media

  • Aliens & Other Worldly Conspiracies – Theories That Never Seem to Die

    For years pop culture has used the concept of aliens or some form of extra terrestrial being in order to explain periods of history that have often been deemed unexplainable.

    One of the of world’s greatest historic icons – the Great Pyramids of Giza – is subject to all manner of other-worldly conspiracy theories.

    In the fourth Indiana Jones – which was widely met with disappointment among diehard fans – was the insertion of aliens into the stories in Peru.

    One side or the other, passions can run very high when discussing conspiracy theories and the science – or lack there of – around them.  On April 15, 2015 a video surfaced on YouTube showing the culmination of a yet-to-happen debate between Graham Hancock and Egypt’s former Minister of Antiquities Dr. Zahi Hawass.  Though the video is only about two minutes long and cast in poor lighting, the ‘lively’ nature of the argument has generated over 100,000 views in the month and a half since its release. And trust me – it’s not because archaeological debates are riveting viral material – it’s all about the drama.

     

    This argument centered around Hancocks showing of a slide that contained Robert Bauval’s Orion Correlation Theory in which it is believed that the stars in the Orion Constellation have a relationship to the kings of the Great Pyramids of Giza.  However, this has been regarded by many scholars as pseudoscience or junk science.  For archaeologists and other scientists that have spent lifetime examining ancient peoples and understanding the depth of their technological and engineering capabilities, it may come off as an insult to surmise that astrological-type pseudoscience has a place in the world of academia except for its role in Archaeology 101 of what NOT to do.

    Keeping in mind that this dramatic debate encounter caught on film was more than simply an argument, but a deep fundamental disagreement, was Dr. Hawass still unwarranted in his fervent disagreement to the Orion Constellation theory and its proponents?

    Let us know your thoughts on this and other pseudo-science and conspiracy theories in archaeology on twitter @ArchaeoVenturer

     

    Check out this week’s episode entitled “Why Aliens? Ancient Cultures Deserve More Credit” HERE.

     

    Further Reading:

    Archaeological Fantasies: How Pseudoarchaeology Misrepresents the Past and Misleads the Public

    MSU Lecture Slides – Pyramidiots

  • Breaking Gender Boundaries in the Middle East: It takes Balls, Brains, & Bravery

    The past month in the US has proven big in gender and LGBT issues – Bruce Jenner’s transgender interview changed the way America sees trans individuals, the supreme court makes a decision on proposition 8 regarding same sex marriage, and the nation faces the potential of its first woman president with Hillary’s bid to run.  And though there are still major strides to be made, America seems to be accepting change at an increasingly accelerated pace.

    What do changes in social gender norms mean in nations outside of American boundaries?  Change is in the air in the post-Arab Spring Middle East as well.

    As parts of the MENA region face increasing oppression under fierce dictators and the rule of terror groups like ISIS – there are young people in areas outside of terror control that are breaking the gender boundaries such Islamist groups seek to maintain.

    During the 2011 Egyptian Revolution, women were pivotal in leading the cause to advance their rights and place in Egyptian society.  But even as laws change in a few short years, social fabric can often take a generation.  In Egypt, women have been taking this into their own hands. Recently, Egypt awarded a mother, Sisa Abu Daooh, who dressed like a man for more than 40 years in order to provide for her family.  Illiterate and widowed, she was forced to find work to support her children – being a woman in Egypt can be dangerous, being a woman in the work force equally so, but she courageously worked to do so – albeit dressed like a man.

    However, there are women of a younger generation that are trying to break traditional work barriers without the gender-bending cloak and veil.  Mennatullah El-Husseiny sought to break taboos of women’s place in the public social fabric of Egypt by doing jobs considered to be “only for men.”

    Turkish male belly-dancer (zenne) performing. Photo Credit: Al Monitor

    Turkish male belly-dancer (zenne) performing.
    Photo Credit: Al Monitor

    Women are not the only ones who are trying to crack the glass ceiling they face in the Middle East – in Turkey, young men are brining back an age-old art – the Ottoman tradition of male belly dancing.

    Known in Turkish as zennes, rakkas, or koceks, the art died out during the Ataturk era and has only recently resurfaced, but in the current political atmosphere is considered part of a homosexual culture in Turkey – a sentiment that while still considered taboo in many parts of Turkey, is becoming more accepted in its modern and increasingly globalizing society.  And although the zenne scene in Turkey is becoming more accepted, one of the male dancers interviewed in an al-Monitor last December still declines to have his name and photo revealed – cracking the glass ceiling can still come with a price…

  • Time to Change the Digital Dialogue on Religion and Violence

    In preparation for writing this blog I scanned the Internet looking for images – and came across the horrific news of the Ethiopian Christians killed by ISIS in a newly released video.

