While esoterica certainly existed in antiquity (magical papyri or apocalyptic literature, for instance), their existence hardly justifies "decoding" vague ancient wisdom from rows of statues or from the propor­tions of (selected) buildings. In all of these instances, as in many others, pseudoarchaeology (also called cult Archeology) begins with a known quantity and stretches it into the unlikely to conclude the implausible. What is conceivable trumps what is demonstrable. It must further be remembered that these procedures appear in combination, in a storm of uncontextualized, exaggerated claims and unlikelihoods, distortions and selections, all masked by rhetorical tricks and flourishes. The pseudoarchaeologists' insistence that their claims stand as valid until categorically disproved adds another level of absurdity to their efforts. The "methods" of pseudoarchaeologists, while superficially resembling aspects of real inquiry, are in fact gross corruptions of genuine investigative procedure.

In the final analysis therefore, the claims of pseudoarchaeology are best judged by their results. Thereby is the genre's ultimate characteristic revealed: the zealous pursuit of investigative dead-ends. When, for instance, it is asserted that familiar ancient civilizations are actually inheritances from earlier but lost civilizations, the question that appears to be addressed - "Where does civi­lization come from?" - is not answered but deferred. For the next obvious question is: "So where did those earlier civilizations come from?" But this question cannot be answered or even approached, since the supposed evidence adduced for the prodigious protocivilizations is either esoteric and untestable (numerological "encodings" or literal interpretations of myths) or hidden and inaccessible (under the Antarctic icecap, under the sea, wholly destroyed by cyclical catastrophes, or in outer space). Ultimately, the pseu­doarchaeologists' response to the very important question "Where did civilization come from'" is to say "From civilization." a That does not get us very far.

History documents the futility of pseudoarchaeologistl efforts. The hunt for lost supercivilizations has been on at least since Donnelly's case for a historical Atlantis was published in 1882 (although antecedents can be traced back into the sixteenth century). In the decades since, dozens of locations for wondrous lost protocultures in the remote past have been postulated covering most corners of the planet, millions of pages have been printed, dozens of scenarios proposed and still nor a single site - not a settlement, a burial, a potsherd, or a hairpin - to show for it. Over this same period, archaeology has been ongoing across the globe and innumerable sites have been explored, on land and under water. Many millions of archaeological strata have been uncovered and documented, and artefacts by the tens of millions have been unearthed, catalogued, stored, and displayed. Analysis of this huge mass of material has extended our historical perception back into the deepest recesses of the past. Yet the museum cases for Atlantean objects remain permanently empty, so let’s start by taking a look at the why and how of pseudoarchaeology.


Characteristics of attitude

3. Dogged adherence to outdated theoretical models. Since their scenarios rur. Counter to current archaeological paradigms, pseudoarchaeologists are forced to plunder outdated scholarship for their “theoretical” models, such as they are. In this way, they embrace as central features of their scenarios notions like (hvper)diffusiomsm (that all the world’s civilizations spread from a single source) or catastrophism (that cataclysmic natural events generate historical change). They are not above resorting to entirely disproven ideas. Earth crustal displacement (ECD) was a geological model championed by C.H. Hapgood, who held that the weight of the polar icecaps sporadically caused the Earth’s crust to be dragged over its internal core, moving poles and continents around in terrific catastrophes (and destroying early civilizations in the process). ECD was rendered untenable by the verification of continental drift through plate tectonics in the late 1960s (an extremely slow process with movement of about 1-2 cm per year), yet ECD is invoked in several recent “alternative” works, notably by Graham Hancock. (See Graham Hancock’s Fingerprints of the Gods, Robert Bauval and Graham Hancock reit­erate some of the central tenets of the lost civilization belief system.)

A distinct advantage of catastrophism lies in its ability to generate more dramatic narratives than the apparently mundane archaeolog­ical hypotheses offered to explain the appearance of civilization by independent invention or its disappearance by gradual and impersonal forces (climate change, shifting demographics, environmental degradation, etc.). And pseudoarchaeology is constantly in search of the most appealing story (see #4).

The mode of deployment of such models in pseudoarchaeology matters more than their mere existence. Diffusionism in itself is not inherently implau­sible; indeed, it is verifiable in many instances where traits (like languages) have been transferred between cultures, and continue to be. Likewise, natural catastrophes do happen, and they do cause massive damage, although they hardly erase all traces of entire civilizations – quite the opposite, in fact (see the archaeologically fortunate results of the volcanic eruptions of Vesuvius or Thera). What is different in pseudoarchaeological presentations is that these localized processes are moved from the particular to the general, so that they become overarching models to be applied in all-or-nothing dramatic narratives.

The enthusiastic catastrophist Robert Schoch, for instance, rather like Immanuel Velikovsky before him, believes that many instances of historical change were caused by cometary impacts: Chinese dynasties collapsed, crusades were initiated and migrations sparked when comets hit the planet, or threatened to. Schoch invokes demonstrated instances of diffusionism, such as the spread of Indo-European languages across the western Eurasia landmass, to support a far broader and more unlikely global dispersal of pyramids across the Pacific and Atlantic oceans. This is neither believable diffusionism nor convincing catastrophism. Its insidious feature is that it begins with demonstrated or uncontested phenomena and extends them into crass implausibilities. Readers are easily carried along unless they are informed and very alert to the subtle shifts as the presentation unfolds.

