About Bad Archaeology

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Bad Archaeology is the brainchild of a couple of archaeologists who are fed up with the distorted view of the past that passes for knowledge in popular culture. We are unhappy that books written by people with no knowledge of real archaeology dominate the shelves at respectable bookshops. We do not appreciate news programmes that talk about ley lines (for example) as if they are real.

  1. I am so happy to have found your blog. I’d like to see you take a look at Marija Gimbuta’s later work “feminist archaeology” as an example of a good archaeologist indulging in bad archaeology. I am female, and at the time of reading her work, I was an active and enthusiastic pagan. And still rational enough to be appalled by her mixing up religion with science to make unsupported conclusions…. the pagan community embraced these books with the same fervour as Christians embrace those that “prove” Christ was a real person. I have since become an atheist, which is working out well for me, though I do find myself yelling at the Discovery Channel every time they present a psuedo documentary attempting to validate superstition. It is a good time to become a fortune teller, methinks. In fact…you know someone named David, don’t you?

    • Zen
    • September 5th, 2010

    While I accept and approve the motive behind this site, as a result of my personal experiences in anacient sites, I can say that “ley line” energy is real.

    I am not saying that ALL experiences and theories recorded are “true”, but I know that amazing things happen to me in such places, and that those things have had a very positive effect on my life journey.

    Zen

    • When you state with confidence that “ley line” energy is real, what do you mean by “ley line” energy? Energy is a well defined physical phenomenon, a measurable force that can be transformed into several different forms (including kinetic, potential, thermal, gravitational, sound, elastic and electromagnetic energy). Does “ley line” energy fall into this kind of defintion? If so, which type of energy is it? How is it manifested? How is it detected? Is it one of the “subtle energies” so beloved of the New Age, that believers insist cannot be detected by the types of instruments that are used to detect the energies recognised by physicists?

      Secondly, how do you define a “ley line”? Can they be detected by measuring the “energy” that emanates from them? Are they defined by recognising marker points placed along them in antiquity? If so, which marker points are acceptable? Can they be only prehistoric monuments or is it legitimate to include medieval churches? Crossroads that exist today?

      As I say on the main site, there are serious grounds for doubting the existence of ley lines because the alignments do not stand up to critical scrutiny. Tom Williamson and Liz Bellamy published the results of their investigation into them in Ley Lines in Question in 1983, where they demonstrate that many alignments are due to chance and that many longer alignments do not work. The explanation is simple: the method used to find leys has been to use maps and seek out alignments between points, but because all map-making involves distorting the three-dimensional surface of the earth to fit it on to a two-dimensional sheet, the distortion produces measurable inaccuracies between the corners of the map. It is also difficult to understand the logic behind the use of marker points of widely differing dates. Alfred Watkins had originally hypothesised the alignments to be of Neolithic date, as this was the date of the oldest sites on them, which is the reverse of the well established archaeological principle of the terminus post quem, by which something cannot be older than the youngest thing in it. Thus a ley containing crossroads established by early nineteenth-century surveyors enclosing formerly open field systems can be no older than the early nineteenth century. Yet we know the no-one at that time had the faintest notions of establishing a system of alignments that would cover the whole of Great Britain.

      The solution used by ley hunters assumes that more recent features replace ancient marks, yet not a single shred of archaeological evidence is ever adduced to support the assertion. Never mind that not one excavated church site has proved to be on top of a Neolithic (or other prehistoric) sacred site, never mind that not one excavated church site has yielded unequivocal evidence for a pagan Anglo-Saxon sacred site. Ley lines were a bad enough idea when Alfred Watkins first suggested that they were Neolithic trackways. In most cases, the sites that are supposed to mark them are not Neolithic and in some cases, they do not even lie on the supposed leys. This is why archaeologists do not accept their existence. However, their adoption by the New Age community and the ascription of spiritual, psychic or ufological meanings to them has taken them out of the realm of archaeology and orthodox science and has made them an article of faith. In doing so, they have been brought into mainstream popular culture in a form that Alfred Watkins would never have recognised. Like so many fringe ideas, they are easily refuted and can be consigned to the dustbin. Unfortunately, their influence has pervaded modern culture and it will take a serious effort to convince the general public that they do not exist, if that can be done at all.

      I do not doubt that you have experienced many things in special places. I did as a child and continue to do so as an adult, especially on sites of historic significance. I suspect that the difference is that I regard them as entirely subjective experiences, arising from my imagination and the power of places to affect us emotionally, whereas you ascribe them to a “ley line” energy that cannot be detected in the way that all other forms of energy can be detected, on monuments that cannot be shown to exist.

