Frauds, Myths, and Mysteries: Science and Pseudoscience in Archaeology Info

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Ancient astronauts? Atlantis? Psychic archaeology? Pharaoh's
curses? Committed to the scientific investigation of human antiquity,
this indispensable supplementary text uses interesting archaeological
hoaxes, myths, and mysteries to show how we can truly know things about
the past through science. Examples of fantastic findings support the
carefully, logically, and entertainingly described flaws in the
purported evidence.

Average Ratings and Reviews
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Reviews for Frauds, Myths, and Mysteries: Science and Pseudoscience in Archaeology:

5

May 27, 2016

Essential book for any one interested in anomalies, anthropology, fringe claims, science communication and scientific skepticism. Excellent. A joy to read. No swearing, though, which makes it a bit odd if you are familiar with Dr. Feder...
3

Jun 14, 2007

A fairly interesting read. Its style is somewhere in between that of a textbook and that of a "popular" book. I'm not sure it entirely succeeds at either. The topics it covers include the Piltdown Man hoax, the Cardiff Giant hoax, the mound building culture, Atlantis, and settlement/discovery of North America. It's my personal opinion that everyone who has an interest in science should be aware of the Piltdown Hoax. The Cardiff Giant hoax was new to me; it might be of interest to those of you A fairly interesting read. Its style is somewhere in between that of a textbook and that of a "popular" book. I'm not sure it entirely succeeds at either. The topics it covers include the Piltdown Man hoax, the Cardiff Giant hoax, the mound building culture, Atlantis, and settlement/discovery of North America. It's my personal opinion that everyone who has an interest in science should be aware of the Piltdown Hoax. The Cardiff Giant hoax was new to me; it might be of interest to those of you who have connections to Syracuse NY, since the Cardiff Giant does. The discussion of mainstream (white) Americans' beliefs that the mound builders couldn't possibly have been Indians was interesting. The discussion of the physical evidence for a Viking presence in North America was also interesting to read about.

It was also interesting to learn that the idea of Atlantis the lost continent came from Plato's dialogues. (And it reminded me how ignorant I am when it comes to classical topics. Sigh. So much to learn, so little time.) It was mildly interesting to read about the research that's been done on the Shroud of Turin, but I skipped the section on scientific creationism, because frankly, I already believe that scientific creationism is BS. If this book has a single flaw, it's that the author really wants to debunk things like New Age-ism, having once been a believer and then realized that a lot of New Age claims were, er, poorly founded. In that context, an odd connection came up - an ethnologist named Stanislaw Poniatowski, who attempted experiments in psychic archaeology. I can't find conclusive evidence, but I would be very unsurprised if this Stanislaw Poniatovski turns out to be a descendant of this guy, who was the nephew of the Stanislaw Poniatowski that Catherine the Great put on the throne of Poland. (I read about this in Catherine the Great: Love, Sex, and Power.)

There are links here that the book recommends as a further exploration of the topics covered. And in case that page is moved elsewhere, the top page is http://mhhe.com/frauds5/.

Beginning students of archaeology will probably find this to be worth a read.
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5

Jan 23, 2013

I don't think I've ever been so enthusiastic about reading a textbook before. I first learned about Professor Feder through his appearances on the podcast Monster Talk, where he is profane, irreverent, and hilarious. None of that is in the textbook, of course, but the snark surfaces occasionally and he seems to become more irritated with pseudoscientific hucksters the closer the book (which, though organized by subject, roughly follows a chronological track) gets to the present. More than once, I don't think I've ever been so enthusiastic about reading a textbook before. I first learned about Professor Feder through his appearances on the podcast Monster Talk, where he is profane, irreverent, and hilarious. None of that is in the textbook, of course, but the snark surfaces occasionally and he seems to become more irritated with pseudoscientific hucksters the closer the book (which, though organized by subject, roughly follows a chronological track) gets to the present. More than once, he excuses an understandable scientific oversight by someone from centuries past, but is ruthless to the von Danikens of the present, and that is probably as it should be.

