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

by Kenneth L. Feder

Paperback, 1990



Call number

CC140 .F43


Mayfield Pub Co (1990), 231 pages


Ancient astronauts? Atlantis? Psychic archaeology? 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.

User reviews

LibraryThing member marag
Feder really knows his stuff. And his stuff is the crazy bits of history and archaeology, the places where people have let their imaginations go wild without actually engaging their brains. This is an entertaining look at various frauds and myths in the field of archaeology, well-written, intelligent, and informative.

You'll come out smarter, more skeptical, and meanwhile you'll have a great time. I highly recommend this book for anyone who's interested in history and/or archaeology.
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LibraryThing member Ella_Jill
This is, perhaps, my favorite history book. The author, a professor of anthropology at Central Connecticut State University, debunks various historical myths, like the possibility of the existence of Atlantis in very ancient times or ancient pre-Viking voyages from the Old World to the New. However, what made his book so memorable to me is that in the process, by making comparisons with cultures that really existed and expeditions that did happen, he shows what constitutes credible archeological evidence and how persistent such evidence is. A small expedition may have passed through Florida several centuries ago, and it’s still possible to find physical evidence of their passing! He also shows, through concrete examples, how unreliable the evidence of “witnesses” is and how little credence can be given to it in the absence of more material proof. I also found his book very easy and entertaining to read.… (more)
LibraryThing member neurodrew
debunks archeological mysteries and claims. The destruction of Atlantis myths and the information on the Indian Moundbuilders in the US were particularly interesting, but his prose was noticeably inexpert.
LibraryThing member Devil_llama
The author discusses various hypotheses in the field of archaeolgy, and explains what the evidence suggests. Overall a very good book, but the author has the annoying, and all too common, habit of starting off his explanation of evidence against an idea by saying it is racist. This may be true, but is not in any way evidence that it is inaccurate. Empirical evidence must be presented regardless of racism or sexism, and those factors in and of themselves are inadequate to dispute a hypothesis. In all cases, the author does go on the present evidence for his point of view, but the constant assumption that calling something racist automatically renders it inaccurate becomes a bit annoying at times.… (more)
LibraryThing member TheoClarke
A well-argued demonstration of the application of scientific method to archaeological speculation. The text is marred by some infelicities of style and a determination to show that Von Daniken is unethical as well as unscientific.
LibraryThing member AndreasJ
Despite being intended - and I gather widely used - as a university textbook, this is written in a breezily informal and rather personal style. I might have prefered a bit more restraint, but Feder can be rather funny so the style's not without its virtues.

Each chapter deals with some particular archaeological or palaeanthropological fraud or fringe theory; there are no "mysteries" covered in the sense of genuinely unexplained phenomena. While international favorites like the pyramids of Egypt do feature, most of the examples relate to the prehistory of the United States. This presumably primarily reflects the fact that Feder is a US author writing first and foremost for a US audience, but it might have been interesting if he'd commented on whether pseudo-archaeology is particularly prevalent in America: it's certainly easy to get the impression that it is from the book.

The book will infuriate you if you should be silly enough to believe in Atlantis, ancient astronauts helping to build the pyramids, or the like, but for the rest of us it's an entertaining and educational look at fringe ideas.
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LibraryThing member jen.e.moore
We were a little at cross-purposes, the author and I - he's interested in proving that these beliefs are silly, and I'm interested in why people believe these things in the first place. It was a decent introduction to some of the weirdnesses of popularized pseudo-archaeology, but not quite what I was looking for. (Also fairly interesting as a historical artifact: I had no idea there was a guy going around in the eighties telling people that humans originated in California.)… (more)
LibraryThing member Snukes
This book often reads more like an irritated man's soapbox than a scientific discussion.


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