Last year, researchers associated with the Younger Dryas Impact Hypothesis claimed that an exploding comet destroyed the Hopewell culture of ancient Ohio. At the time, I pointed out many of the reasons their claim did not pass the sniff test, notably because Hopewell culture persisted more than two centuries after the supposed impact. Now, a new paper in Nature confirms that the original claim is almost absurdly flawed:
Tankersley et al. claim a cosmic airburst over modern-day Cincinnati, Ohio in the 3rd or fourth century CE catalyzed the decline of Hopewell culture. This claim is extraordinary in the face of hundreds of archaeological investigations in the Middle Ohio River Valley (MORV) that have heretofore provided no evidence of a widespread cataclysm or “social decline” in need of explanation. Tankersley et al. misrepresent primary sources, conflate discrete archaeological contexts, improperly use chronological analyses, insufficiently describe methods, and inaccurately characterize the source of supposed extraterrestrial materials to support an incorrect conclusion. While charcoal and burned soils are found on virtually all excavated Middle Woodland archaeological sites in the region, these have prosaic explanations. Many of the burned “habitation surfaces” mentioned are actually prepared surfaces for ceremonial fires, not the result of a synchronous regional catastrophe. Radiocarbon dated samples from one context are mistakenly attributed to distinct and unrelated contexts. The chronological analysis does not support the notion of a single event spanning 15,000 km2. The composition of their supposed extraterrestrial materials is inconsistent with an origin in comet or asteroid events. In sum, there is no evidence to support the conclusion that a comet exploded over modern-day Cincinnati in the third or fourth century CE.
The whole paper is a great read and a decisive rebuke to the expansive but fantastical types of claims Younger Dryas Impact Hypothesis researchers have proposed.
[Update: George Howard said the dispute revolved around contract negotiations and concerns about payments and the ownership of the rights to material presented at the conference.]
In a surprise move, Graham Hancock pulled out of June’s Cosmic Summit, a meeting of catastrophists in support of the theory that a comet hit the Earth at the end of the last Ice Age and destroyed a high-tech lost civilization. Atlantis speculator Jimmy Corsetti, who was also scheduled to speak, also said he would not be attending. Corsetti claimed he had been “removed” against his will from the list of speakers, leaving the conference in chaos.
A new Netflix series called Ancient Apocalypse shot to the top of the streaming service's rankings the week it was released. It claims that an advanced civilization which thrived during the Ice Age was wiped out by comets and floods, but left humanity with science and technology. In the world of archaeology, such claims aren't new, and are referred to by experts as "pseudo-archaeology." This episode of IDEAS unearths the long history of pseudo-archaeology, how it's been deployed to advance political and cultural ideas, and where it crosses over from pseudo-science to religious myth-making.
In case you didn’t see it, Graham Hancock appeared on Russell Brand’s podcast this past week to promote Ancient Apocalypse and to attack archaeologists yet again for being mean to him by asking for evidence for his claims. Hancock looks tired and angry during the interview, and even Brand notes that he seems unduly dejected and downtrodden for a man with one of the world’s most popular streaming nonfiction series.
Ancient Apocalypse host Graham Hancock gave a lengthy, self-pitying interview to London Real in which he celebrated his own bravery while offering a series of oxymoronic and illogical arguments in a sustained attacked on Wikipedia, archaeology in general, and one archaeologist in particular.
This year wasn’t quite as bad as 2021, so I can’t be too upset at a year that, if nothing else, did not get appreciably worse. On the other hand, nothing really improved either. Between inflation and further work cuts in my failing industry, it’s been hard. When a prominent astrologer said this year would be the best of my life, I wasn’t sure whether that was a promise or a threat. It’s a good thing astrology is bunk, or else I would be painfully depressed to think this was the best things will ever get.
In a more general sense, this was a year devoted mostly to UFOs, which dominated the paranoid paranormal discourse for the first ten months, until Atlantis made a late run for the crown.
Here, then, is the year that was, edited and condensed from my blog posts and newsletter.
British journalist Graham Hancock’s Ancient Apocalypse has become a surprise cultural phenomenon since its November 11 release on Netflix. The archaeology-themed series garnered an impressive 24.62 million hours of viewing in its first week of release, landing in the streaming service’s top 10 in 31 countries. It has also sparked unparalleled outrage from archaeologists and journalists, resulting in dozens of think pieces decrying the show’s many false claims and illogical arguments, analyzing its racist implications, and declaring the series everything from “fishy” to the “most dangerous” show on Netflix. “Why has this been allowed?” asked Britain’s The Guardian. The answer to that seemed pretty obvious: Hancock’s son, Sean Hancock, is Netflix’s senior manager for unscripted originals.
Hancock’s show speculates that a crashing comet destroyed Atlantis, or a similar lost civilization, 13,000 years ago in a series of events remembered as the Great Flood. Ancient monuments and wisdom are therefore the legacy of Atlantis’s survivors, not Earth’s diverse peoples and cultures. Explaining all the reasons Hancock is wrong would take a whole book. Fortunately, I’ve written two. Reader, he is wrong...
Read the rest in The New Republic!
Netflix released the first viewership figures for Graham Hancock’s Ancient Apocalypse, and the numbers were less impressive than I expected. Netflix reported that for the week of Nov. 14-20, the show’s first full week of release, viewers of Netflix’s English-language services worldwide watched 24.61 million hours of the show. By contrast, the comedy series Dead to Me had 30.3 million hours viewed in half the time (it was released mid-week) and Warrior Nun, released the same day as Apocalypse, had 27.74 million hours viewed. All of them paled before 1899, which had nearly 80 million hours viewed in its first few days of release.
The success of Graham Hancock’s Ancient Apocalypse surprised me greatly. The show reached #2 on Netflix’s viewership rankings in the U.S. and U.K. and was in the top 10 worldwide. Consequently, it has become the most-watched speculative history series in a decade, likely outstripping the viewership for previous ratings titans in the genre, like History’s Curse of Oak Island (3 million at its peak), Ancient Aliens (2 million at its peak), and America Unearthed (1.5 million at its peak) and easily leapfrogging similar series on the Discovery, Travel, and Science channels, which averaged around 600,000 viewers. (Netflix does not release exact viewership figures.) Part of the reason is likely due to Netflix itself. Cable channels narrowcast. Viewership for the History or Science channels is primarily older white men, while Netflix, which has found success with other New Age shows like the Gwyneth Paltrow Goop series, can put Ancient Apocalypse in front of all four quadrants: men and women, young and old. Thus, they can appeal to a wider anti-establishment audience that would not tune in on cable.
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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