    Photo Source: Minhaj.org

    Photo Source: Minhaj.org

    As I struggled to digest the recent news from ISIS, I tried to determine what I wanted to emphasize most in this new blog – and although history seems to continue to repeat itself, one thing that is left out is the reality of the situations – religion does not justify the killing of others.Throughout history we have seen the repeated loss of innocent lives in the name of one religion or another – during the crusades, many Muslims lost their lives at the hands of Christians.  Yet at no point in time have these values of death in the name of god held to the true message of religion – peace, alms for the poor, and understanding of the plight of others.

    Photo Source: Women News Network

    Photo Source: Women News Network

    Baghdad was once known as the ‘City of Peace’ (Madinat al-Salam) – but that was in another lifetime. And today, even with the trillions of images that exist online, one would be hard pressed to find any images representing Baghdad and peace.Our media perpetuates so much information about the Islamist terrorists whose campaigns are sweeping the Middle East and North Africa – but what is often left out of the media is the distinction between Islamism and Islam.  One of the first things that is important to understand about the Jihadi Salafist ideology that is sweeping the world today is that this is NOT true Islam.

    In an effort to illustrate that Islam is at its core a religion of peace, I attempted to find images to display this for my blog – I was truly shocked at the dearth of imagery available to illustrate this point.  One of the few stories available in the “recent memory” of the Internet that truly illuminated Islam and the peaceful nature of the religion came out of a period of turmoil – the Arab Spring. During the 2011 Egyptian Revolution, while Egyptians rallied together,Muslims stood guard to protect the Coptic Christians from violence during prayer – and the Copts did the same.

     

    Viral Photo Shows Muslims Protecting Church in Egypt as Congregants  Attend Mass Amid Threat of Attack Photo Source: TWITTER/JAMES MARTIN SJ SCREEN  SHOT - CHRISTIAN POST

    Viral Photo Shows Muslims Protecting Church in Egypt as Congregants
    Attend Mass Amid Threat of Attack
    Photo Source: TWITTER/JAMES MARTIN SJ SCREEN
    SHOT – CHRISTIAN POST

    Every time an image of a group like ISIS or Ansar Al Sharia is reproduced, or clicked on, it only feeds the propaganda machine these groups are trying to proliferate.  As they bastardize religion by using it as a justification for violence, they are at the same time killing the true peaceful nature of that religion in the minds of those outside of it – feeding the Islamaphobia beast – and furthering their cause against those for hating Islam.

     

    Let’s stop giving them free propaganda.  Send the ArchaeoVenturers Project your images of how Islam represents peace.  Let’s change the dialogue together. 

  • Archaeology in Pop Culture: Helping or Hindering the Discipline?

    When most people hear “archaeology” one of the first things that comes to mind is Indiana Jones.  How is it that a pop culture icon became the mascot of a scientific discipline?

    Archaeology – and all of the romanticized tales of ancient mummies and temples that come with it – has been entwined in pop culture since people first began literally digging into our history.

    In the late nineteenth century, common fads for elites involved “mummy unwrapping parties.” Although today many would see this as a desecration of a deceased person, most elite Victorians didn’t see anything wrong with damaging pre-Christian bodies.

    Mummies were simply a curiosity of the orient. But as the study of the ancient Near East became a common place academic discipline – particularly after the deciphering of the Rosetta Stone in 1822 by Jean François Champollion – archaeology found its way into the imaginations of the West and the increasingly developing world of popular culture.

    Ancient Egypt was used to sell everything from cigarettes to soap.  And it carved out its own niche in Hollywood well before the days of Indiana Jones and Tomb Raider.

    Elizabeth Taylor’s famous role as Cleopatra is still well known in popular culture today as one of the iconic images of Cleopatra – never mind that many historians believe that it was not physical beauty, but wit, wisdom, and womanly cunning that made the real Cleopatra a legend of history. In reality, she is an example of what women should be valued for in society – their intellect and strength of character – but this was not the idealized beauty that Western culture wanted to portray.

    Politics of women in history and Hollywood aside – one question remains: do the common misconceptions created by archaeology in popular culture hinder or help the overall discipline?

    Some may think that if the public is going to learn about archaeology or history is should be with accuracy from the beginning.

    However, here’s my person opinion: As someone who began studying the discipline just at the cusp of the recession and finished grad school with the effects of an economic crisis in full swing, I must say that anything that gets the public interested enough in a discipline to patronize a museum or donate to an archaeological excavation is something worth containing.  Most people get into a science one way or another based on a romanticized view of what it is.  Unfortunately, cut backs in government funding for research and an economic crisis that has made many funding sources at foundations and universities tighten their belts means that other routes of funding must be sought.