    • JasonL
    • December 29th, 2010

    Hello sir,

    I just recently dove head first into bad archeology via the 2012 phenomenon. The Maya and Egyptian fields seem filled with odd new age ideas. I was wondering if in the future you would comment on the situation? I would also love to see a review of Graham Hancock’s Finger Prints of the Gods. As a novice, I have found several basic errors in the book. However, my knowledge of archeology in general is extremely limited. It would please me to hear it from experts in the field. I hope to read more soon!

    Thanks greatly and best wishes,

    Jason

  2. QUOTE: Never mind that not one excavated church site has proved to be on top of a Neolithic (or other prehistoric) sacred site, never mind that not one excavated church site has yielded unequivocal evidence for a pagan Anglo-Saxon sacred site. ~END QUOTE.

    Your “education” has made you stupid Mr Matthews. Like most “Trained” people you are blinkered by the lack of imagination and provable-in-a- laboratory facts. I could, if I thought for one millisecond it would be worth the effort, show you to several churches within a few miles of where I live which are proven to be on pre-christian sites. In fact I would go so far as to say suggest that almost ALL pre-reformation ecclesiastical buildings are positioned on such places. You should get out more, feel the rain and wind on your face, get yourself frightened of the dark – oh sorry, you already are! Well, try walking in a straight line across a muddy field at night in mooonlight, then you might get some inkling of the worlds you scoff at so much in your articles.

    • I find it amusing how true believers descend into insults when they don’t have a real answer.

      Can you name these churches “proven to be on pre-christian sites?” and reveal the evidence that allows you to identify them as such? In reading reports of church excavations, it is very rare to find that there is any kind of religious or ritual activity pre-dating the use of the site of the church. Sometimes they may be built on top of Roman masonry buildings (perhaps because they were used as churches int he fourth century, or were mausolea associated with people considered holy), but I have yet to hear of one set over an Iron Age shrine, for instance, or a pagan Saxon religious site.

  3. Hi,

    I don’t know how to get in touch with you more directly, but I wanted to draw your attention on a blatant case of ‘biblical archeology’, therefore, bad archeology, I stumbled upon recently while browsing wikipedia (I know, not a reputable publication, but please bear with me, I’m not a professional). It’s here : http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Nebra_skydisk , in section titled “Nebra Sky Disk, A Record Of The Earth Longest Day?” [retrieved on 2011, January the 29th]. While less impressive than Noa’s ark or other biblical objects chase, the ‘leap of faith’ displayed here is, to put it in your words, quite astounding.

    I leave to your appreciation if there is enough material here for an article, a rebuttal or a blog entry – or just silent contempt.

    Cheers, and keep up high the standards of true science spirit !

  4. Hi,

    Just though I would give you all a heads up- your RSS feed on your website does not connect to this new blog, it’s connected to your old blog. So it’s a bit hard to subscribe to this site on something other then a wordpress account.

    • Arch Grad Student
    • September 20th, 2011

    Thank you for doing this!

    • STFU
    • September 21st, 2011

    You guys are a joke.

    The archaeology police – hahahahahahahahahahahahahahahhaaaaaaaaaaaaaa

    omg – Indiana Jones is poisoning our youth, flash the bat signal – we will not stand for this academic debauchery. WE are the archeo-patrol!!!!!

    get a fkn life boys, no – better yet – get girl friends, even if you have to buy them

  5. I love this site! I’ve always been a fan of archeology, and I read just about everything about it that I could get my hands on as a child. As you’ve probably guessed, that also included a lot of less-than-reputable sources, and I was led to believe in all sorts of wacky things. As an adult, I’ve had to look back and reexamine everything I’d spent many many hours memorizing as a child to determine just what was actually true and what wasn’t. I found it very frustrating.

    But I still love archeology, Egyptology in particular, and I’ve very much enjoyed reading this blog.

    I was recently in a discussion with someone about Exodus and they said that it had to be true because Ron Wyatt discovered the remnants of the Egyptian army in the Red Sea. It looks very suspicious to me, but I was wondering if you might be able to comment on that “finding.” Cheers!

  6. Hello i love this site. its exactly what i was looking for. However can i ask you a few more questions? Er- im guessing via email. Im going through a drastic decision and i need help from someone out in the actual field. Please?

    • If you go to the main Bad Archaeology website, you’ll find a form that allows you to email me. Fire away with your questions!

