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Pseudoarchaeology

Pseudoarchaeology

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Pseudoarchaeology — also known as alternative archaeology, fringe archaeology, fantastic archaeology, or cult archaeology — refers to interpretations of the past from outside of the academic archaeological
Archaeology
Archaeology, or archeology , is the study of human society, primarily through the recovery and analysis of the material culture and environmental data that they have left behind, which includes artifacts, architecture, biofacts and cultural landscapes...

 community, which typically also reject the accepted scientific and analytical methods of the discipline. These pseudoscientific
Pseudoscience
Pseudoscience is a claim, belief, or practice which is presented as scientific, but which does not adhere to a valid scientific method, lacks supporting evidence or plausibility, cannot be reliably tested, or otherwise lacks scientific status...

 interpretations involve the use of archaeological data to construct theories about the past that differ radically from those of mainstream academic archaeology.

There is no one singular pseudoarchaeological theory, but many different interpretations of the past that are at odds from those developed by academics. Some of these revolve around the idea that prehistoric and ancient human societies were aided in their development by intelligent extraterrestrial life
Extraterrestrial life
Extraterrestrial life is defined as life that does not originate from Earth...

, an idea propagated by authors such as Swiss author Erich von Däniken
Erich von Däniken
Erich Anton Paul von Däniken is a Swiss author best known for his controversial claims about extraterrestrial influences on early human culture, in books such as Chariots of the Gods?, published in 1968...

 in books such as Chariots of the Gods? (1968) and Italian author Peter Kolosimo
Peter Kolosimo
Peter Kolosimo, pseudonym of Pier Domenico Colosimo was an Italian journalist and writer. Together with the later Erich von Däniken, he is ranked amongst the founders of pseudoarchaeology .Born in Modena, he lived in Bolzano for much of his life...

. Others instead hold that there were human societies in the ancient period that were significantly technologically advanced, such as Atlantis
Atlantis
Atlantis is a legendary island first mentioned in Plato's dialogues Timaeus and Critias, written about 360 BC....

, and this idea has been propagated by figures like Graham Hancock
Graham Hancock
Graham Hancock is a British writer and journalist. Hancock specialises in unconventional theories involving ancient civilizations, stone monuments or megaliths, altered states of consciousness, ancient myths and astronomical/astrological data from the past...

 in his Fingerprints of the Gods
Fingerprints of the Gods
Fingerprints of the Gods: The Evidence of Earth's Lost Civilization is a book first published in 1995 by Graham Hancock, in which he echoes nineteenth century writer Ignatius Donnelly, author of Atlantis: The Antediluvian World , in contending that some previously enigmatic ancient but...

(1995).

Many alternative archaeologies have been adopted by religious groups. Fringe archaeological ideas such as Pyramidology
Pyramidology
Pyramidology is a term used, sometimes disparagingly, to refer to various pseudoscientific speculations regarding pyramids, most often the Giza Necropolis and the Great Pyramid of Giza in Egypt...

 have been embraced by religions ranging from the British Israelites to the Theosophists
Theosophy
Theosophy, in its modern presentation, is a spiritual philosophy developed since the late 19th century. Its major themes were originally described mainly by Helena Blavatsky , co-founder of the Theosophical Society...

. Other alternative archaeologies include those that have been adopted by members of New Age
New Age
The New Age movement is a Western spiritual movement that developed in the second half of the 20th century. Its central precepts have been described as "drawing on both Eastern and Western spiritual and metaphysical traditions and then infusing them with influences from self-help and motivational...

 and contemporary Pagan
Neopaganism
Neopaganism is an umbrella term used to identify a wide variety of modern religious movements, particularly those influenced by or claiming to be derived from the various pagan beliefs of pre-modern Europe...

 belief systems. These include the Great Goddess hypothesis
Great Goddess hypothesis
The Great Goddess hypothesis was a theory, now widely disputed by archaeologists and historians, that in Palaeolithic, Mesolithic and/or Neolithic Europe and Western Asia, a singular, monotheistic female deity was worshipped prior to the development of the polytheistic pagan religions of the Bronze...

, propagated by Marija Gimbutas
Marija Gimbutas
Marija Gimbutas , was a Lithuanian-American archeologist known for her research into the Neolithic and Bronze Age cultures of "Old Europe", a term she introduced. Her works published between 1946 and 1971 introduced new views by combining traditional spadework with linguistics and mythological...

, which argues that prehistoric Europeans worshipped a single female monotheistic
Monotheism
Monotheism is the belief in the existence of one and only one god. Monotheism is characteristic of the Baha'i Faith, Christianity, Druzism, Hinduism, Islam, Judaism, Samaritanism, Sikhism and Zoroastrianism.While they profess the existence of only one deity, monotheistic religions may still...

 deity—and various theories associated with the Earth mysteries
Earth mysteries
The term Earth mysteries describes an interest in a wide range of spiritual, quasi-religious and pseudo-scientific ideas focusing on cultural and religious beliefs about the Earth, generally with regard to particular geographical locations of historical significance.The study of ley lines...

 movement, such as the concept of ley lines.

Academic archaeologists have heavily criticised pseudoarchaeology, with one of the most vocal critics, John R. Cole, characterising them as relying on "sensationalism, misuse of logic and evidence, misunderstanding of scientific method, and internal contradictions in their arguments." The relationship between alternative and academic archaeologies has been compared to the relationship between intelligent design
Intelligent design
Intelligent design is the proposition that "certain features of the universe and of living things are best explained by an intelligent cause, not an undirected process such as natural selection." It is a form of creationism and a contemporary adaptation of the traditional teleological argument for...

 theories and evolutionary biology by some archaeologists.

Etymology


Various different terms have been employed to refer to these non-academic interpretations of archaeology. During the 1980s, the term "cult archaeology" was used by figures like John R. Cole (1980) and William H. Stiebing Jr (1987). In the 2000s, the term "alternative archaeology" began to be instead applied by academics like Tim Sebastion (2001), Robert J. Wallis (2003), Cornelius Holtorf (2006), and Gabriel Moshenka (2008). Garrett F. Fagan and Kenneth L. Feder (2006) however claimed this term was only chosen because it "imparts a warmer, fuzzier feel" that "appeals to our higher ideals and progressive inclinations." They argued that the term "pseudoarchaeology" was far more appropriate, a term also used by other prominent academic and professional archaeologists such as Colin Renfrew (2006).

Other academic archaeologists have chosen to use other terms to refer to these interpretations. G. Daniel (1977) used the derogative "bullshit archaeology", and similarly the academic Willian H. Stiebing Jr. noted that there were certain terms used for pseudoarchaeology that were heard "in the privacy of professional archaeologists' homes and offices but which cannot be mentioned in polite society."

Characteristics


William H. Stiebing Jr argued that despite their many differences, there were a set of core characteristics that almost all pseudoarchaeological interpretations shared. He believed that because of this, pseudoarchaeology could be categorised as a "single phenomenon." He went on to identify three core commonalities of pseudeoarchaeological theories: 1) the unscientific nature of its method and evidence, 2) its tendency to "provide simple, compact answers to complex, difficult issues," and 3) its tendency to present itself as being persecuted by the archaeological establishment, accompanied by an ambivalent attitude towards the scientific ethos of the Enlightenment
Age of Enlightenment
The Age of Enlightenment was an elite cultural movement of intellectuals in 18th century Europe that sought to mobilize the power of reason in order to reform society and advance knowledge. It promoted intellectual interchange and opposed intolerance and abuses in church and state...

