It seemed to me that a growing number of people have been coming to my website in search of information about Scott Wolter and America Unearthed rather than other topics, but I wanted to run the numbers to confirm my impression had a basis in fact. It turns out that “Scott Wolter” is now the number one search term bringing readers to my website, and my reviews of America Unearthed were the most-read pages on my website for the past two weeks. I’m truly surprised that such a fact-free, unentertaining show has apparently surpassed Ancient Aliens in impact.
Since it seems an increasing number of my readers are interested in diffusionism and (presumably) real archaeological cultures, rather than the complete fantasy of aliens, I thought I would share a little bit about the archaeology of settlement.
I grew up in Auburn, New York, which many of you know from my books. A couple of miles from the Victorian-era city center was the town dump, but as the city grew, houses encroached on the dump, and no one really wanted to live near a reeking pile of garbage. So the city covered over the dump with a thick layer of dirt around 1910, laid down some roads—not all of which were ever finished—and planted trees. In the 1910s and 1920s, new neighborhoods grew up atop this dump, and one of the houses became the one where I grew up.
The great thing about living atop a Victorian dump as a kid was that all sorts of weird things would erupt from the unsettled ground, and you couldn’t dig a hole or plant a tree without turning up some remnant of the past. Usually it was just broken pieces of glass, rusty metal, or shards of china. But sometimes it was more interesting. I once found a complete blue-painted metal coffee pot, barely rusted; and one time, after a storm, a large sink hole in a neighbor’s yard revealed the rusted remains of an early automobile. Too big to move, it was quickly reburied and is still down there even today. Far too often the roots of trees and bushes would churn up clam shells, which my father attributed to former residents’ long-ago clam bakes. Much, much later I would learn their true—and disgusting—purpose. The Victorians used clam shells to clean themselves before the invention of toilet paper.
From the artifacts that bubbled up from the earth, a picture of the daily life of people living around 1890-1910 emerged in a way that textbooks rarely illustrated. But the dump beneath my childhood home was no anomaly; everywhere that people live, piles of trash invariable arise. Archaeologists use the trash heaps—middens—created by long ago cultures to learn about how they lived, what they ate, and the tools they used.
Alternative archaeologists make grand claims about settlements in the United States of cultures from all over the world (funny, isn’t it, that they never seem to look for Hebrews, Romans, or Atlanteans in sub-Saharan Africa, southeast Asia, or Polynesia), and ancient astronaut speculators imagine aliens living and working alongside, or lording over, humans. Yet where is the trash? Do we really expect that the aliens never dropped a screw, or broke a laser-blaster? How is that Romans, Celts, Irish, British, Gauls, Hebrews, Phoenicians, Africans, Indians (from India), Atlanteans, Muvians, Lemurians, and more all managed to live in North America, colonize it, and interact with its people without leaving behind a single piece of trash with the markers of their cultures. We are expected to believe America is lousy with Old World cultural influence, but somehow all that survived were a few luxury artifacts—swords, inscribed stones, crosses, etc.—and absolutely no garbage, no assemblages of artifacts in the style of the Old World, nothing.
1/17/2013 03:37:18 am
"Victorian-era city center town dump..."
1/17/2013 03:39:20 am
Jason,You definitively are a natural born Lovecraftian ;)
1/17/2013 06:12:06 am
Those are my own thoughts exactly. But then, growing up with an archaeologist for a father honed the skeptic nerve pretty early.
1/17/2013 10:47:11 am
And wouldn't horses or donkeys have been mighty useful in pre-Columbian America?
1/17/2013 11:58:05 am
I didn't think that you liked arguments from silence.
1/17/2013 12:56:00 pm
You're right that it isn't proof that Muvians or Phoenicians didn't come to America; however, it is a complicating factor for advocates of that position. As always, I am not claiming that European voyages were impossible; I'm just poiting out that the advocates of such claims need to account convincingly for why these travelers are exempt from the universal rules of how humans behave when living in a place for any extended period.
1/17/2013 01:28:28 pm
I'm drawing a blank on who wrote it, but someone did recently place Atlantis in Indonesia. During the last ice age most of the South China Sea and western Indonesia were connected as a sizable subcontinent. It bears an uncanny resemblance to Plato's Atlantis if you ignore almost every specific thing Plato said about Atlantis. Naturally, they didn't built anything on the highlands so, when the rising seas covered their country, it was all hidden by the sea leaving no evidence whatsoever.Then they traveled around the world teaching all the arts of civilization to the myriads of people who were too stupid to figure out how to put one rock on top of another.
1/17/2013 04:03:23 pm
I am officially addicted to your blog and each day I look forward to what you have to say and to reading the reactions of your readers.
1/17/2013 04:14:17 pm
Alternative archaeologists seem to be after sexy artifacts, where the real work is in digging through dirty bathroom seashells. I love that! So, someone needs to find some space-toilet paper under one of the pyramids. I'm loving this blog
2/16/2013 01:14:00 pm
My first, immediate reaction was "Douchenozzle." But then I realized that posting JUST THAT might come across wrong, so I'm clarifying: space-toilet paper == douchenozzle. There's enough of them running around poking at things they don't understand, you'd think ONE of them would pick up a hookah and declare it so...
1/17/2013 07:37:21 pm
This reminded me of the first book from the "Giants series" by late James P. Hogan.
1/18/2013 04:52:52 pm
Hogan was a great science fiction writer, but he was a Velikovskian who tried to quietly fit those beliefs into his fiction.
1/17/2013 09:45:44 pm
1/18/2013 05:02:00 pm
1/18/2013 11:36:47 pm
Thank you Sir.Indeed you run an interesting blog.
1/19/2013 02:56:48 pm
I found your blog today whilst searching for answers students posed in my art history class this week (we were doing Neolithic and Bronze Age). Apparently they spend far more time watching suspect TV shows than I do and are far less skeptical. But I'm a lapsed archaeologist and know something about the subject, so am less likely to fall for the crap that passes as "educational television" in today's media. At any rate, two of your posts came up during my searches, and I took the liberty of linking them to my class blog (The Owl's Parliament). If they have the temerity to comment on anything, please be gentle. They live in Texas, and most went to school here, so none of us should be surprised if they fall short in the critical thinking department.
5/1/2014 06:44:27 pm
A jab towards your students........what a great instructor.
3/24/2013 06:29:16 am
lol. Folks with your mindsets. Sometimes I get this image of those in past eras with similar mindsets, brandishing pitchforks and calling for the heretics to be executed.
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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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