The second student project video from this year's Forbidden Archaeology class is now posted on YouTube. In this video, three students discuss some of the evidence that's bandied about for the extra-terrestrial origin of the Anunnaki. They've already gotten their first thumbs down. Enjoy!
As I mentioned earlier, we're making videos in this year's iteration of my Forbidden Archaeology course. The twenty students in the class split up into seven groups and have been working on developing their topics, doing their research, and preparing their scripts.
Last Monday, we taped the speaking parts for the first video and I edited it together over the break. The videos briefly explores the history of ideas/claims that the earth is hollow, and then discusses reasons why that can't be true. Here it is:
I had several goals in mind when I designed this video project. First, it was one opportunity (among several in the course) for students to go through the process of understanding the history/context of a claim and evaluating it based on evidence. Second, I wanted them to think about how to present a message in the format I gave them and all the constraints that come with it. Third, I wanted to produce what I call "persistent resources" that can live independently online and be found by curious people looking for information. I chose the video format because my sense is that we can reach a different audience than would be possible using writing.
Like many of the things I've done so far in my brief teaching career, this is an experimental project. I hope these videos turn out well, I hope the students get something out of it, and I hope they prove to be useful resources for others as well.
This year in Forbidden Archaeology, the students are making videos as group projects. They are currently working on finishing up their scripts, and we'll start taping segments next week. There is a range of a topics, but all have something to do with "fringe" claims about the human past. Barring any total breakdowns, there will be seven student videos in all. Hopefully I'll be able to start posting them in December.
As I was planning out what to this semester, I decided that making videos would be a way for the students to work on several different elements of critical thinking and communication. It would also give us an opportunity (I hope) to engage with a different audience than the 2016 class did with their blog posts. It's an experiment, so I won't really know what the broader impacts are until the videos are done and we see what the reaction is.
I made an example video so the students could get a better idea of what I was thinking of in terms of length, graphics, etc. I chose to talk about the "red-haired cannibal giants" of Nevada, and I threw this video together in a few hours on Friday afternoon. Enjoy!
You may have noticed that I haven't been regularly blogging about the course this year. That's by design. After wearing myself out the first time around in 2016, I decided I would put less effort into intensive public/fringe interaction. I think it has worked out well. I'm enjoying teaching the course much more. There will be still be student writing online to read eventually, and we'll be making videos this year. I'm just not killing myself to invite everyone else into the classroom.
On Friday we finished our section on Atlantis in this year's edition of Forbidden Archaeology. We spent most of the class watching and discussing a talk by Graham Hancock titled "Is the House of History Built on Foundations of Sand?" I wanted the students to watch carefully as Hancock made his case, asking them to think about his logic, the structure of the talk, and the evidence he presented to support his claims (many pieces of which they have already been exposed to).
I have not paid a whole lot of attention to Hancock in the past. I haven't completely read any of his books, and I think that this was the first time I have ever listened to an entire talk. He spent the first portion of the talk discussing the recent evidence for the hypothesis that an impact by a comet or meteor triggered the Younger Dryas. (The Younger Dryas is an anomalous cold period that occurred about 12,900-11,700 years ago during the transition from glacial to inter-glacial conditions.) He spent the last part of the talk highlighting some purported evidence (e.g., Gobekli Tepe, the Sphinx) supporting the claim that refugees from Atlantis occupied the Near East after fleeing their island's destruction.
The linkage that Hancock makes between the hypothesized extra-terrestrial impact that triggered the Younger Dryas and the destruction of Atlantis is, when you listen closely, peculiar. Following a quotation of Plato's description of Atlantis disappearing into the sea "in a single day and night of misfortune," Hancock describes the cataclysmic effects of extra-terrestrial impacts on the earth. He first discusses the idea that a comet wiped out the dinosaurs. He then moves on to the Younger Dryas impact research, repeatedly referring to "the cataclysm" of the impact.
So a comet or meteor wiped out at Atlantis?
No, the dates are all wrong for that. The Younger Dryas starts at about 12,900 BP (10,950 BC). Believers set the date of the destruction of Atlantis at 11,550 BP (9,600 BC). So, apparently, all the extra-terrestrial fireworks did nothing to the Atlanteans. They prospered for another 1300 years, conquering the world and mining orichalcum while the planet suffered a return to full glacial conditions.