2. Disparaging academia. Suspicion of scholars is a longstanding feature of the genre that goes back to Augustus le Plongeon (1825-1908) and his imaginings about the lost continent of Mu. It often manifests itself as sarcastic contempt for what such writers call “academic’ or “orthodox” or “conventional” archaeology. Egyptology is a favorite whipping boy. “If you think of Egyptologists at all,” writes tour guide and “alterna­tive” speculator John Anthony West, “the chances are you conjure up a bunch of harmless pedants, supervising remote desert digs or sequestered away in libraries, up to their elbows in old papyrus.” Hancock’s language is also virulent, as he disparages the “astigmatic archaeologist sieving his way through the dust of the ages”. Even Robert Schoch, himself an academic, is not immune. He declares at one point that experimental archaeologist Thor Heyerdahl was not “the kind to remain hanging around libraries, blowing dust off old books and drafting hypotheses”. This jaundiced view of academia resonates with popular stereotypes of scatty professors ruminating over irrel­evancies and finds echo in the words of the genre’s readers and supporters (the Internet offers countless examples). Among them, it is not unusual to find it accepted as a matter of uncontested fact that universities are closed clubs, where novices advance by regurgitating the tired “opinions” of their instructors, where no one is willing to countenance being wrong, and where faculty are afraid to question the tenets of “orthodoxy” for fear of being fired. Extreme versions hint at dark conspiracies seeking to keep from the public the terrible truth about prehistory (whatever that may be). Since, in this world view, academics are scared rigid by the pioneering work of “alterna­tive” writers, the opposition of university-trained critics is interpreted as proof that the pseudoarchaeological speculators are on to something. The circularity of the caricature is impeccable.

This whole nexus of combative attitudes is encapsulated in the view of academia as a religion that passes its dogma down from teacher to student and ruthlessly stamps out opposition by inquisitorial means, especially when challenged from without. In an “Open Letter” posted to Graham Hancock’s website in November 2000, retired engineer Robert Bauval, Hancock’s occasional collaborator, had this to say:

For decades the scientific and academic community has had an open field and held the floor on all issues related to the history of mankind. Archaeologists, Egyptologists, philologists, chemists, anthropologists, physicists and many more other-ists than I care to enumerate, have arrived at an established view about the past and have set out their rules and their methods to investigate it. They have formed a massive and global network through universities, museums, institutes, soci­eties and foundations. And this immense powerhouse and clearing-house of knowledge has presented their {sic} dogma of history to the general public totally unhindered and unchallenged from the outside … It was high time that some of the “established” views be challenged, but not in the dark halls of academia and the Jargon­loaded verbiage of peer-reviewed journals, but in the wide open air, under the eyes of the public … On a more sinister note: now this “church of science” has formed a network of watchdog organisations such as CSICOP and The Skeptical Society [sic] (to name but a few) in order to act as the gatekeepers of the truth (as they see it), ready to come down like the proverbial ton of bricks on all those whom they perceive as “frauds,” “charlatans,” and “pseudo-scientists” – in short, heretics.

Many political advantages flow from adopting this stance. All good stories benefit from a villain, and pseudoarchaeologists like to position themselves as the powerless and heroic underdogs tackling a faceless and arrogant estab­lishment. Their ideas gain a certain romantic cachet thereby. The reconstruction of the past pieced together by decades of meticulous archaeology and grounded in masses of physical evidence can be dismissed without exposition as “opinion” or “dogma,” and dramatic alternatives suggested. Academic critiques of “alternative” scenarios can be diverted into an examination of the critic’s motives, and by definition those motives cannot be anything other than mean-spirited, closed-minded, and authoritarian. University credentials in archaeology thus become the basis for suspicion of a critic: expertise is the prima facie reason for rejecting expert analysis. As the underdog, the speculator can combine the roles of martyr and liberator, oppressed for their beliefs but struggling gamely to break the chains of “orthodox” thinking. Von Daniken’s call to arms is typical: “It is no longer possible to block the roads to the past with dogmas”. The air of both self-pity and indignant righteousness that hangs about these works stems from this manufactured political confrontation with academia.

This is not to suggest that there have been no scandals in the history of universities, or that powerful personalities have never sought to suppress notions they see as challenging their ideas. But such tactics work only for a time. In reality, universities exist to embrace constant questioning and criticism, and champions of new paradigm-shifting discoveries are not held under house arrest or subject to inquisitorial orders of silence. Quite the opposite: if revolutionary theories stand the test of scrutiny and criticism, their authors rocket to the tops of their professions. In such an atmosphere, new and justified discoveries cannot be systematically suppressed indefinitely: someone, somewhere will make use of them, if for no other reason than to advance their own careers. People do not win Nobel prizes in science for rehashing established knowl­edge. Far from paying a terrible price, overthrowers of scholarly “orthodoxy” earn terrific rewards. Indeed, the very claim of “orthodoxy” in the case of archaeology is especially absurd, as it reduces an active scholarly community marked by major divergences of opinion on scores of issues to an imagined monolithic “church” seeking to preserve its privileged position by suppressing dissent. It is a mirage, conjured before the eyes of their reader­ship in order to give the pseudoarchaeologists a political advantage when confronting their critics.

3. Appeal to academic authority. In a startling volte face, pseudoarchaeologists often gleefully parade support for their ideas from people with academic credentials and affiliations, wherever they can be found. It seems irrelevant to them that such a raw appeal to authority contravenes their favored picture of universities as churches of doctrine, or that the trumpeted credentials and affiliations are nearly always in areas well outside the subjects being addressed. For example, Hancock several times reminds us that ECD was ringingly endorsed by Albert Einstein in a 1953 letter to Charles Hapgood; Einstein even gets his own index entry). However, Einstein was not a geologist, and he died before the process of plate tectonics, which preclude ECD, had been appreciated. Similarly, Schoch is careful to cite the academic affiliations of people he invokes as supporting some part of his diffusionist scenario. In this way, the pseu­doarchaeologists hail specific scholars’ qualifications when it suits them while denigrating the credentials of hundreds of professional archaeologists, whose work they rubbish. Nobody said that pseudoarchaeology had to be consistent.


