The American Archaeological Association: Fact or Fraud?

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List of keywords found in the html of the AAA webpage along with a few associated images on Wikipedia.

Not all archaeological frauds are about artifacts. Could the American Archaeological Association be an example?

The American Archaeological Association (AAA) calls itself the “world’s oldest by-invitation-only journal for professional archaeology and peer research.” And it requires members to sign non-disclosure agreements about their content. All for an annual fee of $275.

If this “association” sounds familiar, it should. Sort of.

The AAA is the American Anthropological Association (archaeology is a sub-discipline of anthropology) so it has the appearance that this “association” is trying to exploit that familiarity. Dues for the American Anthropological Association aren’t more than $60 per year and you have access to over 250,000 full-text articles on Anthrosource. And there is a wide range of AAA journals (over 20), all peer reviewed.

The suspicious new “AAA” also has a close naming scheme as the Archaeological Institute of America, home of Archaeology Magazine and their peer reviewed journal, the American Journal of Archaeology. The AIA was formed in 1879 and chartered in 1906. They currently have over 200k members and annual dues start at $25 for students; $150 for professionals.

Non-Disclosure?

I should point out that neither of these legitimate associations for anthropology and archaeology require any sort of non-disclosure agreement. And it would be silly and counter-productive if they did. For the suspect American Archaeological Association website they try to make a justification for it:

Due to the ongoing nature of looting and exploitation of many protected archaeological sites around the world, our publications are not made available to the general public, but reserved only for verified and vetted members of the archaeological community who adhere to a strict non-disclosure agreement in the use of peer-published materials and joint-research studies.

quote from archaeologyresearch.com

That almost sounds reasonable. Except it really isn’t. When professional archaeologists publish, they rarely give information that puts sites in danger. In fact, we have an ethical duty as heritage professionals and cultural resource managers to share our findings with the public as well as to protect them. Heritage belongs to the people!

There simply is no good reason to force members to pay an exorbitant fee and sign a non-disclosure agreement. It isn’t as if they are doing the job of State Historic Preservation Offices and curating site location data for future surveys.

World’s Oldest Anything?

The American Archaeological Association claims to be the “world’s oldest by-invitation-only journal for professional archaeology and peer research.” And by “journal” we must assume they mean Present Pursuits of the Past, which the site names as it’s monthly “peer-reviewed journal.”

Except it isn’t.

Peer-reviewed or a journal, that is. There’s no ISSN found for it. No journal impact score available for it. Not even a list of article titles and authors. In fact, if you go to Google (plain Google, forget about Google Scholar, it’s not there), you get just a handful of links to the same two articles by the same two people:

  • Loper, N. (2020). “A Steatite Scarab Map from the Second Intermediate Period”. Present Pursuits of the Past. Chicago: American Association of Archaeology. 5: 37–39.
  • Waters, P. (2020). “Answers on the Netert Mudat Egyptian Scarab Map”. Present Pursuits of the Past. Chicago: American Association of Archaeology. 7: 3–5.

The first is Nate Loper, an IT guy for Canyon Ministries in Arizona, where you can “experience the Grand Canyon from a biblical creation perspective.”

The second is Preston Waters. Hold this thought. I’ll come back to him in a minute.

Evidence for Fraud

At the end of the day, there’s only one way to find out if this site is truly fraudulent and that’s make an attempt to give them 275 bucks and try to register. My thought is it won’t work, because they’re “invitation only.” And that might be the key to their claim of “world’s oldest invitation only….” because there is probably exactly 1 invitation-only archaeological association. But my feeling is that there are none with actual professional archaeologists as happy members.

The website for this “world’s oldest by-invitation-only journal for professional archaeology” was created in August of 2020. ICCAN Lookup lists the domain owner as “Preston Waters” at 1742 E. Harbor Blvd., Boston, Massachusetts, 02101. The telephone number for “Preston Waters” is 617-496-1027.

In case you just gasped that I gave out personal details, let me fill you in.

