Archaeological Hoaxes, Myths, and Frauds

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Select 3 of the 4 following questions in essays of at least 1 single-spaced page each. Each question is worth 100 points (for a total of 300 possible). Use materials from the course (readings, lectures, films) as appropriate, and cite readings you use using MLA or other preferred citation format.

Question 1: In this question, you will put some of the critical theory learned during the semester into practice while playing a version of what archaeologists like to call “Bullsh*t Bingo.” Essentially, you’re going to watch an episode of your choice from either Ancient Aliens or America Unearthed (preferably on a streaming service) and identify as many of the classic tropes of a pseudo-archaeology arguments as you can. To guide you, refer to description of four common elements of an “Anatomy of a Pseudoarchaeology Argument” described in the first few slides from Week 9 (available on Blackboard). You can also use the handout at the back of your syllabus, titled “Science vs. Pseudoscience: What is the Difference?”, which outlines a similar, but longer list of elements common in pseudoscience claims, many of which are applicable here.

Your task is to watch your chosen episode and hit Pause when you identify one of the classic pseudo-archaeology/pseudoscience fallacies (calling out “Bullsh*t!” as you hit Pause is optional, but encouraged). Noting the time stamp where you paused the episode, describe the nature of the infraction you identified. For example, if the hosts disparaged ‘mainstream archaeologists’ or expertise for any reason (i.e., fallacy #4 in the Week 9 notes), describe how and why they did so in the context of the show.

Elements that you will include in this response:

a. Title and summary of the episode you watched (Season, episode numbers, etc.), describing the topics covered and major commentators involved.

b. Identify at least 4 instances where pseudo-archaeology fallacies were used in the episode (using the Week 9 notes and/or the “Science/Pseudoscience handout” as a guide.)

c. Include time markers for each of the 4 (or more) fallacies you identified.

Question 2 Scenario: You and your roommates have settled in for the evening to relax with a beverage and watch an episode of Ancient Aliens that promotes the idea that the Egyptian pyramids and the Sphynx were built around 10,000 years ago (instead of the generally accepted date of 2500 BC). Seeing that your roommates are convinced by this, at a commercial break you attempt to explain how these ideas are rooted in old colonialist and racist assumptions about non-Western cultures. Your roommates just think you’re being squishy and PC. Describe your argument to them, bringing in at least 2 other archaeological discussed in class and/or the readings.

Question 3 The ‘Ancient astronaut hypothesis’ was popularized by the book Chariots of the Gods? in the 1960s, but it did not arise in a vacuum. Drawing on lecture and readings, discuss the intellectual/textual history of ideas that Erich Von Däniken drew on in developing his book, going back to the mid-1800s.

Question 4 Discuss and describe the role that religion has played in pseudoarchaeological claims. Be sure to provide detailed examples from at least 3 cases covered in class to support and illustrate your discussion.

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