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Frauds, Myths, and Mysteries

Science and Pseudoscience in Archaeology

Tenth Edition

Kenneth L. Feder

Publication Date - December 2019

ISBN: 9780190096410

352 pages
6-1/8 x 9-1/4 inches

In Stock

A humorous yet informative and scientific text that helps students to critically debunk archaeological myths


Frauds, myths, and supposed mysteries about humanity's past are moving targets for anyone committed to the scientific investigation of human antiquity. It is important for anyone interested in the human past to know, for example, that there is no evidence for a race of giant human beings in antiquity and no broken shards of laser guns under Egyptian pyramids. Debunking such nonsense is fun and useful in its own way, but more important is the process by which we determine that such claims are bunk.

Frauds, Myths, and Mysteries: Science and Pseudoscience in Archaeology, Tenth Edition, uses interesting--and often humorous--archaeological hoaxes, myths, and mysteries to show how we can truly know things about the past through science. It is not just a book about how we know what isn't true about the human past--it's also about how we know what is true.

New to this Edition

  • "The game is afoot": Sherlock Holmes now provides his insights concerning how science proceeds
  • Offers a greatly expanded discussion of logic and science, including the topics of confirmation bias and conspiracy theory
  • Provides updated data on the first hominins; the earliest settlement of the New World, Cahokia; and more to reflect the current archaeological and cultural landscape
  • Includes a new discussion of the grotesque exploitation of human remains by some supporters of the ancient aliens hypothesis, and much more about the frauds and myths that inspired this book

About the Author(s)

Kenneth L. Feder is Professor of Anthropology at Central Connecticut State University. He is the author of several books, including The Past in Perspective: An Introduction to Human Prehistory, Eighth Edition (OUP, 2019), and Linking to the Past: A Brief Introduction to Archaeology, Second Edition (OUP, 2007).


"This is a highly readable, comprehensive book that covers topics that all archaeologists have to deal with on a daily basis when we interact with the public. When someone asks me about last night's episode of Ancient Aliens or the latest claim of the discovery of the real Atlantis, this is the book I suggest."--Susan Johnston, George Washington University

"Frauds, Myths, and Mysteries is the go-to textbook for anything related to pseudoarchaeology. It is written in a highly engaging style and covers a wide range of sites and topics that are familiar to students. There is no other book I would recommend more to colleagues--or to anybody interested in learning more about archaeological myths and mysteries."--Jacob J. Sauer, Vanderbilt University

"Frauds, Myths, and Mysteries has stood the test of time as the textbook for teaching critical thinking, the value of the scientific method, and the value of all that 'real deal' archaeology. Feder's sardonic wit, amusing personal anecdotes, and rigorous attention to detail makes it essential reading for the aspiring archaeologist."--Heather Rockwell, University of Wyoming

"Feder gathers together a splendid collection of pseudoscience and nonsense. He has read it all so you don't have to!"--Keith Eppich, Collin College

Table of Contents

    Pseudoscience Cheat Sheet

    Chapter 1. Science and Pseudoscience
    Spoiler Alert: It's a Conspiracy!
    Belief in the Unbelievable
    The Morning of the Magicians
    Pseudoscience and Archaeology
    Why I Wrote This Book
    Expertise: It's Not a Guarantee, But It Sure Beats the Alternative
    Frequently Asked Questions
    Critical Thinking Exercises

    Chapter 2. Epistemology: How You Know What You Know
    Knowing Things
    Collecting Information: Seeing Isn't Necessarily Believing
    Collecting Information: Relying on Others
    Science: Playing by the Rules
    There Is a Real and Knowable Universe
    The Universe Operates According to Understandable Laws
    The Laws Are Immutable
    The Laws Can Be Understood
    The Workings of Science
    Childbed Fever: A Case Study in the Application of the Scientific Method
    Science and Nonscience: The Essential Differences
    A Rule in Assessing Explanations
    Confirmation Bias
    Absence of Evidence or Absence of Sense?
    The Art of Science
    Where Do Hypotheses Come From?
    Testing Hypotheses
    Skeptics, Not Cynics; Doubters, Not Deniers
    The Human Enterprise of Science
    Don't Try This at Home
    Frequently Asked Questions
    Critical Thinking Exercises

    Chapter 3. GIANTS! Anatomy of an Archaeological Hoax
    The Cardiff Giant: The Goliath of New York
    The Discovery
    The Beginning of the End
    Hull's Confession
    The End of the Giant
    Why Did They Do It?
    Real Deal Archaeology: How We Recognize Frauds When We See Them
    The Rules for a Successful Archaeological Hoax
    Frequently Asked Questions
    Critical Thinking Exercises

    Chapter 4. Dawson's Dawn Man: The Hoax at Piltdown
    The Skeleton-More Precisely, the Cranium-in the Closet
    The Evolutionary Context
    The Brain-Centered Paradigm
    A Remarkable Discovery in Sussex
    The Piltown Enigma
    Unmasking the Hoax
    Suspect: Charles Dawson
    Were There Co-conspirators?
    The Lesson of Piltdown
    How Were Scientists Fooled?
    Real Deal Archaeology: What We Know About Human Evolution
    A Rising Hominin Star
    Frequently Asked Questions
    Critical Thinking Exercise

