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Who are we?

We are a couple of real archaeologists (Keith and James) fed up with the distorted view of the past that passes for knowledge in popular culture. We are unhappy that journalists with no knowledge of the methods, aims, techniques and theories of real archaeology can sell hundreds of times more books than real archaeologists. We do not appreciate news programmes that talk about ley lines as if they are real. In short, we are Angry Archaeologists.

One of us is Keith Fitzpatrick-Matthews, who began work on a version of this site as part of his personal home pages as long ago as 1999. Keith is a local authority archaeologist in North Hertfordshire with a long-standing interest in Bad Archaeology and who has grown increasingly concerned at the profession’s evident unwillingness to deal with it. He is also worried at the growth of anti-Enlightenment attitudes during his lifetime, which he worries may return us to a Dark Age of superstition-based belief.

The other of us is James Doeser, who is currently trying to finish his PhD in government and archaeology at the Institute of Archaeology, University College London. James is interested in the way efforts to increase public understanding of archaeology (museums, media, tourism etc.) collide with a the belief that everybody has a right to understand the past in whichever way they want. We can’t all be right, can we?

What gives us the right to criticise the work of others?

Bad Archaeologists have rarely – if ever – gone through the years of training that we have, which has given us a broad knowledge of what archaeological evidence can and cannot tell us about the past. We are not members of an Establishment frightened by new ideas that will push us from our positions of authority, as we do not have positions of authority! Rather, we are ordinary archaeologists who are passionate about the past and hate to see it misrepresented by those who are out to make money from it or to gain control over the gullible and poorly informed.

How come you are experts on every aspect of archaeology?

We don’t claim to be! Archaeology is a set of methods and theories as well as a great, ever-expanding encyclopaedia of knowledge. Our critique of Bad Archaeology is founded more on knowledge of method and theory than actual expertise in specific periods and places. Should they be required, we know where to look for the experts and their knowledge!

Do you want to put people off archaeology?

We don’t! We want to encourage all people to enjoy archaeology and (where possible) take active part in it. An archaeological perspective is one which values a critical approach to claims made of meagre evidence. This website should not deter people from discovering more about the past. The archaeological process can sometimes throw up controversial or problematic results: this is part of the joy of science.

I want to find out more about archaeology in the UK, what should I do?

The Council for British Archaeology is probably the best place to start. It has details of local groups, lectures and excavations as well as publishing the monthly magazine British Archaeology.

Another good source is Current Archaeology, which publishes a Handbook of all digs available to volunteers and other participants.

If you want to work as a professional archaeologist then the British Archaeological Jobs Resource has lots of advice about training and education (as well as plenty of warnings about what it’s really like to be an archaeologist!).

21 Responses to Frequently Asked Questions

  • Bruce says:

    Good stuff guys! Thanks! You had just what I needed with the New Archaeology page and more!

  • Kate says:

    I have a question, please. Does Salima Ikram really believe the ancient Egyptians and pharoahs were black (as in negroid) as has been asserted by Bauval, author of Black Genesis? If so, what are the motivations that would inspire her to go against Hawass’ assertion that the pharoahs and ancient egyptians for the most part were egyptian–a race that is different from the negroid people’s of other parts of Africa? I don’t care about race at all, myself, but I passionately care about the truth–in all things and in archeology. I view the paintings and all the artifacts from ancient egypt and I see an Arabic looking people mostly–in the hair, the facial structure, etc. I also see variances in color–with Nefertari almost fair skinned. There are some negroid appearing people, but they are not the pharoahs–they are combatants to the pharoahs–and such. To believe Mr. Bauval, must I disbelieve my own eyes and the research of respected archeologists?

    • Bruce says:

      :) That sounds like a test question, but it’s interesting nonetheless. I hope the authors of this blog respond! Personally I find the concept of classifying cultural/ethnic groups as distinct “races” very problematic. There are rarely clean lines in groups of the homo sapien sapien subspecies, especially in a geo-political location like Egypt. Beyond that one of the scenarios that I would use to analyze the question is as follows. If a future digital-archaeologist found my 2012 Twitter profile (https://twitter.com/#!/Bruce_N_Smith) would they be expected to believe that my image of myself has a direct correlation to physical reality, or would they need to consider that my self-representation was a creative act which needs to be interpreted using other related data from the same time period?