. This idea that there are core characteristics of pseudoarchaeologies is shared by other academics.

Lack of scientific method


Academic critics have pointed out that pseudoarchaeologists typically neglect to use the scientific method
Scientific method
Scientific method refers to a body of techniques for investigating phenomena, acquiring new knowledge, or correcting and integrating previous knowledge. To be termed scientific, a method of inquiry must be based on gathering empirical and measurable evidence subject to specific principles of...

. Instead of testing the evidence to see what hypotheses it fits, pseudoarchaeologists "press-gang" the archaeological data to fit a "favored conclusion" that is often arrived at through hunches, intuition, or religious or nationalist dogma. Different pseudoarchaeological groups hold a variety of basic assumptions which are typically unscientific: the Nazi pseudoarchaeologists for instance took the cultural superiority of the ancient Aryan
Aryan
Aryan is an English language loanword derived from Sanskrit ārya and denoting variously*In scholarly usage:**Indo-Iranian languages *in dated usage:**the Indo-European languages more generally and their speakers...

 race as a basic assumption, whilst Judeo-Christian Fundamentalist pseudoarchaeologists conceive of the Earth as only being 10,000 years old and Hindu Fundamentalist pseudoarchaeologists believe that the Homo sapiens species is much older than the 100,000 years old it has been shown to be by archaeologists. Despite this, many of pseudoarchaeology's proponents claim that they reached their conclusions using scientific techniques and methods, even when it is demonstratable that they have not.

Academic archaeologist John R. Cole believed that most pseudoarchaeologists do not understand how scientific investigation works, and that they instead believe it to be a "simple, catastrophic right versus wrong battle" between contesting theories. It was because of this failure to understand the scientific method, he argued, that the entire pseudoarchaeological approach to their arguments was faulty. He went on to argue that most pseudoarchaeologists do not consider alternate explanations to that which they want to propagate, and that their "theories" were typically just "notions", not having sufficient supporting evidence to allow them to be considered "theories" in the scientific, academic meaning of the word.

Commonly lacking scientific evidence, pseudoarchaeologists typically use other forms of evidence to support their arguments. For instance, they often make use of "generalized cultural comparisons," taking various artefacts and monuments from one society, and highlighting similarities with those of another to support a conclusion that both had a common source—typically an ancient lost civilisation like Atlantis
Atlantis
Atlantis is a legendary island first mentioned in Plato's dialogues Timaeus and Critias, written about 360 BC....

, Mu
Mu (lost continent)
Mu is the name of a hypothetical continent that allegedly existed in one of Earth's oceans, but disappeared at the dawn of human history.The concept and the name were proposed by 19th century traveler and writer Augustus Le Plongeon, who claimed that several ancient civilizations, such as those of...

, or an extraterrestrial influence. This takes the different artefacts or monuments entirely out of their original contexts, something which is anathema to academic archaeologists, for whom context is of the utmost importance.

Another form of evidence used by a number of pseudoarchaeologists is the interpretation of various myths
Mythology
The term mythology can refer either to the study of myths, or to a body or collection of myths. As examples, comparative mythology is the study of connections between myths from different cultures, whereas Greek mythology is the body of myths from ancient Greece...

 as reflecting historical events, but in doing so these myths are often taken out of their cultural contexts. For instance, pseudoarchaeologist Immanuel Velikovsky
Immanuel Velikovsky
Immanuel Velikovsky was a Russian-born American independent scholar of Jewish origins, best known as the author of a number of controversial books reinterpreting the events of ancient history, in particular the US bestseller Worlds in Collision, published in 1950...

 claimed that the myths of migrations and war gods in the Central American Aztec
Aztec
The Aztec people were certain ethnic groups of central Mexico, particularly those groups who spoke the Nahuatl language and who dominated large parts of Mesoamerica in the 14th, 15th and 16th centuries, a period referred to as the late post-classic period in Mesoamerican chronology.Aztec is the...

 civilisation represented a cosmic catastrophe that occurred in the 7th and 8th centuries BCE. This was criticised by academic archaeologist William H. Stiebing Jr., who noted that such myths only developed in the 12th to the 14th centuries CE, over a millennium after Velikovsky claimed that the events had occurred, and that the Aztec society itself had not even developed by the 7th century BCE.

Opposition to the archaeological establishment


Pseudoarchaeologists typically present themselves as being underdogs facing the much larger archaeological establishment. They often use language which disparages academics and dismisses them as being unadventurous, spending all their time in dusty libraries and refusing to challenge the orthodoxies of the establishment lest they lose their jobs. In some more extreme examples, pseudoarchaeologists have accused academic archaeologists of being members of a widespread conspiracy to hide the truth about history from the public. When academics challenge pseudoarchaeologists and criticise their theories, many pseudoarchaeologists see it as further evidence that their own ideas are right, and that they are simply being suppressed by members of this academic conspiracy.

The prominent English archaeologist Colin Renfrew admitted that the archaeological establishment was often "set in its ways and resistant to radical new ideas" but that this was not the reason why pseudoarchaeological theories were outright rejected by academics. Garrett G. Fagan expanded on this, noting how in the academic archaeological community, "New evidence or arguments have to be thoroughly scrutinised to secure their validity... and longstanding, well-entrenched positions will take considerable effort and particularly compelling data to overturn." Fagan noted that pseudoarchaeological theories simply do not have sufficient evidence to back them up and allow them to be accepted by professional archaeologists.

Conversely, many pseudoarchaeologists, whilst criticising the academic archaeological establishment, also attempt to get support from people with academic credentials and affiliations. At times, they quote historical, and in most cases dead academics to back up their arguments; for instance prominent pseudoarchaeologist Graham Hancock
Graham Hancock
Graham Hancock is a British writer and journalist. Hancock specialises in unconventional theories involving ancient civilizations, stone monuments or megaliths, altered states of consciousness, ancient myths and astronomical/astrological data from the past...

, in his seminal Fingerprints of the Gods
Fingerprints of the Gods
Fingerprints of the Gods: The Evidence of Earth's Lost Civilization is a book first published in 1995 by Graham Hancock, in which he echoes nineteenth century writer Ignatius Donnelly, author of Atlantis: The Antediluvian World , in contending that some previously enigmatic ancient but...

(1995), repeatedly notes that the eminent physicist Albert Einstein
Albert Einstein
Albert Einstein was a German-born theoretical physicist who developed the theory of general relativity, effecting a revolution in physics. For this achievement, Einstein is often regarded as the father of modern physics and one of the most prolific intellects in human history...

 once remarked positively on the theory of Earth Crustal Displacement
Earth Crustal Displacement
Earth crustal displacement OR Earth crust displacement may refer to*Plate tectonics, scientific theory which describes the large scale motions of Earth's crust.*Fault , fracture in Earth's crust where one side moves with respect to the other side....

 (a theory that has been abandoned by the academic community but which Hancock has adopted). As Fagan noted however, the fact that Einstein was a physicist and not a geologist is not even mentioned by Hancock, nor is the fact that the understanding of Plate tectonics
Plate tectonics
Plate tectonics is a scientific theory that describes the large scale motions of Earth's lithosphere...

 (which came to disprove Earth Crustal Displacement), only came to light following Einstein's death.

Nationalist motivations


Pseudoarchaeology is frequently motivated by nationalism
Nationalism
Nationalism is a political ideology that involves a strong identification of a group of individuals with a political entity defined in national terms, i.e. a nation. In the 'modernist' image of the nation, it is nationalism that creates national identity. There are various definitions for what...

