The Newark Decalogue

The ‘Newark Decalogue’: a nineteenth-century fake touted as evidence for Hebrews in the prehistoric New World

This section looks at the techniques used by Bad Archaeologists, to expose the rhetorical tricks, the suppression of contradictory evidence, the wilful misuse of genuine data and the invention of non-existent data. We also justify why it is necessary to spend time on this exercise, rather than simply leaving it alone.

Introducing Bad Archaeology

Bad Archaeology is all around us. Many of its ideas are pervasive in popular culture. Its publications sell more than publications dealing with real archaeology. Its web presence is much stronger than that of real archaeology. This is especially true of internet forums, where the most bizarre of conspiracy-oriented ideas are given free rein. With this site we are trying to show that most Bad Archaeology is completely vacuous and valueless. In doing so, I hope that we can also provide a reference point for Good (or at least, Better) Archaeology.

At the same time, we hope that this site will be a useful resource to people puzzled by various claims about the past. We discuss apparently anomalous artefacts, unusual monuments and exotic places. We examine religious claims to knowledge that are in conflict with those of science. If you believe that your religious book of choice contains no errors, be prepared to learn. If you’re determined to be upset with this knowledge, perhaps this site is not for you. On the other hand, you are the sort of person whose mind we hope to open, even if it’s just a little.

We are equal opportunity debunkers. And remember, something has to be full of bunk before it can be debunked! We don’t aim just at ancient astronauts, creationists, conspiracy theories or political manipulations, to name just four areas of Bad Archaeology. We will take on any outrageous claim that isn’t supported by the evidence. This includes claims made by other archaeologists, in case you were tempted to accuse us of operating a professional closed shop.

We aim to be factually correct. Sometimes, this is difficult. The sources of many claims are in nineteenth-century newspapers or popular paperbacks that do not cite authorities for their statements. Sometimes we have to draw a blank, when there is no primary evidence to examine. In cases like this, we have to look at the overall context and balance of probabilities, using Occam’s Razor. This makes some readers angry. They accuse us of not being open-minded enough, of refusing to look at possibilities that disagree with the status quo. But where the primary data are missing, improbable or unconfirmed, this is the best that any science can do. If there really were people running around California 33,000,000 to 55,000,000 years ago, there ought to be more evidence for them than a single mortar and pestle found in 1877.

Above all, we hope that this site will entertain and amuse you.