I've read a lot about these kinds of subjects, so I wasn't expecting to learn as much as I did from this book. You learn much because of the evidence-based approach. Ideally, everything should be evidence-based, but I mean something very specific here, beyond just debunking. In each case, Feder lays out the archaeological evidence for a pseudo-scientific theory or a known scientific fact and points out the kinds of evidence one would expect to find. And when you read this you will be amazed at for each of the pseudoscientific cases, there is a complete lack of anything remotely approaching scientific evidence. They all rest upon misinterpretations of evidence and plausible sounding suppositions, usually motivated by some nationalistic or monetary interest. Some of them may very well be true, but they don't mean anything without evidence. The Norse had tales of visiting America, but until we did solid scientific research and dug up those Norse settlements, it was just armchair speculation.

With von Daniken in particular, it's no revelation that he was a bullshit artist, but it was eye-opening to see the case laid out and the evidence presented in black and white. Feder examines the famous illustration of the Mayan astronaut from Chariots of the Gods? and presents what we know about it from an archaeological and scientific standpoint, which is pretty much everything. Likely von Daniken could have easily found this out by examining the scientific work himself, but doing your research doesn't make you rich, I guess.

I get the impression Feder does significant revisions between editions. I read the fourth, and there's some things absent from this edition that he mentioned on the podcast were in the book. ...more
4

Dec 20, 2013

I first started out on the 'Ancient Astronaut' theories of Von Daniken and figured I should read what the other half thinks and was I surprised. This totally blows von Danikens' theories away. Feder argues that most pseudo archaeology depends on common sense and although that makes sense to layman's, most academics are scientists who have used tried and tested methods to answer previously asked / answered questions which are the 'fringe' authors stable.

He does concede that Archaeology isn't what I first started out on the 'Ancient Astronaut' theories of Von Daniken and figured I should read what the other half thinks and was I surprised. This totally blows von Danikens' theories away. Feder argues that most pseudo archaeology depends on common sense and although that makes sense to layman's, most academics are scientists who have used tried and tested methods to answer previously asked / answered questions which are the 'fringe' authors stable.

He does concede that Archaeology isn't what he calls a 'transparent science' and does admit that due to this people don't understand quite how scientists arrive at their conclusions so he understands why people believe in pseudo archaeology, but in this book he explains why things don't work the way some 'fringe' authors describe. He also explains how historical 'mis-leadings' initially worked and why they ultimately failed.

A good book to read if you are interested in the unknown and want more than one viewpoint. Ancient Aliens is a good show but I found it doesn't cover what the mainstream community thinks and this book does a good job of addressing those issues and describing the mindset of a scientist/academic.

I cant recommend this book enough. I would buy more Feder books but to be honest the price is slightly high and I fear that most of them are purely academic textbooks meant for students and not casual interests and laymans but a good book nonetheless ...more
4

Jun 12, 2008

Probably the favorite book I read in Archaeology. Great myth busters and questions answered. Debunks what you thought you knew about atlantis, ancient egypt, giants, evolutionary findings and more...
5

Aug 01, 2015

Hilarious, thought-provoking, and educational. I highly recommend this for the gullible and the skeptical.
4

Jan 29, 2014

Excellent book for those who are curious about "ancient mysteries" and how archaeologist know what they know.
4

Aug 30, 2012

This book is really interesting, lots of great archaeology fraud stories! The author is kind of a jerk about people who believe in the supernatural though, it is a bit hard to read his rants without feeling bad.
4

Mar 17, 2012

A good primer to many popular archaeological mysteries. It's explanation of the scientific method at the outset lays the foundation for evaluating the subsequent theories. Can be a bit dry, but well worth the effort to hang with.
4

Aug 04, 2014

This is an excellent book that, surprisingly, gave me some interesting critical thinking skills. The way Feder talks about pseudoscience encourages the reader to form their own questions about the things peopel claim. Highly recommended.
5

