Home > Archaeology Myths > Pseudo-Archaeology

Pseudo-Archaeology

By: Grahame Johnston - Updated: 8 Jul 2016 | comments*Discuss
 
Pseudoarchaeology Greek False

The word ‘pseudo’ is a Greek word meaning false apparent or supposed but not real. When prefixed to the word archaeology the term pseudoarchaeology simply means false archaeology.

It can be false for a number of reasons. Firstly, the archaeological methodology may not be undertaken using accepted scientific methods. Secondly, the interpretation of the data or the material remains excavated may not be consistent with the usual practices of analysis. Thirdly, the artefacts ‘discovered’ could be fakes or the entire archaeological concept could be orchestrated as a hoax.

False Science

Pseudoarchaeology is sometimes called fantastic archaeology but by whatever name it is given it is best identified as pseudo-science dressed in archaeological garments. Any archaeological theory, excavation site, or published results of excavations that do not conform to accepted archaeological practices generally fall into the category of pseudoarchaeology.

Nationalism

A frequent motivation to engage in pseudoarchaeology is radical nationalism. Imperial ideologies of the recent past used the results of archaeology to advance their empires. Often it was considered necessary to fake the data in order to pursue a particular emphasis for the nation. Some nations thought that re-writing history via archaeology would benefit their political aims.

Other motivations to enter into this pseudo-science could be religious dogma, anthropological theory, or revisionist historical interpretation. Archaeology is often enthused by romantic myths and legends. If the real science of archaeology were to make a discovery that rendered the national tale as a proven myth then cultural history would be shaken. Some people feel that it is better to ‘rework’ the evidence than to alter fanciful history.

Notorious Examples

There is no serious rocket science to presenting archaeological forgeries. Any artefact that simply looks old and is somewhat obscure as to its identification can be presented to the public (and even academic professionals) and most will believe it if the presenter has some trappings of authority.

There are literally thousands of archaeological frauds, fakes, and hoaxes that would be termed pseudoarchaeology. Here are a few examples that reached to global deception.

  • Piltdown Man fossils: These were the fabrication of a human skull and a chimp jawbone in an attempt to prove human evolution. Exposed as a fraud.
  • The Cardiff Giant: Made by P T Barnum (of circus fame) and displayed as the original after the British Museum refused to release the one he said he had found.
  • Stone Age Japanese tools: Numerous lithic tools were planted by Shinichi Fujimura so he could be the first man to discover ancient stone tools in Japan. Snapped by photographer planting the items.
  • Dating of Human Skulls: University of Frankfurt professor made up the radiocarbon dates of human remains to suit his own theories about ‘primitive man’.

Nebraska Man

While the hoax of Piltdown Man lasted many decades the poor science that led to the presentation of Nebraska Man only lasted a few years. Henry Osborn, of the American Museum of Natural History, reported in 1922, that he had discovered a fossil tooth near Snake Brook in western Nebraska. Upon first analysis it was said that the molar appeared to have common characteristics of both human and ape. The tooth suddenly became known as Nebraska Man and the London Gazette published a sketch drawing of a stooped cave man walking through a desolate landscape with other Nebraska’s (mum and the children) in the background.

The drawings and the academic following were developed from just one single tooth. William Bryan, a researcher, vehemently opposed the conclusions citing that it was very poor science to draw conclusions of the whole from such an insignificant portion. The professional world criticised him harshly.

Five years after Nebraska Man had influenced so many professional scientists, more remains were found from the same site. Sadly for those hoodwinked academics it was proved beyond doubt that the tooth belonged to a pig. Drawings of Nebraska and his family were immediately withdrawn from evolutionary textbooks.

Legitimate Archaeology

Respected archaeologists attempt to differentiate their research results from those reached by pseudoarchaeologists, by stressing their accepted methodologies used throughout the process, the peer evaluation process and review stages, and the general systematic and transparent approach to data recovery in the field. Yet, as long as archaeology is attractive to government ideologies or private conspiracies then pseudoarchaeology will continue to flourish.

You might also like...
Share Your Story, Join the Discussion or Seek Advice..
I HV an assignment that I HV to do,so it based psuedoarcheology.So I HV to write an article based this question Why psuedoarcheology is not a credible encounter?
Doda - 8-Jul-16 @ 4:23 PM
Share Your Story, Join the Discussion or Seek Advice...
Title:
(never shown)
Firstname:
(never shown)
Surname:
(never shown)
Email:
(never shown)
Nickname:
(shown)
Comment:
Validate:
Enter word:
Topics
Latest Comments
  • Usha
    Re: Be a Volunteer Archaeologist
    I completed my post graduation from ancient Indian history, culture and archaeology from India. Would you please give me any…
    23 August 2019
  • geoff
    Re: Etched Vase: How to Discover its Origins?
    Hello I have found a large debris field of rocks in my forest and some of the rocks look like they have had some…
    21 August 2019
  • Kritter
    Re: Stone Tool Experts
    I would like to see your response to Babs comment please
    19 August 2019
  • Rol
    Re: Types of Archaeology
    Hello there, I did general archaeology in my undergraduate degree at UDSM and i think that gave me an idea of what type of an archaeologist…
    19 August 2019
  • Fox
    Re: Be a Volunteer Archaeologist
    Greetings, I am an archaeologist and it is a very though career, I must say. While I am not able to continue my career as an…
    14 August 2019
  • Ganesh
    Re: Being Aware of Fake Archaeological Artefacts
    Very much informative post in India there r many sites where you get lots of artifact a genuine one at…
    10 August 2019
  • Minku
    Re: Types of Archaeology
    I am 25 years old And I can't decide what types of archaeologist I want to be
    31 July 2019
  • Noah
    Re: Be a Volunteer Archaeologist
    Hi I am 17 and a student living in Cornwall. I am hoping to study archaeology or ancient history at university and would love the…
    30 July 2019
  • prof
    Re: Types of Archaeology
    hey am Malvin am from Zimbabwe, am an archaeology graduate. Archaeology is very much interesting, there are so many types of archaeology cox…
    26 July 2019
  • Babs36
    Re: Stone Tool Experts
    Hi, I live fairly close to known Indian mounds in the Midwest. they have artifacts that date back to 800bc. They have also found the skeleton…
    24 July 2019