture early and were sensitive to the implications of such a claim.

It’s also interesting to see Wauchope talking about Le Plongeon and other not-yet-fringe archaeologists in the same way that archaeologists today talk about our own fringe and their ideas.

I guess the best way to put it is it’s like hearing a Justin Berber remake of a Queen song, then hearing his fans accuse Queen of ripping off Justin Berber. ( and if you don’t think that happened boy do I have a story for you). It’s a little surreal seeing something that you deal with on the daily, being talked about as a clear issue 60 years before your own interactions with the topic.

My other goal in reading this book is that I’m finally starting to understand where some of these pseudoarchaeology ideas originated like in the case of Le Plongeon and his theory of Mayan and Egyptian similarities.

Interestingly enough, Le Plongeon did not suggest that Egyptians came to the Americas, but rather that Mayans made it over to Egypt, thereby making American natives the culture bearers to the Egyptians. I find that to be an interesting twist to an old story, but then have to remind myself that Le Plongeon was among one of the first to start promoting such things.

Wauchope also hits on the concepts of lost tribes, Hebrew Indians, and both the sunken continents of Atlantis and Lemuria/Mu. I know Jeb has talked about the Mu stones more than once, and I’ll link those podcast episodes down below. Wauchope, however, talks about the origins of the idea of Lemuria/Mu. The purpose of this particular islands came into being not for any supernatural reason, but because an early German biologist, Ernst Jaekel, insisted that old world monkeys must’ve evolved on a now-vanished island in the Indian Ocean because otherwise the diversity of the lemur couldn’t be explained. Ernst was unfortunately wrong, and when presented with evidence showing such, he dropped that idea.

However the island of Lemuria/Mu lived on, and though it’s not as popular as Atlantis, even today, it’s still just as mysterious.

I am only about halfway through this book because it takes forever to read anything when you’re reading it for school. I am looking forward to the future topics in the book though, especially Chapter 8 titled “The Righteous and the Racists.”

I’m looking forward to seeing how little concepts and ideas in pseudoarchaeology have changed over the past 60 years. This, despite being continuously confronted by not only skeptics but professional archaeologists and scientists too.


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Resources:

Jeb Card and the Mu Stones, AF Podcast 35

Dr. Jeb Card and the ‘Mu Stones’ – My-Mu Blog

Dr. Jeb Card and the Mu Stones – Youtube vid

From Miami University to the Lost Continent of Mu

Lina Dorina Johanna Eckenstein – The Polymath of Egypt

Little is really known about Lina Eckenstein as an archaeologist, despite what could be considered her second most important contribution being her work with Hilda Petrie, her husband Flinders Petrie, and Margaret Murray working in Egypt.

Eckenstein was a vibrant woman, a religious skeptic, a rebel of her time, and described as a “New Woman” in the Victorian era (Oldfield 2004). She was born in 1857 to German immigrants to England, who manged to make a comfortable life for themselves and their three children as merchants (Oldfield 2004, Johnson 2006:55). Though there is no record of her formal education, it’s clearly evident that Eckenstein was well educated in her formative years, mastering several langues aside from her native English and German (Oldfield 2004, Johnson 2006:55). It’s also clear that aside from learning Latin, Italian, French, Middle High German, Middle English, and Greek, she had some familiarity with Egyptian Hieroglyphics, though not on the level of Margaret Murray (Oldfield 2004, Johnson 2006:55).

It’s plain from the little written about her that her first passion was Feminism and Women’s Rights. Everything she did managed to fold back onto this first love. In her early life she spent time intellectualizing on the aspects of sexual practices of ancient Romans and during the Reformation period in Switzerland, and the state regulation of prostitution (Oldfield 2004). Hardly what was considered appropriate fro young women in her time. She made a living for herself, proofreading, teaching, translating and being a research assistant to preeminent male researchers of her time (Oldfield 2004). This close relationship with the academic world allowed her to build strong friendships with influential benefactors. These friendships allowed her to travel widely and experience more than the average woman of today, let alone the late 1800’s.

After a stint as governess to Margery Corbett, no doubt influencing the future Dame Ashby to become a leading suffragist, she turned her focus for a time to the world of Egyptology (Oldfield 2004). Among Eckenstein’s caudry of friends was Hilda and Flinders Petrie, both well known and respected Egyptologists. Flinders, being more progressive than many of his contemporaries, frequently had women on his excavations, and as Eckenstein was a close friend, he routinely had her accompany him and his wife on their expeditions to Egypt.