After all the attention paid to violent cataclysm, Hancock actually attributes the destruction of Atlantis to sea level rise at the end of the Younger Dryas. Sea levels are lower during glacial periods because more of the Earth's water is tied up in ice sheets. Sea levels rise in inter-glacial periods because more of the Earth's water is in liquid form. As far as the culprit in Atlantis demise at 9,600 BC, Hancock points specifically to "a dramatic pulse of sea level rise" known as Meltwater Pulse 1b.
It will probably not surprise you to learn that, although there is debate about the magnitude, timing, and cause of Meltwater Pulse 1b, no scientist thinks it was so sudden or so rapid that it could have swallowed up a continent "in a single day and night of misfortune." Estimates of sea level rise range from about 6 to 28 meters, occurring over a period of several hundred to over a thousand calendar years. At least one study suggests the pulse didn't even start until hundreds of years after the purported submergence of Atlantis.
In other words, the events/processes of neither the beginning nor the end of the Younger Dryas appear to be a good fit for the Atlantis story. The hypothesized cataclysmic impact is too early, and the sea level rise is too slow. You can throw all the science in a blender and talk about cataclysms and sea level rise, but there's no science on the Pleistocene/Holocene transition that I know of that is concordant with any aspect of the Atlantis tale.
Regretfully, I have to announce that there will be no Spring 2019 season of the Broad River Archaeological Field School. After raising funds last spring and getting approval to teach the course pending sufficient enrollment, I recently learned that a decision was subsequently made to not even officially offer the course in the spring semester. That decision -- about which I was neither consulted nor informed -- was made way back in June. I only found out about it accidentally late last week when a student asked me why the course wasn't in the catalog. I'll spare you the who/what/why details. It's a frustrating situation.
I'm writing this blog post not to complain, but to inform those of you who have followed our progress over the last couple of years that I won't be going into the field with students again in the spring as I had anticipated. I'm going to reach out to each of the generous individuals that donated to the GoFundMe campaign and offer to refund his or her money. I will gladly hold on to the funds (which I transferred to a private account) if the donors sign off on a change of plans. If I end up retaining any of the money, I'll use it to continue my research program at 38FA608 (and/or some of the other sites that we have now identified nearby) in a modified form. I just won't be able to involve undergraduates to near the same degree as I did with the field school.
Anyway . . . stay tuned. I've always been good at scrambling and making the best of the hand I'm dealt.
For those of you that enjoyed the weekly videos from last spring's Broad River Archaeological Field School, I wanted to make you aware of this compilation of the entire season into a single 2:16 presentation. It will be a good refresher for me to watch the whole thing, as I'll be spending much of this semester working on analysis and write-up of the data from the first two seasons of work at 38FA608. Enjoy!
Just as I did in 2016, I started off the first day of Forbidden Archaeology with a brief pre-course questionnaire to try to get some insight into the level of familiarity of my students with various relevant television programs and topics. I kept the television programs the same as in 2016, but added/deleted some of the topics to more closely reflect what we'll be talking about this semester.
Here are the "familiarity" data for television programs from both today and 2016:
As is plain to see, the report from the class of 2018 is pretty similar to the report from the class of 2016. Ancient Aliens has clearly penetrated this demographic to a much greater degree than any of the programs, with over half of the class members (n=19 in attendance) reporting that he/she has watched at least one episode. The majority of the class had not even heard of the other three programs. Two students account for the four "watched it regularly" responses.
I also asked about the same four publications as I did in 2016: Chariots of the Gods! (Von Daniken), Fingerprints of the Gods (Hancock), Forbidden Archaeology (Cremo), and Ancient American magazine. Most of the students report never hearing of any of them, and those that have heard of them report that they've never read them.
Here are the data from the "circle what you're familiar with" questions:
There are a few things of note in the 2018 data. Not surprising is that Atlantis is the clear winner in terms of familiarity: they've all hear of it. In contrast, no-one was familiar with the term "OOPArt," and only one person reported having heard of Lemuria. There is a fair amount of familiarity with terms like "aryans," "Rh factor," and "Mound Builders," which does not surprise me because most of the students are anthropology majors.
I was surprised at the number of affirmative answers for "Nephilim," "elongated skulls," and "Nibiru." It's possible that familiarity with those terms is largely due to Ancient Aliens, as half the class reports seeing the program at least once. I don't think that would explain "Flood geology," however. I'll have to dig deeper on Monday to learn more about the origins of their exposure to these concepts.
