This episode asks if science “ignores” aspects of history and science that do not correspond to the current received wisdom.  It’s basically asking why science doesn’t deal with things that have essentially been disproven or are so outside the realm of reality that there is no reason to address them.  Seven minutes into the show, the voiceover puts this forward: “Researchers have been confronted with numerous scientific anomalies.  But traditional science is often intolerant of evidence that doesn’t fit neatly within [1]accepted frameworks.  Because of these prejudices, could we be missing a greater truth about mankind’s origins?”

The show begins with Giorgio Tsoukalos in New York in February 2017, where he is going to have a two-thousand-year-old elongated skull tested to see if it has “abnormalities” that could indicate it is not of human origin.  NYU Anthropology professor Dr. Todd Disotell agreed to conduct the evaluation.  Disotell explains that the dental evidence points to the skull belonging to an adolescent, but the sagittal suture (the connection at the top of the skull) is fused, which generally indicates an adult.  The voiceover claims that this elongated skull, as well as the others like it, do not have evidence of any sagittal suture, fused or open.  The pictures shown during this voiceover show suture lines, undermining the point the show is trying to make.  Dr. Disotell extracts samples of a tooth and another piece of the skull for DNA testing.

The show then tries to make its point by invoking a display at a creationist museum in Texas, a hammer stuck in a piece of stone known as the “London Artifact.”  It was found in the 1930s in London, Texas (hence the name), and, because of where it was found, was claimed to be 140 million years old.  The show states that it was studied in the 1980s by two different labs; one, the Creation Science Foundation of Australia, can be dismissed immediately as not credible, the second, the Batelle Memorial Laboratory in Columbus, Ohio, appears to be legitimate, but were way off on this.  The show claims that the wooden handle of the hammer has begun to fossilize, which simply not true.  Some quick research indicates that while it is a hammer stuck in a rock, it is not quite so old as we are led to believe.  It was found in an area with Cretaceous-era (roughly 145- 65 million years old) strata, but it was not embedded in that strata, but found atop it, near a waterfall.  This is why it appears to be embedded in a rock: it is, not in the Cretaceous era stone, but in recent concretions caused by the local rock being eroded and dissolved by the waterfall, then being re-deposited around the hammer.  This “fossil” formed very easily over a period of decades, not millennia, and so likely belonged to someone who lived in or passed through the area in the mid-Nineteenth century.[2]

The show then moves to the Great Pyramids and the Sphynx.  The standard dating for them is approximately 2500 BCE, during the reign of the pharaoh Khufu.  The voiceover claims that the only evidence for this date is based on the work of amateur archaeologist and British soldier Sir Richard Howard Vyse in the 1830s.  The viewer is then told that new evidence has been found in Vyse’s private journal that contradicts the standard dating and may indicate that he forged the evidence connecting the Great Pyramid to Khufu.  This is reinforced by the story two amateur archaeologists took samples of the cartouche to have it analyzed and found it to be plaster.  This is a very glossed-over version of what almost became an international incident in 2013, when two Germans claiming to be documentary filmmakers went into the pyramid and defaced the cartouche.  Their intent was to get evidence to show that the pyramids are much older than they are, with the idea that they are remnants of the civilization of Atlantis.  The Egyptian government was understandably angry about the incident, and the German archaeological community is as well, because they feel they’ve been discredited.[3]  One of the (many) problems with questioning the dating of the Great Pyramid is that it isn’t based solely on the work of Vyse, but is corroborated by inscriptions and texts found elsewhere in the Mediterranean.

Another piece of evidence invoked is the Inventory Stela, which supposedly claims that Khufu did repairs on the Sphinx and pyramids.  The problem here is that the Inventory Stela is widely believed to be a fake, produced with the intention of giving the Temple of Isis where it was found a much longer history than it actually had.  The show then moves on to the supposed evidence of erosion by water around the Sphinx, which geologist Robert Schoch claims to indicate a build date around 10,500 BCE.  Here, we see the AATs ignoring all of the other types of erosion that exist and the fact that they can give a similar appearance after thousands of years, especially on relatively “soft” stones such as those that make up the Sphinx.

The last bit of evidence produced is Erich Von Däniken explaining that a Fourteenth-century Egyptian[4] historian, Ibrahim al-Maqrizi, claims the pyramids were built much earlier than Khufu, by an antediluvian king named Surid.  With a bit of googling, I found a translation of the relevant portions of the text, which sound mythological and poetic, but are not reconciled by any other evidence.[5]

So, the show is accusing mainstream historians and archaeologists of doing exactly what they are doing: cherry-picking evidence to suit their claims. One last point before we leave Egypt: those “amateur archaeologists” who defaced the cartouche were sentenced to five years in prison, though they were tried in absentia and so have not actually been imprisoned (yet).

The show then moves to Hisarlik, Turkey, where they claim Troy was discovered, except it’s not.  There are plenty of times on Ancient Aliens where they out-and-out lie, but this is extreme, even for them. Hisarlik is not Troy

 

The story of the discovery of Troy is presented as evidence that places that were considered to be legendary or mythological can be “discovered” and turn out to be real.  The show then invokes the discovery of Heracleion and Dvarka as further examples. So, the viewer is led to believe that historians and archaeologists automatically dismiss all mythology as having no basis in reality, but that is simply not the case.  After all, if we were in the habit of ignoring legend, why would anyone have gone looking for these places at all?