      • Florian Blaschke says:

        Bruce, by evading the question in this way you seem to be siding with the “black Egyptians” claim, and I don’t think that’s what you intended. You needn’t classify human beings into “races” to dismiss claims that the Egyptians in general looked either like typical sub-Saharan Africans (i. e., not only very dark-skinned but with a specific and characteristic facial structure and build), or like typical Northern Europeans (i. e., not only very light-skinned but with a specific and characteristic facial structure and build). Even if you pay no regard to “races” in principle, you can and probably should dismiss such race-based claims based on that principle. But in fact you could even state a conjecture that the ancient Egyptians in general didn’t look much different from the modern Egyptians (which I’d agree with completely), based not only on images and other representations or descriptions (I see no reason to discount them all as fanciful or extremely idealised – even to the point of changing basic features – they deserve to be taken seriously even if they may not be 100% accurate or reliable), but also on general considerations (while modern ethnic groups can never be considered direct continuations of ancient ethnic groups, given that there is essentially always considerable admixture, we have no reasons to assume any radical changes in ethnic composition in Egypt, either, and the Copts are probably the closest we can get to a relatively undisturbed continuation of the indigenous population), without compromising your “race-sceptical” stance.

  • Kate says:

    Thanks for your thoughts Bruce. Hmmm. Interesting concept. However, the social and cultural constructs of the times influence how people prefer to paint/portray themselves–and usually there is some archetype or reality upon which ideas are based. THerefore, even if using artistic license in one’s rendering, the desire to appear a certain way–however idealized– usually reflects the values of one’s peer group/society, don’t you think? I do appreciate your reply and it’s always great to share ideas with people who enjoy archeology–and more important–people who just like to think!
    Thanks,
    Kate

  • map silva says:

    Hi ,
    Our hisory has been hidden and manipulated by a Cabal that control our lives to suit their agenda this is not conspiracy as you would have your readers believe,because this cabal have admitted to doing what they are being accused of.
    An example, the use of Cannabis or Hemp as a spiritual, medicinal,and cormercial product for the past 10,000 years and its been our most important crop of the last 5000 years until earlier in the last century where it was vilified and made illegal by J edgar hoover and USA and the rest of the world bullied by by the Economic weight of USA followed suit and the discovery of Isareli scientists in the 90s of the Endocannabinoid system in humans,2 cannabinoid receptors 1 n the brain and 1 in the stomach to recieve the active prperties of cannabis which is only produced by Cannabis, we are hardwired for Cannabis as the scientists put it. Cannabis is the most medicinal plant known to man and thats why the US Government and Pharmaceutical companies are filing patents for its medicinal properties and keeping this hidden while sending people to prison for using cannabis this is a crime against humanity. If you would like i can provide links to patents filed as far back as 1940 and to peer reviewed scientific research, My point is because of the important role of cannabis,hemp in our history why is it not mentioned in western education when teaching kids history and also that the biggest percentage of black african slaves were used to harvest hemp and not cotton as we are taught.
    This is brainwashing, our history is being manipulated and the truth hidden from us, which you deny is happening and Cannabis or Hemp is just 1 example and all the above can easily be verified by yourselfs.

    • Keith Fitzpatrick-Matthews says:

      I think you are wrong to suggest that there is a cabal that suppresses the role of hemp cultivation in the past. I’d agree that it is probably underestimated (and there is increasing evidence for its use in the British Neolithic, for instance), but that’s far from being evidence for deliberate suppression.

      By the way, your assertion that “the biggest percentage of black african slaves were used to harvest hemp and not cotton as we are taught” is just plain wrong: the majority were transported across the Atlantic to work on sugar plantations, not cotton or hemp. You’ve also underestimated the importance of coffee…

    • Helena says:

      ‘hemp’ does not mean the same as ‘cannabis’ in the way you are using it. Yes the family of plants is the same but hemp was used for all sorts of things, e.g.rope. It can be used in paper-making and textiles as well, I believe. Try looking it up on the wonderful web. I suspect that those slaves who were forced to work producing hemp were not producing it for the cannabinoids. (Also, Cannabis, the drug, can be beneficial but like any other drug, if abused, can do more harm than good.)

