Feedback From the Fringe-December 2018

Grumpy old man.

I thought I’d start a new thing. “Feedback from the Fringe.” If I get enough of these, I’ll create a new category to file them all under.

Here’s some recent feedback and my response.

Main stream archaeology is getting closer to being seen as complete lies in many areas.
You still think the Pyramids are Tombs? YOU are wrong.
Graham Hancock’s research and evidence is far from unsupported.
I bet your dreading the release of AMERICA BEFORE. Randell Carlson id not a liar.
Why cant you admit that theories derived a hundred years ago no longer hold water?
It’s only a matter of time until your PHD’s will become worthless.

Comment by “Richard,” 12/13/2018

Thank you so much for the time you took to comment here, Richard. I honestly appreciate it. I can understand how much of the so-called fringe in archaeology found on social media like Facebook, YouTube, and elsewhere on the internet can be appealing, particularly when the real answers behind some of the things that seem mysterious aren’t readily in front of you, easily explained, or simply challenging some preconceived notions of how the world around us works.

And, since it seems you posted your comment with carriage returns, let me take them as bullet points and address each in turn.

**Main stream archaeology is getting closer to being seen as complete lies in many areas.

Let me first say that there is no “mainstream” when it comes to archaeology. It’s fine to talk about, say, “mainstream media” because there are traditional media outlets like major broadcast networks, associated press, and the like along side alternative sources of news like social media (Facebook, Twitter, blogs, etc.).

But when it comes to science, there really is no “mainstream” since this implies that there is an alternative. There isn’t. But before you get upset, let me try to explain:

“Science” is just a systematic way for carefully and thoroughly observing nature and using consistent logic to evaluate results. To suggest that there is an alternative way of observing nature to arrive at answers implies that you disagree with the initial premise. So I would ask, which part of that exactly would you disagree with? Being thorough? Using careful observation? Being systematic? Or using consistent logic? If I had to guess, I’d be willing to bet you might hesitate to give up any of these qualities of good scientific method.

Archaeology is done using science. There are different theoretical frameworks, but essentially they all boil down to using the above method. So one is either doing archaeology; or one is not. There is no “mainstream.”

However, there is always room for revision, improvement, or the complete replacement of assumptions when faced with new evidence. Archaeological conclusions are always provisional and subject to change, but arrived at using the best available evidence. While it’s true that many conclusions are inferential and based upon subjective interpretations, these are interpretations of hard data which is, in many cases, testable, repeatable, or statistical on some level. This approach allows for competing hypotheses to be argued and defended where appropriate. And for rigid, more stringent conclusions where fitting. An example of the first might be what causes variation in toolkits for a hunter-gatherer culture: is it limitations in resources for the tools or the resources being hunted-gathered? An example for the second might be a date range for a set of skeletal remains recovered from a burial in a Natufian village.

Where there are lies told to support an archaeological conclusion, this is called pseudoarchaeology.

**You still think the Pyramids are Tombs? YOU are wrong.

The review of the television show you’re commenting on was about Stonehenge. I made no comment about any pyramids. But, even though there are pyramids and pyramid-like structures all over the world, I assume you are referring to the pyramids of Egypt.

But, here, you’ve made a testable claim. So let’s examine it. Assuming that I think the pyramids found in Egypt are tombs, you then say “YOU are wrong.” Even though this is a strawman argument, I think it’s worth paying some attention to. Let’s assume I do, in fact, take the position that the pyramids found in Egypt were constructed as funerary monuments—tombs if you will. Why would you object?

Is it because pyramids built between 2375 and 2160 BCE have funerary inscriptions written inside? These inscriptions actually tell the pharaoh’s soul how to cross over to the after life.

  • Is it because of the burial goods like sarcophagi, jewelry, and so forth found within actual burial chambers inside the pyramids?
  • Is it because of the actual mummies and mummy parts (“parts” because of looting in antiquity) found within the pyramids?
  • Is it because all the pyramids are on the west bank of the Nile? The west is the direction of the setting sun and considered, in ancient Egyptian lore, to be the direction of the after-world and the dead.
  • Is it because Egyptian texts refer to pyramids as tombs?
  • Is it because cemeteries often surround royal pyramids?
  • Is it because of the distinct and clear evolution of the mastaba to the pyramid found in the archaeological record?

**Graham Hancock’s research and evidence is far from unsupported.

The problem with Hancock is his tendency to cherry-pick data to fit his preconceived conclusions. This isn’t how science works. It is, however, precisely one of the ways that pseudoscience works. Take for instance his Fingerprints of the Gods book. In his first few “exhibits” in Chapter 51, Hancock makes some claims about massive “crustal displacement” on the Earth and an “ice-free Antarctica” (it’s been quite some time since I read this poorly written text, so forgive me if I get some details wrong). But he doesn’t really provide any data. I think he claims Antarctica was “ice free” between 12,000 – 15,000 years ago. But shows no evidence. He does, cite a really old text (relative to the publication of Fingerprints in 1995) by Charles Hapgood. This was the fact that there was no evidence of glaciation in Antarctica prior to the Eocene.

I use this as but one example of the Hancock’s bias. He has a conclusion. He will pick out many facts that are true, and omit the many, many that are unfavorable to his conclusion. And this is what he did with the Hapgood citation on page 454 (I pulled my copy from the shelf from the first time in many years just now). Hancock writes, “geologists have found no evidence of any glaciation having been present anywhere on the Antarctic continent prior to the Eocene (about 60 million years ago.) Hancock includes a small, superscript number “4” to indicate the citation to Charles Hapgood’s The Path of the Pole, written in 1970. Perhaps this was a true statement in 1970. However—and this is a big however—many, many papers were written in the 1970s through the 1990s showing that the Antarctic continent was glaciated many times prior to the Eocene.

Like I said, this is but a single, glaring example of the sort of poor scholarship Hancock is known for. And, it’s a prime reason why he’s so discredited and out-right ignored by those who take science seriously. He’s a joke. The punch line at cocktail parties. And yet I take his influence on the lay-person eager to soak up a good mystery and fantastic claim about the human past very serious.

**I bet your dreading the release of AMERICA BEFORE. Randell Carlson id not a liar.

On the contrary, I’m looking forward to it. I’d even consider pulling a fingernail for an advance copy so I can review it. I’m already gathering sources based on some of his comments that hint at what’s in store. As far as this Carlson guy, I have not idea who he is, so I’m unable to comment on the veracity of his statements.

**Why cant you admit that theories derived a hundred years ago no longer hold water?

I can think of many hypotheses and theories arrived at a hundred years ago that are no longer valid. Hell, I can give some examples of both that are at least greatly revised from just a few decades ago! You’re going to have to be more specific. But see my description of science above again first. Revision and provisional conclusions are the key. Always.

**It’s only a matter of time until your PHD’s will become worthless.

I’m afraid I don’t have a PhD. I do have a master’s in anthropology with a focus on archaeology and, so far, it’s kept me well-employed as a professional archaeologist.

About Carl Feagans 383 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.

Be the first to comment

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.