The show then talks about Atlantis, claiming it should be considered to be just as real as Troy and Heracleion, and that it could offer evidence of alien contact for the ancient world.  This doesn’t even fit their own structure, as Atlantis is not mythological but a fictional and allegorical story told by Plato.  It is as if someone thousands of years from now went looking for Gotham City on the basis of DC Comics.  They claim that the recent “discovery” of the Zealandia continent is evidence for Atlantis.  The way the show describes it, Zealandia was a piece of land that was, until recently, above the ocean and a place where humans existed; in reality, it’s been submerged since the late Cretaceous period (approx. 65 million years ago).  So, it’s definitely not Atlantis.

Then we’re back in NYC with the skull, where a CT scan at NYU reveals a number of cranial sutures, but not the sagittal one.  It’s difficult to confirm this, as the images shown do not allow for a close inspection and there’s no outside information on this testing.  This leaves two possibilities: the show is misleading their viewers (as per usual), or the skull actually is missing the sagittal suture.  In the case of the latter, there are many explanations that should be considered before claiming it was an alien skull.

This leads into a discussion of the “problems” with carbon dating.  Their example is a wooden sample that the show claims carbon dates incorrectly to three thousand years in the future.  This leads into an overview of a few of the supposed issues with carbon dating, one of which is that carbon dating cannot be used on inorganic material, like stone. Yes, there are issues with carbon dating; no science is exact (and scientists are aware of this, unlike what the AATs would want their viewers to believe) and dates must be corroborated before they are to be accepted.  As for the second point, that inorganic material cannot be carbon dated, that is true; however, the show would lead one to believe that there is no way to date inorganic material, which is simply not true.  Stone can be dated using other isotopes, such as uranium.  The show then goes on to explain why carbon dating might give a false date: due to exposure to radiation.  So, the viewer is given a scientific and reasonable explanation for the incorrect dating.  Rather than accept that explanation, David Childress claims that incorrect dating found with archaeological remains could be the result of extraterrestrials conducting a nuclear war on Earth.  So, the viewer is presented the idea that all of the carbon dating that has been done is incorrect, and it is incorrect because mythology of various cultures describes wars that modern interpretation has understood to be a depiction of nuclear war, which causes false numbers due to the exposure to radiation.  There are far too many variables here to think this a logical solution; they would have been better off to say their example was carried by a time traveler[6] from three thousand years from now.

The show then offers another piece of not-evidence for their theory: a dinosaur tail that was preserved in amber that indicates this particular dinosaur had feathers, in opposition to how it had been previously depicted.  The show asks, “how could archaeologists have gotten it so wrong?”  The problems with this segment require a list:

1) Archaeologists study human remains and evidence of human habitation, dinosaurs are studied by paleontologists.

2) The idea of feathered dinosaurs is not a new one, it was first published in the mid-1980s by Drs. John Ostrom and Robert Bakker.  The latter published a book for the lay audience discussing the idea in 1986, The Dinosaur Heresies.[7]

3) Dinosaur remains have absolutely nothing to do with carbon dating, as they are out of the range of the half-life of carbon that it required to do such dating.[8]  Dinosaur remains are dated via the strata in which they are situated and uranium isotope dating.

The show then goes on to discuss the fact that fossilization is an unlikely process and that there are gaps in the fossil record.  This is true, but it’s not relevant to the issue at hand (supposedly the problems with carbon dating), and it certainly does not lead to the next point that is made by David Childress: “This leaves room for all kinds of anomalous beings to really exist.  We may yet find fossils of nine-foot giants, and even of extraterrestrials.”[9]  As is often the case with AATs, the idea of that which is possible and that which is probable are here conflated: it is entirely possible that those things might be found, but it is highly unlikely.

Back to the skull with which we started: it is revealed that the maternal DNA of the skull indicates a near 100% match to Scottish ancestry. The Scottish match is odd because the skull is from South America, however, it’s not impossible that a European was living in South American earlier than is currently understood.[10]  The DNA did not give conclusive results on the paternal side. Mr. Tsoukalos asks if that means it is possible that it is not human; Dr. Disotell says “it’s possible” but sounds reasonably skeptical.  As you’d expect, Tsoukalos concludes it must be extraterrestrial.

The rest of the show criticizes science for ignoring material that “doesn’t fit” with accepted ideas, claiming that “evidence” is intentionally set aside.  This ignores the fact that these pieces of “evidence” that the AATs (and the Creationists, for that matter) want scientists to take into account are uncorroborated and do not truly indicate what they say they indicate.  Some of them are out-and-out frauds, such as the London Artifact, and some are simply as-yet unexplained, like the elongated skull on which so much testing was done for this episode.  Science does not make massive leaps without having evidence to back them; pseudoscience demands that its adherents make massive leaps, then build the evidence from the other side.

 

[1] Time: 7:16. Accessed from history.com on 1 March 2018

[2] See http://www.badarchaeology.com/out-of-place-artefacts/very-ancient-artefacts/the-london-artifact/ for further explanation.

[3] See http://www.news.com.au/why-did-two-german-hobbyists-deface-a-cartouche-of-khufu-inside-the-great-pyramid-and-what-does-it-have-to-do-with-atlantis/news-story/7db71b6e1e74976cdbe7736c0e5af4c4 and https://www.npr.org/sections/thetwo-way/2014/02/20/280272270/men-who-vandalized-egyptian-pyramid-to-prove-theory-face-charges

[4] Von Däniken claims al-Maqrizi is Arab.  Orientalist much?

[5] See http://www.jasoncolavito.com/al-maqrizi-on-the-pyramids.html#.WrRcpojwZPY

[6] A madman in a blue box, perhaps…

[7] Excellent read, I highly recommend it.

[8] The half-life of the carbon isotopes used for dating is 5730 years, and so samples do not have sufficient carbon to date beyond about 50,000 years.

[9] Time: 36:50. Accessed from history.com on 1 March 2018

[10] It’s also possible there’s a flaw in the DNA testing, or that this was fabricated for the show.

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