 (cf. Nazi archaeology
Nazi archaeology
Nazi archaeology refers to the movement led by various Nazi leaders, archaeologists, and other scholars, such as Adolf Hitler and Heinrich Himmler, to research the German past in order to strengthen nationalism...

) or a desire to prove a particular religious
Religion
Religion is a collection of cultural systems, belief systems, and worldviews that establishes symbols that relate humanity to spirituality and, sometimes, to moral values. Many religions have narratives, symbols, traditions and sacred histories that are intended to give meaning to life or to...

 (cf. Intelligent design
Intelligent design
Intelligent design is the proposition that "certain features of the universe and of living things are best explained by an intelligent cause, not an undirected process such as natural selection." It is a form of creationism and a contemporary adaptation of the traditional teleological argument for...

), pseudohistorical
Pseudohistory
Pseudohistory is a pejorative term applied to a type of historical revisionism, often involving sensational claims whose acceptance would require rewriting a significant amount of commonly accepted history, and based on methods that depart from standard historiographical conventions.Cryptohistory...

, political
Politics
Politics is a process by which groups of people make collective decisions. The term is generally applied to the art or science of running governmental or state affairs, including behavior within civil governments, but also applies to institutions, fields, and special interest groups such as the...

, or anthropological
Anthropology
Anthropology is the study of humanity. It has origins in the humanities, the natural sciences, and the social sciences. The term "anthropology" is from the Greek anthrōpos , "man", understood to mean mankind or humanity, and -logia , "discourse" or "study", and was first used in 1501 by German...

 theory. In many cases, an a priori
A priori and a posteriori (philosophy)
The terms a priori and a posteriori are used in philosophy to distinguish two types of knowledge, justifications or arguments...

 conclusion is established, and fieldwork is undertaken explicitly to corroborate the theory in detail.

Archaeologists distinguish their research from pseudoarchaeology by pointing to differences in research methodology, including recursive methods, falsifiable theories, peer review, and a generally systematic approach to collecting data. Though there is overwhelming evidence of cultural connections informing folk traditions about the past, objective analysis of folk archaeology—in anthropological
Anthropology
Anthropology is the study of humanity. It has origins in the humanities, the natural sciences, and the social sciences. The term "anthropology" is from the Greek anthrōpos , "man", understood to mean mankind or humanity, and -logia , "discourse" or "study", and was first used in 1501 by German...

 terms of their cultural contexts and the cultural needs they respond to—have been comparatively few. However, in this vein, Robert Silverberg
Robert Silverberg
Robert Silverberg is an American author, best known for writing science fiction. He is a multiple nominee of the Hugo Award and a winner of the Nebula Award.-Early years:...

 located the Mormon
Mormon
The term Mormon most commonly denotes an adherent, practitioner, follower, or constituent of Mormonism, which is the largest branch of the Latter Day Saint movement in restorationist Christianity...

's use of Mound Builder culture within a larger cultural nexus and the voyage of Madoc
Madoc
Madoc or Madog ab Owain Gwynedd was, according to folklore, a Welsh prince who sailed to America in 1170, over three hundred years before Christopher Columbus's voyage in 1492. According to the story, he was a son of Owain Gwynedd who took to the sea to flee internecine violence at home...

 and "Welsh Indians" was set in its changing and evolving sociohistorical contexts by G. Williams.

Religious Fundamentalism


Many pseudoarchaeological theories are designed to back up the beliefs of particular religious groups
Religion
Religion is a collection of cultural systems, belief systems, and worldviews that establishes symbols that relate humanity to spirituality and, sometimes, to moral values. Many religions have narratives, symbols, traditions and sacred histories that are intended to give meaning to life or to...

.

Academic archaeologist John R. Cole, who chose to refer to such pseudoarchaeological interpretations as "cult archaeology", believed that pseudoarchaeology itself had "many of the attributes, causes, and effects of religion."

Description


Pseudoarchaeology can be practised intentionally or unintentionally. Archaeological frauds
Archaeological forgery
Archaeological forgery is the manufacture of supposedly ancient items that are sold to the antiquities market and may even end up in the collections of museums. It is related to art forgery....

 and hoax
Hoax
A hoax is a deliberately fabricated falsehood made to masquerade as truth. It is distinguishable from errors in observation or judgment, or rumors, urban legends, pseudosciences or April Fools' Day events that are passed along in good faith by believers or as jokes.-Definition:The British...

es are considered intentional pseudoarchaeology. Genuine archaeological finds may be unintentionally converted to pseudoarchaeology through unscientific interpretation. (cf. Confirmation bias
Confirmation bias
Confirmation bias is a tendency for people to favor information that confirms their preconceptions or hypotheses regardless of whether the information is true.David Perkins, a geneticist, coined the term "myside bias" referring to a preference for "my" side of an issue...

)

Especially in the past, but also in the present, pseudoarchaeology has been motivated by racism
Racism
Racism is the belief that inherent different traits in human racial groups justify discrimination. In the modern English language, the term "racism" is used predominantly as a pejorative epithet. It is applied especially to the practice or advocacy of racial discrimination of a pernicious nature...

, especially when the basic intent was to discount or deny the abilities of non-white
Person of color
Person of color is a term used, primarily in the United States, to describe all people who are not white. The term is meant to be inclusive among non-white groups, emphasizing common experiences of racism...

 peoples to make significant accomplishments in astronomy, architecture, sophisticated technology, ancient writing, seafaring, and other accomplishments generally identified as evidence of "civilization
Civilization
Civilization is a sometimes controversial term that has been used in several related ways. Primarily, the term has been used to refer to the material and instrumental side of human cultures that are complex in terms of technology, science, and division of labor. Such civilizations are generally...

". Racism can be implied by attempts to attribute ancient sites and artifacts to Lost Tribes, Pre-Columbian trans-oceanic contact
Pre-Columbian trans-oceanic contact
Theories of Pre-Columbian trans-oceanic contact are those theories that propose interaction between indigenous peoples of the Americas who settled the Americas before 10,000 BC, and peoples of other continents , which occurred before the arrival of Christopher Columbus in the Caribbean in 1492.Many...

, or even extraterrestrial intelligence rather than to the intelligence and ingenuity of indigenous peoples
Indigenous peoples
Indigenous peoples are ethnic groups that are defined as indigenous according to one of the various definitions of the term, there is no universally accepted definition but most of which carry connotations of being the "original inhabitants" of a territory....

.

Pseudoarchaeology is frequently motivated by nationalism
Nationalism
Nationalism is a political ideology that involves a strong identification of a group of individuals with a political entity defined in national terms, i.e. a nation. In the 'modernist' image of the nation, it is nationalism that creates national identity. There are various definitions for what...

 (cf. Nazi archaeology
Nazi archaeology
Nazi archaeology refers to the movement led by various Nazi leaders, archaeologists, and other scholars, such as Adolf Hitler and Heinrich Himmler, to research the German past in order to strengthen nationalism...

) or a desire to prove a particular religious
Religion
Religion is a collection of cultural systems, belief systems, and worldviews that establishes symbols that relate humanity to spirituality and, sometimes, to moral values. Many religions have narratives, symbols, traditions and sacred histories that are intended to give meaning to life or to...

 (cf. Intelligent design
Intelligent design
Intelligent design is the proposition that "certain features of the universe and of living things are best explained by an intelligent cause, not an undirected process such as natural selection." It is a form of creationism and a contemporary adaptation of the traditional teleological argument for...