Summer is winding down and I'll be back in the classroom in just a couple of weeks. This fall, I'm teaching Forbidden Archaeology again. In this second iteration, I'll be making some significant changes from the way I structured the course the first time around. As the rubber begins hitting the road (i.e., it's time to start working on the syllabus) I'm looking for ways to keep the course fresh and interesting for both me and the students.
Our topical focus this year will be "Cataclysm and the Lost World." I tried to cover three topical areas the first time around, and it felt like too much. So I decided to go with a single theme this year and use that as a lens to explore the social/political/historical threads that wind through various claims that (1) the cultural/natural world was a qualitatively different place in the ancient past; and (2) that "lost world" world was destroyed through some kind of incredible catastrophe.
As I start to think about what specific claims to focus on, I'm struck (again) by the overall staleness of the fringe world. There's plenty of "new" material out there, but much of it mixes around the same basket of stupid garbage that's been circulating since the mid-1800s. While there is still great value in going through these ideas and understanding (1) where they come from, (2) how they can be shown to be wrong, and (3) why people still cling to them, it would also be nice to explore something that's not essentially a re-casting of Victorian baloney. If you know of anything that really strikes you as a new claim based on new evidence that fits within the theme of the course, please let me know with a comment.
My wife thinks that finding a new nemesis would help to energize me. She may be right. It would fun to engage in a focused, prolonged analysis/debate of a specific claim or set of claims that revolve around material evidence. The key term here is "material evidence:" in order to have a meaningful back-and-forth, there has to be some kind of "thing" about which a claim/interpretation is made. One good artifact in archaeological context is all you really need to make a claim that actually has some teeth . . . so what have you got? What's the artifact that should change everything? (Note: discredited Roman sword advocates and rune stone apologists need not apply.)
Video from Week 11 of the Broad River Archaeological Field School: Features, Possible Posts, and the Invention of Tailgate Archaeology
We've only got two more days left in the spring 2018 season at 38FA608. The weather looks good for this Friday, so I may end up threading the needle with yet another season with no time lost to rain.
While we're in good shape to finish up in the block on Friday, Unit 13 is going slower than I'd hoped. It just won't stop being interesting. As you will see in the video from Week 11, I took two students out for an extra day to work on the Late Archaic deposits and try to keep things moving along. There is still work to be done before we reach the Middle Archaic zone, and there's no telling what we'll run into down there. If the broad pattern of field archaeology holds, we'll find something extremely interesting this Friday that will bring the whole endeavor to a screeching halt.
The video for Week 11 is a long one, as it includes footage from an extra field day. I resisted the temptation to pose on a lawn chair in the back of the pickup truck. Enjoy!
I grew up on a small farm, so I can verify through personal observation that a chicken really does run around like crazy after you cut its head off.
Things have been hectic both at home and at work over the last month. The coming week is USC's spring break, which will offer a little bit of breather as I won't be in the field this Friday and won't have regular office hours or meetings with students.
Here's some bullet points about what's been going on and what's coming up.
"Finding the Family" Fieldwork Started
As I think I mentioned in the Week 2 video from field school, I've got a complementary project lined up to do some subsurface reconnaissance (i.e., targeted backhoe excavations) of nearby landforms that are similar to the one we are working on for the field school. At least some of those landforms -- also alluvial -- probably contain archaeological deposits, perhaps of different age ranges than 38FA608. Anyway, the first step is to establish some known points that we can use for mapping our excavations. I've spent a couple of days in the field doing that, one with Eddie Reeps who used his GPS rig to help determine the coordinates of a handful of far-flung points that I set (by sinking rebar).
This work is being funded by an internal USC grant. I realized this seek that I never actually announced it or described it via my blog, so I'll do that sometime in the near future.
My First Holi: That Was Fun!
Last weekend, my family and I joined some of our Indian friends (and their Indian friends) to celebrate Holi. This is a holiday that I knew nothing about before the rise of social media. The bright colors make it naturally photogenic.
This was a really interesting experience. Speaking as an "alien" with very little foreknowledge about what to expect, I was struck by both the overall positivity of the atmosphere and the sense that it was a time/place where "normal" cultural rules were put on temporary suspension. There was color (and water) everywhere, much of it applied to your face and body by strangers. It's a strange kind of intimacy, not unlike what I experienced at the fringes of the mosh pit at Against Me!
