As though we didn’t have enough evidence that the media are in the throes of a fringe history revival, the Travel Channel released episode descriptions for the first batch of new episodes of America Unearthed, which will debut at the end of the month. It’s a mixed bag, but there is some good news. The topics, while still more Eurocentric than not, have decidedly fewer Templar conspiracy theories than the three seasons that aired on the H2 channel, and the topics seem designed to steer more toward mainstream topics than the esoteric. The bad news, of course, is that host Scott Wolter will be investigating bullshit claims that have already been debunked many times before.
I’ll give you the descriptions straight from Discovery Communications’ press release:
In the premiere episode, “Vikings in the Desert,” premiering Tuesday, May 28 at 10 p.m. ET/PT, Wolter receives a call about alleged Viking artifacts found in the Arizona desert. Using state-of-the-art XRF (X-ray fluorescence) identification technology and insight from a Viking historian, Wolter starts his search in the southwestern desert. From there, new leads take him to California to excavate a supposed buried Viking ship that might have once sailed America’s vast inland sea and to Mexico to examine a petroglyph depicting what could be Viking travelers. The episode produces some unexpected results and opens the door to further expeditions into where the Vikings went and why.
Those with sharp memories will remember that the “Viking ship” in the desert claim appeared in Newsweek in 2017 when the magazine profiled a man described as a working class white man (the article emphasized the racial aspect of fringe history) having a “grievance” against mainstream archaeologists for refusing to believe that a Viking ship is buried in the desert. As I wrote at the time, “According to a guidebook produced by the U.S. government before World War II, the legend of the desert boat was inspired by a real abandoned vessel, built in 1862 for a Colorado river mining company and abandoned in the desert when the cost of transporting it to the Colorado River was too great. Not coincidentally, sightings of the ‘Spanish’ or ‘Viking’ ship began shortly after, in the 1870s.”
The episode on aliens seems to be the one per season episode devoted to debunking an obviously false claim to bolster Wolter’s alleged credibility as a straight-shooter.
The other two topics don’t interest me at all. Unless Jack the Ripper turns out to be a Templar murdering claimants to the Holy Bloodline’s Magdalene Throne, this seems like another waste of time. Off the top of my head, I’m not sure what Pennsylvania cave is being referred to, but I assume that someone reading this will know. The colonial era isn’t all that exciting for me, so this looks like another snooze, even if it descends into Masonic conspiracies.
So we now know the topics for these four episodes plus the Haymarket Riot episode, which total half of the ten-episode season. To judge from these episodes, it looks like the new season is steering away from the paranoid conspiracies of the H2 run toward a more general-interest speculative history closer to the Discovery Communications family of networks’ other documentary and pseudo-documentary series. I’m sure, though, that they’ll find a way to get Templar bloodlines into the show somehow.
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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