Characteristics of procedure

4. Huge claims. Pseudoarchaeologists do not publish books or host televi­sion programs arguing that the Late Minoan  period needs to be down-dated by a decade or two, or that certain classes of ancient pots might. have served some arcane symbolic function. Rather, as the opening para­graphs of this chapter attest, their claims are spectacular and history-altering. Once more, the mode of presentation is what matters. Without far-reaching claims put forward and verified, knowledge of the past would not have advanced in the ways it has over the past century. However, it is in the matter of verification that the epoch-making claims of pseudoarchaeology have failed over this same period. There comes a time when an unverified claim that repeatedly fails testing stops being a viable possibility and starts being an article of faith. This is demonstrably the case with most pseudoarchaeological scenarios about lost continents, alien civi­lizers, or secret brotherhoods of priestly puppetmasters pulling the strings of history. None of these ideas has yielded an iota of verifiable evidence, despite over a century of questing for it. As a result, pseudoarchaeological "evidence" has to be manufactured from whatever sources are to hand (see #6 and #8).

5. Selective and or distorted presentation. Pseudoarchaeological scenarios are characterized by a systematically selective presentation of the evidence, ancient and modern. This is often combined with serious misrepresentation of known facts, making such work at best dubious, at worst deceitful. Items from the ancient past that seem to suit their claims are offered up, and the rest are ignored. A quote from an occasional academic paper or a maverick work is cited as support for specific claims, without indication that the paper is outdated, or that the author retracted the claim later, or that the quote has been misunderstood or cited out of context. Speculators will often assert that mysteries remain unsolved when in fact they have long been solved (e.g., the claim that Egyptian civilization appeared overnight, fully-formed, or they will present as mysterious and ill-understood sites or artefacts that have been extensively studied. While our knowledge of the ancient past will always be patchy due to the nature of the evidence for it, the depth of pseudoarchaeological misrepresentation extends far beyond what is justified by this fact.

Two examples from Hancock (1995) will suffice as illustrations. One of the first claims encountered in Fingerprints of the Gods is that Antarctica was ice-free very recently and that it is depicted as such in early Renaissance maps, maps that are then projected back into the deep past by a presumed process of transmission. "The best recent evidence," writes Hancock, "suggests that Queen Maud Land [on Antarctical, and the neighbouring regions shown on the map [drawn by Turkish admiral Piri Reis in 1513, passed through a long ice-free period which may not have come completely to an end until about six thousand years ago" (Hancock 1995: 4). Endnote 2 of Fingerprints substantiates this extraordinary claim by referring the reader to Charles Hapgood's 1966 book, Maps of the Ancient Sea Kings. The exten­sive studies of the Antarctic icecap conducted by American, Russian, and international teams of scientists over the preceding decades - which reveal the ice to be hundreds of thousands of years old and which were available to Hancock when he was writing Fingerprints - go entirely unmentioned. Instead, a maverick book published almost thirty years earlier is presented to readers as "the best recent evidence" available to Hancock in the early 1990s for the age of the Antarctic ice. But the reader would have to check his notes and do some independent research to discover this fact.

Elsewhere, Hancock discusses the ancient Bolivian city of Tiwanaku (also spelled "Tiahuanaco"), which he presents as tremendously mysterious and suggests may date to 17,000 years ago (Hancock 1995: 62-92). In a 1999 interview with a BBC production team, Hancock states: "I think what's important to stress about Tiahuanaco is that this is a mysterious site about which very little is known. Minimal archaeology has been done over the years". In fact, dozens of studies of Tiwanaku had been published in the years preceding Hancock's pronouncement; the place was carbon-dated by three collections of samples made in the 1950s, 1980s, and 1990s. The results were mutually consis­tent and indicated that the earliest possible occupation had occurred around 1500 BC; major excavations were conducted and published by Alan Kolata of the University of Chicago. These studies have yielded much information about Tiwanaku, its interaction with the surrounding region, and its wider place in Andean history. But in the interests of constructing a great "mystery" surrounding the site, Hancock denies this state of understanding and presents Tiwanaku as a place "'about which very little is known." To a degree, this could be claimed about any archaeological site insofar as there are many aspects of it that will forever elude us. Such is the nature of the beast. But this more formed, or they will present as mysterious and ill-understood sites or artefacts that have been extensively studied. While our knowledge of the ancient past will always be patchy due to the nature of the evidence for it, the depth of pseudoarchaeological misrepresentation extends far beyond what is justified by this fact.

This sort of selective and distorted presentation of evidence thoroughly pervades works of pseudoarchaeology. Professor Schoch, for instance, twice describes marine biologist turned diffusionist speculator Barry Fell as an "epigraphir" when Fell had no training in reading ancient inscriptions, and his epigraphic expertise did not extend to detecting manifest fakes or distinguishing man-made inscriptions from scratches on stone made by ploughs. Documenting every transgression in such a mode of presentation, even in a single book of the genre, would take hundreds of pages. However, the examples discussed here are entirely typical of what happens when an apparently factual claim in these works is put to the test. Invariably, it is found that quotes are presented out of context, critical countervailing data is withheld, the state of, understanding is misrepresented, or critical archaeological information about context is ignored. It is telling for the validity of their case that these are the means by which the pseudoarchaeologists are forced to advance their propositions.

