Pseudoarchaeology on the Travel Channel: Megan Fox to have a new show and crystal skulls on Legendary Locations

Yesterday, I posted a link on the Facebook Page to a an online article at Inverse where Rae Paoletta covered the recent news that Megan Fox will be hosting a four-episode series on the Travel Channel called Mysteries and Myths with Megan Fox. At least, this is the working title for the show.

Smile or grimace? Photo by Nicolas Genin.

Fox is the co-creator, host, and executive producer (which probably means she’s sinking a bunch of money in it). The Paeoletta article is good. She interviews two very competent archaeologists—David Anderson and Angela Keller—and both offer some sound criticism of Fox and mystery-mongering television in general.

Anderson directly challenges a quote by Fox in the press where she says: “History only gives us a one-sided view of the truth. I haven’t spent my entire life building a career in academia so I don’t have to worry about my reputation or being rebuked by my colleagues, which allows me to push back on the status quo. So much of our history needs to be reexamined.”

Anderson points out how Fox is misrepresenting the profession of archaeology as “new ideas are constantly being introduced and debated” and how she’s largely ignorant of the inner-workings of the profession in general.

Keller criticizes the general notion that shows like Ancient Aliens and probably Fox’s promote, which is that there are “divine or otherworldly” explanations for monumental architecture in the world.

According to Deadline, “the show will explore some of the greatest mysteries of time, including whether Amazon women really existed and if the Trojan War was real.” And, so far, it’s slated to be released in 2018 with production beginning in June. Henry Schleiff, a Travel Channel exec said “when it comes to debunking the myths around some of our greatest historical mysteries, Megan Fox’s passion for discovering the truth is just visceral.”

Oh. Did I mention that the host, Megan Fox, is the actor from Transformers? Being an actor doesn’t mean a person can’t have something intelligent to say about archaeology, history, or any other subject. But I am definitely curious about Fox’s “visceral passion” for the truth. Such passions are best informed with years of study. You don’t need a advanced degree or a degree at all—I know many advocationalist archaeologists that are very well read in their areas of interest whom I would readily refer to as expert when it comes to their opinions.

But I’m not sure the same can be said for Fox. She once  responded in an interview that she had little regard for school and was never a “big believer in formal education […] the education I was getting seemed irrelevant. So, I was sort of checked out on that part of it.”

So I can hardly wait to critique each of the four episodes as well as her “fresh and unbiased perspective on [the] events” of history.

Josh Gates and episode 7 of Legendary Locations

Screen grab of Legendary Locations: www.travelchannel.com/shows/legendary-locations  

Also on the Travel Channel is the new show by our pal Josh Gates. In the past, I covered a couple of his Expedition Unknown episodes here and here. Last night’s episode of Legendary Locations included a trip to Belize in search of a crystal skull! You can find a detailed discussion of crystal skulls here.

Josh doesn’t go to Belize himself. Instead, the show follows the current owner of the Mitchell-Hedges skull, Bill Homman. Josh initially refers to Homman as a “researcher”—an honorific that is increasingly rendered meaningless by pseudoscience television shows. A few minutes later, we learn that Homman inherited the Mitchell-Hedges skull from its previous owner, Anna Mitchell-Hedges.

The camera follows Homman to Lubaantun, where he meets up with Leonardo, the descendant of someone who is alleged to have been on the original expedition with FA Mitchell-Hedges when Anna allegedly found the skull in a crawlspace under a temple platform. Oh, yeah… Leonardo is also a “Maya healer.” The pair then press on to another location where Leonardo believes another skull awaits. Leonardo thinks crystal skulls are “important Maya artifacts used for passing down knowledge and appealing to the gods for help. Put a pin in that. I’m going to come back to it later.

The next location is Ushbaantun, an apparently un-excavated Maya site where they poke and prod with machetes and a snake-cam. They finally get a glimpse of something on the cam and discontinue the search since they need to apply for permits to excavate. I think the Belizean government is going to want more qualifications than “researcher” to issue permits…

Josh Gates expresses his skepticism of the crystal skulls in general near the end of the segment, which I was glad to hear. I like Josh and I’d hate to hear him go full-on mystery-monger. Still, I was disappointed that he didn’t give the crystal skulls (there are several out there and none appear genuine) a little more background.

Remember that sentence above I said to pin? Leonardo believes crystal skulls to be “important Maya artifacts.” Except there is absolutely no basis for this. No evidence that suggests that the Maya created such crystal skulls at all. No crystal skull has ever been found in an archaeological context associated with the Maya.

What about the Mitchell-Hedges skull you say? Didn’t 17-year old Anna find it at a Maya site?

This was 1927. No documents exist to show that the skull was an excavated find. This, in and of itself isn’t terribly surprising though. In the early years of archaeology, artifacts were more trophy and items of “treasure” than they were data points of information the way they are today. FA Mitchell-Hedges was probably in it more for the glory than the science.

But it is strange that he wrote nothing of it prior to 1943. Nothing. He didn’t show it to anyone. He didn’t include any description in his notes or journals of it. And recent evidence suggests that it was a purchase from Sotheby’s by Mitchell-Hedges in 1943, which he discussed in correspondence with his brother. For more details, I refer you again to my previous post, which includes some relevant sources.

Finally, if anyone has an empty (or full) Crystal Skull vodka bottle they’d like to give away, I’m willing to pay for the shipping. I’d love to put one on my shelf!



About Carl Feagans 355 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.

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