Oct 11, 2016

I probably should have read this book when it was assigned. I am interested to see if there is an updated version. I may use the discussion on hypothesis forming and testing in the early chapters of my book with my Academic Skills classes.
5

Feb 04, 2014

A very readable introduction to the topic, written with humor and a great sense of fun. Anyone interested in critical thinking and or deception will be well served here. Specifically Feder shows how things can be misused for an agenda and how you can spot this and reason your way past it.
5

Sep 19, 2016

Every 'Opened Minded' (to use a catch phrase) person should read this book, if for no other reason than to challenge the basic assumptions and beliefs, real or imagined, that each of us possess. In a period of history, despite unprecedented access to information, many people still want to be 'validated' rather than informed. This book is for them.

Alfred Kroeber would be proud!
4

Oct 29, 2009

I can always find the time for a book on pseudoscience, it seems. When the focus is history and archaeology, my interest is doubly piqued. Some of the more popular delusions (Atlantis, extensive pre-Columbian peopling of the Americas by Europeans, alien intervention) are presented, with point-by-point breakdowns. The latter, ancient astronauts, always one of my peeves, is given a thorough trouncing.
4

Mar 19, 2013

I read this book is Dr. Feder's "Before History" class at CCSU, which covered many topics in this book. Even if anybody thinks Science can be boring, they should enjoy this one. It talks about various pseudosciences, mysteries and popular Myths out there. Some of these include Atlantis, creationism, Noah's Ark, Stonehenge, psychics, discovery of America and Easter Island.

Even though it's been a few years since I read this book, compared to most of the other books I read in college, this was my I read this book is Dr. Feder's "Before History" class at CCSU, which covered many topics in this book. Even if anybody thinks Science can be boring, they should enjoy this one. It talks about various pseudosciences, mysteries and popular Myths out there. Some of these include Atlantis, creationism, Noah's Ark, Stonehenge, psychics, discovery of America and Easter Island.

Even though it's been a few years since I read this book, compared to most of the other books I read in college, this was my favorite. You don't have to be in school to enjoy this book. If you're a fellow skeptic, I'd definitely recommend this one. ...more
3

May 18, 2013

Great review on pseudoscience and how it relates to archaeological discoveries in the past. Provides a historical overview too on how archeological events were often turned into pseudoscience, only to be later debunked. For example, the Cardiff giant is a great story written by feder and it was interesting and informative. If you enjoy archaeology, and the scientific process, the book is a must read. I was forced to read it, but I still found it to rather compelling. My only problem with feder Great review on pseudoscience and how it relates to archaeological discoveries in the past. Provides a historical overview too on how archeological events were often turned into pseudoscience, only to be later debunked. For example, the Cardiff giant is a great story written by feder and it was interesting and informative. If you enjoy archaeology, and the scientific process, the book is a must read. I was forced to read it, but I still found it to rather compelling. My only problem with feder is that sometimes he is too judgmental and skeptical of certain archaeological discoveries. The pyramids, for example, is overly simplified by modern Egyptology and feder is quick to support orthodox interpretations. I would of liked more thoroughness on literature. ...more
5

Apr 04, 2013

This is a text book, but it's not too dense or daunting, even if it did take me a long while to read. An ultimate book for skeptics. I loved the stories of early hoaxes like the Cardiff Giant and the Piltdown Man. It was thought-provoking to read about all the ulterior motives (religious, nationalistic) people have with history and science. And it was good to finally get to the bottom of the whole Atlantis question, and it's really hilarious and sad. Plato invented the idea of Atlantis as a This is a text book, but it's not too dense or daunting, even if it did take me a long while to read. An ultimate book for skeptics. I loved the stories of early hoaxes like the Cardiff Giant and the Piltdown Man. It was thought-provoking to read about all the ulterior motives (religious, nationalistic) people have with history and science. And it was good to finally get to the bottom of the whole Atlantis question, and it's really hilarious and sad. Plato invented the idea of Atlantis as a fictional example for one of his dialogues; no other mention of this place appears in any historical record. But people still think it's real because apparently (definitely) it's much more fun to follow the glamorous mystery than to bother with actual history. And, also, those who think Ancient Egypt is the product of space aliens are probably just being racist. ...more
5

Jul 18, 2014

Of the many books available on strange beliefs, bad science, fraud, and proper skepticism, this is the first I've encountered with a basis in archaeology. Ken Feder dissects some of the current myths and perpetuations of fraud that even now circulate in the media.