6. The --kitchen-sink" mode of argument. It is typical for pseudoarchaeological works to range widely over numerous fields of human knowledge. Hancock's and Schoch's books derive arguments from the following disciplines at various junctures: general archaeological method and theory; the history of and regional archaeology in the Andes, Mesoamerica, North America, Europe, China, Cambodia, Indonesia, and Polynesia; Egyptology; anthro­pology; prehistory; art history; ancient epigraphy; comparative global mythology; comparative religion; philology; linguistics; mathematics; astronomy; and geophysics. These are just the fields that I could readily identify; I am sure I have missed others. It is pertinent here to recall Robert Bauval's belief, cited above (p. 32), that academics have "presented their dogma of history to the general public totally unhindered and unchal­lenged from the outside." The underlying assumption is that the general public is saturated by unchallenged "orthodox" knowledge, and it is the "alternative" movement's job to challenge that saturation. But it is patently absurd to imagine that a general reader could be so well informed about recent developments in so broad a spectrum of specialized fields as to be able to assess the falsity or validity of specific claims pilfered from so many of them. As a result, he or she will be readily convinced by an apparently impressive body of selected "evidence" seem­ingly drawn from rigorous scholarly disciplines and set in a dramatic narrative. This is what I call the "kitchen-sink" mode of argument, and it seems designed to overwhelm the reader by sheer weight of data rather than the quality of its particulars. For all its apparent Catholicism, however, pseudoarchaeology again and again visits a canonical suite of "mysterious" sites (the Nazca lines, Macchu Picchu, Teot1huacan, Easter Island, etc.) and reviews the same "mysterious" myths (flood myth, Popol Vuh, etc.) so that the kitchen-sink mode of argument also shares many features with the recycling plant.

7. Vague definitions. The genre is unconcerned to define clearly what it is looking for. Key terms like "civilization," resident in the subtitles of many pseudoarchaeology books, are either undefined or so loosely characterized as to be useless. This adds, at the outset, whole strata of vagueness and impre­cision to the speculators' efforts. While problematic for those who expect intellectual rigor in their history, vagueness offers major advantages to the pseudoarchaeologist, since it allows great scope for forging links where they are unlikely to exist. Professor Schoch embarks on a quest for the origins of pyramids but offers only the slimmest definition of what constitutes a "pyramid" in the first place: (1) a spirituality, and (2) an "archi­tecture of mass" marked by "little or no interior space". The profound imprecision of this definition allows him to include in the category "pyramid" not only the familiar structures of the Egyptians, Maya, or Aztecs but also such non-pyramidal monuments as the round tumulus­and-passage grave at Newgrange in Ireland (c. 3500 BC), the round mound of Silbury Hill in England (perhaps c. 2000 BC), the earthen mounds/plat­forms of the Mississippi valley (c. 700 BC-AD 800), Javanese Buddhist temple complexes (eighth century AD), and the vast Khmer monumental assemblages at Angkor in Cambodia (tenth-thirteenth centuries AD). It is hard to imagine structures so different in every category of analysis: style, scale, location, form, function, construction materials and techniques, cultural context, and chronology.4 But, for Professor Schoch, they are all "pyramids," and he is free to compare and link them at will, in whole or in part. (Note, by the way,, the supreme disregard for context displayed by such comparisons.)

8. Superficiality. sloppiness. and grorssnes. of comnparison. The pseudoarchaeo­logical penchant for making connections is as impressive as it is pointless. In a series of protracted investigations, Hancock trawls through obscure myth after obscure myth to "show" that geographically disparate cultures share common mythic imagery and motifs - and so also a common source. Often, tales are read as accurate accounts of historical events, so that mythic fables of floods or golden ages become euhemerisric records of once-real conditions. Professor Schoch posits a "mythic link" underlying all the pyramids on the planet, a link based on spirituality and stories of the sun and sky gods and serpents and water. The attraction of myth and religion to the pseu­doarchaeologist is not hard to comprehend. These fields present a smorgasbord of potentially linkable categories: motifs and images, words and phrases, characters and personalities, numbers and symbols, rituals and practices. Armed with a ruthlessly selective approach to the evidence and divested of any requirement to consider issues of context, the pseu­doarchaeologist is free to run riot through world myth cycles and religious traditions and to make as many apparent connections as the imagination can conjure up. Their proposed connections are marked by superficiality (no regard for context or nuance) and sloppiness, the latter chiefly mani­fested in slippage of compared categories. Thus an image here can be linked to a mythic character there, which in turn is reminiscent of a ritual found somewhere else, and all three locations are thereby connected. In fact, this same sloppiness marks their treatment of all categories of evidence. Aside from myths, buildings and artefacts are fair game (see Professor Schoch's comparison of hugely divergent monuments as "pyramids"), as are iconography and artistic styles. In each instance, slippage of compared categories, superficiality of analysis, and grossness of comparison are the order of the day.

9. Obsession with esoterica. The conviction that matters of deep importance are masquerading as mundanities infuses the genre. Thus pseudoarchaeologists love to go around "decoding" ancient messages from all manner of material. Myths and legends are very useful in this connection, as are writing systems, iconographies, site plans, and building dimensions; even the number of statues in the ranks and columns of the famous Chinese terra­cotta army can be "decoded". Almost any evidence from the past can be presented as harboring esoteric information if only one has the will to see it. By "decoding" modern cityscapes - which include such mysterious features as ancient Egyptian obelisks (in Paris or Rome) and the glass pyramid at the Louvre - it has recently been claimed that devotees of a secret religion have been working clandestinely for the past 2,000 years to shape world events (Hancock and Bauval, Talisman, 2004). Ingenuity, patience, and complete conviction are the essential tools of such endeavors. Reality need not impinge.

