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America Unearthed, is an American television series from the Travel Channel, formerly on the History Channel, where it kept company with such scholarly gems as Ancient Aliens and Cryptid.[note 1] America Unearthed had its premiere in late 2012 and was cancelled in 2015. It spawned three seasons of 13 episodes each in the original run. Travel Channel revived the series in 2019 with a ten episode inaugural season.
“”The history that we were all taught growing up is wrong... There's a hidden history in this country that nobody knows about.
|—Scott Wolter, America Unearthed title sequence|
America Unearthed follows self-proclaimed "forensic geologist" Scott Wolter on a quest to investigate mysteries and artifacts that raise questions about the accepted history of the United States. So far, so good. Wolter goes on to use his discoveries as "evidence" in support of his own-brand of unified conspiracy theory, which is where it becomes arguably an enjoyable sensationalist entertainment show, but definitely a lousy documentary series.
Wolter tours the United States of America, cherry-picking "evidence" from all manner of secret symbols, secret societies, probable hoaxes, alleged coverups, vague coincidences, complete fabrication, testimony from people promoting their own woo and — occasionally — some genuinely mysterious stuff that would be interesting to look at, and local legend that would be interesting to hear about, if it wasn't being twisted to fit the pet theory. Where the scant facts turn out to actively contradict his existing ideas, Wolter pretty much ignores them and wings it to reach a conclusion he likes better. For example, a season 1 episode was based around the Tucson artifacts. Wolter decided he'd found evidence of proto-Knights Templar in America. The artifacts themselves purport to be something quite different, in fact they're pretty explicit about it, but the show somehow ignored that completely. Under those circumstances, it's hardly important that the artifacts are probably also fake.
Episode 13 of series 2 ("The Spearhead Conspiracy") started out promisingly, exploring the circumstantial evidence that there might have been early Polynesian contact with Mexico and wider Mesoamerica. This would mean people in terrifyingly small boats crossing huge expanses of water by skilled navigation to trade sweet potatoes and stuff, quite possibly pre-Columbus. America Unearthed instead cooked up a sinister, titular "conspiracy" about a dodgy spearhead that was found without archaeologic context in 2009. It went on to try and link Polynesian culture with North America via Kennewick Man. Wolter appeared to succeed (in his own mind) in establishing this link, meaning that, since Kennewick Man carbon dates to 7600 BCE, Polynesians were apparently visiting North America from Polynesia well before it was established that they arrived in Polynesia. And this was one of the better-researched episodes.
The 2019 revival is arguably worse, arguing that the Phoenicians established copper-mining colonies in Michigan, looking for Bigfoot complete with all the tropes of a Bigfoot-hunting show, and "investigating" supposed alien artifacts. Really, now.
- Which at least owns up to being fiction in the small print.
- Travel Channel America Unearthed official web site
- History Channel America Unearthed official web site
- History Channel, America Unearthed episode guide
- See the Wikipedia article on Polynesian culture.
- Travel Channel, "Phoenicians in America"
- Travel Channel, "Bigfoot of the Bayou"
- Travel Channel, "Alien Artifacts"