Explorer, History Channel Producer Accuse UNESCO of Bias, Efforts to Suppress the Truth
Regular readers will remember that back in May adventurer Barry Clifford, 70, announced that he had discovered the wreck of pirate Capt. Kidd’s Adventure Galley in the territorial waters of Madagascar and presented a large chunk of what he claimed was Kidd’s silver as proof. Now a new report from UNESCO conclusively demonstrates that Clifford’s claims are false. UNESCO investigators determined that the “silver” was actually a chunk of lead from some long-ago ballast, and no evidence of a shipwreck appeared at all. The remains identified as a ship are in fact broken parts of the old port. Clifford, they said, provided no evidence that anything he found was related to Kidd, or even from the same time period. This, however, is not the interesting part.
The interesting part is that Clifford and an independent producer working for the History Channel (yes, them again) are crying foul and accusing UNESCO of trying to suppress the truth and being biased against Clifford’s unorthodox style of self-aggrandizing “discovery.” This is because UNESCO specifically accused Clifford of hyping the find in the media without following the protocols of the 2001 Convention on the Protection of Underwater Cultural Heritage, to which Madagascar is a signatory:
The work of the film team and its lead‐explorer, undertaken in spring 2015, as well as prior work by the same explorer, was distinguished by a media‐led approach, which has not respected the regulations of the 2001 Convention, and which jeopardized the scientific understanding of the sites concerned and the preservation of the artefacts recovered.
The 2001 Convention requires underwater archaeology to be conducted by qualified archaeologists. Neither Clifford nor any member of his team is an archaeologist.
UNESCO previously determined that Clifford’s most famous find, his alleged discovery of the Columbus’s Santa Maria, was actually a ship from around 1700.
Sam Brown, a filmmaker producing a feature on the discovery for the History Channel, did not take kindly to having his profit center questioned by an international body. He told the AFP that “UNESCO will attempt to discredit Barry Clifford by whatever means they can.” He then accused UNESCO of operating without transparency and of not looking in the right place. As the History Blog noted, this is rather ironic given that Clifford admitted that he had not been transparent with reporters and hid the fact that he had never tested the supposed “silver” before announcing it was part of Captain Kidd’s treasure.
For his part, Clifford maintains that the lead bar might really be silver and that we can’t know for sure whether the UNESCO-cited tests were accurate—a conspiratorial position very similar to that of several other History Channel stars. He further claims that UNESCO has an anti-American and anti-British bias that led them to conspire against him—again like some History Channel stars who accuse various agencies of secretly being in the employ of Freemasons, Catholics, or the Jews. Clifford told the Washington Post that the attacks on his evidence-free conclusions are “asinine” and “political.” The Post dryly notes that Clifford fraudulently represented one of his colleagues, John de Bry, as an archaeologist despite having no degree in the field, and that he turned on de Bry the moment de Bry began helping UNESCO unravel the Kidd story, decrying de Bry as a fraud despite being able to produce no evidence beyond his own misrepresentations.
Clifford shares one more similarity with the stars of the History Channel: He believes he can determine facts just by thinking about them, saying he identified the debris off Madagascar as the Adventure Galley based on intuition. “Intuition means a lot when you’re looking for things and discovering things.”
7/24/2015 03:33:13 am
A couple of days ago I was planting a tree. I dug a hole in my yard and found a rock with odd scratches on it. I am convinced it is the find of the century and will prove that Henry Sinclair visited Utah and left a land claim. I know this to be true by "intuition". I showed the rock to my dog, who agrees with me. He sniffed at it, looked at me and wagged his tail, if that isn't agreement then I don't know what is.
7/24/2015 04:50:15 am
My dog was watching me as I read your post. "Arf," she said. I think we have a consensus.
7/24/2015 11:12:39 am
My cat rolled his eyes and stalked off. But you know they're part of the conspiracy, so his disagreeing actually proves you're right.
7/24/2015 04:58:57 am
There are several simple lab tests which can distinguish between silver and lead. Clifford is just being obdurate.
7/25/2015 02:55:36 pm
Having seen both lead and silver in any number of states, they really don't even LOOK that much alike. Just because it's grey and metallic doesn't make it silver. I suspect that "ignorant" is probably a better description than "obdurate."
7/24/2015 05:02:17 am
I can see how the TV producer would think there's a bias against him, since they actually included their bias in the official report available here:
7/24/2015 06:02:14 am
7/24/2015 06:18:09 am
No, it's absolutely not wrong. Those who want to know as much as possible about past civilizations should rejoice at the thought of a thousand TV films per year being funded and produced, as long as the research is done properly which doesn't seem to be the case here.
7/24/2015 06:22:01 am
Wait a minute, let me get this straight.
7/24/2015 06:38:59 am
Take over scientific investigation? That's quite dramatic. Not in any way factual or an accurate assessment of the situation, but dramatic.
7/24/2015 06:07:11 am
Or as the WaPo article put it
7/24/2015 06:22:21 am
That's just called bad work no matter who funded it or why.
7/24/2015 09:41:18 am
Walt- there's nothing wrong with sponsoring a dig to film it for a TV show. The problem, which I think Spooky alluded to earlier, is that proper archeology is excruciatingly slow - as in years of painstaking (read: BORING) digging, scraping, brushing and recording on even a small site. It is unlikely that a commercial entity would commit the time and patience to filming a dig (or its under-water equivalent), and then the years of research and evaluation time afterwards, before producing the broadcast product. TV wants a couple of guys with spades to turn over some sand and find King Tut's treasure; after a strategically timed commercial break,. of course.