Feder expertly describes cases which have perpetuated myth and superstition. He breaks down the claims made in each and gives the evidence for the best explanation. Each chapter offers relevant photographs and drawings, an "FAQ" Of the many books available on strange beliefs, bad science, fraud, and proper skepticism, this is the first I've encountered with a basis in archaeology. Ken Feder dissects some of the current myths and perpetuations of fraud that even now circulate in the media.

Feder expertly describes cases which have perpetuated myth and superstition. He breaks down the claims made in each and gives the evidence for the best explanation. Each chapter offers relevant photographs and drawings, an "FAQ" section, and even exercises in critical thinking. This book could very well be used in the classroom. It also offers a preemptive lesson on the scientific method and epistemology for those less-than-erudite scholars.

This work is accessible to everyone. While the material covered will likely be familiar to anthropology majors it is a great read for fans of critical thinking and debunking the myriad of utter nonsense present in modern culture. ...more
4

Nov 08, 2008

I've read this book more times than I can count and I continue to read a chapter or two here and there when I get the chance. I truly enjoy Feder's ability to take pseudo-archaeology to task and fully admit that this reveals a bit of schadenfreude on my part that most likely stems from from having heard an endless list of crackpot theories myself through much of my collegiate career in Anthropology. He addresses many of the most popular pseudo-science myths (from aliens, to Atlantis, to the I've read this book more times than I can count and I continue to read a chapter or two here and there when I get the chance. I truly enjoy Feder's ability to take pseudo-archaeology to task and fully admit that this reveals a bit of schadenfreude on my part that most likely stems from from having heard an endless list of crackpot theories myself through much of my collegiate career in Anthropology. He addresses many of the most popular pseudo-science myths (from aliens, to Atlantis, to the discovery of America) and promptly debunks them with careful research and solid archaeology. Honestly, this is a breath of fresh air after facing so many comments of "but the elitist scientific community just won't listen!". But it isn't all about "taking the magic out of everything". Read the last chapter for his description of several real archaeological mysteries. There is more "magic" in the truth, than any over-wrought falsehood could ever have and Feder's passion for his work is evident in his writing. ...more
3

Nov 06, 2016

Feder's Frauds, Myths, and Mysteries is not a terrible book, and in fact it is very informative, but it is unfortunately quite uneven in quality. The earliest chapters and the concluding chapters are the book's strongest points, and the chapters in between are of a varying quality. It isn't that these middle chapters do not include important information within them, but many seem to only focus on presenting data and debunking ideas without highlighting larger concepts. The best chapters in this Feder's Frauds, Myths, and Mysteries is not a terrible book, and in fact it is very informative, but it is unfortunately quite uneven in quality. The earliest chapters and the concluding chapters are the book's strongest points, and the chapters in between are of a varying quality. It isn't that these middle chapters do not include important information within them, but many seem to only focus on presenting data and debunking ideas without highlighting larger concepts. The best chapters in this book utilize the ideas of Frauds, Myths, and Mysteries to teach aspects of epistemology and archaeology in a way that is both theoretical and tangible. The worst read as a standard textbook, filled with information, but it lacks the ability to compel its reader to become absorbed within the text. It is not terrible, and it makes for a nifty reference text, but I do not recommend it for anyone to read cover to cover. Read the first two chapters, and then read whatever appeals to you. Nothing within the book builds upon itself after that point with rare exception. ...more
5

Aug 26, 2011

I've heard many an interview with Kenney Feder, and he is a very entertaining man to listen to speak (he also has quite the impressive sailor mouth). I'm pretty envious of any one who has been lucky enough to take a class from him (he's a Professor).

