Chariots of the Gods?

Roswell UFO incident described by the Roswell Daily Record

In 1968, Erich von Däniken published “Chariots of the Gods? Unsolved Mysteries of the Past” that hypothesized that ancient alien visited earth and taught humans advanced technologies and ancient religions. The book immediately became a best seller and to this day continues to sell in volume.  Erich von Däniken’s theories and ideas have continued to be analyzed and examined. With the help of social media and the fascination for the unknown, the idea of alien-human interaction was thrust into the spotlight during the 1950s. Moreover, alien sightings at Roswell, New Mexico and popular films like 2001: A Space Odyssey and Close Encounters of the Third Kind have further heightened the public’s curiosity.

The popular history channel show Ancient Aliens, builds upon Erich von Däniken theology by collecting evidence to support and enhance current views on ancient aliens. The show tries to prove the validity of ancient aliens by examining ancient religious texts in which humans interact with individuals that descend from the sky. These texts often describe a means of transportation that resembles a spaceship flying. Moreover, the show examines ancient artwork that depicts alien-like figures that lead to conclusions that alien life forms must have visited earth. Furthermore, in class we watched the documentary based on the book by Erich von Däniken that used similar techniques to prove the existence of ancient aliens. Both the documentary and the popular show make alien claims about archaeological sites around the world.

Easter Island Statues

One archaeological site mentioned in both is the island statues on Easter Island. Both Erich von Däniken and the show Ancient Aliens theorize that only ancient aliens had the capacity to construct the statues because the local natives lacked proper tools and the ability to transport the massive statues around the island. This theory may make sense initially however it fails to reference scholarly research and use the scientific method as stated by Feder in his book “Frauds, Myths and Mysteries”. Feder explains such claims like these “ignore the truth in just about every phenomena described” (9). Furthermore, the claims made about ancient aliens are considered pseudoscience because they try to hide specific details about their theories. Additionally, they often have alternative motives such as money and fame. Therefore, with widespread notoriety of ancient aliens through books and movies, the public is unable to make this distinction between pseudoscience and science. This has caused archaeology to be one of the most misunderstood fields

A recent article in Wired magazine tries to explain that humans did in fact have the ability to transport the statues by ‘walking’ them in place.  Carl Lipo from California State University demonstrated that three teams of workers can ‘walk’ a replica statue down a path similar to one on Easter Island. Moreover, this research study was published in the Journal of Archaeological Science.  Compared to Erich von Däniken and the show Ancient Aliens, Carl Lipo and his team were able to use the scientific method as well as scholarly research to make a scientific theory on the island statues. By using methods of real science and archaeology, more accurate information was gathered and tested.

Archaeology: Changing the Perspective of the Future

Ashokan ReserviorArchaeology may be one of the most misunderstood fields. By encompassing aspects of history, science and anthropology, archaeology helps explain past communities and their adjustments to cultural and environmental changes. In class we examined the Ashokan Reservior. The Ashokan Reservior is located approximately 70 miles north of New York City and holds 123 billion gallons of water. It was placed into service in 1915 and currently supplies 40% of New York City’s daily drinking water. However, New York City’s thirst for drinking water has caused the displacement of thousands of people. These changes have distorted the balance of communities but also the culture and economics surrounding them. One area severely affected was Ulster County where during the turn of the century, many residents were unfairly compensated for their homes. For an archaeologist this may not seem like a relevant issue, however, archaeology especially in this case is essential. As we have discussed in class the many stereotypes surrounding archaeology and the fact of the matter is, the recent events involving the Ashokan Reservior are not typically considered ‘ancient’ or ‘glamorous’ enough to be further researched by an archaeologist. However, by researching the areas affected by New York City’s desire for water, useful information about the culture as well as environmental changes can be studied so we are more adequately prepared for the future.

The snowball effect created by the displacement of a single person can lead to socioeconomic changes that can affect entire communities. An archaeologist is able to study artifacts from these sites in order to complete the story of how much the Ashokan Reservior has affected the surrounding areas. Moreover, archaeologists, through these sites may be able to uncover social class differences that may lead to further understandings of cultural effects of the Ashokan Reservior. It may seem strange that archaeology can be used to solve these issues. However, for people who are unaware, archeology is an excellent median to publicize this information.

The aftermath of Hurricane Katrina

The recent events of hurricane Katrina caused a similar snowball effect like the one examined in the Ashokan Reservior. In class we briefly discussed how socioeconomic factors can be seen on a larger scale. For instance, hurricane Katrina was on the radar of the entire nation while hundreds of cameras documented the disaster. Even though the hurricane is still considered recent in history, a plethora of “environmental conditions, politics, and economic forces” can be examined to shape the archeological record of New Orleans (Toner). The article examines the artifacts collected by Professor Dawdy that included “Native American pottery, French cosmetic jars and wine bottles” that were lost in the wake of the storm. From these artifacts, cultural and environmental changes can be understood about the communities destroyed by Katrina. By using the techniques and approaches referenced on pages 76-82 of Wendy Ashmore’s Discovering Our Past, the hope is that New Orleans may begin a more concerted effort to protect the culture that it represents. With the use of archaeology to understand the communities involved in devastation of Katrina, more questions can be answered to further the shelter New Orleans in the future. Furthermore, the hope is that the similar techniques used in New Orleans can also be implemented in the areas affected by the Ashokan Reservior. Archaeologists can understand the communities involved with the Ashokan Reservior to help understand the affects of relocation on culture and environment. Therefore, the use of archaeology is a multifaceted tool changing the way people view the world.