The Myth of the Smithsonian Archaeological Conspiracy

I’ve directed readers to Jason Colavito’s blog many times before, but I don’t believe I’ve included this specific essay: How David Childress Created the Myth of a Smithsonian Archaeological Conspiracy.

Jason makes a good case for the modern origin of this oft-repeated point of conspiracist dogma. I’m not claiming (and neither would Jason, I presume) that Childress is the explanation for every thread along these lines, but it seems pretty clear he’s a major fountainhead.

Another “Stone Age Atlantis”

Here’s a report about the discovery by some Swedish divers of “an ancient underwater site” deep in the Baltic. Since it’s in the Nordic region, it’s being dubbed as the “Swedish Atlantis.”


Have you ever wondered why every time some evidence like this is discovered it’s always an Atlantis? Answer: it’s archeoporn. They need web traffic.

What we have (if the remains have been interpreted correctly) is a culture capable of building simple stone dwellings. That isn’t exactly Atlantis. But it makes for a good headline.

The issue is the age of the apparent settlement. From the link:

Buried 16 metres below the surface, Nilsson uncovered wood, flint tools, animal horns and ropes. . . . Among the most notable items found include a harpoon carving made from an animal bone, and the bones of an ancient animal called aurochs.

I can see why archaeologists would be excited about this. But honestly, I don’t see it as an “Atlantean” culture. A very old Nordic culture that used stone to build and harpooned sea creatures for food isn’t Atlantis.


Giant Sarcophagus Leads to Discovery of Previously Unknown (and Normal-Sized) Pharaoh

News of this discovery (also here) has been circulating around the web today. An archaeological team from the University of Pennsylvania (on of my alma matres) has uncovered a Second Intermediate Period necropolis at Abydos, Egypt. The discovery includes the remains of a previously unknown pharaoh named Woseribre Senebkay.

I thought it noteworthy to point out that the sarcophagus was over-sized (probably in the 8-9 foot range), but the actual remains of the Pharaoh tell us he was about 5′ 10″. You’ll often see large sarcophagi like this one touted as evidence that the occupant was a giant. Not so. You can’t tell anything about a person’s height from the box he’s buried in. The photos below come from the links above.










Graham Hancock and Bad Archaeology

Professional archaeologist Keith Fitzpatrick-Matthews, the force behind the Bad Archaeology blog, recently posted a series of articles detailing the (poor) research techniques and (flawed) argumentation of Graham Hancock. Here are the links to the series:

Some of the posts are lengthy — Hancock’s archaeology is, well, bad.

Giant Skeleton Hoaxes and Mis-Identifications

I’ve blogged several times about the pictures of giant human skeletons on the web that aren’t what they seem to be. They fall into two categories: hoaxes and mis-identification of the remains of either dinosaurs or (more often) mastodons or mammoths.

I recently came across this site, which conveniently displays several of the most widely circulated phony giant photos. If you go there, please click on the link mentioned in the article that is the source of most of these hoaxed photos: The site runs contests for image fakery. Here is the archaeology archive where you’ll find most of the fake giant photos out there on the web.

I also recently came across a good scholarly article on the other category — mis-identification. It’s by James Howard and entitled, “Fossil Proboscidians and Myths of Giant Men.” It can be downloaded for free.

On the term “proboscidian” (in the context of this post, an animal with a large trunk), here is the entry from


1. pertaining to or resembling a proboscis.

2. having a proboscis.
3. belonging or pertaining to the mammals of the order Proboscidea, characterized by a flexible trunk formed of the nostrils and upper lip, large tusks, a massive body, and columnar legs, comprising the elephant and the now-extinct mammoth and mastodon.

Scholarly Online Bibliographies for the Study of Ancient Egypt and Mesopotamia

One word for this site: wow.

The above link leads to a gateway site for online bibliographies related to the study of the ancient Near East. It’s an amazing resource.

You’re welcome!

Update on Second Talpiot Tomb

This is about Talpiot B, the tomb with the alleged “Jonah and the fish” symbol on one of the ossuaries. Most people don’t think this is a coherent identification. I don’t (“Jonah” still looks like a ball of string to me). I’ve posted before about what the image probably is (here and here). Other scholars have accused the principle folks behind it of Photoshopping evidence. At any rate, here’s a recent update of the image — the work of Dr. Wim G. Meijer, via Duke professor Mark Goodacre’s NT blog.

More Free Online Resources for Ancient Research

As is my custom, every once in a while I have to post something that veers away from exposing paleobabble toward real research. I’ve posted in the past about the University of Chicago’s Oriental Institute and its posting of various volumes related to Assyriology. Here are some other goodies (courtesy of the Ancient World Online blog):

The Claremont Colleges Digital Library offers several open access resources relating to antiquity:

The Bulletin of the Institute for Antiquity and Christianity is published periodically under the auspices of the Society for Antiquity and Christianity for the general information of persons interested in the research programs of the Institute.
The Claremont Coptic Encyclopedia (CCE) will initially include approximately 2800 articles published in The Coptic Encyclopedia (Aziz S. Atiya, ed. NY: Macmillan, 1991).
The Nag Hammadi codices, thirteen ancient manuscripts containing over fifty religious and philosophical texts written in Coptic and hidden in an earthenware jar for 1,600 years, were accidentally discovered in upper Egypt in the year 1945.


This site contains over 25,000 links to Greek and Latin authors online. The links include detailed lists of events and sources for the history of the Hellenistic world and the Roman republic. It includes links to online translations of many of the sources, as well as new translations of some works which have not previously been easily available in English.

Sanctified Gullibility is Still Gullibility

It doesn’t get much more embarrassing than this.

Jason Colavito has a short write up on how Christian apologists are using a prop — a giant human skeleton that isn’t a skeleton at all — from von Daniken’s ancient astronaut theme park for the gullible.

Since when is defending one’s faith with a lie a good idea?

Pretty pathetic. It leads people to follow several bogus thought trajectories:

1. That belief in a creator needs to be defended via the idea of giants (it doesn’t, and that “approach” is absurd).

2. That belief in a creator is synonymous with young earth creationism and rigid biblical literalism (it isn’t).

3. That those who defend the young earth view of creationism will basically stoop to any level to do so (many would not; that is, they aren’t ethically challenged).