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17th January 2021

We are seemingly in a golden age of pseudoarchaeology with a 2018 survey of Americans revealing 48% express belief in ancient aliens (up from 27% in 2016) and 57% in Atlantis (up from 40%)

One reason for this has been speculated to be that, almost uniquely out of all the sciences, the popular view of archaeology appears to be dominated by nonsense. Apparently lacking in such great science communicators as Attenborough, Hawking and Sagan, the field’s best sellers and documentaries come instead from the likes of Hancock, von Däniken and Tsoukalos.

Such beliefs are far from harmless, often driven by nationalism, religious fundamentalism and anti-establishment conspiracism, they are fundamentally racist and have had devastating consequences. Pseudo-archaeological beliefs in “mound builders” were used by President Andrew Jackson in an attempt to justify violence against Native Americans while similar beliefs in “Vinland” were expressed by the white supremacist behind the 2017 Portland train attack.

So it is that Skeptics in the Pub – Online offers a timely welcome to archaeologist and historian Mirko Gutjahr, who is part of a growing movement to rescue real archaeology from the jargon and pay walls that keep it hidden and bring it to a public whose apparent addiction to the pseudo-alternative is hopefully indicative of a genuine interest in the field.

Cambridge Skeptics

Pseudo-Archaeology: Fake News and New Fakes
with Mirko Gutjahr
Thursday, 21st January 2021 at 7:00pm
 
Light bulbs in antiquity? UFO landing sites in Peru? Giant pyramids in the Balkans? Authors like Erich von Däniken or TV shows like "Ancient Aliens" accuse archaeologists of hiding important discoveries and masking the truth. According to them the monumental buildings of the past were created not by our ancestors but by aliens or extradimensional beings. At first glance this appears harmless - fantasies written by science fiction authors. However, those claims are deeply rooted in creationist and racist ideas. In times when fewer and fewer people trust in science such views become more popular and thus give rise to right-wing esoteric ideologies. This talk sheds light on the problem of "pseudo-archeology" and will try to prove that real archeology is much more exciting - and true - than archaeological fantasies.

Mirko Gutjahr is an archaeologist and historian working as a scientific advisor at "Luthergedenkstätten", a Martin Luther memorial foundation with five museums and UNESCO World Heritage Sites at three locations in Saxony-Anhalt. He also produces German language podcasts about curious facts from history. One of his podcasts has been translated into English at https://play.acast.com/s/secretcabinet.

SEE ALSO
Join Dr. Antonio Inserra on Friday, January 29, 2021 at 6 PM UTC for a free online talk on neuroplasticity, neuroimmunomodulation and neurotransmission effects induced by psychedelics, organized by the Cambridge Psychedelic Society at us02web.zoom.us.
READ UP
 
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Familiarity and caution may have killed off the story of the phantom hitchhiker, but our draw towards creepy tales will always find an outlet, writes Deborah Hyde for The Skeptic.
Haim Eshed, former head of Israel’s Defense Ministry, claims aliens are working with the US government. I'd like to see some evidence, writes Chris French for The Skeptic.
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Join Partnership on AI Program Lead Rosie Campbell for a look at the high-stakes world of AI research. This event, which was streamed live on 10th January 2021, is now available for catch up on the SitP Online YouTube channel.
Join award-winning science journalist Jo Marchant to rekindle your relationship with your long-lost cosmos. This event, which was streamed live on 10th December 2020, is now available for catch up on the SitP Online YouTube channel.
Join astrobiologist Dr. Jennifer Wadsworth for a contaminant free exploration of the importance of planetary protection in space and here on Earth. This event, which was streamed live on 26th November 2020, is now available for catch up on the SitP Online YouTube channel.
Join nutritonist Pixie Turner for a talk on food and social media and Michael Marshall for the Ockham Awards 2020 in an SITP Online extrazaganza. This event, which was streamed live on 19th November 2020, is now available for catch up on the SitP Online YouTube channel.
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We are a coalition of UK-based Skeptics groups. Formed as the COVID-19 pandemic brought our country to a standstill, we are working to deliver high-quality online events focusing on Science, reason, and critical thinking. Every Thursday at 7 pm BST, you will find us presenting live-streamed talks, all for free – you don’t even need to create an account. Simply open up twitch.tv/sitp. Take a look at our events, past and future, we’re sure you’ll see a lot of content you will find interesting.
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