), pseudohistorical
Pseudohistory
Pseudohistory is a pejorative term applied to a type of historical revisionism, often involving sensational claims whose acceptance would require rewriting a significant amount of commonly accepted history, and based on methods that depart from standard historiographical conventions.Cryptohistory...

, political
Politics
Politics is a process by which groups of people make collective decisions. The term is generally applied to the art or science of running governmental or state affairs, including behavior within civil governments, but also applies to institutions, fields, and special interest groups such as the...

, or anthropological
Anthropology
Anthropology is the study of humanity. It has origins in the humanities, the natural sciences, and the social sciences. The term "anthropology" is from the Greek anthrōpos , "man", understood to mean mankind or humanity, and -logia , "discourse" or "study", and was first used in 1501 by German...

 theory. In many cases, an a priori
A priori and a posteriori (philosophy)
The terms a priori and a posteriori are used in philosophy to distinguish two types of knowledge, justifications or arguments...

 conclusion is established, and fieldwork is undertaken explicitly to corroborate the theory in detail.

Practitioners of pseudoarchaeology often rail against academic archaeologists and established scientific methods, claiming that conventional science has overlooked critical evidence. Conspiracy theories
Conspiracy theory
A conspiracy theory explains an event as being the result of an alleged plot by a covert group or organization or, more broadly, the idea that important political, social or economic events are the products of secret plots that are largely unknown to the general public.-Usage:The term "conspiracy...

 may be invoked, in which "the Establishment" colludes in suppressing evidence.

Archaeologists distinguish their research from pseudoarchaeology by pointing to differences in research methodology, including recursive methods, falsifiable theories, peer review, and a generally systematic approach to collecting data. Though there is overwhelming evidence of cultural connections informing folk traditions about the past, objective analyses of folk archaeology, in anthropological
Anthropology
Anthropology is the study of humanity. It has origins in the humanities, the natural sciences, and the social sciences. The term "anthropology" is from the Greek anthrōpos , "man", understood to mean mankind or humanity, and -logia , "discourse" or "study", and was first used in 1501 by German...

 terms of the cultural contexts from which they emerge and the cultural needs to which they respond, have been comparatively few, but in this vein Robert Silverberg
Robert Silverberg
Robert Silverberg is an American author, best known for writing science fiction. He is a multiple nominee of the Hugo Award and a winner of the Nebula Award.-Early years:...

 located the Mormon
Mormon
The term Mormon most commonly denotes an adherent, practitioner, follower, or constituent of Mormonism, which is the largest branch of the Latter Day Saint movement in restorationist Christianity...

's use of Mound Builder culture within a larger cultural nexus and the voyage of Madoc
Madoc
Madoc or Madog ab Owain Gwynedd was, according to folklore, a Welsh prince who sailed to America in 1170, over three hundred years before Christopher Columbus's voyage in 1492. According to the story, he was a son of Owain Gwynedd who took to the sea to flee internecine violence at home...

 and "Welsh Indians" was set in its changing and evolving sociohistorical contexts by G. Williams.

Countering the misleading "discoveries" of pseudoarchaeology binds academic archaeologists in a quandary, described by Cornelius Holtorf as whether to strive to disprove alternative approaches in a "crusading" approach or to concentrate on better public understanding of the sciences involved; Holtorf suggested a third, relativist and contextualised approach, in identifying the social and cultural needs that both scientific and alternative archaeologies address and in identifying the engagement with the material remains
Material culture
In the social sciences, material culture is a term that refers to the relationship between artifacts and social relations. Studying a culture's relationship to materiality is a lens through which social and cultural attitudes can be discussed...

 of the past in the present in terms of critical understanding and dialogue with "multiple pasts", such as Barbara Bender explored for Stonehenge
Stonehenge
Stonehenge is a prehistoric monument located in the English county of Wiltshire, about west of Amesbury and north of Salisbury. One of the most famous sites in the world, Stonehenge is composed of a circular setting of large standing stones set within earthworks...

. In presenting the quest for truths as process rather than results, Holtorf quoted Gotthold Lessing (Eine Duplik, 1778):
"If God were to hold in his right hand all the truth and in his left the unique ever-active spur for truth, although with the corollary to err forever, asking me to choose, I would humbly take his left and say 'Father, give; for the pure truth is for you alone!"


"Archaeological readings of the landscape enrich the experience of inhabiting or visiting a place," Holtorf asserted. "Those readings may well be based on science but even non-scientific research contributes to enriching our landscapes." The question for opponents of folk archaeology is whether such enrichment is delusional.

Participatory "public" or "community" archaeology
Community archaeology
Community archaeology is archaeology by the people for the people. The field is also known as public archaeology. There is debate about whether the terms are interchangeable; some believe that community archaeology is but one form of public archaeology, which can include many other modes of...

 offers guided engagement.

In history


In the mid-2nd century, those exposed by Lucian
Lucian
Lucian of Samosata was a rhetorician and satirist who wrote in the Greek language. He is noted for his witty and scoffing nature.His ethnicity is disputed and is attributed as Assyrian according to Frye and Parpola, and Syrian according to Joseph....

's sarcastic essay Alexander the false prophet prepared an archaeological "find" in Chalcedon
Chalcedon
Chalcedon , sometimes transliterated as Chalkedon) was an ancient maritime town of Bithynia, in Asia Minor, almost directly opposite Byzantium, south of Scutari . It is now a district of the city of Istanbul named Kadıköy...

 to prepare a public for the supposed oracle they planned to establish at Abonoteichus in Paphlagonia
Paphlagonia
Paphlagonia was an ancient area on the Black Sea coast of north central Anatolia, situated between Bithynia to the west and Pontus to the east, and separated from Phrygia by a prolongation to the east of the Bithynian Olympus...

 (Pearse, 2001):
At Glastonbury Abbey
Glastonbury Abbey
Glastonbury Abbey was a monastery in Glastonbury, Somerset, England. The ruins are now a grade I listed building, and a Scheduled Ancient Monument and are open as a visitor attraction....

 in 1291, at a time when King Edward I
Edward I of England
Edward I , also known as Edward Longshanks and the Hammer of the Scots, was King of England from 1272 to 1307. The first son of Henry III, Edward was involved early in the political intrigues of his father's reign, which included an outright rebellion by the English barons...

 desired to emphasize his "Englishness" a fortunate discovery was made: the coffin of King Arthur
King Arthur
King Arthur is a legendary British leader of the late 5th and early 6th centuries, who, according to Medieval histories and romances, led the defence of Britain against Saxon invaders in the early 6th century. The details of Arthur's story are mainly composed of folklore and literary invention, and...

, unmistakably identified with an inscribed plaque. Arthur was reinterred at Glastonbury in a magnificent ceremonial attended by the king and queen.

Nationalistic pseudoarchaeology

  • The belief, commonly held by European settlers, that the mound builders were a long vanished non-Native American people.
  • The Kensington Runestone
    Kensington Runestone
    The Kensington Runestone is a 200-pound slab of greywacke covered in runes on its face and side which, if genuine, would suggest that Scandinavian explorers reached the middle of North America in the 14th century. It was found in 1898 in the largely rural township of Solem, Douglas County,...

     of Minnesota, held to prove Nordic Viking
    Viking
    The term Viking is customarily used to refer to the Norse explorers, warriors, merchants, and pirates who raided, traded, explored and settled in wide areas of Europe, Asia and the North Atlantic islands from the late 8th to the mid-11th century.These Norsemen used their famed longships to...

     primacy in discovery of the Americas.
  • Nazi archaeology
    Nazi archaeology
    Nazi archaeology refers to the movement led by various Nazi leaders, archaeologists, and other scholars, such as Adolf Hitler and Heinrich Himmler, to research the German past in order to strengthen nationalism...