    But this is a debate that can go on forever – so what are your thoughts on archaeology in pop culture?  Does it damage the mind of the public or expand it?Crowd funding has become a new means of revenue for archaeologists to seek in gathering funding for their research.  But with a source of funding that relies on the public, archaeologists must be able to appeal to the internet world’s non-scholars to get their attention – and of course dollars. This kind of appeal would not be nearly as effective if it weren’t for all of the fantasized, glorified, and heroic archaeology adventures that Hollywood and western culture portray – regardless of how inaccurate it is.  Those inaccuracies provide an opportunity to grasp the imagination of the wider public and engage them in a way where those misinformed interests can be put to rest in the name of science.

     

    For further info on crowdfunding your archaeo-project  and archaeology in pop culture, check these out:

    Crowdfunding Archaeology: Exploring the Potential of Crowdfunding in Archaeological Research

    Crowdfunding Archaeology some Data, Finally!

    Using Social Networks to Fundraise: Crowdfunding for the Archaeologist

    Archaeology is a brand: The meaning of archaeology in contemporary pop culture

  • Free Speech Movement 50 years later: The NexGen Freedom Fighters

    History repeats itself. We’ve all heard it – and everyone has that point in history where they believed they have witnessed this recycling of events. But much like us, chronicles of the past evolve. Sometimes the evolution isn’t evident until we recognize it in history’s reproduction.

    Left: Fifty years ago, students on the University of California, Berkeley campus ignited protests over a ban on political activity. Crowds surrounded a police car holding student activist Jack Weinberg on Oct. 1, 1964. Photo courtesy U.C. Berkeley, Bancroft Library Source: PBS; Right: Egyptians join the military in solidarity as they celebrate protests on top of an Egyptian Military Tank in Tahrir Square during the January 25, 2011 revolution Photo: Yannis Behrakis/Reuters

    Left: Fifty years ago, students on the University of California, Berkeley campus ignited protests over a ban on political activity. Crowds surrounded a police car holding student activist Jack Weinberg on Oct. 1, 1964. Photo courtesy U.C. Berkeley, Bancroft Library Source: PBS; Right: Egyptians join the military in solidarity as they celebrate protests on top of an Egyptian Military Tank in Tahrir Square during the January 25, 2011 revolution Photo: Yannis Behrakis/Reuters

    “My gas mask and helmet didn’t stay in the car: there was plenty of anger in the streets, plenty of action. Tear gas and police batons often filled the air… Emotions ran high. Often the reason behind the demonstrations and marches… was lost in the battles between the protestors and the cops. Who was provoking who became the issue, and certainly it made exciting television. Homegrown battles filled the airwaves, to the point where they eventually became routine.”

    This is a scene that could describe so many of the conflicts occurring today. And it is particularly descriptive of the Middle East during the 2011 Arab Spring and in the years since – once the cradle of civilization, the Middle East has redefined itself as the “Cradle of Revolutions.” But this scene does not depict the Arab Spring, the Middle East, or even an event from this century. This is a recount by a former UC Berkley student as he recalls his participation in the birth of the Free Speech Movement.

    The Free Speech Movement of 1964 that began at UC Berkley celebrates its 50th anniversary this year. The foundations of this movement and the political freedom it sought were the seeds for even more powerful rights battles in the decades to come. The 1960s and 1970s were a turning point in American history for freedom fighters, labor unions, African Americans and women – and their movements could not have succeeded without the critical role of the media.

    This was especially true during the Vietnam War era. Abroad, the presence of brave journalists in Vietnam is largely regarded as a defining moment in the perceptions of war from perspective of the Western public. At home, journalists were exposing the brutalities committed by police and the government against peaceful protestors from the civil rights movement and on through the anti-Vietnam War era. The media’s exposure of the atrocities of the war taking place both away, and in their own communities, emboldened the American public to “fight the man” and gain the civil rights and liberties that we enjoy, and are free to continuously fight for today.

    Source: Ron Torossian Blog

    Source: Ron Torossian Blog

    Once again history has repeated itself, but not on our own soil. The Free Speech movement of the 21st century takes place in the “Cradle of Revolutions.” As the world watches the turmoil unfold in Kobani, and elsewhere across Syria and Iraq under the terror campaign of ISIL, media publications in every language contain daily headlines referencing ISIL’s inhumane sweep across the region and the governments trying to – or not trying to – stop them. Media plays an important role in revealing the atrocities of war and imposing checks and balances upon government. Brave journalists from the West and the Middle East continue to risk their lives to show you and your governments what is happening to the people of the Middle East – whether in Gaza, Syria, Iraq, or Egypt.