    • Cannabinoid receptors are no different to nicotinic receptors in the sense that rather than the nervous system evolving to smoke weed and tobacco, scientists learned about the systems for endogenous neurotransmitters such as dopamine and acetylcholine by using similar (but actually different) exogenous molecules such as THC and nicotine in experimental settings.

      i.e. Cannabinoid receptors are a sub class of dopaminergic receptors that are more receptive to THC than other dopaminergic receptors. Nicotinic receptors are a sub class of ACh receptors that are more receptive to nicotine than other ACh receptors.

      Oh and you won’t just find one or two receptors. You might find one or two types of receptors within the sub-class. Which has an entirely different meaning.

  • Isa P. says:

    Great work! I had a lot of fun (and sometimes, relief) reading your site. I came across it accidentally, trying to find someone rational that said that at least some Ooparts are being scientifically tested and can be safely rebuked. I am glad I did. Thanks for your efforts, I hope there will be more!

  • James Lively says:

    why is it when it comes to large structures like the pyramids, there is so much confusion? Back in Egypt’s prime they were a superpower. And they way of life back then was “If my country conquered yours, then my God is stronger than yours, you and your people are now enslaved to mine”. With unlimited manpower due to conquered lands like Libya, Nubia, and Palestine its no wonder how these were built. All of the sites with these monuments have histories of warfare and slavery. And it is entirely possible that you had one or two groups of people who were a little more advanced than the mainstream. You see it today. On Earth, you have countries that have been to the moon and beyond right nest to villages that have been “untouched” (per say) for thousands of years. What would an archaeologists from two thousand years from now thing about an exhibit of The Apollo module right next to a boomerang from Australia dated to the exact same time? And THAT is your answer. People. No Aliens, Gods, or Devils, just people.

    • Ivan says:

      Not quite James. Newest research indicate the pyramids were built by native Egyptian farmers who made the bulk of the workforce during the flood season, and well paid artisans who worked year long. The workers were motivated as much by free food and lodging paid for by their tax contributions as they were with religious fervor. If Jesus came here today and asked the Christians to build a spaceship, what do you think they would do? That is what the pharaoh was to these people at the time.

      • I think James’ point was more about how there are perfectly logical explanations for why the pyramids were built and we don’t need to resort to extraordinary claims simply because the architecture is rather impressive.

        Also, some dynasties might have fed their workers and filled their heads with malarky that motivated them but some of the workers rebelled (striked) and slavery was kind of the norm up until recently, actually.

        Although I understand that what we call having a job without owning your own house others in those days called slavery. So they might not have been property of pharaoh and may have even been treated really well but they may still have been called slaves.

    • Jeff says:

      Here is my take on the practical facet of “why the pyramids” and other monumental buildings. Most Egyptians were farmers. The Nile floods every year, so these farmers had nothing to do but, probably, go down to the local beer hall, get drunk and begin to complain about the government (either the local provincial governor or the central government). So, to keep idle hands from becoming tomorrows revolutionaries and “bomb-throwers”, a massive public works program was initiated. And that it also served some type of religious-political purpose, then all the better. And, besides, the Nile in flood made it that much easier to deliver all those heavy stone blocks closer to a building site.

  • Enough of the Hate says:

    Was very interested in the site, until I stumbled upon all of the anti-religion hate and intolerance. We know creationism isn’t true, but the textbook left wing name calling is pathetic.. Liberalism is a religion, too, and you are sitting in the front pew.

    • Keith Fitzpatrick-Matthews says:

      I’m in no sense a “libertarian”.

    • Kate says:

      I think there is enough empirical evidence to back up your assertion that “anti-religion” is essentially a religion as well. Not sure I noticed the hate on this site that you did however. I personally don’t see why religion and science cannot co-exist. Scientific knowledge is ever-changing and no amount of data can make the universe fully known. Cheers to all!
      Kate

  • Can you by any chance recommend a podcast about archaeology for someone who is just general historical interested?

  • Amuraphel says:

    So…do either of you own a bullwhip or a fedora, then? ;)

    • Keith Fitzpatrick-Matthews says:

      No fedoras, although here’s a picture of James wearing a fetching sun hat: Chester amphitheatre excavation 2001

      I’m holding the bullwhip, which I use to keep the excavators in line, although as I took the picture, you can’t see it ;-)

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