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Fiction over fact


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How it didn't happen
Not to be confused with the actual science of archaeology.

Pseudoarcheology is a pseudoscience focused on the study or promotion of archaeology in ways which do not meet the basic standards of the scientific method. Pseudoarcheology often involves the study of real archeological objects such as pyramids and the Stonehenge monument, but ascribes alleged mystical powers or supernatural origins to them. Belief in ancient astronauts, or in mythological locations such as Atlantis, are sometimes part of pseudoarcheology. Indigenous Aryans theory propagated by Hindutva advocates is an example of pseudoarchaeology.


[edit] Biblical archaeology

Saint Paul's Epistle to the Galatians[wp] had transmitted God's promise to the Jewish patriarchs, as an unbroken patrimony, to the Christians, and in the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries you could hardly throw away an orange peel in the Holy Land without hitting a fervent excavator. General Gordon[wp], the biblical fanatic later slain by the Mahdi[wp] at Khartoum[wp], was very much to the fore. William Albright of Baltimore[wp] was continually vindicating Joshua's Jericho and other myths. Some of these diggers, even given the primitive techniques of the period, counted as serious rather than merely opportunistic. Morally serious too: the French Dominican archaeologist Roland de Vaux[wp] gave a hostage to fortune by saying that "if the historical faith of Israel is not founded in history, such faith is erroneous, and therefore, our faith is also." A most admirable and honest point, on which the good father may now be taken up.
Christopher Hitchens, God Is Not Great: How Religion Poisons Everything[1]

While — in modernity — a serious and respectable academic field in itself, without which our understanding of the spurious and man-made nature of various religious texts would be severely diminished, prominent scholars in the field of biblical archaeology such as Professor of Ancient History and Archaeology Eric H. Cline[wp], author of Biblical Archaeology: A Very Short Introduction (published by Oxford University Press and winner of the 2011 Biblical Archaeology Society's "Best Popular Book on Archaeology"),[2] takes the time to warn and warn again of the rampant interest in the field from well-funded pseudoscientific cranks out to prove whichever of the abrahamitic myths they happen to subscribe to personally, stating;[3]

While biblical archaeologists working today are generally more interested in learning about details of daily life in the ancient biblical world than proving or disproving the accounts in the Bible, many lay people have these priorities reversed. They want to know: Did the Flood take place? Did Abraham and the Patriarchs exist? Were Sodom and Gomorrah destroyed by fire and brimstone? Did the Exodus occur? These were some of the original questions in biblical archaeology that intrigued the earliest pinoeers of the field. They still resonate today but are far from being answered by biblical archaeologists.

In fact, solutions and answers to such questions are more frequently proposed by pseudo-archeologists or archaeological charlatans, who take the public's money to support ventures that offer little chance of furthering the cause of knowledge. Every year, "scientific" expeditions embark to look for the Garden of Eden, Noah's Ark, Sodom and Gomorrah, the Ark of the Covenant, and the Ten Lost Tribes of Israel. These expeditions are often supported by prodigious sums of money donated by gullible believers who eagerly accept tales spun by sincere but misguided amateurs or by rapacious confidence men.

These ventures, which usually originate outside the confines of established scholarly institutions, engender confusion about what is real and what is fake. By practicing pseudo-archeology rather than by using established archeological principles and real science, the archaeological charlatans bring discredit to the field of biblical archaeology.

Eminent biblical scholar Michael Coogan[wp] and author of The Old Testament: A Very Short Introduction (published by Oxford University Press) also chimes in to underscore the inherent fail in pursuing pseudo-archaeology to try and prove the patently false myths recorded in scripture;[4]

Correlating the meager textual references with the extensive archaeological discoveries has been controversial, to say the least, and similar problems exist for almost every excavated site whose ancient identification is known. As a result, it is now clear that archaeology cannot "prove" the Bible's historicity.

A textbook example of this exact crankery is the slow but steady stream of nonsensical Noah's Ark sightings every few years.

[edit] Hoaxes

A related area of pseudoarcheology consists of hoaxes claimed to be new archaeological finds. Among the most infamous of these hoaxes was the Kensington runestone "found" in Minnesota.

[edit] Selective use

The selective use of archaeological data to support pre-existing religious beliefs (while ignoring data that contradicts their claims) also falls under pseudoarcheology. This can include, for example, the use of archaeology to support creationism and other kinds of biblical literalism,[5] the claims of British Israelism, or to support the Book of Mormon claims about the ancestry of the American Indians. The finding of Kennewick Man in eastern Washington state in the late 1990s caused a round of pseudoarcheological speculation about his origins, with Mormon apologists believing that the find backed up their claims about ancient inhabitants of the Americas, while a neopagan "Asatru" group believed it backed up their beliefs that ancient Viking explorers had once thrived in what is today the U.S. (as opposed to "discovering" "Vinland",[wp] eh?, and buggering off back to Greenland).

[edit] Ancient astronauts

See the main article on this topic: Ancient astronauts

The idea that such artifacts as the Egyptian pyramids, Stonehenge, the statues of Easter Island, Mayan hieroglyphs and the Nazca lines are all evidence of ancient extraterrestrial visitors to Earth was popularized by Erich von Däniken, who wrote the pseudoarcheological book Chariots of the Gods in 1968.

[edit] Hyperdiffusionism

See the main article on this topic: Hyperdiffusionism

Diffusion, the influence of one culture on another, undoubtedly happens. But "hyperdiffusionism" is the extension of this phenomenon beyond reasonable bounds to "explain" how "primitive" societies could do things. For example, to explain the pyramids of Mesoamerica as being built by immigrants from Egypt, some two thousand years earlier, by unknown means, leaving no traces, when the Mesoamerican pyramids were of a different shape, and with a different purpose; often based on belief that the indigenous peoples of the Americas were incapable of such achievements on their own. See also Thor Heyerdahl.

[edit] See also

[edit] External links

[edit] Footnotes

  1. Page 103.
  2. Dr. Eric Cline Wins 2011 Biblical Archaeology Society Publication Award - Best Popular Book on Archaeology
  3. Biblical Archaeology: A Very Short Introduction (2009), ISBN 0-19-534263-1, page 71-72.
  4. The Old Testament: A Very Short Introduction (2008), ISBN 978-0195305050, page 31.
  5. The field of biblical archaeology[wp] contains a fair amount of these, e.g. Bryant G. Wood[wp] whose tortuous attempts at re-dating the destruction of Jericho to fit with biblical accounts was debunked in 5-parts series at YouTube (Wood's ideas are of course neither peer reviewed nor accepted by actual archaeologists, incl. by biblical archaeologists who don't already share Wood's preconceptions).
Articles on RationalWiki related to pseudo-studies
Pseudoarchaeology - Pseudohistory - Pseudolaw - Pseudolinguistics - Pseudomathematics - Pseudoscience - Pseudopsychology - Pseudoscience list - Pseudoscience in advertising - Pseudoskepticism - Pseudovitamin
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