    • Dr. David tee
    • March 7th, 2012

    who died and elected you the authority over who can or cannot write about or do archaeology? so you are tired of those who present their perspective on the past, seems like they are doing exactly what you do, so i guess you better police yourselves and remove your blogs and websites from the internet and all public access. that is if you want any credibility and avoid the hypocrite label.

    your opinion on what is or isn’t archaeology is no greater than mine or anyone else’s and i have several degrees in the field.

    • It’s called “freedom of speech”, Dr Tee.

      Why would some have to die to give me the right? Human sacrifice is an odious and barbaric practice.

      Congratulations on your “several degrees in the field”, by the way. I hope that you gained some insights into the past from them.

  7. Great to see this site is still going! I was an active member of the forum before that got shut down. Keep up the good work!

    • Lawrence Searle
    • April 29th, 2012

    Thank you, thank you, thank you! A breath of fresh air from the tomb as it were. I love John Romer’s little annecdote and I thought Rameses II had a day job that kept him too busy to be a non-existant Jewish king. I have seen his mummy and he is definitely NOT circumcised. There are a few shiny bits on him however, which were probably caused by all that spinning in his grave. Again, thank you.

  8. Can you sort out your font colour and background colour on this page? It is hard on the eyes!! By the way, I have an MA in Archaeological Practice.. What is archaeology?

    • randy
    • October 5th, 2012

    Hey, let’s talk about preconcieved prejudices… “We do not appreciate news programmes that talk about ley lines (for example) as if they are real.”

    Question: (college level philosophy): How can you discover something when you have already determined that it does not exist (I might try this as an assignment for a 500 word essay…)?

    Delima: If you cannot prove something to be true when you have already accepted that it is not true, then do you have to believe the opposite first, i.e., that it is true? Well, that would only deepen the rabbit hole as the author of this article has stated that “If a discovery confirms your pre-held…beliefs, then it’s wishful thinking at best and even more likely to be a fraud.”

    Talk about painting yourself into a corner, this clown does it with pizazz!!!

    By the way, I have a couple of college degrees, one of which is in history, and NONE, NO NOT ONE, of my professors ever accepted a Wikipedia quote in a paper, and the same was true with my psychology professors. So, my question is this, what college did this…clown…go to that enabled him to use Wikipedia quotes enough for him to become comfortable with such? And now that he is educated, why is he still quoting from Wiki instead of doing his own research?

    • randy does it again! In his arrogant way, he parades his “couple of college degrees, one of which is in history”, as if that makes him some kind of authority whose words cannot be gainsaid, and chides me for using Wikipedia.

      Now, he may or may not have noticed (careful reading does not appear to be one of his strong points) that this is a blog, not an academic essay. I, too, would refuse to accept Wikipedia as an authority in a paper submitted to me by a student. But, equally, I would not choose to cite papers from learned journals when pointing the reader of a blog post in the direction of further information. I assume that the readers of this blog are adults who are aware of the limitations of Wikipedia as a source of information (although I have to say that its credibility has improved over the past couple of years, since the policy of source citation has been more rigorously enforced); let them decide how useful (or not) these links are.

      randy appears unaware of the archaeological literature that shows that ley lines are a worthless concept, made up in the 1920s on the basis of very poor evidence. If he’s unwilling to accept that, then he may as well complain that stating that the moon is not made of green cheese prevents us from learning about it.

      randy, the whole point of this blog is that we need to understand the evidence behind assertions about the past, not accept things because of the perceived authority of the source. Wikipedia has its place, so long as the user recognises its limitations; I’m willing to believe that you understand evidence and how to marshal it in an argument. Unfortunately, you also have untrammelled faith in your own authority. Talking down to me is not going to persuade me that your criticisms have any validity whatsoever.

  9. Really enjoy this blog but I’m not sure where you’re going with this stuff about there being no christian sites on top of neolithic sites. That’s well… that’s just bad archaeology.
    Assuming English Heritage aren’t part of some grand conspiracy, we really ought to be able to trust their website…

    http://www.english-heritage.org.uk/daysout/properties/knowlton-church-and-earthworks/

    And I know it’s kind of by default becuse the great circle does include an entire Norman village, but there does appear to be a Medieval church inside that there Avebury…

    I also think the people of Rudston in Yorkshire might want to have a quiet word too….

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Rudston_Monolith

    And this is a pretty damn fine example in Jersey, if you have a look…

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/La_Hougue_Bie

    Actually I could do that all day. There is lots of evidence for this association, it’s just the way you have chosen to make the statement, basically saying it hasn’t turned up in church excavations, is very misleading. Also if you move beyond the UK it keeps happening, the church at Tara in Ireland for instance or all those Dolmens in Portugal that have tiny chapels built into them.

