This week I've been reading Paul Jordan's The Atlantis Syndrome, a discussion of the people who believed in Atlantis and the reasons their ideas have been flawed, fraudulant, freaky, or fake. I had been meaning to read the book since it came out in 2001, and in a way it's interesting to approach it now, almost ten years later.
The pseudo-science that preoccupies much of Jordan's book, including Rand and Rose Flem-Ath's theory of Atlantis in Antarctica, Graham Hancock's advanced ancient super-civilization, and the theory of Atlantis in Bolivia, seemed important in the late 1990s and peaked around 2000; but who today pays them the least mind? Ten years ago, these theories commanded major publishing house book deals, network and cable documentary series, and truck loads of money. Today, even the best-selling author of the late "alternative archaeology" boom, Graham Hancock, is no longer with a major publisher (his last nonfiction book was published by Disinformation in the US, and he has now moved on to writing about his lost civilization in a novel--i.e., fiction), and the theories that Jordan worried were a serious threat to the public's understanding of archaeology have melted away.
This is both good and bad. On the plus side, a decline in the popularity of "alternative archaeology" means that fewer patently false ideas are being put out for public consumption. But on the other hand, it also means that publishers and television producers are spending much less time talking about the ancient past. And that can't be good.
I am an author and researcher focusing on pop culture, science, and history. Bylines: New Republic, Esquire, Slate, etc. There's more about me in the About Jason tab.
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