    , the Thule Society
    Thule Society
    The Thule Society , originally the Studiengruppe für germanisches Altertum , was a German occultist and völkisch group in Munich, named after a mythical northern country from Greek legend...

    , and expeditions sent by the Ahnenerbe
    Ahnenerbe
    The Ahnenerbe was a Nazi German think tank that promoted itself as a "study society for Intellectual Ancient History." Founded on July 1, 1935, by Heinrich Himmler, Herman Wirth, and Richard Walther Darré, the Ahnenerbe's goal was to research the anthropological and cultural history of the Aryan...

     to research the existence of a mythical Aryan
    Aryan
    Aryan is an English language loanword derived from Sanskrit ārya and denoting variously*In scholarly usage:**Indo-Iranian languages *in dated usage:**the Indo-European languages more generally and their speakers...

     race.
  • The Bosnian pyramids
    Bosnian pyramids
    The term Bosnian pyramids has been used for a cluster of natural geological formations sometimes known as flatirons near the Bosnian town of Visoko, northwest of Sarajevo...

     project, which has projected that natural geological hills in Visoko are ancient pyramid
    Pyramid
    A pyramid is a structure whose outer surfaces are triangular and converge at a single point. The base of a pyramid can be trilateral, quadrilateral, or any polygon shape, meaning that a pyramid has at least three triangular surfaces...

    s.
  • The Hill of Tara
    Hill of Tara
    The Hill of Tara , located near the River Boyne, is an archaeological complex that runs between Navan and Dunshaughlin in County Meath, Leinster, Ireland...

     in Ireland, excavated by British Israelists
    British Israelism
    British Israelism is the belief that people of Western European descent, particularly those in Great Britain, are the direct lineal descendants of the Ten Lost Tribes of Israel. The concept often includes the belief that the British Royal Family is directly descended from the line of King David...

     who thought that the Irish were part of the Lost Tribes of Israel
    Ten Lost Tribes
    The Ten Lost Tribes of Israel refers to those tribes of ancient Israel that formed the Kingdom of Israel and which disappeared from Biblical and all other historical accounts after the kingdom was destroyed in about 720 BC by ancient Assyria...

     and that the hill contained the Ark of the Covenant
    Ark of the Covenant
    The Ark of the Covenant , also known as the Ark of the Testimony, is a chest described in Book of Exodus as solely containing the Tablets of Stone on which the Ten Commandments were inscribed...

    .
  • Piltdown man
    Piltdown Man
    The Piltdown Man was a hoax in which bone fragments were presented as the fossilised remains of a previously unknown early human. These fragments consisted of parts of a skull and jawbone, said to have been collected in 1912 from a gravel pit at Piltdown, East Sussex, England...

    .
  • Neolithic hyperdiffusion from Egypt being responsible for influencing most of the major ancient civilizations of the world in Asia, the Middle East, Europe, and particularly the ancient Native Americans. This includes Olmec alternative origin speculations
    Olmec alternative origin speculations
    Olmec alternative origin speculations are explanations that have been suggested for the formation of Olmec civilization which contradict generally accepted scholarly consensus. These origin theories typically involve contact with Old World societies...

    .
  • Jovan I. Deretić's serbocentric
    Serbian nationalism
    Serbian nationalism refers to the ethnic nationalism of Serbs. Originally arising in the context of the general rise of nationalism in the Balkans under Ottoman rule, under the influence of Serbian linguist Vuk Stefanović Karadžić and Ilija Garašanin....

     claims in the ancient history of the Old World
    Old World
    The Old World consists of those parts of the world known to classical antiquity and the European Middle Ages. It is used in the context of, and contrast with, the "New World" ....

    .

Religiously-motivated pseudoarchaeology

  • Repeated claims of the discovery of Noah's Ark
    Searches for Noah's Ark
    From at least the time of Eusebius to the present day, the search for the physical remains of Noah's Ark has held a fascination for many people...

     on Mount Ararat
    Mount Ararat
    Mount Ararat is a snow-capped, dormant volcanic cone in Turkey. It has two peaks: Greater Ararat and Lesser Ararat .The Ararat massif is about in diameter...

     or neighboring mountain ranges.
  • Insistence that questionable artifacts such as the Los Lunas Decalogue Stone
    Los Lunas Decalogue Stone
    The Los Lunas Decalogue Stone is a large boulder on the side of Hidden Mountain, near Los Lunas, New Mexico, about 35 miles south of Albuquerque, that bears a very regular inscription carved into a flat panel. The stone is also known as the Los Lunas Mystery Stone or Commandment Rock...

     represent proof of the presence of a pre-Columbian Semitic culture in America.
  • Numerous spurious claims regarding archaeological evidence to support statements in the Book of Mormon
    Book of Mormon
    The Book of Mormon is a sacred text of the Latter Day Saint movement that adherents believe contains writings of ancient prophets who lived on the American continent from approximately 2600 BC to AD 421. It was first published in March 1830 by Joseph Smith, Jr...

     that ancient Israelites settled in the Americas during pre-historic times (see Mormon archaeology).
  • Various New Age
    New Age
    The New Age movement is a Western spiritual movement that developed in the second half of the 20th century. Its central precepts have been described as "drawing on both Eastern and Western spiritual and metaphysical traditions and then infusing them with influences from self-help and motivational...

     assertions about Atlantis
    Atlantis
    Atlantis is a legendary island first mentioned in Plato's dialogues Timaeus and Critias, written about 360 BC....

    , Lemuria
    Lemuria (continent)
    Lemuria is the name of a hypothetical "lost land" variously located in the Indian and Pacific Oceans. The concept's 19th century origins lie in attempts to account for discontinuities in biogeography; however, the concept of Lemuria has been rendered obsolete by modern theories of plate tectonics...

    , and ancient root race
    Root race
    Root Races are stages in human evolution in the esoteric cosmology of theosophist Helena Petrovna Blavatsky, as described in her book The Secret Doctrine . These races were said to have existed on now-lost continents. Blavatsky's model was developed by later theosophists, most notably William...

    s derived from the writings of authors such as 19th-century channeller
    Mediumship
    Mediumship is described as a form of communication with spirits. It is a practice in religious beliefs such as Spiritualism, Spiritism, Espiritismo, Candomblé, Voodoo and Umbanda.- Concept :...

     Helena Blavatsky.
  • Mayanism
    Mayanism
    Mayanism is a non-codified eclectic collection of New Age beliefs, influenced in part by Pre-Columbian Maya mythology and some folk beliefs of the modern Maya peoples...

     and the 2012 phenomenon
    2012 phenomenon
    The 2012 phenomenon comprises a range of eschatological beliefs that cataclysmic or transformative events will occur on December 21, 2012. This date is regarded as the end-date of a 5,125-year-long cycle in the Mesoamerican Long Count calendar...

    .

General pseudoarchaeology

  • The work of 19th and early 20th century authors such as Ignatius Donnelly
    Ignatius Donnelly
    Ignatius Loyola Donnelly was a U.S. Congressman, populist writer and amateur scientist, known primarily now for his theories concerning Atlantis, Catastrophism , and Shakespearean authorship, all of which modern historians consider to be pseudoscience and pseudohistory...