An excellent example of commitment to esoterica is the so-called Orion correlation theory (OCT), by Bauval and Hanckock. The unspectacular observation that the three main pyramids at Giza resemble the three belt stars of the constellation Orion was worked up into a grand scheme that pointed back to a date of 10,500 BC (10,450 BC in earlier manifestations) and suggested matters of deep spiritual importance. The original OCT argued for a wider pyramid map of Orion that included monuments beyond Giza, and there was much talk of exact, faultless, and unbelievable mathematical precision in the star-to-pyramid alignments that bespoke a profound astronomical knowledge on the part of the elusive Giza master planners (Hancock 1995: 356). The subsequent history of the OCT is complicated, but it is a story of steady retreat. An implied eleventh-millennium BC construction date for the pyramids (ibid.: 304-6) was retracted when it was shown to be logically impossible; the "wider plan" OCT was retracted when the non-Giza pyramids were shown not to match up with stars in Orion-, and claims of faultless mathematical precision in the correlations have mutated into the markedly vaguer claim that the OCT was "a grand symbolic statement that was supposed to be understood on a spiritual and intuitive level." Although the "facts" of the OCT have sustained severe damage, the overall scheme remains in place as a monument to its proponents' unshakable commitment to esotericism. Hancock, in fact, has used the OCT as a model for proposing monumental star maps in Mesoamerica and Cambodia, but, strangely, his subsequent work makes little use of this formerly core characteristic of his Lost Civilization.

In a similar manner, symbolist interpretations of Egyptian hieroglyphs, rendered meaningless by the actual decipherment of the writing system nearly two centuries ago, persist even today. Devotion to esotericism also stands behind the tedious number-crunching that marks many of these works, as supposedly significant numbers are extracted from the proportions of monuments or from site plans or from the contents of myths by means of tortured arithmetic. The numbers thus "discovered" can be correlated across categories to forge all sorts of links. Unsurprisingly, the Great Pyramid is a frequent victim of such numero­logical somersaults, an esoteric tradition that goes back to the movements of Freemasonry and Rosicrucianism. It is an added bonus for this procedure that the modern age of computers and technology assigns a particular authority, to numbers. Pseudoarchaeological numerical "discoveries" may thus appear to be self-evidently valid and so quite above historical justification.

The obsession with esoterica also explains the pseudoarchaeological love affair with anomalies. Again and again, inexplicable "mysteries" and anomalous artefacts are paraded before the reader as evidence both for the ignorance of "orthodox" archaeology (which has trouble explaining them) and for the possibility that hidden landscapes lie behind the familiar facade of history. Given the misleading presentation of evidence in such works, all claimed anomalies ought to be checked thoroughly. Certainly, there are unsolved problems in archaeology, but the degree of mystery is often significantly inflated in pseudoarchaeological works. A classic example is the huge animal figures and complex patterns inscribed on the surface of the Nazca Plain in Peru. Since we have very little evidence from the culture that created them - their construction dates are fixed by ceramic analysis to between c. 200 BC and AD 600 - the intended function of the lines remains a matter of uncertainty to archaeology, although several plausible hypotheses have been advanced to explain them. For "alternative" archaeologists, however, the Nazca lines are landing sites for spaceships or encoded messages from lost Atlantis. Ignoring clues from the local context, the lines are treated as if they defy all rational analysis (which they do not), and wild speculations are offered up as reasonable explanations. To establish pre-Columbian transatlantic and transpacific visits to the Americas stretching back into the last Ice Age but ongoing through the Phoenicians, Africans, Celts, Hebrews, Romans, Polynesians, and Chinese, Professor Schoch collects a body of data that is a riot of odd finds and superficial correlations heaped on top each other, far too varied and zany to be surveyed here. Conspicuously absent is precisely the sort of archaeological deposit that would be expected if transoceanic contact was indeed as frequent and as varied as Professor Schoch proposes, namely assemblages of firmly dated pre-Columbian Old World objects in New World contexts (or vice versa). This is the sort of evidence turned up by archaeology in other instances of cultural contact, which includes even the very brief Norse sojourn in Newfoundland around AD 1000. Since Professor Schoch cannot point to any such finds, he has to rely instead on stray oddities and uncontextualized anomalies that suppos­edly point to vast hidden histories.

10. A farrago of failings. A host of lesser vices characterizes the genre, most generated by the attitudes and procedures just reviewed. It would be impossible to catalogue them all here, but a sample will illustrate the problem. Logical fallacies abound, especially the inversion of the burden of proof and the appeal to authority (see #3). If specific claims go unad­dressed by critics or are not "conclusively disproved," to use a popular comeback, they are considered valid. But the burden of proof rests not on the critic but on the claimant. Likewise, the modern writers' mere ability to chart patterns is presented as evidence for their speculations, when not a shred of actual evidence exists to suggest that, for instance, the pyramid builders set out to "mirror" starry Orion with terrestrial monuments, let alone "encode" the date 10,500 BC (or 10,450 BC) in them. Mystery-mongering is rampant, even to the point of making unsubstantiated allegations backed by dubious authority. Hancock spends three pages suggesting that quarry marks on the stones in the Great Pyramid, marks that effectively prove that the pyramid was built by the pharaoh Khufu, were forged by Englishman Howard Vyse in 1837. He cites a book by spacemen-built-the-pyramids proponent Zecharia Sitchin in support. This is really grasping at straws, espe­cially since Hancock more or less admits the "conventional" dating of the pyramids to 2500 Bc a few pages later. If so, why bring up the specious allegations against Vyse, if not in the interests of raw mystery­mongering? Consistency is another casualty of pseudoarchaeological speculations. We are asked to accept that Tiwanaku - at 12,600 feet (3,850 m) above sea level one of the most elevated archaeological sites in the world - is a city of Hancock's Lost Civilization (see #5). But this clashes with the proposition that the evidence for this same civilization was submerged by a sea-level rise of just 400 feet at the end of the last Ice Age.

