It may not seem like it some days, but I’m a journalist, not just a critic of alternative history. This means that I am interested in the story behind alternative history as much as I am the specific claims made by alternative theorists. And what I’ve found is somewhat disturbing. You’ll remember that last year I obtained documents from the National Archives about Erich von Däniken’s efforts to advise Gerald Ford during the 1976 presidential election; well, now I’ve found some interesting paperwork about H2’s highest-rated show, America Unearthed.
Yesterday the History networks sent out a press release confirming that America Unearthed has been renewed for a second season, to be filmed this spring, probably for a fall airing. However, more importantly, the press release provided us with our first hard numbers about who is watching America Unearthed and just how many:
In our conversation this week, America Unearthed star Scott Wolter asked me to explain to him what I thought of the so-called “mooring stones,” medium- to large-sized rocks in which are found small, round holes obviously carved by iron chisels. Hjalmar R. Holland, one of the early advocates of the Kensington Rune Stone, first claimed in 1907 that these rocks were mooring stones used by Vikings to anchor their longboats along the edge of a vanished Minnesota lake.
For those of you who do not follow the comments on my older blog posts, America Unearthed star Scott Wolter replied to my discussion of the alleged Roman-Jewish colony in Arizona. Wolter initially accused me of (a) “near-religious zealotry” in debunking him, (b) participation in a conspiracy against him organized by his former friends in Minnesota, (c) abject “fear” that he is right, and (d) not doing my own research. After our discussion, Wolter revised these positions, and it seems we have come to an understanding about my purpose in reviewing his program. You can read our complete discussion here.
I sense that something is changing in the realm of “alternative” history. Since 2009, Ancient Aliens has pretty much dominated the genre, making the ancient astronaut “theory” the most popular of the pseudo-historical claims in the media. But since the program’s move to H2 last year, and the subsequently smaller audience, it seems like emphasis is shifting away from ancient astronauts. Four years was a good run, nearly matching the 1973-1978 high water mark for the first go-round after the In Search of Ancient Astronauts TV documentary. Instead, it seems that “alternative archaeology,” specifically diffusionism, is making a comeback.
Note: This post has been edited to fix incorrect information about spherical geometry.
I think there has been some confusion over my reviews of America Unearthed. A great number of people who have commented or emailed take my reviews for a comprehensive examination of the claims made for the ancient sites featured on the show. In most cases, that would take a book, and I can only write so many books per year. My purpose is to review the program as a piece of television and to consider whether the evidence presented on the program makes the case it wants the viewers to accept as true. This is a different beast altogether, and it is theoretically possible that the program could fail miserably through sheer incompetence while missing genuine evidence for an alternative interpretation of history.
What the heck was that? Nobody on tonight’s Ancient Aliens S05E06 “Secrets of the Tombs” seemed really into it this week. Everyone seemed to realize that the material was rehashed from so many previous episodes that there was precious little new to talk about, and they didn’t even try to justify their wild assertions. Even Giorgio Tsoukalos didn’t bother to dress up in his customary suit and tie for the interview, while David Childress wore what looked like pajamas (it was actually a green shirt apparently a size too small). Continuity was at such a low ebb that we flicked back to the blue title card introduced two weeks ago rather than the standard brown one because this season’s episodes are apparently shown out of production order. Based on the clothes the pundits were wearing and their hair, this episode appears to have been shot much later than most of the preceding weeks’ offerings.
In his interview with Skeptiko host Alex Tsakris last week, Ancient Aliens Debunked filmmaker Chris White discussed his beliefs about Noah’s ark, the Great Flood, and the beings that lived before the Flood, whom he considers to be supernatural beings from another dimension that interbred with humans and gave rise to a hybrid race, which the Flood destroyed. These are the Nephilim of Genesis 6, the “sons of God” (literally: sons of the gods) and their children, the “mighty me of old, the men of renown.” Here’s part of what he told Tsakris:
The Voice of Russia reported that a 300-million-year-old piece of aluminum machinery turned up in a piece of coal a Russian man was using to heat his home. News reports alleged that the artifact resembled the teeth of a cog wheel, even though the object itself is not curved, and Sharon Hill of Doubtful News quickly explained that the object is in all likelihood a natural crystal. Russian media have been promoting false “ancient alien” artifacts since Soviet times, so this bit of tabloid hype is nothing new or out of character.
Following Up on Scott Wolter's Degree and Megan Fox's Ancient Aliens Obsession
For those of you who missed it, America Unearthed star Scott Wolter replied to my blog post discussing his now-rescinded claim to have received an honorary master’s degree from the University of Minnesota-Duluth in 1987. According to Wolter, the degree was in fact unofficial and consisted of a cup of coffee with whipped topping presented to him by his undergraduate professors.
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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