    , Augustus Le Plongeon
    Augustus Le Plongeon
    Augustus Le Plongeon was a photographer and antiquarian who studied the pre-Columbian ruins of America, particularly those of the Maya civilization on the northern Yucatán Peninsula. While his writings contain many eccentric notions that were discredited by later researchers, Le Plongeon left a...

    , James Churchward
    James Churchward
    James Churchward is best known as a British born occult writer. However, he was also a patented inventor, engineer, and expert fisherman....

    , and Arthur Posnansky
    Arthur Posnansky
    Arthur Posnansky , often called "Arturo", was at various times in his life an engineer, explorer, ship’s navigator, director of a river navigation company, entrepreneur, La Paz city council member, and well known and well respected avocational archaeologist...

    .
  • The work of contemporary authors such as Erich von Däniken
    Erich von Däniken
    Erich Anton Paul von Däniken is a Swiss author best known for his controversial claims about extraterrestrial influences on early human culture, in books such as Chariots of the Gods?, published in 1968...

    , Barry Fell
    Barry Fell
    Barry Fell was a professor of invertebrate zoology at the Harvard Museum of Comparative Zoology. His primary research was on starfish and sea urchins...

    , Zecharia Sitchin
    Zecharia Sitchin
    Zecharia Sitchin was an Azerbaijani-born American author of books promoting an explanation for human origins involving ancient astronauts. Sitchin attributes the creation of the ancient Sumerian culture to the Anunnaki, which he states was a race of extra-terrestrials from a planet beyond Neptune...

    , Robert Bauval
    Robert Bauval
    Robert Bauval is an author, lecturer, and Ancient Egypt researcher, best known for his Orion Correlation Theory.-Early life:...

    , Adrian Gilbert
    Adrian Gilbert
    Adrian Gilbert is a bestselling British author and independent publisher who lives in England. His books are centred around investigations into ancient Esoteric knowledge and religious Mysteries....

    , Frank Joseph
    Frank Collin
    Francis Joseph "Frank" Collin formerly served as the leader of the National Socialist Party of America, whose plan to march in the predominantly Jewish suburb of Skokie, Illinois was the centerpiece of a major First Amendment decision by the U.S. Supreme Court, National Socialist Party of America...

    , Graham Hancock
    Graham Hancock
    Graham Hancock is a British writer and journalist. Hancock specialises in unconventional theories involving ancient civilizations, stone monuments or megaliths, altered states of consciousness, ancient myths and astronomical/astrological data from the past...

    , Colin Wilson
    Colin Wilson
    Colin Henry Wilson is a prolific English writer who first came to prominence as a philosopher and novelist. Wilson has since written widely on true crime, mysticism and other topics. He prefers calling his philosophy new existentialism or phenomenological existentialism.- Early biography:Born and...

    , Michael Cremo
    Michael Cremo
    Michael A. Cremo , also known as Drutakarma Dasa, is an American Hindu creationist whose work argues that modern humans have lived on the earth for billions of years...

    , Immanuel Velikovsky
    Immanuel Velikovsky
    Immanuel Velikovsky was a Russian-born American independent scholar of Jewish origins, best known as the author of a number of controversial books reinterpreting the events of ancient history, in particular the US bestseller Worlds in Collision, published in 1950...

    , Andrew Tomas
    Andrew Tomas
    Andrew Tomas was a UFO researcher, Freemason and author. An accountant by trade, Thomas was appointed to the position of official Sydney observer for the Australian Flying Saucer Bureau after meeting AFSB founder, Edgar Jarrold.- Personal :Tomas was born in St...

    , and David Hatcher Childress
    David Hatcher Childress
    David Hatcher Childress is an American author and publisher of books on topics on alternative history and historical revisionism. His works cover such subjects as pre-Columbian trans-oceanic contact, Atlantis, Lemuria, Ancient Astronauts, UFOs, Nikola Tesla, the Knights Templar, lost cities and...

    .
  • Lost continents
    Lost lands
    Lost lands can be continents, islands or other regions supposedly existing during prehistory, having since disappeared as a result of catastrophic geological phenomena or slowly rising sea levels since the end of the last Ice Age. Lost lands, where they existed, are supposed to have subsided into...

     such as Atlantis
    Atlantis
    Atlantis is a legendary island first mentioned in Plato's dialogues Timaeus and Critias, written about 360 BC....

    , Mu
    Mu (lost continent)
    Mu is the name of a hypothetical continent that allegedly existed in one of Earth's oceans, but disappeared at the dawn of human history.The concept and the name were proposed by 19th century traveler and writer Augustus Le Plongeon, who claimed that several ancient civilizations, such as those of...

    , or Lemuria
    Lemuria (continent)
    Lemuria is the name of a hypothetical "lost land" variously located in the Indian and Pacific Oceans. The concept's 19th century origins lie in attempts to account for discontinuities in biogeography; however, the concept of Lemuria has been rendered obsolete by modern theories of plate tectonics...

    , which are all contested by mainstream archaeologists and historians as lacking critical physical evidence and general historical credibility.
  • The ancient astronaut theory regarding Mayan ruler Pacal II.
  • Speculation regarding pre-Columbian contact
    Pre-Columbian trans-oceanic contact
    Theories of Pre-Columbian trans-oceanic contact are those theories that propose interaction between indigenous peoples of the Americas who settled the Americas before 10,000 BC, and peoples of other continents , which occurred before the arrival of Christopher Columbus in the Caribbean in 1492.Many...

     between Egypt
    Egypt
    Egypt , officially the Arab Republic of Egypt, Arabic: , is a country mainly in North Africa, with the Sinai Peninsula forming a land bridge in Southwest Asia. Egypt is thus a transcontinental country, and a major power in Africa, the Mediterranean Basin, the Middle East and the Muslim world...

     and the Maya
    Maya civilization
    The Maya is a Mesoamerican civilization, noted for the only known fully developed written language of the pre-Columbian Americas, as well as for its art, architecture, and mathematical and astronomical systems. Initially established during the Pre-Classic period The Maya is a Mesoamerican...

    .
  • Speculation by paranormal researchers that the so-called "starchild skull
    Starchild skull
    The Starchild skull is an abnormal human skull allegedly found in Mexico that is claimed to be the product of extraterrestrial-human breeding or genetic manipulation. Tests conducted utilizing mtDNA recovered from the skull have established it as human...

    ", an abnormal human skull allegedly found in Mexico, was the product of extraterrestrial-human breeding, despite DNA evidence debunking such claims.

Works of pseudoarchaeology

  • Chariots of the Gods?
  • Fingerprints of the Gods
    Fingerprints of the Gods
    Fingerprints of the Gods: The Evidence of Earth's Lost Civilization is a book first published in 1995 by Graham Hancock, in which he echoes nineteenth century writer Ignatius Donnelly, author of Atlantis: The Antediluvian World , in contending that some previously enigmatic ancient but...

  • From Atlantis to the Sphinx
    From Atlantis to the Sphinx
    From Atlantis to the Sphinx is a work of non-fiction by British author, Colin Wilson, with the subheading Recovering the Lost Wisdom of the Ancient World....


Legitimate archaeological sites often subject to pseudoarchaeological speculation

  • Stonehenge
    Stonehenge
    Stonehenge is a prehistoric monument located in the English county of Wiltshire, about west of Amesbury and north of Salisbury. One of the most famous sites in the world, Stonehenge is composed of a circular setting of large standing stones set within earthworks...

