Monday, October 12, 2009

Doomsday 2012: Pop Culture Masquerading as Science and Celebrity Archaeologists

In the 1960's, a damaged Mayan tablet was found that suggested that a cycle in the Mayan calendar would end in December 2012. Enter pop culture, including a History Channel show and soon-to-be released movie, and December 21, 2012 has now become Doomsday. See

Media outlets like the "History" and "Discovery" Channels, carry some great, serious programing, but many of their shows can rightfully only be characterized as "entertainment." There is nothing wrong with that, but I wonder about what message that is being sent when archaeologists or scientists appear. Does their mere presence help confuse "pop culture" with "scientific fact," particularly to children?

Under the circumstances, I found it highly ironic when I viewed an archaeologist who has publicly belittled Ancient Coins for Education ("ACE") pontificating on two such "entertainment" programs (though not about the Maya). Here was a highly educated PhD lending her name to what many would consider programs celebrating "junk science." Yet, at a public meeting of the Cultural Property Advisory Committee, she criticized ACE's founder for using ancient coins to teach children about history, apparently because in her mind, that was tantamount to teaching children "to loot."

I would suggest we need more programs like those of ACE. See Allowing children to handle common ancient artifacts, like coins, helps encourage learning and true love of history. In contrast, we need fewer celebrity archaeologists and scientists providing the patina of "science" on what is actually pure TV entertainment.

Addendum: For critiques of the History Channel show from 2006 see: and

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