Someone left a comment on my last post, about how somehow Native American Oral traditions are “double reverse racism”.
Then there’s the double reverse racism of self-proclaimed experts who say “Archaeologists MUST listen to the Native American oral tradition”, the implication being that “the oral tradition” is perfect, accurate, and unchanging and further that “the oral tradition” of Native Americans currently living in Place X is relevant; to the archaeology being done. An easy counterexample it that the Cherokee oral tradition is not relevant to the Plains Indians. Other groups of Native Americans have moved around throughout history and the people who live in Place Y might have supplanted earlier inhabitants, who in turn supplanted even earlier inhabitants.
Second, The least archaeologists can do is listen to Native American oral traditions.
There is no “implication” that any oral tradition is perfect. Oral traditions are important not because of their perceived perfection, but because they are the history of a people.
As far as the second half of this, the relocation of the Cherokee is not a counterexample. The location of the various Cherokee tribes neither invalidates their oral traditions nor replaces the oral traditions of others. It actually makes these oral histories important because they are out of place.
I can tell from this example that the value of oral traditions in archaeology is not understood. Which really only compounds with the problems created when the Fringe uses Native American Myth to support their ideas and biases.
So here we are, the final episode of Legends of the Lost and after Episode 3, I needed a breather. Fox did not disappoint.
This episode on the Trojan War was so factual I was truly confused. I had to watch it twice before I really understood what was going on, and Fox buried the lead so far down I’m not sure the casual viewer will understand it.
We spend the entire episode touring around the Aegean region looking at possible locations for the mythological Trojan War. If she had seemed even a little bit excited about all this, it would have been a really great episode discussing classical archaeology.
We open watching Fox on a boat telling us how she doesn’t understand why people don’t accept myths as fact, especially when there is no evidence to support them, because one time archaeologists dug up the walls of Jericho and that was a real place with a real wall, so how come all myths aren’t treated as truth?
The problem here is that the walls of Jericho at the Tell es-Sultan site are nothing like they were described in the bible (see we’re back on biblical literalism again).
” The reality was that the walls dated to about 8,000 BCE (about 6,000 years before the noisy Joshua) and were under 2 meters high on average. In fact, because there was a 8 meter wide ditch (almost 3 meters deep) that surrounded the wall, some think the wall may have been a flood control method. Or it may have been defensive. Either way, the Neolithic wall was more distant in time to Joshua than Joshua is to us! Other features within the Tell es-Sultan might be closer and there were walls built by the Hyksos people occupying the site and were of much larger size but unstable. They collapsed around 1,573 BCE during an earthquake, over 150 years before Joshua’s campaign against the Canaanites.”
But Fox’s rant sets up the actual premise for the show. It’s not really about the Trojan War. It’s about Myth being Reality if we just believe hard enough.
To be completely honest with you, this episode is a little low energy, Fox looks like she’s just barely scraping enough ‘gives-a-shits’ together to not fall asleep when people are talking to her. Which is unfortunate since she once again has amazing access to things.
We are treated to confusing voice-overs that make me think that Fox thinks Helen of Troy was real and really was the cause of massive multi-year war. I mean, sure? Since we’re also excepted to just accept as truth that the Trojan Horse was real, and Homer was an infallible wisdom keeper who preserved the Epics of the Greeks unaltered via oral traditions through the “Dark Ages”. (I really wish I was making this up.)
Really the only thing she says that made my blood spike was the whole “The site of Troy was discovered in 1870.” Because no, Schliemann dug through it, declared a different level Troy, stole a bunch of the artifacts and ran off leaving the heavy lifting for his assistants to sort out. (maybe I will do that episode on Schliemann after-all.) Also, this is not Fox’s direct fault, I just dislike Schliemann that much.
We do get to go see the site of Troy, and the other settlements that were built before and after it, and we meet Professor C. Brian Rose. Prof Rose wins the best quote of the episode award. As he is leading Fox around the site he tells her:
“Watch out for the centipedes, they wont kill you but they are poisonous.”
And then begins to list off all the horrible insects, animals, and plants that are out to kill us. Srly folks, Archaeology has taught me that Nature hates us.
We then jump to a talk with Dr. Eric Cline, whose books I own, and he tells us about the influence of the Hittites, which almost excites Fox due to the biblical mentions of the Hittites. But there’s no mystery here, and no real controversy that I am aware of. Cline points out the Hittites are a relatively new addition to the archaeological record, but since we have a huge collection of Hittite clay tablets, there’s no real debate that they existed. Most importantly here though we do learn that Alexander is a possible name for the Paris of Homer’s writings.
From there we jump to the Istanbul Archaeological Museum to meet Veysel Donbaz. We get to look at a 350,000-year-old clay tablet, that is the Peace Treaty of Alexander. The same Alexander that Cline told us was Paris. So I guess that proves that Paris was real? I think?
We then go to meet Dr. Naoise Mac Sweeney to see Sivri Tepe which is not the tomb of Achilles. I think Fox was trying to use this bit to prove that you can use mythological texts to 1) find real-world locations and 2) prove mythical persons did exist. This falls a bit flat when Sweeney points out this isn’t an actual tomb to anyone, let alone Achilles.
