2017: A Year in Fake, Fraudulent, and Fantastic Archaeology

Here’s a review of the articles written here at Archaeology Review about fake, fantastic, and fraudulent archaeology–otherwise known as pseudoarcheaology.

Bosnian Pyramid

The year started off with a two-part overview of the Bosnian Pyramid hoax perpetrated for the most part by Semir Osmanagic, a Bosnian-American who has a business in Houston, TX but pretends to be an archaeologist these days in Bosnia-Herzegovina.

Part One describes a 21st century Bosnia following the previous century’s war and how it might create a contributing opportunity for nationalist pseudoscience in the form of very bad archaeology that, while good for morale and the economy in the short term, will likely have detrimental effects in the long.

Part Two  takes an in-depth look at the geology behind the region of Visoko and why the hills and features that Osmanagic “discovered” aren’t really pyramids at all.

The Roman Sword of Oak Island!

In February, Pretend Swordplay gives a detailed review of the science behind some historic metallurgy and how it completely dispels the absurd notion that the Romans visited Oak Island in Nova Scotia, Canada around 2,000 years ago. This article also calls into question specific claims made by Hutton Pulitzer, probably the leading proponent of pseudoarchaeological nonsense surrounding this sword. If you’ve heard about this sword on the interwebs or saw the episodes of Oak Island that included it, and you want more information about the real science behind it, this article might be helpful!

Antarctica on a 16th Century Map?

Also in February, the Piri Reis Map and Claims of Antarctica seemed to be going around as a topic on several FB pages that feature fantastic archaeological claims. In fact, that map popped up all year, and I just kept copy/pasting the link to this article whenever it did. Hopefully, some folks learned what the Piri Reis map really is, why it’s really interesting, and why it isn’t showing Antarctica at all.

Sarcophagi for Straw-Man Pharaohs

In April, Brien Foerster’s video about two vastly different Egyptian sarcophagi from two very different periods and places popped up on Facebook. Foerster has me blocked on FB, so I probably wouldn’t have noticed the video had it not been a repost. In this article, I point out everything that Foerster gets wrong (which is pretty much everything) in the video. And I hope I’ve saved at least one person some money that they decided not to give him for a tour guided by his “expertise.”

The Low Hanging Fruit of Brien Foerster

Okay. So if you write about fake, fraudulent, and fantastic archaeology (pseudoarchaeology), and you’re desperate for something to write a critical review about, just check whatever the most recent video Brien Foerster has put out. In April, alone, two more of his videos were going around and I couldn’t restrain myself after watching them. The sarcophagi video above makes 3 total.

In Elongated Skulls Mystery Really Isn’t a Mystery, I critique Foerster’s video about an “enormous cone head of Paracas Peru” which he subtitles “Lost Human History Revealed.” Spoiler alert: Foerster doesn’t reveal anything. I do, however. I very briefly talk about artificial cranial modification (ACM) and reveal how it’s done. I reveal a few of the many, many studies and writings that have covered ACM over the years (something Foerster says doesn’t happen). I reveal how cranial sutures fuse with age and cranial deformation and why. I reveal what’s real about cranial capacity and normal variation within the human species with regard to this capacity. I reveal other cranial features that are affected by ACM and a few natural vectors of cranial modification. But, most of all, I reveal Foerester to be wrong. All in all, this was a very detailed article with a decent bibliography.

In The Temple of Karnak and Possibly its Worse Tour Guide, I critique the assumptions and bogus claims Foerster makes in a video about the Temple of Karnak that he created while he “guided” a group on a tour. If you watch the video, one of them must have been naughty because Foerster apparently sent her off to stand in a corner. Very strange stuff. In the critique, however, I cite his statements at particular times of the video and explain what’s wrong with them. I’m pretty sure I came across this video because it was “suggested” to me by YouTube after watching the other two.

Click Bait List of Lists!

In an article that I titled after a click-bait with a similar name, I explore and deflate the balloons of mystery for 8 Mysteries of the Ancient World that Aren’t so Mysterious. First up in that list is the 8-sided pyramids of Giza. Bet you didn’t know about them at all. Check that article to find out why. Next is a brief explanation of the so-called caves of the Knights Templar that was going around in the first half of 2017. They’re not 700 years old after all. The third mystery was the “stone spheres” that get associated with strange and often completely made up nonsense all over the world. Turns out it’s a geological process which I briefly explain but probably give more information in Part Two of the Bosnian Pyramid article. Another item in the list that I also have a full post on is the Piri Reis Map and the claim it shows Antarctica (it doesn’t). But, on the topic of Antarctica is the 5th item which is a geological feature called a faceted, probably shaped in part by glacial movement. Lots of folks think this is a “pyramid” built by human hands. The folks that have climbed here don’t think so.

Number six is the alleged 500 million year old hammer found in London, TX, which is just a regular hammer that found it’s way embedded in a carbonate rock–which can form over the course of a few decades, depending on the chemistry of the solution the rock is forming in. Seventh on the list are the “Paracas Skull. Much of what I wrote here is the same as in the Elongated Skulls article. Finally, I mention one of my favorites: the Aluminum Wedge of Alud. This thing looks, for all the world, like a tooth to a stand-alone tooth to the bucket of an excavator or track-hoe that was separated from the heavy machinery to fall into the mud only to be recovered by significance-junkies and marketed as some grandiose mystery about either an ancient “high civilization” or “ancient aliens.” Good to know aliens are expected to use track hoes to dig coal for flying saucers.

