Tomorrow I hope to present a completely different topic in fake history, but for today I have one more thing to say about America Unearthed S01E09 “Motive for Murder.”
I’ll be honest with you: I’ve never been terribly interested in the idea of Welsh visitors to North America, but last Friday I heard for the first time on America Unearthed the apparently not uncommon claim that Welsh incursions into pre-Columbian America “threaten the legitimacy of the United States.” Since that is a very serious claim, it deserves a more sustained response than I had time to provide in my review of that episode.
Last night, America Unearthed host Scott Wolter questioned my integrity as a critic and my honesty as a reporter, so unfortunately that means another day spent discussing his show. Perhaps that’s all part of the plan. Anyway, Wolter accused me of misrepresenting his position on the Brandenburg Stone, an alleged Welsh carving found in Kentucky in 1912. I wrote in my review of S01E09 “Motive for Murder” that Wolter had concluded after an examination that the stone was carved prior to 1492.
I don’t want to go too far down the conspiracy rabbit hole, but there was an interesting posting made on the Facebook page of the Kensington Rune Stone International Supporters. You’ll remember professional book binder Joe Rose from America Unearthed S01E05 “A Deadly Sacrifice,” where Rose offered his views about Mithraism in his guise as an expert on ancient religion. Well, apparently Rose isn’t happy with how he was depicted on the show. On the Facebook page he wrote:
Well, that was interesting. This was a wonderful hour of television, if only because the show itself was forced to concede that forensic geologist and show host Scott Wolter’s vaunted geological re-dating of stone artifacts produces false results and can’t be trusted. We now have no reason to believe any of his dating of other stones now or in the future.
America Unearthed S01E09 “Motive for Murder” begins with a disclaimer that on this “special episode” the murder investigation forensic geologist Scott Wolter is about to undertake contains images that “may be disturbing.” Insert your own joke here. We proceed to a reenactment of Meriwether Lewis sitting at his desk recording his famous expedition across America, which the on-screen graphics state include “secret” information that had been suppressed. We then see Lewis commit suicide with a pistol. The “disturbing” image is the blood splattering on a map hung upon the wall. The on-screen text tells us that Lewis died of multiple gunshot wounds, calling into question the suicide theory.
I’m not entirely sure how the Nazca lines ended up becoming synonymous with ancient astronauts. It’s not as though they are a particularly natural fit. Sure, the large animal figures and long geometric shapes are strange, but they don’t really scream alien. Erich von Däniken started the theme in Chariots of the Gods (1968) when he wrote the following lines: “Seen from the air, the clear-cut impression that the 37-mile-long plain of Nazca made on me was that of an airfield! What is so far-fetched about the idea?”
The other day on Facebook, alternative historian Graham Hancock reported that he has become a regular user of hallucinogenic drugs, with which he communes with spirit beings from another realm. Hancock cautioned that he can provide no evidence that these entities have a reality outside his imagination, but he has more or less made clear that he believes that he is in actual contact with goddesses and demons. In his latest drug-induced vision, he experienced a “psychic” attack from an entity that he was unable to stop by “projecting love” at it.
One of the big assertions ancient astronaut and alternative history writers use to justify their belief that ancient myths provide a reliable guide to history is Heinrich Schliemann’s discovery of Troy, allegedly by following directions from Homer’s Iliad and Odyssey. As I’ve written about before, this is in fact a myth, concocted by Schliemann as a publicity stunt. But the myth took hold, and in 1912, an audacious newspaper hoax sought to capitalize on it.
Yesterday I taped an interview with Britain’s ITN about ancient astronauts (to air on their online Truthloader channel later this week), and the interviewer asked me if I thought that a belief in ancient astronauts was dangerous. I answered honestly that I did not think that reading a book about ancient astronauts or watching Ancient Aliens was dangerous, but dispiriting. By contrast, diffusionism, especially hyper-diffusionism—the belief that Atlanteans, Muvians, Irish, Phoenician, etc. world travelers spread culture around the globe—has had demonstrable negative effects. For example, I mentioned a few days ago on this blog how the Rhodesian white minority government used diffusionist claims about a lost white race to justify their rule.
Since last night was the State of the Union address, I thought I’d talk about another State of the Union given by an earlier president, and how alternative archaeology found its way into U.S. government policy.
One of the biggest problems with “alternative” history is that its practitioners come up with an idea and then cherry pick evidence to support it, even if a fair evaluation of the facts suggests other conclusions. We saw this last Friday on America Unearthed where Scott Wolter was dead set on declaring a spring house (a type of root cellar) a Freemasons’ ritual bathhouse to the point that he actively ignored evidence opposing his hypothesis. We see it in every ancient astronaut book and every episode of Ancient Aliens, too.
So today I’d like to share one of my adventures in archaeology and to think about what alternative historians would have made of it.
I’ve had a bit of fun with America Unearthed’s $7,200 wardrobe budget for its pilot episode, mostly because series star Scott Wolter had a very minimal wardrobe. I do want to clarify, though, that the majority of this budget likely did not go to Wolter’s clothes but rather to the costumes used for the historical reenactments featured very briefly at the opening of each hour. I chose to have a bit of fun with the number mostly because the show calls great attention to its expensive production values, including dramatic cinematography and elaborate computer graphics packages.
But on a much more serious note, in comments on an earlier blog post, a television producer expressed concern that I had implied that America Unearthed and Committee Films, the company behind the show, were engaged in “nefarious” activity in accepting public financing in the form of production rebates.
I'm an author and editor who has published on a range of topics, including archaeology, science, and horror fiction. There's more about me in the About Jason tab.
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