    Chapter 5. Who Discovered America?
    America's First People
    A New World--To Europeans
    Biblical Exegesis and American Indians
    American Indians: From Israelites to Atlanteans
    Tracing the Source of Native Americans
    Out of Asia
    The Beringian Highway
    Real Deal Archaeology: What We Know About the Earliest Human Settlement of America
    Tracing People by Their Morphology
    Tracing People by Their DNA
    Tracing People by Their Archaeology
    Frequently Asked Question
    Critical Thinking Exercise

    Chapter 6. Who's Next? After the Indians, Before Columbus
    Artifact Trails: Evidence of Visitors to the New World
    The New England Model
    The Archaeology of Columbus
    The Spanish Entrada into the American Southeast
    Africans in Ancient America?
    Other Europeans in the New World Before Columbus?
    America B.C.?
    Mystery Hill: A Convergence of Evidence?
    The Archaeological Verdict
    Real Deal Archaeology: What We Know About The Norse Discovery of America
    A New-Found Land
    Norse Discovery of America: The Physical Evidence
    L'Anse aux Meadows
    The Search for the Norse Footprint in North America Continues
    Other Evidence of the Viking Presence?
    Frequently Asked Question
    Critical Thinking Exercise

    Chapter 7. The Myth of the Moundbuilders
    An Indigenous American Civilization
    The Myth of a Vanished Race
    Who Were the Moundbuilders? Identifying the Vanished Race
    The Archaeology of the Myth
    Squier and Davis
    The Moundbuilder Mystery Solved
    Rationale for the Myth of a Vanished Race
    The Mound Builder Myth Revisited
    Real Deal Archaeology: What We Know About the Mound-Building People of America
    Frequently Asked Questions
    Critical Thinking Exercise

    Chapter 8. Lost: One Continent-Reward
    Atlantis: Where Are You?
    Atlantis: The Source of the Legend
    The Timaeus Dialogue
    The Critias Dialogue
    The Source and Meaning of Timaeus and Critias
    Who Invented Atlantis?
    Where Did Plato Get the Details of the Story? A Minoan Source?
    After Plato
    Ignatius Donnelly: The Minnesota Congressman
    The Lost Continents Theosophy
    Atlantis: And the Beat Goes On
    Real Deal Archaeology: What We Know About Atlantis
    Ancient Greece
    Archaeological Evidence in the Atlantic: The Bimini Wall
    The Geology of the Atlantic
    Frequently Asked Questions
    Critical Thinking Exercise

    Chapter 9. Prehistoric E.T.: The Fantasy of Ancient Astronauts
    Ancient Astronauts: The Source of the Idea
    Gods in Fiery Chariots
    The Inkblot Hypothesis
    The Horny Astronaut Hypothesis
    The "Our Ancestors, the Dummies" Hypothesis
    Extraterrestrial Aliens in the Pacific?
    Robbing Graves for Fun and Profit
    H.P. Lovecraft, Ancient Aliens, and the Cthulhu Connection
    They're Aliens. And They're Ancient
    A Real Mystery
    Real Deal Archaeology: The Bias Inherent in the Ancient Astronauts Hypothesis
    Frequently Asked Questions
    Critical Thinking Exercise

    Chapter 10. The Mystery of Ancient Civilizations: How Did People Get So Smart?
    The Unexpected Göbekli Tepe
    Ancient Egypt
    The Civilization of the Maya
    Explaining the Maya
    Explaining Stonehenge
    An Ancient Astronomy?
    Why Was Stonehenge Built?
    A Lost Civilization? But It's Not Atlantis; Well, Maybe It's Atlantis
    Real Deal Archaeology: What We Know About Pyramid Building
    School of (Moving) Rock
    Build Me a Pyramid
    Frequently Asked Questions
    Critical Thinking Exercises

    Chapter 11. Good Vibrations: Psychics and Archaeology
    Psychic Archaeology
    Psychic Site Location
    Psychic Cultural Reconstruction
    Psychic Archaeology: A Test
    Psychic Archaeology: The Verdict
    Dowsing for Diggers
    Real Deal Archaeology: How We Can Investigate Sites Without Digging in the Dirt
    Frequently Asked Question
    Critical Thinking Exercise

    Chapter 12. Old-Time Religion, New Age Visions, and Paranormal Predictions
    Scientific Creationism and the Claim of Intelligent Design
    Creationist Strategies in Education
    Intelligent Design
    Noah's Ark
    Footprints in Time
    New Age Prehistory
    Crystal Skulls
    Real Deal Archaeology: What we Know About the Palatki Site in Sedona, Arizona
    Frequently Asked Questions
    Critical Thinking Exercise

    Epilogue: A Past We Deserve
    If Cable is Part of the Problem, Can It Also Be Part of the Solution?