Why Thinking That Aliens Built the Pyramids Is Problematic
By Emily Tain/Arab America Contributing Writer
It’s a weeknight, 9:57 PM to be precise, and you’re flipping through channels trying to find something to watch. As you scroll past Iron Chef, Law and Order, and the constant stream of South Park, something different catches your eyes. The History Channel is playing Ancient Aliens; intrigued, you tune in. The episode follows the host of the show and an “archaeologist” as they explain why aliens must have built the Easter Island heads. You find it interesting, maybe even believable. But what if your roommate walked in, saw the television screen, and told you Ancient Aliens is racist in principle?
Pseudoarchaeology, as one could surmise from breaking down the word, is fake archaeology. “Experts” in this field vary on position, but all use fraudulent archaeological evidence and fictional/mistranslated literature to justify their assertions. Some of their most common theories are about alien intervention and the “flat earth.” This article will discuss the conspiracy that aliens built the Pyramid of Giza and why this is not only incorrect but also incredibly problematic.
The Pyramid of Giza was built during the Egyptian 4th dynasty (26th-25th century BCE) and is suspected to have been commissioned by Khufu. The pharaoh wanted to use the pyramid as a tomb, as noted in inscriptions translated by the French Institute of Oriental Archaeology and the University of Liverpool. Archaeologists recently discovered a ramp system near Faiyum that most likely allowed workers to move large pieces of alabaster uphill, showing the ingenuity and capability of the Egyptians at the time. Even with copious amounts of evidence showing that the Ancient Egyptians were solely responsible for the pyramids, there are still conspiracy theorists that refuse to believe in modern archaeology.
Alternate theories on who built the pyramids vary: some believe it was aliens, others believe it was a pre-human species that lived underwater, and some think the aforementioned species told the ancients how to build. Average people who believe these things are not inherently evil, but rather misinformed, and most likely unintentionally perpetuating these racist stereotypes.
At most universities, those studying archaeology also study anthropology. This is done in hopes that trained archaeologists can have a better understanding of other cultures and the strengths within them. By stepping out of their own culture in order to fairly study others, these professionals can actively unlearn the ethnocentrism that plagues higher education. Most conspiracy theorists have not had this training, so they see nothing wrong with their opinions.
Despite the mirage of other-worldly intervention, they typically do not believe that the pyramids were built by aliens because Egyptians did not have the technology; rather, they believe this because the ancient Egyptians were not White.
By claiming that aliens built the pyramids, pseudoarchaeologists are inferring that ancient peoples were incapable of such achievements. Despite the mirage of other-worldly intervention, they typically do not believe that the pyramids were built by aliens because Egyptians did not have the technology; rather, they believe this because the ancient Egyptians were not White. Their beliefs boil down to a colonialist mind-frame that renders non-Europeans unable to match or exceed European achievement. These theorists may not be racist in other parts of their life, but by supporting fringe theories like the content on Ancient Aliens, they are actively fueling the fire of white superiority. This is further supported by the fact that most structures and civilizations discredited of their achievements are non-white: Africans, South and Central Americans, and Native Americans are all subject to colonial scrutiny.
So why do people so fervently believe pseudoarchaeologists? A primary reason cited by archaeologists is the fantastical nature of media similar to Ancient Aliens. Learning about actual history is not always riveting; by adding mystery and magic, pseudohistory becomes more entertaining for the majority of people who do not have any sort of background in history or archaeology.
Entertainment can synthesize with consumability in this case as well. Most professionals do not write in a way that is easy for non-professionals to understand. While this is an accessibility issue in some ways, it makes sense in others. Archaeologists and historians, when writing about complex concepts, do not expect their products to be consumed by the masses. Instead, their work is primarily read by their colleagues or university students on the subject. Pseudoarchaeologists, however, use language and mediums more easily understood by the public. In terms of readability, simplified fantasy is significantly more appealing to the average reader than convoluted, sometimes boring truth.
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