    None of which has any bearing on the Ley Lines, which as you point out, are a methodological error rather than anything real. I would say I think you’re a bit harsh on Watkins, it wasn’t a terrible idea at the time, it was I felt quite reasonable, and quite on par with other early 20th century work (I may not be a believer, I just kind of like the Old Straight Track, it’s a good read) and the fact that it took until the 1980′s to really disprove the phenomenon I actually feel is a testament to how plausible the idea was. Many other ideas from the 1910′s to 30′s were shown to be nonsense in a far shorter time span. Unfortunately Watkin’s subsequent fame in New Age circles leaves him in a difficult position, what we are seeing is early landscape archaeology, but his reputation has been unfairly tarnished (If you don’t believe that, re read Hoskins Making of the Englsih Landscape…. an awful lot of his conclusions have now been shown to be incorrect and yet his reputation has been upheld…). There’s some papers in Antiquity about large enclosures in southern England formed of boundaries of various different ages, and enclosing vast areas. I think we would mostly be happy to dismiss those as folly now, and of a very similar scale and cause as the Ley Lines, but we don’t go peeing on the reputation of those authors just because the new agers haven’t picked up on their work.

    • I’ve never said that there are no Neolithic sites beneath Christian sites: that would be foolish. What I do take issue with is the lay-hunters’ assertion that many, if not most, medieval churches were built on sites that have a history of continuous religious use from the Neolithic onwards. Yes, there are plenty of churches built close to or within Neolithic monuments, but they are the exception rather than the rule.

  10. Yeah, you kind of did…

    “Can you name these churches “proven to be on pre-christian sites?”

    Well I named a few. I could have named a lot more.

    “In reading reports of church excavations, it is very rare to find that there is any kind of religious or ritual activity pre-dating the use of the site of the church.”

    Not that rare obviously.

    Sorry, I should point out that I don’t disagree with you in any way. Even to my mind you have kind of under emphasised this particular relationship, (and don’t forget all the examples of megaliths that have been christianised) and I think it’s related to quite a well understood process of christianising older sites, it has no real bearing on the reasons you are dismissing the lay lines. The main reason being… they don’t really line up.

    • … and Mysterious Magical Earth Power not being in any way real, obviously
      Keep up the great work, very entertaining :D

  11. I just stumbled on this great site! Good job. I’ve been fascinated by bad archaeology ever since I heard a ridiculous talk by Barry Fell near the beginning of his pseudo-archaeological career.

    • Vinegar Tom
    • December 28th, 2012

    A thought occurs to me. Some of the markers on ley-lines are hill-forts. Now, it seems to me that the main reason to put a fort on top of a hill is not to gain the benefit of some magical energy stream which, as far as I can make out, doesn’t actually do anything other than allowing people holding forked twigs who believe in ley-lines to detect that they’re standing on one so long as they already know that. Which doesn’t seem to me to be all that strategically useful. No, you put forts on top of hills because attackers will get shagged out running up the hill.

    So my question is this. If ley-line energy exists, as so many people know that it does, is one of its properties to create hills? I suggest that it would be very simple to test this scientifically. All you need to do is to re-erect some of the fallen parts of Stonehenge, and see whether the UK is struck by violent earthquakes that throw up new hills. Or, alternatively, you could knock the whole thing down and see if Britain suddenly goes all flat. Unfortunately English Heritage probably wouldn’t agree to this, even in the interests of science, but I can’t see any logical flaw in this argument. What do you think?

  12. ….agreed Ley lines are difficult to prove, because there is no theory to support them.

    But there is now more than enough proof that an ancient civilization did travel the world and mapped the continents.

    See 400,000 years of Stone Age Science by Dr. Derek Cunningham

    It links together a study of ancient writing, with a study of astronomy and archaeology.

    • elnauhual
    • January 6th, 2014

    Hello, I have been following your site and blog for several years and i can found only one fault… it´s in English.

    Other people and I have translated and subtitled the documentary “debunking ancient aliens” by Chris White,

    http://mundo.paralax.com.mx/astronautas-ancestrales.html

    And I wish to ask your permission to translate some material from you blog, specially the last one about Hanckock that analyze in more detail some of the claims made by the “ancient astronauts” series.

    I hope you would aprove.

    javier Delgado AKA Nanahuatzin.

  1. June 6th, 2010

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