  • The Great Pyramid of Giza
    Great Pyramid of Giza
    The Great Pyramid of Giza is the oldest and largest of the three pyramids in the Giza Necropolis bordering what is now El Giza, Egypt. It is the oldest of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World, and the only one to remain largely intact...

  • The Sphinx
    Sphinx
    A sphinx is a mythical creature with a lion's body and a human head or a cat head.The sphinx, in Greek tradition, has the haunches of a lion, the wings of a great bird, and the face of a woman. She is mythicised as treacherous and merciless...

  • Etruscan inscriptions
    Etruscan language
    The Etruscan language was spoken and written by the Etruscan civilization, in what is present-day Italy, in the ancient region of Etruria and in parts of Lombardy, Veneto, and Emilia-Romagna...

  • Easter Island
    Easter Island
    Easter Island is a Polynesian island in the southeastern Pacific Ocean, at the southeasternmost point of the Polynesian triangle. A special territory of Chile that was annexed in 1888, Easter Island is famous for its 887 extant monumental statues, called moai, created by the early Rapanui people...

  • Teotihuacan
    Teotihuacan
    Teotihuacan – also written Teotihuacán, with a Spanish orthographic accent on the last syllable – is an enormous archaeological site in the Basin of Mexico, just 30 miles northeast of Mexico City, containing some of the largest pyramidal structures built in the pre-Columbian Americas...

  • Palenque
    Palenque
    Palenque was a Maya city state in southern Mexico that flourished in the 7th century. The Palenque ruins date back to 100 BC to its fall around 800 AD...

  • Chichen Itza
    Chichen Itza
    Chichen Itza is a large pre-Columbian archaeological site built by the Maya civilization located in the northern center of the Yucatán Peninsula, in the Municipality of Tinúm, Yucatán state, present-day Mexico....

  • Göbekli Tepe
    Göbekli Tepe
    Göbekli Tepe [ɡøbe̞kli te̞pɛ] is a hilltop sanctuary erected on the highest point of an elongated mountain ridge in southeastern Turkey, some northeast of the town of Şanlıurfa . It is the oldest human-made religious structure yet discovered...

  • Zorats Karer
    Zorats Karer
    Zorats Karer , also called Karahunj, Carahunge or the Armenian Stonehenge) is an archaeological site near the city of Sisian in the Syunik province of Armenia.-Description:...

     aka Armenian Stonehenge
  • The Nazca lines
    Nazca Lines
    The Nazca Lines are a series of ancient geoglyphs located in the Nazca Desert in southern Peru. They were designated a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1994. The high, arid plateau stretches more than between the towns of Nazca and Palpa on the Pampas de Jumana about 400 km south of Lima...

  • The stone spheres of Costa Rica
    Stone spheres of Costa Rica
    The stone spheres of Costa Rica are an assortment of over three hundred petrospheres in Costa Rica, located on the Diquis Delta and on Isla del Caño. Known locally as Las Bolas, they are also called The Diquis Spheres...


Academic archaeological responses


Pseudoarchaeological theories have come to be heavily criticised by academic and professional archaeologists. Prominent academic archaeologist Colin Renfrew stated his opinion that it was appalling that pseudoarchaeologists treated archaeological evidence in such a "frivolous and self-serving way", something he believed trivialised the "serious matter" of the study of human origins. Academics like John R. Cole, Garrett G. Fagan and Kenneth L. Feder have argued that pseudoarchaeological intepretations of the past were based upon sensationalism, self-contradiction, fallacious logic, manufactured or misinterpreted evidence, quotes taken out of context and incorrect information. Fagan and Feder characterised such interpretations of the past as being "anti-reason and anti-science" with some being "hyper-nationalistic, racist and hateful". In turn, many pseudoarchaeologists have dismissed academics as being close minded and not willing to consider theories other than their own.

Many academic archaeologists have argued that the spread of alternative archaeological theories is a threat to the general public's understanding of the past. Fagan was particularly scathing of television shows that presented pseudoarchaeological theories to the general public, believing that they did so because of the difficulties in making academic archaeological ideas comprehensible and interesting to the average viewer. Renfrew however believed that those television executives commissioning these documentaries knew that they were erroneous, and that they had allowed them to be made and broadcast simply in the hope of "short-term financial gain".

Fagan and Feder believed that it was not possible for academic archaeologists to successfully engage with pseudoarchaeologists, remarking that "you cannot reason with unreason". Speaking from their own experiences, they thought that attempted dialogues just became "slanging matches in which the expertise and motives of the critic become the main focus of attention." Fagan has maintained this idea elsewhere, remarking that arguing with supporters of pseudoarchaeological theories was "pointless" because they denied logic. He noted that they included those "who openly admitted to not having read a word written by a trained Egyptologist" but who at the same time "were pronouncing how academic Egyptology was all wrong, even sinister."

Conferences and anthologies


At the 1986 meeting of the Society for American Archaeology
Society for American Archaeology
The Society for American Archaeology is the largest organization of professional archaeologists of the Americas in the world. The Society was founded in 1934 and today has over 7000 members. The Society holds an annual conference and publishes the flagship journal of American archaeology,...

, its organizers, Kenneth Feder, Luanne Hudson and Francis Harrold decided to hold a symposium to examine pseudoarchaeological beliefs from a variety of academic standpoints, including archaeology, physical anthropology, sociology, history and psychology. From this symposium, an anthology was produced, entitled Cult Archaeology & Creationism: Understanding Pseudoarchaeological Beliefs about the Past (1987).

At the 2002 annual meeting of the Archaeological Institute of America
Archaeological Institute of America
The Archaeological Institute of America is a North American nonprofit organization devoted to the promotion of public interest in archaeology, and the preservation of archaeological sites. It has offices on the campus of Boston University and in New York City.The institute was founded in 1879,...

, a workshop was held on the topic of pseudoarchaeology. It subsequently led to the publication of an academic anthology, Archaeological Fantasies: How Pseudoarchaeology Misinterprets the Past and Misleads the Public (2006), which was edited by Garrett G. Fagan.

On April 23-24, 2009, The American Schools of Oriental Research
American Schools of Oriental Research
The American Schools of Oriental Research, founded in 1900, supports and encourages the study of the peoples and cultures of the Near East, from the earliest times to the present. It is apolitical and has no religious affiliation...

 and the Duke University
Duke University
Duke University is a private research university located in Durham, North Carolina, United States. Founded by Methodists and Quakers in the present day town of Trinity in 1838, the school moved to Durham in 1892. In 1924, tobacco industrialist James B...

 Center for Jewish Studies, along with the Duke Department of Religion, the Duke Graduate Program in Religion, the Trinity College of Arts and Sciences
Trinity College of Arts and Sciences
Trinity College of Arts and Sciences is the undergraduate liberal arts college at Duke University in Durham, North Carolina. The college is currently one of two undergraduate divisions at Duke, the other being the Edmund T...

 Committee on Faculty Research, and the John Hope Franklin Humanities Institute, sponsored a conference entitled "Archaeology, Politics, and the Media," which addressed the abuse of archaeology in the Holy Land
Holy Land
The Holy Land is a term which in Judaism refers to the Kingdom of Israel as defined in the Tanakh. For Jews, the Land's identifiction of being Holy is defined in Judaism by its differentiation from other lands by virtue of the practice of Judaism often possible only in the Land of Israel...

 for political, religious, and ideological purposes. Emphasis was placed on the media's reporting of sensational and politically motivated archaeological claims and the academy's responsibility in responding to it.

