I'm happy to announce that Jim Vieira will be doing his second tour of duty as a guest in my Forbidden Archaeology class. He'll be with us for two class periods in mid-October. During the first class period he'll give his presentation; during the second the students will ask him questions. In between class periods he and I will discuss double rows of teeth, the secrets of the vast academic conspiracy of which I am an important part, and great moments in the history of stone masonry. I'll also make him walk through my art exhibit downtown.
I don't know how much overlap there is between my regular blog readers (if there are any left) and those that watch my videos on YouTube. Since many of the comments I get on YouTube seem to be from viewers that don't hold my skeptical (i.e., evidence-based) perspective in high regard, I think I'm probably reaching somewhat overlapping but non-isomorphic audiences. That's the point of branching out into videos, so that's a good thing.
I wanted to make my blog readers aware of two videos that I posted this week. The first documents my trip to the Grave Creek Mound in Moundsville, West Virginia. The Grave Creek Mound is a large earthen burial mound that was constructed during the Early Woodland period. Nephilim enthusiasts such as L. A. Marzulli and Fritz Zimmerman claim there are or were giant skeletons buried in the mound. There is no good evidence for any such thing. Here's the video:
The second video is a follow up to Josh Reeves' claim that Graham Hancock plagiarized him. In the video I demonstrate that the large majority of what Josh Reeves says about the site of Moundville (Alabama) in his (2013) film Lost Secrets of Ancient America was read, word-for-word, from a series of articles by Greg Little published in 2012. You can follow along here if you like.
I really do like blogging. Or, at least, I did at one time.
I have written only a handful of blog posts this calendar year. I do not intend to stop writing altogether, but it seems like circumstances have just kept pushing the blog down on the priority list. I'm sure that some issue will re-light the fire at some point and change my cost-benefit calculation, but for now I'm enjoying getting done what I'm doing without writing about it multiple times per week. So I see no immediate end to the hibernation. But here's some of what I've been up to recently (work first, then play).
I'm working on writing up the first two seasons of excavation work at 38FA608 (the site of the Broad River Archaeological Field School). I know what I'd like to do for the first journal article about the site, but I also need to document the nuts and bolts of the excavations, results, and materials recovered in report form. It makes sense to do that before writing anything more particular, as it will force me to go through everything and fix the problems/errors before they proliferate. My goal is to publish is the field documents and data from the site online so that it is freely accessible.
In a video I posted last week about Josh Reeves's claim that Graham Hancock plagiarized a section of Reeves's movie discussing Mississippian cosmology (specifically related to Orion), I showed how some of Reeves's script was taken word-for-word from a 2007 article by George Lankford. I was able to show this because Hancock quoted the same passages --properly cited -- from Lankford in his book America Before.
In the last portion of the video I expressed skepticism that Hancock had independently "stumbled upon" the general idea that ancient Mississippian and Egyptian religions were related through their similarities regarding Orion, the Milky Way, etc. My skepticism came from the knowledge that there were, in fact, other sources out there at the time of Hancock's trip to Moundville wherein such comparisons were discussed. At the end of the video I invited Hancock to clarify where he got the idea.
I'm reproducing the three emails we exchanged below, in full (at his request). Hancock states that he had not read Greg Little's (2014) book Path of Souls at this time of his trip, and he points out that he did credit Little and Andrew Collins for their prior discussion of the idea. He also states that I am not telepathic and not inside his head. He is correct in both of those assertions, and it was wrong of me to speculate that he improperly took the idea from someone else.
My copy of America Before should arrive tomorrow. I can't promise I'll dive right into it, but I have found myself getting drawn into thinking about Graham Hancock's broader message as well as the specific claims I've heard him make during recent interviews. Perhaps what he writes is more nuanced (and more accurate?) than what he says. So far, listening to his performances on YouTube I am struck by the combination of hearing someone who is simultaneously very well-spoken and so very often so very wrong. Ultimately it doesn't matter how slippery you can be, however -- facts are facts.
Anyway, I've made a couple more videos reacting to components of Hancock's argument. The first is my reaction to his contention that archaeology is not a science:
The second addresses the contention that finding true north requires "advanced astronomical knowledge." I've heard this claim many times and I've never understood it: Anyone who lives/works outside experiences and understands the linkages between the movements and angles of the sun, changes in the length of the day, and the annual tempo of the seasons. Finding and marking the solstices and the equinoxes is not at all difficult if you observe the horizon in the morning from a fixed location, and ancient societies would have had many reasons to do that. The "mystery" of finding true north is really no mystery at all. What's really a mystery is why so many people invested in "alternative" archaeology assume that ancient people were as ignorant as they are of the way the natural world.
Yesterday on my walk home I listened to another chunk of Graham Hancock's appearance on Joe Rogan's podcast. Most of what I listened to was about the new discoveries in the Amazon, which Hancock claims include large geometric earthworks (aka geoglyphs) produced by "squaring the circle." Hancock misuses/misunderstands the term (which refers to constructing a square the same area as a given circle, not just drawing a square around a circle), and consequently concludes that the societies who made the structures had advanced geometrical knowledge.
