Science magazine has a recent online article by journalist Lizzie Wade looking at the growing influence of ancient aliens and other pseudoarchaeological nonsense in the United States: “Believe in Atlantis? These archaeologists want to win you back to science”.
I’ve selected a passage in the middle of the article to quote:
Adding to archaeologists’ sense of responsibility is that “many of these ideas started within mainstream archaeology,” says Jeb Card, an archaeologist at Miami University in Oxford, Ohio. “We have to own these stories.”
For example, white settlers and early archaeologists in 19th century North America excavated elaborate pre-Columbian burial mounds—but ascribed them to a lost “moundbuilder race” that was killed by the ancestors of Native Americans. Former President Andrew Jackson used those ideas to justify displacing Native Americans from their lands.
Today, white nationalists make similar claims. To argue for Europeans’ deep roots in the Americas, they have latched onto Vinland, a short-lived medieval Viking settlement in eastern Canada, and the “Solutrean hypothesis,” which argues that the Americas were first peopled by arrivals from Western Europe. Neither claim started as pseudoarchaeology—Vinland was real, and the Solutrean hypothesis was proposed by mainstream archaeologists, then tested and ruled out—but they have been twisted for ideological ends. A white supremacist accused of murdering two people on a train in Portland, Oregon, in 2017 included the words “Hail Vinland!!!” in a Facebook post less than a month before the attack.
When it comes to mainstream media figures who are promoting pseudoarchaeology, I think we need to focus on the money. Pseudoarchaeology is a business. The media organizations, actors, and authors who are promoting this nonsense are profiting enormously from it. They’re quacks.
That money is coming, directly and indirectly, from people who often have a genuine and deep interest in knowing about the human past. Pseudoarchaeology is stealing their money and betraying their real quest for knowledge by feeding people nonsense.