I’ve noticed a trend among “alternative history” and “ancient astronaut” celebrities. They seem to be fixated on presenting themselves as Indiana Jones, probably because they assume that this is their target audience’s only brush with archaeology. Consider these publicity statements from the official biographies of three of alternative history’s top stars:
Giorgio A. Tsoukalos […] has often been described as the real-life Indiana Jones and as the world’s leading Ancient Astronaut expert…
Now, look at the publicity images these characters post of themselves. Both Childress and Tsoukalos dress up in Indiana Jones costumes and pose dramatically, draping themselves in Hollywood’s borrowed glamour. I suppose this is an attempt at looking the part that they desperately want their followers to believe they play outside the cable TV and small press publishing circuit.
Today, David Childress carefully chooses his words when explaining what exactly he does for a living. However, he hasn’t always been so careful about how he described himself. Childress has no formal credentials of any kind (he dropped out of college), but check out how he wrote about himself in the publicity materials for his Lost Cities book series, which began in 1984:
Like a real life “Indiana Jones,” maverick archaeologist David Childress takes the reader on an incredible adventure across some of the world’s oldest and most remote countries in search of lost cities and ancient mysteries… (Lost Cities of China, Central India & Asia)
These descriptions have been used for at least a decade, and they are still used in his book catalog today. Childress is the owner and publisher of Adventures Unlimited Press, the publisher that puts out his books and writes the descriptions of them; he is therefore responsible for approving the copy that goes out in his name.
And guess what? Despite changing his self-description to “adventurer, author, world explorer,” the old, false claims that he is an archaeologist still appear on his new (2012) personal website! He scrubbed his official biography and home page of any reference to his twenty years (1984-2004) spent pretending to be an archaeologist, but he never changed the descriptions of his books.
Now, you might immediately shout that I call myself a “skeptical xenoarchaeologist,” and isn’t that just as bad? It would be if there were any alien archaeological remains to study, but so long as they continue not to exist, the emphasis rests on the “skeptical” half of my descriptor, since anyone can become qualified to skeptically examine xenoarchaeological claims. (I do have a bachelor’s degree in archaeology.) Since “archaeologist” is a real job description and “xenoarchaeologist” is not (being up there with “ufologist” as a job title), I don’t think this bit of publicity (bestowed upon me by the Space Archaeology Wiki) is fooling anyone into thinking I’m something I’m not; nor am I using false credentials as an argument from authority for radical revisions of history.
1/14/2013 06:28:34 am
1/28/2013 12:40:45 pm
Whoops...oh yeah, I was thinking solely of the costume.
1/26/2013 09:56:06 am
There's also Josh Bernstein who used to be on the History Channel as the host of "Digging for the Truth": http://dsc.discovery.com/tv/josh-bernstein/bio/josh-bernstein.html
1/26/2013 10:08:06 am
Many others also have worn Indiana Jones costumes on TV, including Zahi Hawass, but I didn't include people who have actual credentials in archaeology.
1/14/2013 05:18:31 am
I offer a PhD in "Maverick Real-Life Indiana Jones Archaeology" for the low price of $5,000. No prior knowledge of archaeology, mavericks, or Indiana Jones is required. Just send a money order for $5,000, a photograph of yourself dressed in an appropriate maverick archaeologist outfit (hat and whip not required, but recommended), and a self addressed stamped envelope, and you will receive your diploma in 15-20 working days.
1/14/2013 08:33:41 am
I wonder if they all shop at the same store
1/14/2013 06:46:45 pm
I have photos of myself at archeological sites looking very much the same. The funny thing is even if the intent here is look the part, that turns out to be about the most practical way to dress in many places. This might be the one thing they're doing correctly!
1/14/2013 10:26:16 pm
That would be fine if Giorgio Tsoukalos was actually excavating archaeological sites (heaven forfend!), but these guys aren't archaeologists and don't excavate, or generally travel beyond well-trod tourist areas. For the most part, they're dressing that way in TV studios and on photo shoots. (Childress, for example, shows his typical dress on his website, where he wears t-shirts and fanny packs to "explore" ancient ruins.)
1/15/2013 01:12:12 pm
Do you imagine when Tsoukalos is "in the field" that he attempts to import large amounts of hair product, or that he pays a local errand boy to scout some for him in-country?
1/15/2013 01:31:30 pm
There can only be one "Real Life Indiana Jones." We need to arrange a cage match between them. SyFy would carry it.
1/16/2013 07:19:15 am
There needs to be additional cage matches for paranormal investigators and ghost hunters as well.
2/16/2013 01:21:10 pm
The comparison is quite a fine one, given that Indiana Jones is a grave-robbing, provenance-destroying hack with no concept of proper archeological methods or real scholarship. And if I, whose knowledge of proper methods come from reading Archeology magazine and armchair history research, can tell this, it's probably a thousand times worse for people who actually know what they're doing...
Goiant Stone Balls
9/4/2013 05:58:47 am
Would you prefer he dressed like a drag queen?
Indiana Jones (Official)
10/26/2013 06:40:18 am
For real though, if you lived half the life that these guys did, you'd probably have better things to do with your time than criticize others.
10/26/2013 06:48:15 am
...like criticizing people criticizing people, a much better use of time.
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