While all good writing uses rhetorical skill in its presentation, pseudoar­chaeological works employ a battery of rhetorical strategies not in the service of a coherent argument but as a replacement for it. Suggestions are raised as possibilities in one place and resurrected later as established facts. Rhetorical questions are a favorite means of planting odd notions in the reader's head or shrouding well-studied sites in fogs of mystery: "Can it be coincidence that ... ?"; "Is it inconceivable that ... ?"; "Can it be ruled out that ... ?" False analogies and weak arguments from "common sense" are constantly resorted to.

Another feature of the genre is the invocation of supposedly "hard" sciences in support of arguments that those sciences are largely unfit to substantiate. This procedure may be considered a combination of an appeal to authority (#3) and mispresentarion of known facts (#5). Thus the authority of mathematics is summoned to validate numerological specula­rions marked by arbitrary and preposterous calculations (see #9). Likewise, the astronomical fact of precession is called on to demonstrate the star map "redating"' of the ancient monuments at Giza or Tiwanaku or Angkor to excessively ancient eras. But the essential monument-to-star connection is not firmly- established for ancient times; its raw identification in the mind of the speculator is deemed its own justification, regardless of whether it fails to apply to other monuments of the same type or if a pitiless selec­tivity is required to make the "correlations" fit. For example, the Great Sphinx at Giza has been redated to very early epochs on the basis of one geologist's opinion that it was weathered predominantly by rainwater and not by wind and sand. Since Egypt has been arid at least since 5000 BC, the argument goes, the Sphinx must predate the Egyptians and the traditional date of c. 2500 BC. This, too, is an attempt to coopt the authority of a "hard" science (geology) in support of "alternative" historical claims. In fact, geology is singularly unsuited as an archaeological dating tool, since its chronological depth vastly exceeds that of human history, and the rate at which rocks erode is subject to too many variables for it to be used as a "clock" to date relatively recent man-made monuments. Several other explanations for the erosion patterns on the Sphinx and its enclosure are available that accommodate the traditional, archaeologically established date and historical context of the monument. In contrast, a pre-Egyptian Sphinx lacks any archaeological context whatsoever - itself a crushing observation (Jordan 1998). The "precip­itation-induced-erosion" proposal is thus unnecessary and is yet another example of modern speculation being offered up as if it were hard fact.
11. Expectation of a reward at quest' end. The purpose of all this speculative effort is the expectation that some great benefit will emerge at quest's end. Unfortunately, the pay-off is usually couched in distressingly vague terms, with dark intimations of imminent disaster or the happier prospect of recov­ering lost ancient wisdom. Hancock, for instance, suggests that his beloved Lost Civilization left star maps of monuments and encoded information in myths and folk tales as a testament to their existence and a warning to future generations of what can happen when Earth crustal displacement takes place. What exactly we are supposed to do in preparation for ECD is not made clear - correlate terrestrial monuments with stars, it seems. The ancient-wisdom motif makes an appearance in strikingly religious passages about the Lost Civilization's "science of immor­tality and vague hints of great spiritual discoveries that may emerge from his inquiries. Professor Schoch's quest ends on an equally gloomy but no more precise note: pyramids teach us about cometary impacts and their effects on people - although civilization can be snuffed out in an instant, pyramids stand as reminders of its existence for future generations. Once more, it is not immediately obvious how pyramid-derived knowledge about cometary impacts might be of use to us in the here and now. But failing that, discovering the true origins of pyra­mids "offers the prospect of better knowing who we are", which is at least comforting.

Conclusion: Summing it all up, pseudoarchaeology is not to be understood in isolation. It is also related to the wider phenomenon of pseudohistory, and both pseudoarchaeology and pseudohistory are part of a broader pattern of pseudoscience. The principles and practices of pseu­doarchaeology sit on the other side of a vast abyss from intellectually honest inquiry. Pseudoarchaeology therefore cannot be considered a real "alternative" to archaeology or viewed as a storehouse of good ideas in waiting. Even as it dons the mantle of scholarship, it remains the very antithesis of rational analysis. In reality, it is a clearing­house for any number of magical, mythical, irrational, or more sinister motifs. While these motifs may be popular and psychologically appealing, that does not make them valid. Pseudoarchaeology is exactly what the moniker captures: a travesty and a sham.

But, pseudoarchaeology is not restricted to fringe fantasies about pyramid-building extraterrestrials, antediluvian sunken civilizations, or entrepreneurial survivors of catastrophe bringing the light of high culture to the four corners of the globe. Also nationalistic impulses can demand that the past be rewritten to conform to predetermined agendas.7

There is nothing inevitable about this process, insofar as nations do not necessarily engage in the fantastical revi­sion of their history, but when given free rein, a guiding nationalist ideology embeds an essential dishonesty at the heart of historical investigation: it requires that potentially productive avenues of inquiry be closed off as politically (or reli­giously or ideologically) unconscionable while others be favored solely on the basis of their alignment with the preferred agenda. Such attitudes fertilize the pseudoarchaeological weed.

In the past, European colonialists could not countenance that native "savages" had built impressive monuments without pale-skinned instructors to help them out. So it is disconcerting, even in books published today, to find talk of white, bearded "Viracochas" bringing the gift of civilization to the gormless natives of ancient Peru (to take but one example). On the other side of the coin, modern jingoistic movements in postcolonial contexts often require that the national achievement remain "pure" and uncontami­nated by "foreign" influences. Both phenomena afford glimpses at an ugly face of pseudoarchaeology, one that serves ethnocentric or even openly racist agendas. (It is highly instructive - and supremely ironic - that modern "native" nationalisms should employ investigative methods analogous to those of their erstwhile colonial oppressors. The methods of pseudoarchaeology are useful to propagandists, regardless of their specific agendas.)

