Our Dumb Ancestors: The Flawed Assumptions Behind Pseudoarchaeology
June 11, 2014
Hosted by Dr. Joseph Schuldenrein
In this episode, Dr. Schuldenrein and special guest Dr. Kenneth Feder deal with an assumption that underpins a lot of pseudoarchaeology: the notion that the archaeological record is full of evidence of technological achievements that “primitive” people would not have been capable of on their own. By this reckoning, the native people of North America were not capable of constructing the burial and temple mounds that are found in the American midwest and mid-south, and the pyramids were too big an achievement for the ancient people of Egypt or Mexico. Therefore, they must have been taught the requisite technology by folks from Atlantis…or maybe it was an extraterrestrial peace corps that visited Earth and taught ancient people how to build them. Again, the underlying libel is that ancient people (almost always non-white, non-Europeans) were too dumb to progress without some outside help. Why do these assumptions lead to bad archaeology? How does pseudoarchaeology effect the perception of archaeology as a field? Find out the answers to these questions and more on tonight’s show.
Indiana Jones: Myth, Reality and 21st Century Archaeology
Archives Available on VoiceAmerica Variety Channel
This show targets an audience interested in archaeology. It explores myths surrounding this exotic, often misunderstood field and acquaints listeners with the contemporary practice of unearthing the human past. Themes range from Dr. Schuldenrein’s own “Indiana Jones”-like adventures in the land of the Bible to his team’s archaeological forensics effort to unearth Kurdish mass graves in Iraq. That undertaking helped convict Saddam Hussein in 2006. Topical issues contribute to the evolution vs. creationism controversy based on updated fossil records and innovative DNA studies. An episode highlights the main funding source for archaeology in the U.S. (Hint: the oil and gas industry). Experts reveal the latest high-tech approaches to buried archaeological landscapes that provide clues to understanding climate change, past, present and future.
Dr. Joseph Schuldenrein
Joseph Schuldenrein is president and senior scientist of Geoarcheology Research Associates (GRA) in Yonkers, New York. He has been a Visiting Scholar at New York University since 1996. His professional expertise is in geoarchaeology, a sub-discipline that introduces earth science techniques to traditional archaeological excavation. Joe has worked extensively across North America and the Old World. He received his doctorate in 1983 at the University of Chicago. Recent research in North America has concentrated on the urban archaeology of New York City and Native American landscapes of the Atlantic Coast. Joe’s projects in South Asia have ranged from Human Origins investigations to the beginnings of civilization of the Indus Valley. During the Iraq war Dr. Schuldenrein’s team helped direct a forensic archaeological mission in support of the Saddam Hussein prosecution. His newest venture is an assessment of Cultural Heritage Sites in war-torn Afghanistan (2011). Dr. Schuldenrein publishes widely in numerous archaeological and geological journals. He is a reviewer for American Antiquity, Geoarchaeology, and Quaternary Science Reviews. He has acted as Principal Investigator or Consulting Scientist for grants awarded by the National Science Foundation, Wenner-Gren, National Endowment for the Humanities, and the Institute for Aegean Prehistory. Dr. Schuldenrein has been interviewed for PBS, as well as national and regional TV and radio outlets over the past 30 years.