The address is non-existent. There is a Harbor Point Blvd, a Harbor Shore Drive, and a Harbor Street in Boston. There is no Harbor Boulevard–East or West. And the numbers for each of the other “Harbors” are in the 10’s and 100’s. Nothing goes as high as 1742.

The telephone number, 617-496-1027, is to the front desk of the Peabody Museum in Harvard.

“Preston Waters” is the name of a fictional character that engages in business fraud and money laundering.

Also, the website for this seemingly fictional association has no listing for their executive board, directors, editors, etc.

Worldcat has no listing for “present pursuits of the past” as any sort of publication. Clearly it’s not a “peer-reviewed journal.”

Conclusion

My conclusion is that, at best, this is a shill organization with the hopes of one or two people (probably Nate Loper) for getting fake citations for creationist bullshit on Wikipedia pages and the like. Already, several wiki’s have removed their links. Wikiwand removed at least two from their “Curse of the pharaohs” and “Scarab” entries. If you go there now, the entries for Loper, N and Waters, P are both gone. And on the “Talk” pages for a couple WikiPedia entries, there is a debate that looks as though it will end in the removal of the citations for one entry and the entire entry for another.

At worst, however, this is an out right attempt to make money off of the gullible. But I suspect it’s “members” are generally creationists in an echo chamber, pretending to be archaeologists.

I could be wrong, however, and welcome the proof from Nate Loper, the person I suspect is behind this “association.”

I’m not signing any non-disclosure agreement though.

Update (2/5/21)

It would seem that the site for the American Archaeological Association is down. As is their Facebook page (honestly, I never even looked it, darn).

Nate Loper has asked the Wikipedia editors discussing the fate of the Netert Mudat Scarab (allegedly showing an early Egyptian map–it probably isn’t) to delete the page.

Nate wrote them:

It seems this Mr. Preston Waters who I was contacted by to write up the paper on this scarab (and subsequent Q & A piece) last year may himself not be legitimate. Although I was not paid anything to write the paper, I was told if I wrote it, it would be published in the journal for their organization, of which I was free to join for free the first year and then $275 annually after that. […] I’ve tried contacting this individual over the past few days, and have had no response. I now see their website is down too. Based on the conversations I’ve seen here and other places, I undertook an investigation into it myself, and as others have stated, also agree this may not be a legitimate journal as I have been led to believe. As such, even though I wrote it and agree with the archaeological findings, I also agree with the motion to delete this article entry for the time being. […]

Except I still maintain Nate Loper is probably the guy behind the site. When you look at the SEO search.html (which I saved a copy of) for archaeologyresearch.com, you will find a list of hundreds of archaeological keywords for sites, methods, archaeological terms, and archaeologists–most of them dead–and Nate Loper.

Sandwiched between “napoleon” and “national historic preservation act” is “nate loper.”

The supposed Netert Mudat scarab, alleged to be an early map of Egypt dating to the 2nd Intermediate Period. The “Nile” is really a lotus plant.

What isn’t there is “preston waters.” You can see a snippet of the keywords listed on the main page in the featured image of this article at the top. Loper’s name wasn’t among them, but it was on the search.html page.

Regarding the scarab from the Wikipedia entry, I spoke to a person who handles hundreds of these a year (perhaps thousands in his lifetime). He’s of the opinion that it’s genuine.

The scarab, that is. The claim on the Wikipedia site is bollocks. The scarab was probably sold by Hussam Zurqieh, probably on Ebay. Go there and you can find his other listings, each with the same neutral grey background.

My expert states that the supposed representation of the Nile on the scarab is, in fact, a lotus plant. I was actually thinking it might be a palm branch, which I assumed was used as a device to create two registers. I haven’t yet personally translated the signs, but he tells me that none of these relate to cities along the Nile. He writes, “Particular mention is made of the sign of Neith with it being mooted that it represents the Egyptian city of Memphis because there was a shrine to Neith there. Perhaps there was. However if Memphis was to be represented by an Egyptian god it would have been the god Ptah; the principal location of the cult of Neith was at the city of Sais far in the North!”

I failed to get permission to use his name, so I’ve omitted it.

About Carl Feagans 370 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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