Sponsored by: Archaeological Institute of America
Ancient Apocalypse, Ancient Aliens and similar programming billed to the public as “documentaries” have a history of attributing the most remarkable archaeological sites in the Western Hemisphere to aliens or mythical human ancestors. Doing this, of course, insults the legacy of the very real people who initially reached and populated the Americas, leaving behind a rich material record. It also harms the contemporary Indigenous descendants of those most ancient Americans in important and tangible ways.
This talk explores a bit of the strange history of pseudo-archaeology that emerged before and even as archaeology became a discipline in what is now the United States in the late 1800s. It also touches on the ways that a fictional strain of “archaeology” continued alongside—perniciously drawing from—real archaeology throughout the 20th century, and how it is expressed today on the History Channel and Netflix in ways that intentionally mask its illegitimate interpretations of the archaeological record.
The final and most important part of the lecture highlights the real accomplishments of the human beings who populated the Western Hemisphere more than 12,000 and maybe as many as 20,000 or more years ago. By highlighting recent archaeological finds at sites like White Sands, New Mexico, where humans left now-fossilized footprints alongside those of Ice Age camels, mammoths, and dire wolves, the talk shows that we don’t need to make up narratives about the First Americans. Their remarkable accomplishments far outshine those of aliens, submerged Atlantians, and the other fictions the entertainment industry foists upon well-meaning viewers who are hungry to understand the deep past.