7/24/2015 10:22:13 am
I agree with all of that, but spooky went a lot further implying a dig for a TV film was being done for no good reason, and that the missing reason behind the dig is why it shouldn't be done.
7/24/2015 09:28:51 am
can you identify any "archaeological research . . . undertaken for the sole purpose of producing a film" that was properly performed? i believe the motive underlying the research will necessarily shape the manner in which the research is performed and research performed for the "sole purpose" of generating a television special will inevitably be performed improperly--but then, i'm not a history channel apologist.
7/24/2015 10:14:11 am
I don't believe I've ever heard of it being done before. I've seen digs on PBS, but I suspect those digs were happening with or without the cameras, but I have no evidence of that.
7/24/2015 11:35:31 am
The nearest thing would be the British TV series (with some US offshoots) 'Time Team', which had a fairly rigid format of 3-day exploratory investigations. What made it acceptable to archaeologists was the experience and academic status of the core team, combined with the use of specialists (both in the period/purpose of the site, and in the history of the relevant locality).
7/24/2015 11:50:15 am
I have to admit, the closest thing I can think of would be exactly the type of programming spookyparadigm was talking about... shows like Diggers and American Diggers. They trampled over sites salvaging artifacts for money. They didn't really do any archaeology, but they should have.
7/24/2015 08:24:05 pm
'Time Team' was an extraordinary TV success, running for 20 seasons until shortly before the death of its lead archaeologist, Mick Aston.
7/24/2015 11:07:47 am
You should have included the context of the line, Walt. Taken in full, it isn't as biased as you think:
7/24/2015 11:58:43 am
But, the context doesn't affect the final sentence at all or I would've included it. That last sentence stands alone. And, to me, it can't even be extrapolated from the previous sentences. That's why it struck me as not belonging. They literally go from "this approach is extremely risky" to "thou shalt never do so" all in one paragraph. They should've stopped right before the sentence I quoted.
7/24/2015 12:27:52 pm
"But, the context doesn't affect the final sentence at all"
7/24/2015 12:54:10 pm
I'm not making any argument.. They literally say that if a good team of archaeologists films a documentary of themselves doing solid work, then it's only acceptable if it wasn't the idea of the TV people first. If it was the idea of the archaeologist, it's fine. I just find that bizarre. I never knew scientists could be so emotional.
7/24/2015 01:14:20 pm
Actually, Walt, they said that it shouldn't be done "for the sole purpose" of producing a film and filling it with content, not that it shouldn't be done if producers come up with the idea. The implication is that if film production is your number one priority, proper care is secondary at best, and that's dangerous.
7/24/2015 01:27:28 pm
If you're not making an argument, why are you defending your misrepresentation of what was stated in the report? For that matter, why are you still misrepresenting that statement with:
7/24/2015 01:43:43 pm
Wow, I can't believe anyone is actually arguing. Their unqualified statement is clear: "Archaeological research should not be undertaken for the sole purpose of producing a film and filling it with content."
Not the Comte de Saint Germain
7/24/2015 02:06:50 pm
"…the SOLE purpose…" they said. I agree with Shane's interpretation of that phrase.
7/24/2015 02:09:32 pm
Again, context is important. There was no need for qualifiers in their last statement because of the two lines preceding it:
7/24/2015 03:59:04 pm
An unbiased follow-up line to those 2 sentences would be: "Therefore, we encourage TV film producers wishing to produce archaeological content to ensure strict compliance with our guidelines and exercise extreme caution to avoid these pitfalls."
7/24/2015 05:06:43 pm
You're still trying to justify your charge of bias-which shows you place more weight in Brown's claims than the report-by assigning a motive that isn't true. I'll even prove it for you.
7/24/2015 06:37:36 pm
If I may interject again, I don't think Walt was defending Clifford. I think he's saying it's theoretically possible for a production company to go in and conduct a responsible archaeological dig.
7/24/2015 06:56:51 pm
Don't get me wrong, Shane. I'm not saying Walt is defending Clifford.
7/24/2015 05:42:58 am
"Clifford maintains that the lead bar might really be silver and that we can’t know for sure whether the UNESCO tests were accurate"
7/24/2015 05:48:59 am
Not to mention, they weren't "UNESCO tests". It was tested independently by two different (non-UNESCO) experts.
7/24/2015 07:45:23 am
- and Archimedes lived well over 2,000 years ago (or was Clifford afraid to get the ingot wet?)
7/25/2015 07:54:39 am
The Facts: Having employed notorious French Treasure Hunters using metal detector and dredge(s) UNESCO confused a 17th shipwreck for a dock ! Moreover, UNESCO archaeologists didn't recognize the another shipwreck UNDER the wreck they claimed to have taken wood samples...ooops !!
7/25/2015 08:03:37 am
7/25/2015 08:07:53 am
7/30/2015 06:00:57 am
If I read that right, this fellow, who just showed up without warning and without permission, wanted to upgrade the facility and have someone train a local to continue monitoring treatment?
7/30/2015 06:02:58 am
That should've been "cranky" not "cracky." As the Brits say, crikey!
7/29/2015 06:05:25 pm
What? No link to the original article with Clifford's claims? Should anyone be surprised if it's about the children's book about a big red dog?
9/14/2015 08:25:04 am
So why is there no mention of the ivory Jesus in the report?
9/20/2015 03:01:18 am
Of all the cockamamie nonsense! Any credibility that Mr. Clifford ever had was lost when he teamed up with Scott Wolter, the "History Channel's" current kook de jour. It is amazing that anyone could buy into this silliness.
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