Friday, July 13, 2007

Bad Archaeology Reporting: "Lost" Indian City

I've been poring through the archaeology section of Digg, and found some rather fringe ideas. Many of these sites are pretty stale. One of the linked pages contains an old news story from 2002 that a city older than any known human civilization had been found off the coast of India. What piqued my interest is that the site linked to a BBC article describing the find. If the BBC links to it, it must be authentic, right? Well, no so fast. What we have here is a classic example of both Bad Archaeology and Bad Archaeology Reporting.



A telltale sign of bad archaeology (and reporting of such) is the absence of hard evidence. Upon close inspection, the article has hardly any actual facts at all. First, of course, comes the breathless statement:

The remains of what has been described as a huge lost city may force historians and archaeologists to radically reconsider their view of ancient human history.


Then we are introduced to the people who made the 'discovery,' who are un-named "marine scientists." Who were these people? Underwater archaeologists? No, below we are told that they were "oceanographers from India's National Institute of Ocean Technology conducting a survey of pollution"

Then, we are told that debris had been recovered from the site, and carbon-dated to 9500 years ago, which would be thousands of years before the earliest known human cities. What kind of debris? Construction material and sections of walls -- what kind of 'construction material?' No organic material could survive preserved under water for that length of time, so no C14 dating possible. Pottery -- Also not carbon datable. Beads -- usually made of stone and not carbon datable. Human bones and teeth -- these, too, would not survive under water for that long.

Then the article quotes Graham Hancock by name -- a well-known pseudoarchaeologist who claims that the Giza pyramids were patterned after the stars in Orion's belt and are many thousands of years older than currently believed. The link between him and this article immediately calls into question the whole story.

Now, this article may be five years old, but pseudoarchaeology never dies. A quick google search for "Cambay city" finds dozens of articles touting this 'find' as evidence for Atlanteans, super-ancient civilizations, and so on. The Wikipedia article is an amusing amalgam of skepticism and credulity, obviously the work of multiple authors.

A tell-tale warning sign is the lack of any scientific publication, and that the 'artifacts' in question have not been made available to outside investigators. We are simply told that scientific investigation confirmed their authenticity. The fact that the principle investigator is a geologist, not an archaeologist, also triggers alarm bells.

There are some images on Graham Hancock's website, which are underwhelming. Radar images that are proclaimed to show a 'city' and even a 'bathing complex' that look like no such thing. "Pottery" and "beads" that I can attest do not look like any actual pottery or beads I have ever seen, but seem to be compacted ocean bottom sediments. One or two of the 'lithics' might be authentic artifacts, but of course they are not evidence for an ancient city.

27 comments:

Glen Gordon said...

Interesting. I'll certainly add that to my folder marked "Egad!". Whatever happened to the good ol' days of primary sources and brylcreem, anyways?

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safemeds said...

For many thousands of years there has been the question, if we are alone in the universe. I think that there is enough evidence to probe that in fact even before our recorded history intelligent beings walked in this earth, many evidence show artifacts going back millions of years BC.

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Anonymous said...

Hi Scott,
If that article on BBC is farse, what do you say about the 50 min program on history channel.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nQZFS9Hij0M

Please shed some light on this.

Diaos said...

Evidence points out that this city was once above ground before the end of the last age. This is why its so deep underwater. The author of this article adheres to certain well known logical fallacies. Graham Hancock's character is attacked instead of the argument itself. He speaks from ignorance: Because something is not known to be true (The age of the monument), it is assumed to be false. This kind of authoritative power trip orthodox scientists go on is what has been holding technology back since before Galileo.

Diaos said...

Evidence points out that this city was once above ground before the end of the last age. This is why its so deep underwater. The author of this article adheres to certain well known logical fallacies. Graham Hancock's character is attacked instead of the argument itself. He speaks from ignorance: Because something is not known to be true (The age of the monument), it is assumed to be false. This kind of authoritative power trip orthodox scientists go on is what has been holding technology back since before Galileo.

Anonymous said...

I thought that the earliest cities were believed to be about 9500 years old (i.e. Çatalhöyük). Is this not true?

Chris Miller said...

There is NO underwater city, more like some of the barges shipping construction-materials SANK.

You think life back then was any different from today? Firms would send shipment-orders of bricks, columns, and other various building-materials just like they do now; and sometimes the ships sank in transit, and they end up at the bottom offshore.

So some recreational scuba-diver sees them today and says "I FOUND ATLANTIS!"

Stupid historically-illterate boobs read too many storybooks.

Anonymous said...

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Anonymous said...

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Anonymous said...

Intelligent contribution you have made there (not). You should feel proud of yourself, you are an ignorant waste of space troll and an idiot.

*you're/your

Ur soul said...

You neither have examined the artifacts nor analyzed the findings. You are one among the million people who are key in keeping others in dark. According to me ( ur soul ) u are just an incapable complaining box.

Anthony F Riordan Jr. said...