Eckenstein was in charge of recording, preserving, and preparing artifacts for transport on the Petrie’s digs. She “took charge of the registration, mending and storing of objects and helped in the general running of the camp (Drower 2006:268)” at Abydos, Sethos, Saqqara, El Shatt, and Serabit (Drower 2006:268, Cool Root 2006:22). She also participated in protecting the sites from would-be vandals in novel ways. In one such incident she joined hands with Hilda Petrie and Margaret Murray and dance from the camp all the way to the dig site during an attempted nighttime raid (Oldfield 2004). The apparition of three women dancing freely in the moonlight was enough to scare the would-be-plunder s away (Oldfield 2004).

She and Hilda Petrie seemed to be good traveling partners. They were known to don whips, revolvers, and water bottles and travel via camel-back across rough mountain country and sandstone gorges (Oldfield 2004). Eckenstein and Hilda Petrie seem to be the backbone of the digs they attended. Hilda taking control of the workers and leading expeditions, and Eckenstein recording it all and making sure what was found made it safely to where ever it was meant to go (Drower 2006:268). Both of them defending the sites they excavated and interpreting the finds made there-in. They must have been quite the powerhouse of a team.

Eckenstein later retired from archaeology and drew from her experiences to write historical and imaginative stories about Egypt, ‘The moon cult in Sinai’ (1911), ‘A History of Sinai’ (1921), and a fable about Moses’s youth under the pharaohs (1924). She also wrote ‘Comparative Studies in Nursery Rhymes’ (1906) based on a scene she observed in the temple of King Seti that reminded her of the children’s rhyme of ‘The Death and Burial of Cock Robin’, which would have been written some 3000 years after the scene was painted (Oldfield 2004). This definitive work of Eckenstein would pre-date the Opies‘ authoritative work by 50 years (Oldfield 2004).

Eckenstein’s most lasting contributions came when she turned her attention to medieval Monastic Women. She resurrected the lives and writings of important historical figures like Hildegard von Bingen and Abbess Charitas Pirckheimer (Johnson 2005:60). Her most famous work on this topic was the still influential ‘Women Under Monasticism: Chapters on Saint-Lore and Convent Life between A.D 500 and A.D 1500’ published in 1896 (Johnson 2005:60). In true feminist fashion she not only brought their writings back to light, but also compared their lives with issues occurring in her own time. Because of her thorough and groundbreaking research, her contributions in Medieval studies are considered valuable today (Johnson 2005:60).

Eckenstein passed away in May of 1931 with two active projects that were later published after her death (Oldfield 2004, Johnson 2006:57). She was 74 and left behind her volumes of work that contributed to every field she chose to focus on. She could be considered a mother of several fields, but here we laud her work in Archaeology.

Resources:

Sybil Oldfield,
2004    Eckenstein, Lina Dorina Johanna (1857–1931)’,Oxford Dictionary of National Biography, Oxford University Press, 2004; online edn, Sept 2014. http://www.oxforddnb.com/view/article/59940. Accessed 3/10/15

Cool Root,  Margaret
2006    Introduction. Breaking Ground: Pioneering Women Archaeologists. ed. Getzel M. Cohen and Martha Sharp Joukowsky. University of Michigan Press 2004.

Drower, Margaret S.
2006    Margaret Alice Murray (1863-1963). Breaking Ground: Pioneering Women Archaeologists. ed. Getzel M. Cohen and Martha Sharp Joukowsky. University of Michigan Press 2004.

Johnson. Penelope D.
2005    Lina Eckenstein (1857-1931) Seeking Scope for Women. Women Medievalists and the Academy. ed Jane Chance. The University of Wisconsion Press, Madison, Wisconson. 2005. Chapter 4. pgs 56-66 https://books.google.com/books?id=5QrnjT2NT5MC&pg=PA66&lpg=PA66&dq=Lina+Eckenstein+archaeology&source=bl&ots=hmB9kPvsE3&sig=GJUFUUhxm4gpmwB8iO07j9p6qCc&hl=en&sa=X&ei=tnP2VIO2JNCuogSMhYHQAg&ved=0CEYQ6AEwCA#v=onepage&q=Lina%20Eckenstein%20archaeology&f=false  Accessed 3/10/15