I was wrong about the Newark Holy Stones, evidence of the “lost tribes of Israel in the New World,” being included in this episode. But I was right about some other predictions. We get our dose of giants, Denisovans, the Cercutti Mastodon site, and a subtle suggestion of Israel’s Lost Tribe after all.
As per usual, the first half of her show features real archaeologists and real archaeology. With Fox nodding her head and pretending to understand the bigger picture. I’m not taking an unfair jab at her being dingy or an airhead. I’m quite fairly calling her out on a lack of education and critical thinking.
Let me explain.
In the first half
Fox visits the Meadowcroft Rockshelter in Pennsylvania where she interviews archaeologist Jim Adovasio. Adovasio describes the various levels in the rockshelter as they’ve excavated, and how excited they were to discover pre-Clovis going back as far as 16,000 years. To be sure, this and other pre-Clovis finds have changed the way we think about the peopling of the Americas. And it’s true that this news was initially met with some skepticism and scoff, but many would argue that it was fairly met. And many would also say that the evidence was sufficient to change the way we view early migration to the Americas. Somewhat.
Fox acts as though this is all occurred this year, of course. All the while Adovasio was giving her a lesson in the relatively recent history of archaeological theory regarding the peopling of the Americas and she thought he was simply telling her how the peopling occurred.
The first excavations of the Meadowcroft Rockshelter began in the 1970s with the first pre-Clovis dates coming out either in the late 1980s or early 1990s. In the 1990s, the 16,000 year old dates were met with skepticism, but appropriately so. Pre-Clovis was hypothesized, but there weren’t yet any confirmed dates. And there was some worry that the dates coming from the Meadowcroft site were affected by coal deposits. This, I think, was a fair concern. The claim, if true, would necessarily change the paradigm–provisional as any in science is–about when people first arrived in the Americas. Extraordinary claims require a modicum of evidence at the least. And it cannot hurt to tread carefully while making every attempt to falsify a new hypothesis.
Today, we have a new understanding, revised from the previous, about when and how people first arrived to the New World. Near the end of this segment, Fox erroneously says that the date was pushed back an additional “3,000 years earlier than our history books say is possible.” This is a gross over-statement of what she perceives history books as “saying.” Even now, as books are written that say the peopling of the Americas likely occurred with a migration across the Beringia land bridge around 16,000 years ago, it’s understood that this is a provisional conclusion. New data in the fields of both archaeology and genetics may provide evidence that allows us to once again revise our assumptions. We would never say “it isn’t possible.”
Fox continues to visit with real archaeologists and she meets with Dominique Rissolo who shows her some high-tech imagery of probably the oldest known remains in the Americas, Naia of the Hoya Negro–a cenote in Mexico that held her bones for over 12,000 years. Megan Fox notwithstanding, I enjoyed this segment and it made me seek out the video I linked above to Rissolo’s name which I plan to watch soon.
She then met with Amy Gusick, an environmental archaeologist looking for signs of human settlement or activity off the coast of California where sea levels were once much lower.
The Pseudoscience Begins Here
This half of the show now makes the predicted switch to pseudoarchaeology and sheer nuttery.
First, Fox interviews self-appointed “chief” Joseph Riverwind (formerly known as Jose Rivera of Puerto Rico) and his wife a fake-doctor of naturopathy. Riverawind claims to be a “peace chief” of the Arawak Nation. This is not a federally recognized tribe and several sites on the internet show this guy to possibly be a charlatan involved with a hate group that believes Israel plays a part in the “End Times.” Rivera/Riverwind and his fake-doctor wife invent (according to NewAgeFraud.org) native beliefs that support their fundamentalist, Judeo-Christian fantasies.
And this would explain the couple’s description of alleged native legends that sounded exactly like Judeo-Christian mythology: all lands were once one, people split apart, someone built a sky-tower to the creator god, a global flood and the creator instructed someone to build a “great canoe,” etc.
These two were about as wack-a-doodle as they come. And Fox ate it like a kid with her first ice cream cone. They went on about stories giants, probably as made up as the rest. They called them “other beings” that were anything but good. Over 9-10 feet tall, “or taller!,” they were the ones that built the mounds.
Her next pseudoscientific expert was Jim Vieira, self-described “giantologist” (as if this is a real thing). The show listed him as an “historian,” but I don’t think Vieira has any degree in the subject. As far as I know, he’s a stonemason and writer, though he’s certainly well-read in 19th century newspaper accounts which he clearly accepts as true. Hint: fake news isn’t a thing of the 21st century.
Vieira does his predictable song and dance about the Smithsonian collecting giant bones that conveniently disappear. The thing I heard different from previous “giantologists” is a blame being placed square on Native Americans and NAGPRA!
“Where are the bones?”
“Well, in the 1990s, NAGPRA came along and the Indians took them all and hid them!”
This segment, however, is where you might get a little intoxicated by the time the credits roll if you play the drinking game I suggested last month.
“Denisovans” are mentioned quite a few times, starting with Vieira, who points out that while there are only a couple of teeth to go on, these were obviously a race of giants. Because we should always base our assumptions of an entire species (much less a population!) on the genetic expressions of two individuals.
In the next decade, I predict this will be the perceived smoking gun for all the pseudoarchaeological types that want to go on about early migration to the New World.
Deméré showed Fox the mastodon bones and the rocks he alleges are stone tools. Not once does he address any of the very legitimate criticisms that people have raised (including myself).
In short, the claim is that mastodon bones were found with fractures that suggest tools used to smash them in order to get at the bone marrow inside. The bones were dated to 130,000 years ago, and who would have been the hominid species to do this? Denisovans, of course (this is where you take a drink–again) to which Fox states, “this completely shatters” what archaeologists thought about the peopling of the
Well, it would. If the evidence were legit. It isn’t.
Where are the cut marks? One doesn’t bash a mastodon bone with a rock, however, large, with the meat still on it. That means it was either cut off with a stone tool or chewed off.
Where are the carnivore marks? If someone bashed the leg and took the marrow, and they didn’t cut the meat off, then something at it. There would be tooth marks on the bone.
I have other criticisms about the Cercutti site, along with at least one plausible explanation for how it was created, but I’ll let you read it here if your interested.
Fox hasn’t let me down yet. She started out with a semi-sane, mostly boring show with episode one. That episode had a lot of potential that was utterly missed. Episodes two and three have been about half-and-half fact and fantasy. I thought the producers would close the season out with the Americas episode as number four, but it looks like episode four will be the Trojan War. That one is scheduled for Christmas day so far, so I might be a day or two late in reviewing it. But it looks like they’ll end it on something fairly uncontroversial.
With any luck, this will be the last we see ever of Legends of the Lost with Megan Fox.