None of this is to claim that purveyors of pseudoarchaeology are inherently racist, but they may be unwitting vessels for messages with distinctly unattractive resonance. It is pertinent here that pseudoarchaeology is an outlet for ideas drawn from outdated scholarship, proposals that were originally formulated in different times, under less tolerant socio-cultural systems. In rehashing discredited ideas for the contemporary public, pseudoarchaeological screeds risk smuggling into the modern forum certain sets of assumptions best left in the past.

A good example of such assumptions is hyperdiffusionism, which is part of the furniture in most pseudoarchaeological scenarios. It is particularly prominent in those promoted by nationalist programs, since the favored nation can be presented as the crucible of regional high achievement, or worse, of global civilization. The supposition here is that only one nation or people originated great things, which then diffused to the less creative populations. The direction of the alleged hyperdiffusion is irrelevant; the initial assumption is what matters. Thus the Egyptians actually got their pyramids from the Greeks, or vice versa; Hindu India is the font of all worthwhile culture; or, perhaps less aggressively, the Celts conveniently provide Europeans with a shared ancestry at a time when the continent is seeking greater integration.9 Other movements naturally spring to mind, such as Afrocentrism, the contention that white Europeans "stole" their culture from black Africans - as if culture were some unitary commodity that can be packaged and pilfered by one people at the expense of another. (Acculturation is in fact far more complex than that, and it is never completely unidirectional.) Another example is the notion of a prehistoric, matriarchal, and egalitarian paradise presided over by a Mother Goddess, which was subsequently overthrown by hierarchical and patriarchal societies worshiping male deities. (But why should the gender of a deity reflect anything about how a society functions?) While we may empathize with the desire of the marginalized to have their voices heard in the halls of history, it is surely very much in their interests that the content of their claims be valid and verifiable rather than dubious or demonstrably false. The truth is surely preferable to the snake-oil promises of ideological myth-making, whether it be nationalistic, or ethnic-, race- or gender-oriented, and no matter how temporarily uplifting or edifying the myth may seem. All peoples have contributed to the vast tapestry of the human experi­ence; to assign to only one the role of sole designer and weaver is pure hubris.

The public appeal of pseudoarchaeology is a multifaceted cultural and psychological phenomenon. A variety of cognitive styles and sociolog­ical processes are at work in driving some intellectually curious persons into the arms of the pseudohistorical gurus. Individual differ­ences certainly play a central role, in that pseudoscientific scenarios will tend to appeal to fantasy-prone personalities and to those who adopt a suspicious stance with regard to the "establishment," usually conceived in monolithic terms. Conspiratorial thinking is often rife among people like this, who can readily convince themselves that they are the true skeptics and questioners, that they alone have the inside track, while lamenting that everyone else is hoodwinked by the ivory tower and its dark-suited backers in government. But the problem far outstrips such individual outlooks. Wider cultural trends - distrust of science and reason as a whole, heightened public reli­giosity, rising fundamentalism, to name a few - influence the attitudes of many who are not necessarily fantasy-prone conspiracy theorists. Another facet of the problem is the long-recognized public relations problem of "liberal science," broadly defined. Rational scholarship of the sort conducted by university scholars of all stripes is too often seen by the public as elitist, coldly arrogant, and utterly convinced of its own omni­science. There appears, then, to be a nexus of psychological and socio-cultural factors that renders the field of public perception fertile ground for conmen, charlatans, and the purveyors of nonsense.

Also, the complicity of professional archaeologists in the promulgation of pseudoarchaeology, even if largely unintentional, is better acknowledged than denied. I am not thinking here of the less than glorious past of the discipline, when frankly racist ideas were embraced in accordance with the tenor of the times. Rather, when it suits their cause, professionals today are not slow to exploit the "mysteries" and "wonders" and "treasures" of ancient cultures. Whether they do so for the public in front of the cameras or in print to impress potential funders, such actions play directly into the hands of the mystery-mongers and cranks who populate the pseudoarchaeological zoo. The public comes to expect archaeology to be all about spectacularly rich, history-altering discoveries, unsolved mysteries, and the promise of ancient wisdom - precisely the obsessions of the fringe. In fact, everyday archaeology is far more mundane than this, and often the most interesting and far-reaching conclusions are drawn from the drabbest of sources. For instance, hugely important inferences have been made about the onset of a sedentary lifestyle in the Levant by a team arlier working at Abu Hureyra in Syria.

In all this, the believers usually cheer one another on. It may have to be accepted, however reluctantly, that the most committed have to be aban­doned to the clutching mud of the pseudoscientific swamp. But the situation is not entirely hopeless. Under­graduate students, at least, are not powerfully devoted to pseudoarchaeological fantasies. And, if the gurus can be goaded into showing their true colors, if their followers can awaken to their question-dodging, evidence ­evading tactics, some, but by no means all, may find themselves questioning. It takes an act of courage however to admit to having been hoodwinked. The door thus opened can be stepped through - or slammed shut and bolted tight. That choice ultimately lies in the hands of the devotee.10
The primary role of professionals in this process however may to - ask the hard questions, probe, and expose. Critique, after all (the basis of this website), is the heart and soul of true scholarship and should not be avoided by the reporters and news media either.

1. While perhaps not as vitriolic as other examples of the genre, Professor Schoch's books do not shy away from innuendo about the world of ancient scholarship. We read, for instance, that scholars go about "assuming" and "asserting"  to reach their conclusions; that they cleave to independent inventionism for ideological rather than scientific reasons; that (unspecified) ideology leads them to ignore evidence of diffu­sion; that graduate schools create narrow specialists unwilling to debate with those outside their specific archaeological foci; and that archaeologists defend the cultures they study to deny a political advantage to rivals studying other cultures. It is even laughably- declared that modern academics downplay the role of the sea as a medium of cultural contact in ancient times because the Romans where landlubbers, and modern scholarship traces its roots back to the Romans. In short, the scholarly positions of historians are repeatedly presented as resting on political, arbitrary, or authoritarian bases.