I knew going into this book that it is one of the modern classics of the skeptic community. Sometimes books that have such high praise make me anxious, I feel like all the praise is only setting me up to be disappointed. But just like "Bad Astronomy" I've heard many an interview with Kenney Feder, and he is a very entertaining man to listen to speak (he also has quite the impressive sailor mouth). I'm pretty envious of any one who has been lucky enough to take a class from him (he's a Professor).

I knew going into this book that it is one of the modern classics of the skeptic community. Sometimes books that have such high praise make me anxious, I feel like all the praise is only setting me up to be disappointed. But just like "Bad Astronomy" by Phil Plait this was as good as the hype.

This book basically covered every archeological thing that interested me when I was young in the manner I WISHED it had been covered at the time. Atlantis, ancient aliens, historical proof of Noah's arc, discovery of America before Columbus. Feder takes these interesting questions and actually answers them, and does it with science. Not only that but explains exactly what science is and how it works, which is so eloquently done it makes the book worth it just for that. On top of that Feder's writing style is perfectly the hybrid of a college textbook and a piece of popular non-fiction, and I felt it came together perfectly. I managed to finish the book in two days, it was VERY hard to put down once I started reading it.

Finally of note, this edition is a very early edition (perhaps the first, but I'm not sure). It's copy righted 1990. I know, especially because it's sued as text in many college classes, that it's had many updated editions. I'm actually looking forward to purchasing the newest edition off of Amazon (this was a find at my local used book store) and immediately re-read it and see how much the book has changed in a little over 20 years.

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4

Jan 20, 2015

Pseudoscience from an archaeology perspective. Nothing really new (apart from the critical thinking exercises at the ends of chapters that gives it a textbook-like quality despite its informal tone), but a nice collection of the kind for which I admit having a soft spot.

Thought to write this brief review on seeing this news item- http://phys.org/news/2015-01-kennewic...

I find it hard to sympathise with what doubtless many people find the more human side of the row, that of the tribes. The Pseudoscience from an archaeology perspective. Nothing really new (apart from the critical thinking exercises at the ends of chapters that gives it a textbook-like quality despite its informal tone), but a nice collection of the kind for which I admit having a soft spot.

Thought to write this brief review on seeing this news item- http://phys.org/news/2015-01-kennewic...

I find it hard to sympathise with what doubtless many people find the more human side of the row, that of the tribes. The attitude involving respect for ancestors by conforming to rather arbitrary and conservative standards, and ancestors that perhaps shared nothing with you while they lived at that, is for me a very odd and scarcely justified one. There might of course be some aspect of a downtrodden, nearly destroyed people trying to reclaim anything at all of their past, but how far must such concern be taken? The irony of this particular case is mentioned in Feder's book- that for the tribe to make the claim they wish and prevent scientific meddling, their best chance at proof is exactly said meddling. This has according to the article basically proven to be the case.

It seems to me there's a very basic bias in the human condition underlying all this- the past is easy to identify with, while the future, from its potential to its dangers, remains abstract. Science, even archaeological science, is really about the future- it can illuminate the past and those illuminations often mean something for the future, usually better arming us for it (in the case of specimens like this, such externalities could involve insights into our genomes to help combat disease and the like- these may of course never materialise in any particular case, but it's worth trying given how it's worked in other cases). What disrespect is there in throwing a more rigorous line to the past than folk histories and the like can if it means a connection is more secure, and may even meander into the future? ...more
5

Jul 27, 2019

A superb look into and refutation of the most common pseudoarchaeological confabulations. Academic, but written at an accessible, introductory level.
4

Apr 18, 2018

You have to be motivated to read it, but it is loaded with information.
4

Nov 11, 2018

Read this for a class. It's clear, and Feder's thinking is incisive.

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