However there is some un-excavated areas around Sivri Tepe, and so we go meet Mehmet Unal – who is the drone guy this episode. He does a drone scanning of a field where there is supposed to be possible tombs or graves. He gets the data and now we wait.
While we do that we go see Dr. Rustem Aslan who I think was at Çanakkale Onsekiz Mart University? I didn’t see a location tag for this. He shows us some metal (bronze?) arrow points and a messenger’s seal that apparently allowed for safe passage between Troy and other lands. Neat as this was, I have no clue how this supports her argument. We’re about 90% sure Troy was real, and this really only compounds the evidence Fox has already presented, so…cool?
Our last stop is to meet Dr. Colin Barras an academic Journalist as the show says. He tells us about the Luwians, which I guess was the cultural group the Trojans belonged to? So…great? He also calls the Trojan War, World War Zero, so that was catchy. No offense to Barras, but the episode lost all steam after it went to Troy VI and it’s trying desperately to coast to an ending.
The big finale for the show is going back to the remote sensing data. Sure enough, there’s something that looks like it might be a man-made mound but we’re not going to investigate it so whoopee? To be fair, I don’t think Fox could pull the strings necessary to get digging permits to investigate it, so that’s not really on her.
Still, showing how little Fox actually cares about this is when she says, “Anyone could are there.” When the whole point was to find Achilles, hearing that tells us Fox really isn’t invested in the outcome anymore.
The point of this episode was veiled as being an investigation into whether or not the Trojan War was a real event, recorded in myth. I spoke with Catherine B. Scott about this on Twitter because, I don’t know much about Troy or Aegean archaeology. She was kind enough to walk me through it:
“So for a lot of antiquity, and particularly for the Greeks and the Romans, the Trojan War was considered a historical event. It was written about in a variety of texts that discussed it from a variety of angles (e.g., the Iliad is about a specific conflict between Achilles and Agamemnon that took place during the 10th year of the war; Euripides’s play “Trojan Woman” talks about what happened immediately after the Greeks took the city; the Aeneid is about survivors leaving and founding Rome; etc.).
It is my understanding that at some point in the middle ages, people stopped believing that it was a real thing that happened. Then, when Schliemann “found” Troy and started excavating it in the late 19th century, it reignited the discussion about whether the event as described in these texts actually happened.
The current thinking is that the stories about the Trojan War were first written down during the Archaic period (c. 800 BC), but they actually describe events that took place during the Late Bronze Age (c. 1400-1200 BC). (Scott 2018)”
According to Scott, the currently accepted idea is that the Trojan War as described by Homer didn’t happen, but there is evidence that there were military conflicts going on in Western Anatolia.
So much like Fox’s Wall of Jericho, the Trojan War might indeed have a grain of truth to it, but it’s not the massive conflict that she’s pretending she wants to prove.
I say this because this episode wasn’t about the Trojan War at all. It was about proving Myths real. Fox rounds out the episode telling us that if the Trojan War is real, then we can ask which other myths are true as well. The problem is, she didn’t actually prove the Trojan War was real or true, she just proved that Troy was probably real, and there were conflicts between the Trojans and others in their area.
Scott picks out the flaw of this quite nicely:
“I think where the pseudoarchaeology comes in is when you take loose evidence that the myth of the Trojan War might have been based on something historical, and apply that logic to other myths that don’t have the same kind of historical evidence.”
What other myths or fanciful civilizations might Fox be trying to prove? Well whether she doesn’t come out and say what, but we can guess since we know she believes in giants, magic, lost civilizations, biblical literalism, and Graham Hancock.
Ok, so, it has been pointed out that Legends of the Lost wasn’t the complete dumpster fire it could have been. Perhaps that was the calming influence of Megan Fox, or her status as the first female host of a pseudoarchaeology show on any major network. Either way, if you just watched the first 20-30 minutes of each episode they were fairly solid, showing actual archaeologists and historians doing actual archaeology and history. Fox’s show had a much more gender diverse cast of authorities than…well any other pseudo show I’ve watched. The second half of the show usually just lit itself on fire and sat calmly drinking tea.
Seeing Fox as a host was interesting. She wasn’t portrayed as rugged or daring or particularity knowledgeable in any topic. No Forensic-(insert profession here) or made up titles for her. She rarely was seen doing anything for herself, constantly being driven, shipped, or guided to locations. She was handed things, had things explained to her, and in general was a passive observer who parroted back what was said to her. It was an interesting contrast to the image she seemed to think she was portraying, as evidenced in a few comments she made in the Viking Women episode and her Laura Croft inspired outfits throughout the show.
Jason Colivito tracked the ratings of the series and noticed it’s extremely low ratings, which crashed with this final episode:
The final episode of “Legends of the Lost” did not rank in the Nielsen Top 150 shows for Tuesday. The only Travel show to rank had just 270,000 viewers, suggesting that the finale of “Legends” had almost no viewers.2:16 PM – 28 Dec 2018