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Cinema, Supernatural Archaeology, and the Hidden Human Past

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Abstract Close analysis of modern movies reveals — yet archaeologists and historians have failed to understand — that the dominant representation of archaeological research and ancient human culture in mainstream cinema involves explorations of supernatural objects and events. Cinematic archaeology tends to be mythic rather than realistic in focus. Movies frequently present images of the human past that are pseudoarchaeological in the sense that these films tell the same stories as ‘alternative archaeology,’ even though they may not make an explicit claim to the truthfulness of the events depicted. This pattern is documented through a review of films employing the ancient astronaut model in which visiting aliens changed human development in the past, and through an examination of the work of writer/director Roland Emmerich who has specialized in those films. The cinematic history of these narratives is long, demonstrating that cinema does not merely reproduce popular pseudoarchaeological research, it has also contributed to the growth of these stories.

Affiliations: 1: School of Archaeology and Anthropology, Australian National University Canberra, Australia, 0200 Australia


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