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Bad Archaeologists tend to focus on a small number of special places, usually spectacular monuments or ruins, exotic or poorly known locations, sunken or extraterrestrial civilisations. Many of these places are known to Good Archaeologists, who understand them quite differently.

Special places

Archaeological monuments

There are certain well known monuments that crop up time and again in Bad Archaeological texts. Each variety of Bad Archaeology has a different explanation for them: they were built by aliens, by Celtic explorers of North America, by refugees from Atlantis, by Chinese circumnavigators, by a Lost Civilisation of the Ice Age… If any one of these claims is true, the others are automatically false. How do we set about testing them?

Pyramids

Pyramids have long fascinated people, from ancient tomb robbers intent on stealing Pharaoh’s gold to Victorian adventurers in the Mexican rainforest. They are among the most awe inspiring monuments left by our ancestors, but do we really know how they were built and what they were for?

Cities

Some ancient cities are places of mystery: because they are often set in remote locations, abandoned for centuries or millennia, not rediscovered until recent times, they can appear to be testimony to the existence of prodigiously ancient civilisations. But are they?

Places of questionable significance

Bad Archaeologists sometimes use places that have escaped the attention of Good Archaeologists. Is this because recognising them as ancient sites would upset the neat hypotheses of Good Archaeology or is it because the Good Archaeologists know they are not really archaeological monuments?

Mistaken and controversial identifications

The location of Noah’s Ark (why would it even survive?), the city of El Dorado, the lost city of Atlantis in the Sahara Desert: so many Bad Archaeologists claim to have found these dubious attractions. Why do their amazing discoveries fail to make archaeological textbooks, only tabloid headlines?

Natural formations

From sunken formations off the coast of Yonaguni in Japan to eroded ‘pyramids’ at Cydonia on Mars, Bad Archaeologists have been making claims that things other people have thought to be products of geology and erosion are in fact ancient monuments. Has the Good Archaeological community overlooked them?

9 Responses to Exotic places

  • T_smokinit says:

    I’ve been reading into the history of America and i found something that i couldnt explain, there is a digsite in Heuyatlaco that would be 80-250,000 years old!? can that be explained or is it so called “Out of place”?

    • Keith Fitzpatrick-Matthews says:

      There are a number of sites in the New World that have yielded anomalous dates. In some cases, the dates are probably wrong because the material being dated is residual (in other words, it’s something much older that happens to have been kicking around when a deposit formed: imaging an archaeologist in ten thousand years trying to date a twenty-first century deposit using a lump of wood that had come from a medieval house demolished nearby!). In some cases, the supposed artefacts are controversial: the supposed flintwork could have formed naturally.

      Even though there is some evidence that humans were in the Americas rather earlier than we generally think, 80,000 to 250,000 years ago is just too early: before 95,000 years ago, as far as we know, Homo sapiens was restricted to Africa, while no fossil hominid remains (such as Homo erectus) have ever been found in the New World.

  • alex bliss says:

    I was just wondering from where you get your evidence that the nonaguni formations are not man-made? I’m not challenging your point in any way, I’m just interested to know.

  • I am absolutely challenging his points…he doesn’t have any. Lol this site is ridiculous the more I look at it. Here’s your basic framework.

    Fringe archeaologists believe A, B, and C. But did you know that a lot of scientists don’t actually acknowledge it? Also, heres a roundabout article or thought or event that kind of sort of relates to A, B, and C, but doesn’t actually debunk or even challenge it in any way! WHAT NOW BAD ARCHAEOLOGISTS?!?!??!?

  • Helena says:

    Whenever I read comments I notice that the IQ of the poster seems to be inversely correlated with the use of upper case letters especially when accompanied by multiple punctuation marks.

  • Ken Robert Coe says:

    First please define the “good” archaeological community. Also it might be helpful to name a few “bad” archaeologists who stand in opposition of opinion to the “good community” of archaeologists. Then give some clear and concise reasons why you have judged them “bad,” and account for your opinion as to why you claim yourselves to be expert judges. Please include only professional archaeologists. If you are speaking of amateurs, magazine writers, and novelists, you should call them such, as they are not archaeologists.

    • Keith Fitzpatrick-Matthews says:

      I would have thought that the name of this site – Bad Archaeology – makes it perfectly clear that it is the ideas, not the people we are dealing with. You seem to be under the misapprehension that the site is called Bad Archaeologists. It isn’t.

  • I’m puzzled by your motivation here, I can see the value of ‘debunking’ the bad use of archeology for crank ideological purposes (creationism, ancient astronauts etc) but isn’t you’re approach just based on defending a rationalist Enlightenment ideology, which is just as bad? For instance in iron nails in coal, you say there *must* have been an entry hole. Worse it seem archeology has taken a Marxist direction with it emphasis on material culture, reflecting the politicization of academia. I’m not an archeologist but I’m from a philosophy background, so I appreciate rational arguments as well as the limits of reason. Doesn’t it make more sense to problematize attempts at coherent explanations, which will always be ideologically based, whether fringe or mainstream, rather than defend them?

    • Keith Fitzpatrick-Matthews says:

      Questions.

      1. What’s wrong with “rationalist Enlightenment ideology”?
      2. How does archaeology’s insistence on material culture show that archaeology “has taken a Marxist direction”, when marxism in archaeology was prominent a century or so ago and is now regarded as old hat and too deterministic?

      Your insistence, from a philosophical viewpoint, that explanation is “always be ideologically based” is the reason we have archaeological theory. But we can’t throw the baby out with the bathwater. Archaeology is the study of material culture – nothing more, nothing less – in the expectation that it can tell us something about the humans who made and used it. That’s not Marxism: that’s the raw data with which archaeology works. There are many different approaches to how we derive interpretations from material culture, but all must be positivist to the extent that there is an external reality to the data (unless you happen to be a throughgoing social constructionist, which, as far as I’m concerned, is someone who denies reality).

      I did wonder if your post was a joke, but it clearly isn’t.

      And, by the way, even in American English, it’s spelled “archaeology”.

Agree or disagree? Please comment!