This section looks at the types of data used by Bad Archaeologists, from genuinely ancient sites and finds to frauds, hoaxes and misidentifications.
We can start by looking at the sorts of things that Bad Archaeologists marshal as evidence for their ‘revolutionary’ ideas. They are particularly fascinated with spectacular monuments (ranging from those familiar to the general public, such as the Great Pyramid of Giza, Stonehenge or Angkor Wat, to the exotic and little known, such as Tiahuanaco, Yonaguni or Nan Madol), which often form the centrepieces of their arguments. Thus, Erich von Däniken touts the lid of a sarcophagus from the Pyramid of the Inscriptions at Palenque (Chiapas, Mexico) as his best evidence, while he devotes an entire chapter of Chariots of the Gods to the Great Pyramid of Giza. In addition to large monuments and special places, there is also a fascination with certain types of artefact, especially those known as ‘out-of-place artefacts’ (‘ooparts’), oddities from the archaeological record. These include objects that appear to derive from more ancient contexts than would otherwise be expected and those which are suggested as evidence for advanced technologies in the remote past. They also include anomalously old human remains, which are used to undermine accepted theories of the origins of the human species.
As well as the material evidence, there is a great emphasis on textual evidence, particularly from religious writings and especially the Jewish Bible (generally cited as the Christian Old Testament). These texts are used to find evidence for visitations by beings from space, for data that undermines conventional chronologies and as the authority for a faith-based idea that cannot be questioned as it derives from a god. Early historic maps are also grist to the Bad Archaeologist’s mill: the depiction of an Antarctic continent on maps that pre-date its official discovery have especially caused much excitement among the fringe.
Finally, to add to the bad data, we have bad theory. Bad theory is explored in greater depth in the reference section of the site. All degrees of logical fallacies can be employed by Bad Archaeologists. These particularly include ad hominem, appeals to authority, cherry-picking, the false dichotomy, the straw man and the Texas sharpshooter fallacies.
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