After Visiting Rome in 1998 I began studying the old Roman Empire, Egypt and especially striking my interest were the structures and building designs that appeared to be either buried or at the bottom and had structures rebuilt on top. For example the newest very large city under the sands in Turkey which with no Hieroglyphs yet much larger stones than most ground level structures in every city in the region from Spain to Iran to India and Egypt. Why these are interesting is that uncovered in Egypt was a structure 50' below the sands with larger stones and no writing similar to the Pyramids interior structure.. Then the lower levels of Balbek.. Now Lebanon's Cedar Forest is mentioned in the Sumerian writings and early Roman writings back to 300 BC to 2300 BC as having been there when they arrived in Lebanon and both cultures built temples on top of the 1200 Ton Stones that had been moved 5 miles and lifted 35' into the air which All Archaeologists will refuse to answer how this could have been done and again, the incredible construction has no writing or Hieroglyphs.. When the Egyptians built any structure from the 1 Dynasty on used Hieroglyphs on everything accept the buried city and Pyramids.. New Technology used by our Government can now penetrate 10 - 40' and have found many additional cities in Egypt that have yet to be found let alone dated because they are on no maps.. This satellite imaging is done using a Government system in Georgia and when they find something a team goes and confirms the finds.. This has also since 2008 found cities in India... Including sites off land, areas in and around the Amazon and places that appear to have gone from Sea level to thousands of feet above sea level as well as below.. So if your actually looking for proof.. Your not going to find it by reading and taking notes from your local archaeologist or university because just like any finds by a government, they only want you to accept a story if it says Official. 80 - 100 years ago, most major inventions around the world were not made by "officials", the term now used to give people some sort of comfort is nothing but control of information, compartmentalization and because of religious reasons, the dissemination of information has been destroyed more often than not. If you believe that unless you see the evidence is a great answer when you are unsure yourself or your part of the system. You should revisit all your information if it is older than 2008 or go to these area's and actually with an open mind understand that Egypt only wants their story told because somehow they believe that they were actually the people running that country 7,000 years ago and refuse to accept the obvious when you let science actually let the evidence take you to the truth no matter what it is but the new culture is the world is flat until I have traveled around the world and I don't care what you say or I want my government to use the words, Official.. Good article of Fiction on your behalf.

Anonymous said...

It's true, but they're quite anomalous and always so far in the Middle East. I think the criteria for distinguishing villages from cities is somewhat fuzzy, but the few prehistoric cities like Catalhoyuk, Jericho, and Jarmo all straddle the line between large village and city. To have a full-on city somewhere else so early would be very exciting.. if the evidence actually warranted it.

Anonymous said...

Graham Hancock seems like a perfectly nice fellow, but he doesn't critically think about what he proposes. He doesn't carefully weigh evidence and second-guess himself like mainstream archaeologists do. Ancient buildings can be aligned in some way or another with many stars just by chance so finding some way to use the stars to date them to the last ice age is not good enough, nor is a general monolithic style. He is not known for having a process that is careful with the evidence so an article adequately informed about archaeology should not be presenting him as if he were a critically thinking archaeologist like those in the mainstream, if that's what they were doing.

Anonymous said...

What are these millions-of-years-old artifacts?

Anonymous said...

Also, Galileo got in trouble from the mainstream BECAUSE he was a critical thinker who doubted and questioned unsupported claims. Are YOU really looking into the evidence mainstream archaeology has to offer, and questioning the sketchy claims you see around you, or are you the Catholic church?

Y R Y said...

The edge of science/technology is not for the masses. Ordinary people need to learn stable, official history. New discoveries that produce controversies need time to resolve the controversies and to be included in the "official" history. This article has a good point: Don't shout the earth is moving till you have proves beyond any doubt. On the other hand, if scientists don't come out with shocking discoveries in the press, they hardly can raise money for their research. And underwater archeology costs very big money. And the outcome is just ancient human history moved 5000 years down on the time scale. No big deal for sponsors.

Canadian_Mark said...

What I find amusing is this link to a pseudo-documentary on the subject:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nQZFS9Hij0M

It's hosted by Graham Hancock...enough said.

I totally agree with Scott de Brestian though. Without any significant evidence all you have is hearsay, and so far the archaeological evidence seems pretty slim.

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Anonymous said...

The major question here is : Who has prevented western archaeologists to visit this place and do scientific research on it and prove or disprove the whole idea of its existence.......Why do they fear? ..Just because this can prove their theories about the evolution of modern civilization false........Any thing cant be proved correct until its scientifically proved and in the same way you don't have right to allege anything to be false based on your mere assumption that 'It can't be correct ',until you have proved it scientifically..........So India welcomes all such archaeologists who are against this discovery...We and whole world is waiting impatiently to know the 'TRUTH' ........You are welcome to the site

Anonymous said...

The major question here is : Who has prevented western archaeologists to visit this place and do scientific research on it and prove or disprove the whole idea of its existence.......Why do they fear? ..Just because this can prove their theories about the evolution of modern civilization false........Any thing cant be proved correct until its scientifically proved and in the same way you don't have right to allege anything to be false based on your mere assumption that 'It can't be correct ',until you have proved it scientifically..........So India welcomes all such archaeologists who are against this discovery...We and whole world is waiting impatiently to know the 'TRUTH' ........You are welcome to the site

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Anonymous said...

A city underwater proves to me that this city, especially at 7km from the coast of india. The last time the water has rise so much on the planet, is right before the melting of the ice age. Or, in Hinduism, a war between Krishna and another deity, shooting lights at another.

the biblical great floods.
You might think that religion and archeology has nothing to do with another but if you think so, it's the opposite. I've forgotten their name, but it is in Israel that two men discovers ancient cities buried under ages. A bible in one hand and a tool to dig.

The first archeologist didn't study it, they discovery archeology.

My question to the other is this:

Have you been on site?