Tristan (he goes by one name online) produces the new Anarchaeologist podcast and holds a degree in archaeology, though he is not a professional archaeologist. He believes that archaeology needs to engage with the wider public in order to remain useful and relevant, and he is particularly interested in how the public perceives archaeology and how archaeology as a field presents itself to the public. After producing a podcast on archaeology in new media, Tristan decided to take a look at what happens when the public tries to find information about archaeology on YouTube. It shouldn’t surprise anyone what he found using the keyword “archaeology,” but it was nevertheless amusing that Tristan was taken completely by surprise by the overwhelming number of videos advocating the existence of a conspiracy to suppress the truth about Bible giants.
This and many other videos really get my goat in terms of representing Archaeology on Youtube, either a ludicrous cover up of ancient culture or as evidence for biblical archaeology. I am almost furious that we as a discipline have allowed our online presence to become a haven for what can only be called fringe archaeology. Most archaeologists will scoff at the mention of ancient aliens and other such fantasies but it seems for many on Youtube, these are real and believable theories. In addition, someone attempting to learn more about archaeology in general is swamped by hour long documentaries talking about Sodom & Gomorrah, Confirming the Bible through Archaeology and the Secret History of Archaeology. I want to be clear that I don’t want these types of programs removed, nor do I want to silence people’s opinions; I just wish that the online landscape of archaeology better reflected the real world of archaeology.
That’s not going to happen anytime soon! It’s giants all the way down. Even ancient astronaut theorists are obsessed with Bible giants!
Tristan notes the existence of hundreds of high quality archaeology blogs, but regrets that they are drowned out by well-financed “made-for-market media that dominates search engines and has money assigned for promotion.”
The problem is that the conspiracy theories are pretty much all the interested layperson sees when looking for information on television, on YouTube, are on much of the open internet. And virtually no one is immune to mistaking slickly produced propaganda for truth. Take the case of Dorothy Turcotte, who by most accounts is a very nice senior citizen from Canada who has devoted much of her later life to writing a newspaper column for a succession of local newspapers and producing a variety of nonfiction books, mostly on subjects of local interest to her community of Grimsby, near St Catharines and Niagara Falls.
Earlier this month Turcotte wrote a column for the Grimsby Lincoln News that went over Niagara Falls in a barrel, plunging straight into the foaming depths of lunatic fringe history. She got there thanks to Scott Wolter, whose America Unearthed she watches regularly, despite not quite knowing who he is. She calls him “Scott Wolper,” perhaps thinking of the twentieth century filmmaker David L. Wolper, who produced many famed historical documentaries. Anyway, Turcotte thinks that what she saw on America Unearthed and then learned from researching its claims is “sure to pique children’s interest in learning more.” She’s like to see it taught in schools.
Turcotte’s investigations into fringe history are unfathomably sad, and someone at the Gimsby Lincoln News needed to fact check the article, or suggest to the author that something was amiss. It is frankly, embarrassing, and a sensitive editor might have done something about it.
Turcotte claims that the Vikings discovered Manitoba after finding “Anse l’Meadows,” by which she means L’anse-aux-Meadows by way of Ansel Adams. Her evidence for Vikings in Manitoba rests on the community of Gimli, which has no Viking archaeology but does have giant statue of a Viking erected in 1967 in honor of the province’s Icelandic residents, commemorating an ethnic heritage festival held in the town since 1932. Icelanders founded the settlement in 1875.
She then adopts all of Gavin Menzies’s various claims about Chinese voyages to America uncritically. She claims that Native Americans have “Chinese” DNA and speak languages influenced by Chinese, and that a Chinese junk was excavated from the Sacramento River and carbon dated to 1410. The trouble with that claim, of course, is that the junk doesn’t exist, at least so far as anyone other than Gavin Menzies knows. Menzies refused to reveal the ship’s location, provide documentation of its recovery, or release the data behind his alleged radiocarbon test. He offers not even a photograph, let alone the documentation needed in California to actually conduct a recovery expedition, as was allegedly done in 2002 and 2003.
Turcotte then asserts, embarrassingly, that Western and Russian scientists discovered a perfect match for Atlantis on an island “in the Atlantic Ocean east of Gibraltar.” East of Gibraltar is the Mediterranean Sea. The Atlantic is to the west, and there is no match for Atlantis on either side.
She also believes that science has found information about the “universes” beyond ours, and it isn’t clear whether she is referring to the multiverse or confusing galaxies with universes.
Her call to action is depressing on many levels:
Is any of this being taught in our schools, in place of the traditional historical and geographical material? I hope so. Those who doubt its truth can easily find sources to support these claims. While such amazing information must change our entire thinking about the past, it must also be disseminated, rather than being suppressed. Young people today need to have their vision of this planet broadened, and be given the opportunity to learn much, much more than was previously available.
Scott Wolter couldn’t have said it better himself. In fact, he didn’t say it better yesterday when in comments on his blog he accused me (and those he calls my “minions”) of “negative agendas and deception” before delivering this stunning rant:
If it weren't for Lance Aux Meadows we'd still hail Columbus Day and the Roman Catholic Church would be giddy. The fact is the same 'serious academics' turn a blind eye to the obvious conclusive evidence behind the "Big Three", the Kensington Rune Stone, the Bat Creek Stone, and the Tucson Lead Artifacts. To accept them throws the last 2000 years of North American history upside down completely.
This is rather untrue; as I’ve pointed out more than once, the Viking discovery of America around 1000 CE was a standard part of American textbooks even before the discovery of L’Anse-Aux-Meadows. In Charles H. McCarthy’s History of the United States, a standard high school textbook used in Catholic schools in 1919, the author wrote: “The first white men who ever came to America were Northmen. Our continent was discovered through accident in the year 1000, by a Northman named Leif, who was on his way to proclaim the Christian faith in Greenland.”
And just to be clear: Leif Erikson, the founder of Vinland, was a Catholic according to the sagas. So, too, were some of the people who allegedly created the Tucson Lead Artifacts, forged (supposedly) by Christians who accompanied some Jews to Arizona. Needless to say, the Norse who supposedly carved the Kensington Rune Stone were putatively (though not in Wolter’s imagination) Catholics who inscribed the stone with “Ave Maria” (AVM). I’m not sure why the Catholic Church would have much interest in the question, except in Wolter’s imagination, where there is an elaborate conspiracy to fabricate history to suppress heresy. I’ll remind you that McCarthy’s textbook was for Catholic schools and endorsed the Viking discovery in 1919!
If you’re not a conspiracy theorist, you might be interested in this final item: There is a group trying to save the fields around the Chesterton Windmill, which was likely the model for the Newport Tower in Rhode Island, presuming you accept that the Tower is a colonial era windmill and not the secret clubhouse of itinerant Templars. There is a move afoot to develop the land around the Chesterton Windmill, and this could compromise the historic landscape and the beautiful views of the windmill. I don’t know much about the plans or their impact, but I told one of the preservationists that I’d pass on the link.
I am an author and researcher focusing on pop culture, science, and history. Bylines: New Republic, Slate, etc. There's more about me in the About Jason tab.
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