130,000 Year Old Californians?

The source of this article did not come from any of the woo and fringe sites or groups on the internet, though it was quickly shared by them all. It came from the very respected journal Nature and actually went through several rounds of peer-review. And yet I still included it in the list because I think the authors were doing bad archaeology even if for good reasons.

This is the Cerutti site in California where several Pleistocene fauna were discovered (including a mastodon). The authors described breakages of the bones consistent with being “hammered” open and several large stones that had markings consistent with “hammerstones,” leading them to conclude that 130 kya humans were present. In my critique linked above, I question the artifacts and the lack of significant butchery and carnivore marks on the bones.

The larger criticism, which I omitted from the article, is that the authors utterly failed to show that they sought to falsify their hypothesis. Instead, they gave every reason why data are supportive. There were many opportunities to explore what could falsify their hypothesis: what else could cause the breakage patterns? Could they only be caused by hammering? Could they have been caused by the heavy equipment that uncovered them? What could explain the lack of butchery/carnivore marks? What else could explain the “hammerstones” and the “marks” on them. The photos supplied of these marks were sketchy and ultimately the kind of thing I might be tempted to toss aside in the field during a walk-over survey.

This story is making headlines again because of Thomas Deméré’s (one of the original authors) insistence that “mainstream” archaeologists are dismissing his claim because they’re too unwilling to accept the truth, etc. And, yes, he sounds just like crackpots when he says it. It is, however, important to note that Deméré is not a crackpot. But bad science can creep into any one’s work if they let bias get in the way.

He’s Back! This time it’s a non-human fetus!

I bet you thought I finally let Brien Foerster off the hook? Hell no! In Non-Human Fetus? Nope, as Human as You, I share yet another video by Mr. Foerster who is filming the remains of an infant he incorrectly identifies as a “fetus.” Needless to say, Foerster gets a whole bunch of stuff wrong, that I straighten out. In this one, Foerster enlists help from “Ken-the-radiologist” who also refers to the infant as a “fetus.”

Why do they keep saying “fetus?” Because they really want the viewer to think the artificial cranial modification exhibited by this person was present in the mother’s womb. As opposed to created by binding methods as was the documented cultural practice.

Why would they want the viewer to believe that? So they can make really cool claims about DNA, and aliens, and all sorts of other bullshit that helps Foerster sell the mystery. And mystery is what makes him money with his tours and books and videos.

So how do I know it’s not a fetus? Simple. The length of the femur. In the article, I estimate the age and give some specifics, but conclude that this could be an infant as old as 20 post-natal months. Oh, and I also read the information card that the museum provided.

The Great Pyramid and the Speed of Light

Did you know the builders of Khufu’s pyramid understood the properties of light and how fast it traveled? Don’t worry… really didn’t. In this article (http://ahotcupofjoe.net/2017/05/great-pyramid-speed-light/) I make a couple of observations about the meme that still pops up on the interwebs from time to time associating the latitude of the Great Pyramid to the speed of light.

Rhesus Negative Blood? Alien! Nephilim! Annunaki!

The silliness of Rhesus negative blood and aliens, gods, nephilim, etc.  is still one of my most clicked links. If you ever wondered what the hype was, what the meaning of the silly memes going around are (one of them by Robert Sepher-who appears to pretend to be an anthropologist), or if you just wanted to know what the deal was with negative and positive blood types, you’ll want to read this article. I give quite a few details about how blood is typed and how it changes with evolution and population.

The 3-Fingered Alien Mummies of Peru

In a Review of Jaime Maussan’s Alien Mummy from Peru, I break down the complete and utter fraudulent claims of Maussan about his “aliens” using his own photos and x-rays. And a little knowledge of human anatomy. And a healthy dose of rational thought.

Underwater Ruins off of Japan

A more recent article I wrote, Yonaguni: Monumental Ruins or Natural Geology?, looks at the geological formations off the coast of Yonaguni, a Japanese island about 75 miles northwest of Taiwan. A lot of people want to think these are man-made ruins, including at least one geologist from Japan, but there simply isn’t the evidence to support the claim. I explore the evidence shared about the site thus far, show some pretty photos, and apply some critical thought to the whole thing. My conclusions might surprise you! (If you read this year-end review this far, I can get away with a little click-baiting, right?)

The Fuente Magna Bowl: Not Cuneiform and not Sumerian

Another fun item that is supposed to be an “OoPArt” (Out of Place Artifact). In this final entry for my 2017 Year-End Review, I describe why it’s probably both fake and a fraud. A fake created by some unknown artisan no later than the 1950s or 1960s and a fraud perpetrated by the likes of Clyde Winters. While I can’t know for sure if Winters truly believes in his interpretation of the “writing” on the bowl, if you read the article, I explain why his interpretation is complete nonsense. This was actually a fun article to write and I learned much about cuneiform and early Mesopotamian writing in the process.


About Carl Feagans 344 Articles
Professional archaeologist that currently works for the United States Forest Service at the Land Between the Lakes Recreation Area in Kentucky and Tennessee. I'm also a 12-year veteran of the U.S. Army and spent another 10 years doing adventure programming with at-risk teens before earning my master's degree at the University of Texas at Arlington.

1 Comment

  1. 2017 must have been a lot longer than I thought because I’ve seen some of these ‘mysteries’ for what feels like at least fifty years.

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