18 January, 2021

UK Academic Archaeology; Incompetence, Science Denial and Racism

The good news is that my cancer has not returned, but having reached the "Do Not Revive" age group, I am not taking anything for granted, and I  have further surgery scheduled in the next few weeks.  

So I intend to spend what time remains to me in trying to prevent young people, international students  and tax payers being stiffed by these unscrupulous institutions peddling science denial.

I have decided to return to blogging and hopefully more making videos featuring some of the more outrageously dumb tin hat archaeology being promulgated at public expense. 

Obviously, Academics with a job for life in a monopoly where the customers always wrong have no need to defend their ignorance, any more than English Heritage or Museums services feel the need to justify their science denying stance. 

I have to admit I have found it psychologically difficult to reconcile being blackballed for challenging science deniers; apart from the money, why are these people [1] so anxious to piss in our collective chips?

Denial or Ignorance

We all should be aware of the dangers of science denial, but to allow it blossom in Higher Education is either stupidly criminal or criminally stupid, but despite repeated requests, Newcastle University refuse to confirm which is the case for their former Post-Graduate Dean and his staff. [op. cit.]

One might be forgiven for thinking that archaeology was not a real academic subject but a form of badly informed infotainment, after all, celebrities and members of the public don't do forensic accounting or midwifery on the weekend, but are regularly invited to hack holes in inoffensive ancient monuments for out amusement.

Sadly it's not just bottom feeders of Russell branded universities like Newcastle, but also those who regard themselves as serious institutions like Oxford and Cambridge that are guilty of dumbing down the subject through science denial and/or ignorance.

For the hoard of begowned over paid functionaries,  deans, chancellors and the like who see their task as improving the return of the Universities' property portfolio archaeology is an obvious target for dumbing down; do this to a science at you would be risking lives and our economic future.  

Fundamentally, merit is gained in subjects like archaeology by copying out other peoples work in your best handwriting, regardless of its merit or evidential basis, allowing for the reproduction of myths, fallacies and ensuring the progress of the credulous.

You are taught "archaeology" out of a book from some one who learned it out of a book, so all the victims of the system can do is practice archaeology out of a book. Thus,  "Methodology" in archaeology is basically what proper subjects call  "bias".

Many archaeology students naively imagine they are learning to be an archaeologist, but unfortunately they are being trained by a lecturer to be a lecturer, their fees are subsiding the very small percentage sufficiently compliant students to become the next generation of lecturers.

I am reliably informed that Academics teaching archaeology are payed the same money as those engaged in evidence based teaching, so ignorance is not only bliss it's just as financially rewarding as real knowledge.

A Classical Gaff

Being taught archaeology out of book by someone who learned it out of book would not be a problem if archaeologist found books, but surprisingly what they actually find is soil, and that's where the problems start.

Every institution involved with Roman Britain,  universities, museums, and most notably English Heritage persist in the promoting the myth of the Romans building things out of "turf".

This myth dates back to the eight century and Venerable Bede, and has been faithfully reproduced in their best handwriting by generations of academics.

Tragically, twenty years ago English Heritage excavated the "Turf Wall", and having gathered all the scientific data to demonstrate beyond all reasonable doubt that this was not true, concluded it was made of "turf".  [2]

The power of nominative determinism is quite extraordinary, as is the fact that, in denial of the peer reviewed evidence,  academics continued to buy into this myth and sell it to their students.

The Roman Wall was no more made out of turf than the Moon is made from cheese, anyone regardless of status or salary, who tells you otherwise is either ignorant of, or in denial of basic soil science.

However, that's just the pointy end of a very long stick;  it is common practice to assume that any Roman structure not made of stone must therefor made of "Turf", [Q.E.D.] [!], resulting in numerous "turf" forts and a second "Turf" wall in Scotland - none of which has a scintilla of evidence to support it. 

Experimental archaeology - racism in action.

"Experimental" Archaeology tells you a great deal about Academics and virtually nothing about the past.  Repeated attempts to reproduce "primitive" "African" mud huts in the UK in defiance of the archaeological evidence is a tribute to the persistence of ideas about Cultural Evolution.  These concepts, similar to those which fuelled the genocidal politics of National Socialism, and are a remarkable example of both the racism and science denial that is central to UK academic archaeology.  

Portrayal of our ancestors as some form of white negro is a perfect analogue of racial theory that drove British imperialism and the slave trade; this is theme I intend to pursue in future work. It is also evident from our shared our visual culture of the past, which having no evidential basis serves only to illuminate the racist presumptions of UK academic culture. 

Personally, I feel it important to try to preserve some of the intellectual culture that made our education some of the best in the world, but once you dumb it down I suspect that it's gone for good.

However, I intend to keep on going because in some countries, particularly in the USA and parts of Europe, archaeology is still treated as a serious academic subject and has not fallen victim to the cadre of mediocre racist science deniers who have infiltrated our education system. 


[1] I refer explicitly in this case to Professor Niell Marshall - Former Post-graduate dean and enabler of Dr Jane Wester a self confessed "expert in Iron Age Building Cosmology".

While "Cosmology" is a big word [Neill],  so is "tautology" and it's criminal that you and your colleagues can't grasp such basic evidential principles, and cannot recognise or admit you are defrauding your students by faith based teaching. 

I retain a special affection for Professor Ian Haynes ["I wish I could help you Geoff, but I don't want to stabbed in the back by the people who stabbed, - I have my career to think about"], for his complicity in this duplicity.

[2] Wilmott, T., [ed]. 2009. Hadrian's Wall: Archaeological Research by English Heritage .(NB. p. 114 the pollen James Wells p. 116 The plant macrofossils, Allan Hall, )