Saturday, August 07, 2010

Weird Archaeology 101 - A New Series Educating Archaeologists about the Weird World

I'm going to be sporadically posting examples of bunk, pseudo, alternative, fictional, etc. archaeology here for your perusal and reference. While there are other sites and resources (Bad Archaeology, the Hall of Maat come to mind immediately) that cover these topics, as well as skeptical sites in general (Skeptoid for example), the amount of ideologically driven and research/reason-poor claims and ideas out there is staggering. Furthermore, many of these ideas are nearly as old as scientific archaeology itself, and after the heyday of media interest in archaeology in from the late 19th century until the Great Depression, have become more popular than archaeology itself.

Far too many archaeologists I have met know nothing or virtually nothing about such claims, concepts, historical streams, subcultures, and the like. In part, this is because they are often quite busy. But I believe there is also a distaste there, and laughing off these notions because they make no sense. Evolutionary biology used to think the same way, until in the United States the intelligent design/creationism movement started to gain real ground in the 1990s and 2000s, and people realized that they couldn't just ignore the problem anymore. Ever heard of Swift Boating? Ignoring a problem doesn't mean it will go away.

I believe one element of this problem is that too many archaeologists simply don't get how diverse and pervasive, and downright weird, some of the ideas are out there. Confront them with someone who believes extraterrestrials built the pyramids, and most will mutter "von Daniken" and maybe reference the fictional movie/show Stargate. But few will know, as we'll see in future posts, that such ideas go back nearly a century, and are extremely pervasive in both pseudoscience and mysticism, and in fiction, long before and independent of von Daniken. And of all people, an archaeologist should know that context is everything.

It will be the purpose of this series to point to some of the weirder, more obscure, and at times older but influential weird ideas that are passed off as "archaeology," or deal with the human past and material culture. Let us start with a video on "crypto-archaeology," a Creationist investigation of depictions of dragons on archaeological ceramics. Despite the old saw that "fossils were placed by the Devil as a test," Creationists love dinosaurs these days. They realize the marketing potential, especially to children. And they have also read their Old Testament, which has all sorts of monsters in it, and have equated the two to argue for a created young Earth. So showing dinosaurs and humans as contemporaries has been a significant Creationist concern, and it underpins interest in cryptozoological expeditions looking for dinosaurs in the Congo, pteradons in Indonesia, and the Loch Ness Monster. I have previously linked to a video on the Acambaro figurines, which is a relatively well known case.

This little video, with public access TV style and production values, has numerous comments and over 2000 views.

Let me ask you this: Do you think more than 2000 people have read your dissertation? Have they emailed you to let you know what they think about it?

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