It takes an act of courage however to admit to having been hoodwinked. The door thus opened can be stepped through - or slammed shut and bolted tight. That choice ultimately lies in the hands of the devotee. The primary role of professionals in this process may be to do what they do best - ask the hard questions, probe, and expose. Critique, after all and the basis of this website, is the heart and soul of true scholarship.

2. Here is a typical attitude: "Reflect back on your academic experi­ence. ... Mimic the gatekeepers [of orthodoxy] really well and you might enter the club with a fellowship or better."

3. Note the "us-and-them" way in which the issues are framed. An even more enthusiastic promulgator of the church metaphor is John Anthony West, promoter of astrology and proponent of Egyptian symbolism. West believes that Egyptian civilization was inherited from Atlantis. As a denier of evolution, he rails against a straw- man – “the Church of Progress" - that he believes dominates modern science and society:  and his website at http://www.jawest.com. A more subtle method is that of Professor Schoch, who expressly parallels contemporary anthropology's theory- of a migration from Siberia into the Americas with Pope Julius II's declaration in 1512 that the peoples of the Americas must be displaced Babylonians, which agreed, with Biblical orthodoxy. The equivalence renders both posi­tions raw belief enforced by fiat.

4. The supposed "mystery" of why pyramid-like monuments appear independently in different parts of the globe was solved decades ago by I.. Sprague de Camp: in the absence of steel, concrete, or vaults, attempts to build high monuments will lead to a pyramid-like structure; children with building blocks are capable of finding this out quite by- themselves. The really interesting archaeological/historical question here is "`K'hy do early- civilizations feel the need to build large monuments"' It is not seriously addressed by pseudoarchaeologists. (Professor Schoch's appeal to "spirituality" is too vague to get us very far, since notions of what constitutes the spiritual differ so markedly between cultures.) Monuments, rather, are just an assumed part of "civilization."

5. A sub-characteristic of the genre is a certain tentativeness in advancing its scenarios, so that any given claim can be jettisoned as an innocent "suggestion" or "possibility" when shown to be baseless; see Hancock's cautious wording.

6. The story can be traced on the websites of Robert Bauval, Graham Hancock, and the BBC program Korizon ("Atlantis Reborn Again," available in transcripts).

7. As we have recently seen, recalling Savarkar's concept of "Fatherland" and the idea that "Aryans" and Hinduism are autochthonous, any type of ancient immigration into the subcontinent is refuted "scientifically":  if people had indeed moved into India, it was only invaders such as the Greeks, Muslims, and British. In support of the idea of South Asia being an attraction to outsiders, any imag­inable reason is brought up, such as India being a country where it was "nice" to live. Conversely, Afghanistan, too, is regarded as a former Hindu territory, just because some statues of Buddhist or Hindu deities have been found there that clearly belong to the Buddhist mission in Central Asia.

8. To continue with the above case example, everything that goes against the unity of "India" - in prehistoric and historical times - is regarded as an effusion of British divide et inzpera politics and their version of history, and all ancient or more recent linguistic and cultural dividing lines are overlooked. In sum, Indian history, as we have it now, is declared a product of colonial Indology. And the persons perpetuating this mistaken interpretation are the academic histo­rians (on the Aryan/Dravidian dividing line) and all those who follow Marxist tenets based on the Aryan immigration theory ("caste instead of class fight").It is thus common to all revisionists that they want to proceed "scientifically," marshalling a host of evidence that seems to point in the direction of their aims. The preponderance of such evidence - usually at variance with main­stream results and theories - is then depicted as initiating a Kuhnian "paradigm shift" in the understanding of Indian history. In other words, the rewriters believe that they are at the forefront of scholarship, while scholars in the mainstream are seen as clinging to hold­out positions, which will disappear as soon as their authors die. See also.

9. For example, in the November/ December 2003 issues of the self proclaimed ‘scientific’ magazine Archeological Odyssey contains, on its inside front cover, a full-page ad emblazoned with the headline: "Startling New Proof The Exodus Tools Place - But not where you think!" The natural inference is that the readership of such magazines still contains a significant number of people who see archaeology as properly subordinate, in some fashion, to faith and its historical assertions. A related example is the ossuary supposedly carved with an inscription reading "James, the brother of Jesus." It is most probably an ancient artefact with a forged inscription added to increase its value, but that has not stopped the object from being much touted in venues like Biblical Archaeology Review and Archaeological Odyssey. Indeed, the editor of both magazines, Hershel Shanks, has written a book to cash in on the public's interest in this "find" and used both magazines to promote it. Despite the conclusion of a committee of Israeli archaeologists that the inscription is a modern forgery, its authenticity continues to be defended in the pages of Biblical Archaology Review, mostly by attempting to discredit the committee's damning report.

10. But then, does it matter if some people believe in homeopathy or Therapeutic Touch? Perhaps not a great deal. Unlike most consumer frauds, the victim is a willing participant in his own victimization.

Likewise, does it matter if some people - often, academics - believe that truth is an illusion, that science is merely a species of myth, and that standards for judging rationality and correspondence with reality are thoroughly culture-bound? Once again, perhaps not a great deal: far more pernicious doctrines abound in human society, and anyway, intellectuals' influence on the world outside the ivory tower is small. Indeed we live in a society in which 42 percent believe in haunted houses, 41 percent in possession by the Devil, 36 percent in telepathy, 28 percent in astrology, and 45 percent in the literal truth of the creation story of Genesis.


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