Thursday, December 29, 2011

"Ancient Aliens," where facts never spoil a good story

        The History Channel continues to beat the truth until it cries UNCLE, with Aliens and the Secret Code, Season 3 Ep 13 of Ancient Aliens. This episode (available on Youtube) involved drawing a lot of lines on a lot of maps and globes in an attempt to show that prehistoric man knew stuff he didn't oughta have. Archaeology is a field of study I've had the merest whisper of contact with, but some of the line-making seemed a little expedient to me, and I decided to research one of their straight lines.

        Scattered across what is now Denmark and South Sweden, archaeologists have found a series of Wikingerburgen, or Viking ring fortresses. The Ancient Aliens script-writers, Kaylan Eggert and Rich Monahan, wrote this about  them:

1] They have identical construction, being a fortified ring enclosing a number of long-houses arranged in a characteristic pattern.

2] The design includes an internal cruciform wall, oriented precisely North-South-East-West.

3] The four main sites Trelleborg, Eskeholm, Fyrkat (which they mis-spell as Frykat) and Aggersborg are in a dead straight line stretching for 218 km across Sjælland, Jutland, and the Kattegat. Here's the line they drew:

Image credit: History Channel

        Here's the result of my research with Wikimapia:Trelleborg is the most classic design, showing the main features very well, however the internal walls are not compass-aligned.


Fyrkat is better-aligned and does conform to the general plan:


Aggersborg, the most Northern site, has the look of being unfinished:


        So what of the alignment between these widely-separated sites? This is how Google Earth sees it -- pretty damn good.



         However, they cheated. They simply OMITTED the Wikingerburgen that didn't fit their story -- namely, Nonnebakken, the other Trelleborg, and Borgeby. Here's the real map of these sites:

Image credit: Wikimedia Commons

        Not content with faking the data to that extent, they actually added a site which is not generally included as a Wikingerburg, and doesn't conform to the pattern -- Eskeholm, in a fjord on the island of Samsø. Here it is:


        Fortified ring? Long houses? Cruciform walls? I don't think so...

Bring on the experts
          So why, I'm sure you're already asking, is this blog taking an interest in Vikings? Just that one of the "world-class experts" commenting on this piece of flim-flam is none other than Mike Bara, who helpfully speculates "Perhaps they were able to fly" (at 24:35 in the Youtube video.) Yeah, Mike, or perhaps they had a 218 km long piece of string.

        Has Mike Bara ever studied Scandinavian archaeology? No. Has Mike Bara been to Trelleborg, Eskeholm, Fyrkat and Aggersborg to study these places on the ground? I very much doubt it, just as I doubted that he's ever been to Aramu Muru in Peru, which he commented on in a previous ep of this anti-science, anti-truth series.

        My question to the History Channel would be "What is this unemployed draftsman doing, commenting on subjects he knows nothing about?" They'd probably reply "Well, we were looking for someone who has no respect for the truth. We read Dark Mission and The Choice, and Mike seemed like just the man."

4 comments:

Chris Lopes said...

I'm not sure what happened to the History Channel. They used to only deal with fringe stuff in their "History's Mysteries" show. Now it's all Ancient Aliens, UFO Hunters, and Monsterquest. George Noory is on that network almost as often as Ed Herman was.

It can hardly be surprising that the writers of a pseudo-science show have fudged the facts to fit the narative. As we've seen with Hoagland, Bara, and the rest, that's standard operating procedure. Truth never gets in the way of a good (and profitable) story.

As to why Bara, that should be obvious. They needed a talking head willing to go along with any stupid idea they threw out. I doubt Mike has spent more than a few nanoseconds actually doing research on the subject, as speaking from ignorance is his specialty.

expat said...

Harsh, but true I'm sure.

expat said...

It's not at all clear how the ability to fly would help in the surveying task of aligning those sites anyway. What's needed is a crude theodolite and a knowledge of sun angles.

Biological_Unit said...

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