    However, one voice that is often left out of the media is the voice of the people suffering in those regions. The headlines become about politics rather than people. Death tolls are represented in numbers of causalities by ethnicity or nationality rather than as parents, siblings, or children lost. The Western media that once sought to reveal the atrocities that were shielded from the public is inadvertently dulling the extent of those brutalities today.

    Since the 1999 Columbine school shooting, experts and politicians have argued over how desensitized our society has become to violence: TV shows, video games, even music are blamed for this desensitization. Yet, what I find difficult is the fact that we have created a culture where some types of violent imagery are ok to consume and widely distribute, and other types are not. Primarily due to the fact that the kind of violence society has deemed acceptable is only the kind that can be turned into a profitable commodity. As a result of the ways we view censorship, in American media today you won’t find images of the horrific acts occurring on the ground to people caught between terrorist groups and tyrannical governments. But we are reaching yet another milestone in the influence of media accessibility on how the public understands an ongoing war.

    This time around, the news medium is uncensored and the reporters unpaid – the free speech movement of the 21st century is being guided by social media and driven by the people on the ground. Citizens who are risking their lives to show you their story and make their voice for peace and freedom heard, much like our own people did half a century ago. Citizen journalists are fighting online wars armed with smart phones and Internet connections.

    We have all witnessed the vast influence of social media on the Middle East. The Social Media Revolution that sparked the Arab Spring has forever changed our world. But even in the nearly four years since the Arab Spring began in January 2011, social media continues to revolutionize the voice third world, and the way the first world hears them.

    The most recent impact of these social media citizen journalists can be seen on any given day through Twitter and Facebook – venues where the hashtag is the global protest sign of the future.

    A quick search of #Gaza on Twitter will immediately yield photos of destruction, dead and injured children, and even body parts that are left when nothing else remains. These are no images anyone wants to see, but they NEED to be seen. The heavy influence of the Gaza Palestinians’ use of social media to acknowledge their dead in the public eye made the war less about Hamas, and more about the innocent civilians of Gaza who were trapped in the middle – at least to the global public. It was a war won by Israel on the ground, but not on social media.

    In Syria, where many journalists are no longer able to go, it is social media that first revealed Assad’s atrocities, from his continuous bombardment of Homs in 2012 to his use of chemical weapons on civilians in 2013 – even as the global media continued to report the regime’s statements to the contrary.

    A report from Al Arabiya on May 20, 2014 revealed that of the 135 million Arabs connected online, over 75 million of them use social media. Thirty percent of those on social media consider Facebook and Twitter their primary sources of news – a similar number to those considerations for traditional news outlets in the Arab world.

    UntitledCritics of social media activism question whether or not it is true activism – some even calling it “slackivism.” And hey, I get it. I grew up in an industrial union city where true activism meant you stood out in the rain or snow and protested with your fellow union members for workers’ rights or for your political party– often bringing your family along with you (as my dad did with us). But activism today is not just about the physical expression of activism; it’s about the size of an audience and the message they receive. Political essays never brought down buildings, but they inspired people to do so. Letters to the government didn’t change their actions until the press made it public.

    “In the same way that pamphlets didn’t cause the American Revolution, social media didn’t cause the Egyptian revolution. Social media have become the pamphlets of the 21st century, a way that people who are frustrated with the status quo can organize themselves and coordinate protest, and in the case of Egypt, revolution.” – Sascha Meinrath, director of the New America Foundation’s Open Technology Initiative

    Many of those tweeting pictures of destruction from Gaza, to Kobani, would tell you that they want the world to see what is happening to them – and technological accessibility allows the international community see them with a #hashtag that can be read around the world. The global population can’t be reached with a local picket line — unless of course someone tweets about it.

    The use of social media as a window through the eyes of those on the other end of your Internet serves its greatest purpose in connecting us with those very individuals whose suffering we feel through the web. Unlike traditional media, social media elicits a response, and for those unable to join in the battle on the ground, social media has also created a new means of engagement via crowd funding, social media activism, and viral petitions. Movements we witnessed and once considered “their” cause have now become “our” cause. People feel more engaged when they can relate to an image of a mother and her lost child – rather than simply a number of causalities substituted in for that loss.

    For all of the impersonal exchanges that take place through technology, the Arab world has regenerated the humanity behind the screen by sharing the inhumanity that has plagued their daily lives. If you’re used to getting your news through the paper or on TV, take a step forward into the rebirth of history and check out the same news in the Twitterverse. It’s your turn to take part in the new free speech movement, one that goes global and fights for the same freedoms that we celebrate today – read, watch and listen to the people the story is really about – the way they want you to see it.as