I wish we could have stayed for the food, but the little kids were on overload/meltdown and a retreat was the best option.
Friday Field School Video Will Be . . . Delayed
Our ongoing work at the field school site (38FA608) went well. We had another beautiful day with plenty of sun and high temperatures in the low 60's. The crew was smaller than normal.
I had hoped to get two of the Late Archaic features out of the ground, but it was not to be . . . they are going to take the time they're going to take, and that's all there is to it. While Feature 3 (exposed in the machine-cut wall) was completely removed, Feature 11 remains in progress. Both of these features are defined by dark fill contained some carbonized plant remains (including nutshell) and a low density of lithics. Feature 11 is deeper than I anticipated, and the fact that it intrudes into earlier deposits makes i's excavation complicated. I lined our ongoing excavation with landscape fabric and filled it with back dirt to protect it until we return.
I probably won't get the video from Friday done on Monday. I'm not sure, but it may be next Monday before I upload the Week 8 video. We won't be in the field this week because of spring break. Watch for the premiere of "trowel cam."
"Harley" Ready to Move!
I finished my first officially-commissioned sculpture: a scrap metal javelina named "Harley." It's be a steady weekend project, occupying the large majority of time I've spent in my workshop since late January. I think it turned out great - perhaps one of the best pieces I've made. The "formal" pictures are here on my ZeroPointMechanic website. There will be a video when I get the time to put it together.
"Harley" will be travelling to Arizona, hopefully leaving my garage on Monday. My least favorite part of the whole deal was making a custom crate to ship the piece. I don't like working with wood, and making the crate (including scrounging pallets, buying new materials, trying to figure out what constitutes "strong enough, etc.) took about four times as long as I thought it would. The sculpture alone weighs 76 pounds, while the whole package with crate and pallet balanced out at a whopping 185 pounds. My sister (aka "the client") is dealing with the specifics of getting the thing moved from point A (Columbia, SC) to point B (Tempe, AZ). I made a stencil. Spray paint, like wood, is not a good medium for me.
"Beauty and Grace:" Final Prep Before ArtFields
Next week (I think on Tuesday the 20th), I'll finally have to face the challenge of moving "Beauty and Grace" to Lake City, SC, for ArtFields 2018. The piece will be displayed on lawn in front of The Citizens Bank (209 East Main Street). My friend and archaeology colleague Chris Gillam has agreed to help me get the ceratopsians moved and reassembled. I'm not sure what I promised in return, but I'm sure it was something. As it stands now, my plan is to get some segments of heavy-duty PVC to use as rollers when moving the components of the piece over the lawn. Some 2x4's and a crowbar will also come in handy. If it was good enough for ancient Egypt, it will be good enough for me.
I've started prepping both pieces to finally live outside. I cleared space in my workshop yesterday so that I could wheel "Beauty" inside and apply a coat of Penetrol, which will arrest the rusting, bring out colors, and provide a barrier to moisture. It also makes the entire piece shiny, which I'm not a huge fan of. But it's better than all the colors degrading to an even rusty orange. The coating is sticky as it dries for 48 hours, so I had to apply it in a space that I could enclose to prevent the omnipresent March aerosol of pine pollen from becoming a permanent part of the piece. "Grace" will go next.
An Unknown Road Trip
I will be spending a few days this week on a road trip with my older daughter. We don't know where we're going. We may not know where we're going until after we've already been there. It's tradition.
A 250-mile radius from Columbia includes most of North Carolina and Georgia as well as eastern Tennessee. I had some thoughts about going to Florida to see Cape Canaveral and/or a restaurant with a mermaid show, but that might be too heavy on the driving, too pre-planned, and too expensive. Plus I'm not really impressed with Florida's government right now and not enthusiastic about spending my money there.
If you know of a "good," out-of-the-way destination in Georgia, South Carolina, North Carolina, or Tennessee that I should be aware of, post away. I've driven by the UFO Welcome Center in Bowman, SC, but not yet stopped (it looks like it has been trashed). I went out of my way on my last swing through North Carolina to visit the Andre the Giant museum, only to find it closed. I'll probably try to avoid the Myrtle Beach area.
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