Inclusive attitudes


Academic archaeologist Cornelius Holtorf believed however that critics of alternative archaeologies like Fagan were "opinionated and patronizing" towards alternative theories, and that purporting their views in such a manner was damaging to the public's perception of archaeologists. Holtorf highlighted that there were similarities between academic and alternative archaeological interpretations, with the former taking some influence from the latter. As evidence, he highlighted archaeoastronomy
Archaeoastronomy
Archaeoastronomy is the study of how people in the past "have understood the phenomena in the sky how they used phenomena in the sky and what role the sky played in their cultures." Clive Ruggles argues it is misleading to consider archaeoastronomy to be the study of ancient astronomy, as modern...

, which was once seen as a core component of fringe archaeological interpretations before being adopted by mainstream academics. He also noted that certain archaeological scholars, like William Stukeley
William Stukeley
William Stukeley FRS, FRCP, FSA was an English antiquarian who pioneered the archaeological investigation of the prehistoric monuments of Stonehenge and Avebury, work for which he has been remembered as "probably... the most important of the early forerunners of the discipline of archaeology"...

 (1687-1765), Margaret Murray
Margaret Murray
Margaret Alice Murray was a prominent British Egyptologist and anthropologist. Primarily known for her work in Egyptology, which was "the core of her academic career," she is also known for her propagation of the Witch-cult hypothesis, the theory that the witch trials in the Early Modern period of...

 (1863-1963) and Marija Gimbutas
Marija Gimbutas
Marija Gimbutas , was a Lithuanian-American archeologist known for her research into the Neolithic and Bronze Age cultures of "Old Europe", a term she introduced. Her works published between 1946 and 1971 introduced new views by combining traditional spadework with linguistics and mythological...

 (1921-1994) were seen as significant figures to both academic and alternative archaeologists. He came to the conclusion that a constructive dialogue should be opened up between academic and alternative archaeologists.

Further reading

  • Robert Munro
    Robert Munro (archaeologist)
    Robert Munro was a Scottish archaeologist. He was educated at the University of Edinburgh and was a physician at Kilmarnock until 1886 when he turned his whole attention to archaeological research. He was a member of many learned societies at home and abroad and published several books on the...

    , Archaeology and False Antiquities (Methuen, 1905; G.W. Jacobs & Co., 1908).
  • Kenneth L. Feder, Encyclopedia of Dubious Archaeology: From Atlantis to The Walam Olum (Greenwood Publishing Group, 2010). ISBN 978-0-313-37918-5

See also

  • The Space Gods Revealed
    The Space Gods Revealed
    The Space Gods Revealed: A Close Look At The Theories of Erich Von Däniken is a book written in 1976 by Ronald Story, with an introduction by Carl Sagan. It was written as a refutation to the theories and evidence in Erich von Däniken's most famous work, Chariots of the Gods?, almost page by...

  • 2012 phenomenon
    2012 phenomenon
    The 2012 phenomenon comprises a range of eschatological beliefs that cataclysmic or transformative events will occur on December 21, 2012. This date is regarded as the end-date of a 5,125-year-long cycle in the Mesoamerican Long Count calendar...

  • Afrocentrism
    Afrocentrism
    Afrocentrism is cultural ideology mostly limited to the United States, dedicated to the history of Black people a response to global racist attitudes about African people and their historical contributions by revisiting this history with an African cultural and ideological center...

  • Ahnenerbe
    Ahnenerbe
    The Ahnenerbe was a Nazi German think tank that promoted itself as a "study society for Intellectual Ancient History." Founded on July 1, 1935, by Heinrich Himmler, Herman Wirth, and Richard Walther Darré, the Ahnenerbe's goal was to research the anthropological and cultural history of the Aryan...

  • Ancient astronaut
  • Antikythera mechanism
    Antikythera mechanism
    The Antikythera mechanism is an ancient mechanical computer designed to calculate astronomical positions. It was recovered in 1900–1901 from the Antikythera wreck. Its significance and complexity were not understood until decades later. Its time of construction is now estimated between 150 and 100...

  • Archaeology and the Book of Mormon
    Archaeology and the Book of Mormon
    Since the publication of the Book of Mormon in 1830, both Mormon and non-Mormon archaeologists have studied its claims in reference to known archaeological evidence...

  • Baghdad Battery
    Baghdad Battery
    The Baghdad Battery, sometimes referred to as the Parthian Battery, is the common name for a number of artifacts created in Mesopotamia, during the dynasties of Parthian or Sassanid period , and probably discovered in 1936 in the village of Khuyut Rabbou'a, near Baghdad, Iraq...

  • Frauds, Myths, and Mysteries: Science and Pseudoscience in Archaeology
    Frauds, Myths, and Mysteries: Science and Pseudoscience in Archaeology
    Frauds, Myths, and Mysteries: Science and Pseudoscience in Archaeology is a book by Kenneth L. Feder on the topic of pseudoarcheology. Feder is a professor of archaeology at Central Connecticut State University....

  • Mayanism
    Mayanism
    Mayanism is a non-codified eclectic collection of New Age beliefs, influenced in part by Pre-Columbian Maya mythology and some folk beliefs of the modern Maya peoples...

  • Nationalism and archaeology
  • Nazi archaeology
    Nazi archaeology
    Nazi archaeology refers to the movement led by various Nazi leaders, archaeologists, and other scholars, such as Adolf Hitler and Heinrich Himmler, to research the German past in order to strengthen nationalism...

  • Out-of-place artifact
  • Phaistos Disc
    Phaistos Disc
    The Phaistos Disc is a disk of fired clay from the Minoan palace of Phaistos on the Greek island of Crete, possibly dating to the middle or late Minoan Bronze Age . It is about 15 cm in diameter and covered on both sides with a spiral of stamped symbols...

  • Pathological science
    Pathological science
    Pathological science is the process in science in which "people are tricked into false results ... by subjective effects, wishful thinking or threshold interactions". The term was first used by Irving Langmuir, Nobel Prize-winning chemist, during a 1953 colloquium at the Knolls Research Laboratory...

  • Phantom island
    Phantom island
    Phantom islands are islands that were believed to exist, and appeared on maps for a period of time during recorded history, but were later removed after they were proved to be nonexistent...

  • Pseudoarchaeology of Cornwall
    Pseudoarchaeology of Cornwall
    The pseudoarchaeology of Cornwall concerns aspects of the study of Cornwall that fall outside mainstream archaeology, history, and cultural studies. Pseudoarchaeological approaches differ from the mainstream disciplines in methodology, which often leads to very different ideas...

  • Pyramid inch
    Pyramid inch
    The pyramid inch is a unit of measure claimed by pyramidologists to have been used in ancient times. Supposedly it was one twenty-fifth of a "sacred cubit", 1.00106 imperial inches, or 2.5426924 centimetres.-History:...

  • Psychic archaeology
    Psychic archaeology
    Psychic archaeology is a loose collection of practices involving the application of paranormal phenomena to problems in archaeology.Practitioners of psychic archaeology utilize a variety of methods of divination ranging from pseudoscientific methods such as dowsing for Electromagnetic Photo-Fields...

  • Theosophy
    Theosophy
    Theosophy, in its modern presentation, is a spiritual philosophy developed since the late 19th century. Its major themes were originally described mainly by Helena Blavatsky , co-founder of the Theosophical Society...

  • Xenoarchaeology
    Xenoarchaeology
    Xenoarchaeology is a hypothetical form of archaeology that exists mainly in science fiction works concerned with the physical remains of past alien life and cultures...


External links