This course name and description ONLY applies to academic year 2021-2022

ANTH 13181-2: Science and Pseudoscience in Anthropology and Archaeology

Instructor: Ian Kuijt

One can argue that claims of fake news, alternative facts, and conspiratorial frameworks, have existed for many year, and are intellectually based on the rejection of the scientific method, reflects a deep skeptisms of the place of science within society today, and the role of universities as an accepted core of intellectual debate and creation of knowledge. Some of these views are, of course, linked to political discourse and the advancement of economic and social agendas. At the same time, however, the premise of these words and discourse are built upon an anti-scientific premise, a discounting of traditional ways of knowing about the world we live in, and a poor understanding of the scientific framework for understanding the physical world and human civilization. The rejection of scientific methods, and frameworks of understanding, runs surprisingly deep within North American culture. Archaeological excavations have unearthed a wealth of data leading to interpretations about the human past. Interpreting the mysteries of the human past is not limited to archaeologists, however, and other interpretations do not always agree with those of archaeologists. In this course we will examine public perceptions and media portrayals of what archaeologists do, and alternative explanations for phenomena of the past. We will compare these attitudes, portrayals and narratives of the past with how archaeologists evaluate archaeological and scientific evidence in order to draw conclusions about the past. Our investigation will include examination of films, web sites and written materials. These sources will provide the opportunity to explore ancient phenomena ranging from the serious to the fringe (e.g., human origins, the Iceman, Egyptian pyramid construction, Nazca lines, Atlantis). The orientation is anthropological, combining both historical and archaeological sources on the past. Ultimately, we seek to understand how to evaluate archaeological evidence in order to understand the world within the modern social context.