Rather than write about it, I made a video to demonstrate my point:
If you're interested in pseudoarchaeology, you probably know that Graham Hancock's new book America Before is now out. I haven't read it yet. I will probably take at stab at it at some point over the summer, but I have to face the reality that I'm just not excited.
My lack of enthusiasm stems mostly, I think, from a gut feeling that there is not a whole lot in the book that is particularly new, thought-provoking, or even interesting. The summary reviews I have read so far bear that out (you can read Jason Colavito's review here, and Carl Feagan's take here). I already knew Hancock was going to going to claim that a comet wiped out some kind of fantastical "advanced civilization" that existed during the Ice Age, and I already knew that he would try to connect his claim to the archaeology of North America in whatever ways possible. I predict anyone who has any legitimate expertise in this region of the world can see through Hancock's game in two seconds. I guess if you're blissfully ignorant maybe it all sounds very exciting . . . I wouldn't know: as someone who has been doing real archaeology in North America for 25 years now I can hear the sound of this book ringing hollow before I even crack the cover.
I didn't write a single blog post in February or March. That's probably the longest I've ever gone without writing since I started blogging. As usual, it isn't because I haven't been doing stuff. If/when my blog dies it won't be because I don't have things to talk about. It will be because I don't have time to talk about them.
Here's a taste of what's been going on over the last couple of months.
It has been a busy few weeks. As usual, I have more topics than time. At this point, I'm going to just accept that my blog sometimes functions as an open access journal. Here is the bullet point version of what I've been up to. We'll do art first, then archaeology.
The Jasper Artist of the Year Is . . . Not Me
As I wrote in December, I was one of three finalists nominated for Jasper Artist of the Year (in the visual arts category). The awards ceremony was last Friday. I did not win the award: that honor went to Trahern Cook. I met some new people, drank some wine, and had a good time (the picture above was taken there). Congratulations to all the winners!
New Pieces Over the Holidays
In addition to "Desire," I completed several other smallish pieces over the holiday break.
Fact Bucket Videos: Six Down, One to Go
I'm still working to finish up editing the student videos from my Forbidden Archaeology class last semester. I finished one on Atlantis last week and one on pyramids today. You can find them on my YouTube channel, along with videos about my archaeological fieldwork and my art.
New Grant For Collections Work
I'm happy to announce that I have received grant monies from the Archaeological Research Trust to continue inventorying and preliminary analysis of chipped stone projectile points from the Larry Strong Collection. You may remember me writing about working with the Early Archaic materials a while ago. I'm still working with those (more on that later), but now I'm going to move on in time and process the Middle and Late Archaic stuff. Part of the rationale is that I'll be dealing with those time periods in the materials we've been excavated at the field school.
South Carolina Archaeology Class: We're Making a Movie
I'm teaching South Carolina Archaeology (ANTH 321) this semester. The class is bigger than in years past. That's good from an enrollment standpoint, but a challenge from a teaching standpoint. In the spirit of experimentation, I decided to build in a class video project. We'll be making a video attempting to showcase the archaeology of this state. I've divided the students up into groups and given them topics (mostly organized chronologically) that they're responsible for. They're going to research their topics and develop proposals about what issues, artifacts, sites, and people should be included the video. Then we'll take it from there.
Today I submitted a grant proposal for systematic exploratory work on the deep deposits at 38FA608 (the field school site). We know now several things about the sediments below the Middle Archaic zones: (1) they're deep; (2) they're Late Pleistocene/Early Holocene in age; and (3) they contain artifacts. I don't believe I've mentioned it publicly, but I submitted a sample for OSL data from the deepest stratum we've documented so far (about 5m below the original surface) and it returned a result around the Last Glacial Maximum. Also, we've found an Early Archaic Kirk point in a disturbed part of the site. What all that means is that the landform did indeed exist at the end of the last Ice Age and (minimally) Early Archaic peoples were using it. In other words, there's a really good potential for some very high integrity buried archaeology there. Fingers crossed.
In other news . . . our 2003 4Runner finally suffered a terminal injury. And I'm tearing out our rotted deck. And I've started working a rabbit sculpture that's big enough to sit on. It will have a tractor seat. And a gear shift. And a dashboard.
And now you are up to date.
Flavia Lovatelli and I have several things in common: (1) we both live in Columbia; (2) we both do art using discarded junk; and (3) we're both finalists for the Jasper Artist of the Year award. We also both ran "summer selfie" contests last that were largely ignored by the public. The result is that we won each other's contests, which means we're making each other art.
We decided that we'd make each other the "same" thing. Flavia picked the subject: crows. I picked the title "Desire." I don't know when they'll be done, but I do know we've both started. I settled on an idea and started putting pieces together earlier in the week. I know that Flavia's got a least a couple of coats of paint down. That's about all I can say at this point. Maybe we can exchange the pieces at the awards ceremony.
In other news: the domestication of the dog continues unabated. Have a nice weekend!
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