Sunday 12 May 2024

Graham and Holly Take on Archaeology


                     Holly Lasko Skinner, pen for sale


Above, I discussed the YouTube debunker of psedoscience Miniminuteman and his series of "Awful archaeology" videos . As noted there, one of them was his major effort concerning a recent well-produced blockbuster six-part Netflix series "Ancient Apocalypse" written and presented by Graham Hancock. Rossi's videos were titled: "I Watched Ancient Apocalypse So You Don't Have To" (Part 1), (part 2), and (part 3) which have some 4mln+ views despite their length. I've watched them (and the Netflix series) and think Rosi has provided a good evidence-based critique of the programme in an entertaining format. Also showing that you can produce good TV with a much lower budget than Netflix expended on making the original film.  

Recently there was also a debate on the 'Jo Rogan podcast' between Hancock and archaeologist Dr Flint Dibble that also was based around an evidence-based presntation that was confronted with Hancock's suppositions, "what ifs" and "looks-like" meanderings about a hypothetical/(imaginary) "Lost Civilisation" in which Hancock emerged rather badly and weakly. Hancock objects to this kind of writing about the past without a strict theoretical methodology being treated, not as legitimate archaeology [the word after all means just 'study of the past'] but something that apes the way that enquiry is conducted today - in other words it is a para-archaeology, a pseudo-archaeology. There was a very distasteful moment in the middle of the debate when Hancock tried to react to it having been pointed out that Diffusionist explanations of cultural change brought about by "superior" cultures "bringing the benefits of civilisation" to "inferior" ones willing to acknowledge their position by adopting teh new models is at its core a racist one. Hancock apparently does not accept /understand this, though it is commonplace in discussions of archaeological theory. 

On 19th April 2023 on Graham Hancock's personal website a huge verbose text appeared  called: "Will the real Pseudoarchaeologists Please Stand Up! (sic) The institution of North American archeology is racist to the core and must be “rebuilt from the ground up” say antiracist archaeologists". Wow. Much of the last third of this is a hit-job aimed at.... Flint Dibble. Coincidence? The text is poorly-organised and thus pretty unreadable, it is ajumble of assorted quotes by various people taken out of their context that the author (AI??) was unable to into coherent text that actually gets to the point. The author of this text fails to grasp that, as in any discipline, there are factions in US archaeology, critical of others. This does not mean that what they say and postulate can be used to generalise about all US archaeology at home and abroad. Also is US archaeology more, or less, "racist" thau any other segment of US society, a country where allegedly black people fear being killed in the street by a cop just because they are black?

Holly Lasko Skinner, "is a freelance writer, researcher and editor based in London, UK [...] with a first class degree in history". So far so good, but we also learn: "as a strong believer in social justice, she's worked with Graham Hancock to decolonise and democratise our understanding of the past since 2015". Wow. It is unclear what form that took, as there do not seem to be many publicaltions on that, or any other, theme online, at least. 

But then, a new text by Ms Skinner has just appeared on Graham Hancock's webpage, 18 days later, on May 7th. This was prefaced by a tweet by Hancock: "Thanks to brilliant freelance researcher Holly Lasko Skinner, who I've worked with for many years, for looking into this phenomenon at a time when my energies have been focussed elsewhere". This "phenomenon" was an ad hominem attack called  "Investigating YouTuber Miniminuteman" (Graham Hancock website 7th May 2024).
Investigating YouTuber Miniminuteman
The archaeological community have upheld Rossi as a bastion of archaeological integrity. This article investigates who Miniminuteman really is.[...]
Ch. 1: "Milo Rossi is not an archaeologist" [...]
Ch. 2: “Milo Rossi is a pseudoarchaeologist" [...]
[...] Ch. 5: “Miniminuteman is a conspiracy theorist”
I was not aware that anybody has been "holding Rossi up as a bastion (sic) of arechaeological integrity" - where did she read that? Anyway Holly Lasko Skinner has either self-appointed herself or been asked by the website owner to "investigate" him.

 This is a nasty text. I understand that Mr Rossi's online persona may not be to everyone's taste, and that his arguents and style in which he presents them may be uncomfortable to a certain body of writers/ media producers, but I think that Mr Hancock and his hired proxy pen have gone much too far here. Furthermore, to me, this text gives the impression of the outpourigns of an obsessed stalker. Look at the effort she's gone to to dig up the dirt on this guy - hours and hours of research. 

Again we get the same verbose mudslinging composed of large chunks of quotes from other sources, all selected with the sole intent, far from "investigating" a subject, of blackening his character. Yeah, we all of us make mistakes (I disagree about the one with the archaeologist getting precious about surface-found sherds by the way) but this is so obviously done with the sole intent of discrediting an uncomfortable critic.  

In all of this, there is not a single case of Ms Skinner actually addressing the points about the lack of evidence for this imaginary "Lost Civilisation" - but if she was "investigating" the views of Mr Rossi, that is exactly what should be here. And that is exactly what she has avoided doing. Is Mr Rossi an archaeologist? I have no idea what his formal qualifications are, and neither do I care. 

As far as I am concerned: "an archaeologist is somebody who applied archaeological methodology to interprete the physical remains of the past" (I am aware that this is NOT a good definition - because it raises the question of what that "archaeological methodology" is, but then what is NOT an archaeological methodology, on the one hand also needs defining, on the other perhaps not). Now, I'm pretty grumpy and critical about what is good archaeology. It seems to me that Milo Rossi is applying archaeological reasoning (grounded in a knowledge, appreciuation of and experience with sais methodology) to the wquestions he is discussing. So yes, even if he was a landscape gardener or pharmacist by avocation, what he is doing here is by that definition archaeology. I have no problems with that. And I do not give a tinker's cuss for what Holly Lasko Skinner thinks about that. Whether you, dear reader thinks it is relevant is up to you. But base it on what Rossi says and not what she says. Go to the source, a mouse-click away.  

And Hancock's image as an affable articulate guy "just asking questions" and "just trying to find out" bursts here like a bubble with his publication of this text.  


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