Tag Archives: racism

The Dirt Takeover Episode, Archaeological Fantasies Ep 116

Dr. Anna Goldfield and Amber Zambelli invade the Archaeological Fantasies podcast in this special cross over with The Dirt podcast. We talk Race, Racism, Movies, TV, and Mutant Frog Overlords.

Show Notes:

The Dirt Podcast
The Dirt Podcast on Twitter

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

The Major Issues with Transoceanic Travelers

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

af line art

We’re on YouTube again!

If you’d like to support the Podcast or site, consider donating to us on Patreon or buy us a  Ko-Fi. Either option helps us out.

Be sure to subscribe to the podcast on the blog and like and share us where ever you can.

You can follow us on twitter @ArchyFantasies, or look us up on Facebook.

You can reach us by email at ArchyFantasies@gmail.com.

Contact us below or leave a comment.

Pseudoarchaeology is Aware of Racism, aka Let’s Talk about the R-Word.

FB_IMG_1545763410384.jpg

I repeat, Pseudoarchaeology is aware of racism.

They’re not entirely sure when something is racist, or why archaeologists call them out on it constantly, but they know it’s a thing that exists and it’s probably bad.

Why do I say this? The two most visible personalities in alternative archaeology/history right at this moment are probably Scott Wolter and Graham Hancock. As many know, I watch and read their shows/book and review them critically. It’s actually part of my thesis, so I guess they both get what they claim they ultimately want, recognition by the academic community. Just not the way they wanted.

To be clear I am not calling Wolter or Hancock (or anyone here) a Racist. What I am saying is the things they write/say/do are racist, probably unintentional, and need to be examined and criticized.

Both Wolter and Hancock have had their claims about archaeology/history critiqued and the racist parts pointed out to them over the years. I’ve watched both men develop their ideas, reacting to the criticism. Of course, there is the initial outrage (“I’m not Racist!”), who wants to be called a racist? But then, both of them tried to adapt their theories to make them less racist, and both have completely missed the point.

I’ve watched both carefully police their language over the years to not mention color or nationality as much as possible. But the mentioning of Blacks or Whites isn’t what makes what they say and sell racist. It’s the implications of what they’re trying to push as correct history. Both men have an idea about how culture got to and developed in America. Granted Hancock’s is a little more world-encompassing, but it’s still the basic, “Super Father Culture brings civilization to lesser people, mostly non-whites.”

For Wolter, it’s his strange Celtic-Viking-Templars, for Hancock it’s his psychic lost civilization of all-gods. It doesn’t matter who they are though, because the idea is the same, this mysterious group came to America and bequeathed all culture and society to the unfortunate clueless people already here, who then worshiped them as gods/heroes. Both theories completely ignore or erase native accomplishments and reassign them to the father race. And if you don’t see the issue there, we need to talk.

What’s been most interesting to me over the years is watching these two, and others like them, try to correct for the racism of their ideas, without changing their actual ideas. They think just changing the words they use will erase the implications, but miss the greater issues with their arguments. Then, when called out on it, they both do what can generously be called Virtue Signaling to try and show that *they* aren’t racist themselves.

The thing that struck me the other day reading Hancock once again get upset over his misconceptions of Native American and Archaeologist relations (there are issues, just not the ones he’s on about), is that they don’t see or understand their own racism. We can point it out to them all day, it won’t matter. Neither man thinks they are capable of being racist. Wolter even goes as far as to do the whole “I have Native American Friends” thing and Hancock just constantly tells us how angry he is for Native Americans (then dismisses their whole history in a handwave).

I don’t doubt that Wolter has friends in various tribes, or that Hancock is really upset. But that isn’t a pass to then turn around, treat all Native Americas as one amorphous group of people, or break them down into “advanced” and “primitive” societies based on arbitrary traits that really just reflect how little either man understands about archaeology and culture.

The only good thing about this is that it opens up the discussion of racism in and around archaeology.  Archaeology and anthropology have very dark origins and history. It’s ugly sometimes, and those of us in the field not only learn about this, we’re taught to counter it as much as we can. The sad truth is, we’re still very white, male-dominated, eurocentric fields.

Are things getting better? Yes, definitely. Could they be a whole lot better than they are, Absolutely!

Reading Hancock and watching Wolter, as frustrating as it is, opened my eyes to the reality that is both the public perception of archaeology and reminds me of the issues we still have to correct for in our own field. It also reminds me that we as professionals can’t have these discussions in the dark, away from public eyes. That’s how we got here in the first place, checking out of public discourse and letting pseudoarchaeology take control.

We need to take our narrative back, we need to be real, and we need to counter things when we see them.

Now I’ll get off my high horse and go get ready to watch Wolter tell me how the Phoenicians were the first Europeans in America.


We’re on YouTube again!

If you’d like to support the Podcast or site, consider donating to us on Patreon or buy us a  Ko-Fi. Either option helps us out.

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

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

Grab a t-shirt or coffee mug from our Swag Store on Zazzle.

Be sure to subscribe to the podcast on the blog and like and share us where ever you can.

You can follow us on twitter @ArchyFantasies, or look us up on Facebook. You can reach us by email at ArchyFantasies@gmail.com.

Contact us below or leave a comment.

In Search Of Pseudoarchaeology.

in serch of.jpg

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

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

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

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

feature.jpg

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

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

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

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


If you’d like to support the Podcast or site, consider donating to us on Patreon or buy us a  Ko-Fi. Either option helps us out.

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

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

Grab a t-shirt or coffee mug from our Swag Store on Zazzle.

Be sure to subscribe to the podcast on the blog and like and share us where ever you can.

You can follow us on twitter @ArchyFantasies, or look us up on Facebook. You can reach us by email at ArchyFantasies@gmail.com.

Contact us below or leave a comment.

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

image

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 Statues 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 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 statues to the global Space-BirdMan cult.

Wayne did throw a few questions out there, and a couple really caught my attention, mainly 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 a few of the Moai statues. They were indeed excavated, and they do possess detailed bodies beneath the ground, but this comment shows Wayne’s lack of understanding of how archaeology works. It also makes several assumptions that are not validated.

Firstly, Wayne assumes the statues were originally buried. What 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 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, Wayne assumes, as many alternative theorists do, that there is some great academic conspiracy that every “mainstream” researcher is in on. Therefore 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 personal  page.

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

But 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? 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 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, these claimants are 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 they 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 from 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