Fantastic Archaeology: Science & Pseudoscience

Bibliographic Information

Course Title

Fantastic Archaeology: Science & Pseudoscience

Institution Where Taught

Northwestern University

Year Course Taught


Web Address (URL)

Additional Information

Course Number


Course Description

Did astronauts from another planet establish ancient civilizations on Earth? Were the Americas discovered by Columbus, a Ming dynasty fleet or by Vikings much earlier? Did the Maya Aztec build their pyramids to resemble those of dynastic Egypt? Television is replete with stories of ancient aliens and archaeological mysteries. The impact of such alternative realities on society and history cannot be discounted. They have been used to support nationalistic agendas, racial biases, and religious movements, all of which can have considerable influence on contemporary society. In this course, we will study "fantastic" stories, puzzles, hoaxes, imaginative worlds and alternative theories. We will learn when, how and what kinds of evidence these alternative theories have used to fascinate the public and illustrate their hoaxes. We will question such theories by using critical thinking and analytical tools to diagnose what is fact and fiction. We will utilize the surviving evidence that archaeologists find to understand cultural contact and interactions.

Syllabus Available



RPA Codes & Standards

CIfA Codes

Keywords & Terms

Topics & Issues