Students in my intermediate-level course on the Art and Architecture of Ancient Egypt have been giving short, in-class presentations on examples of “junk archaeology,” “bad Egyptology,” and “pseudo-science.” At first some of them seemed skeptical about their abilities to locate this kind of material, but I assured them it was lurking in the not-too-dark corners of the Internet.
The assignment has three goals: First, to get the students comfortable speaking in front of the class before they do a more formal presentation at the end of the semester. Second, to discuss–generally speaking–the nature of the Internet as a “democratic” medium for the dissemination of scholarship. And third, to question why ancient Egypt seems to draw out the wildest and most unfounded theories. As a specialist in Roman archaeology (and to a much lesser extent, Greek), I note that there is far, far less “pseudo-science” around classical cultures.
Perhaps it is what Ian Shaw notes about ancient Egypt that makes it susceptible to this type of intellectual reaction: “..the attraction of ancient Egyptian culture is its combination of exotica and familiarity…” (Ancient Egypt: A Very Short Introduction 2004, 9).
For what they are worth, here are some of the sites and articles my students presented as examples of “bad Egyptology”:
Mars Traded with Ancient Egypt (autoplay video!)
Blood from the Mummy’s Tomb (movie from 1971)
I think this assignment was a tremendous success, if only because I became aware of this photo: