Alternative Archaeology: Modern Myths About the Distant Past

Navn på bevillingshaver

Olav Hammer


University of Southern Denmark


DKK 912,000




Monograph Fellowships


We live in an era of "fake news." Empirically tested claims and accepted methods of arriving at them, supported by the institutional pillars of society, are pitted against a host of assertions that lack this backing but that are nonetheless widely shared among broad segments of the population. The present monograph project contributes to the study of how such claims emerge, are disseminated, and are argued for by their proponents. Firstly, it charts the cultural history of one set of such empirically unsupported views, namely alternative versions of prehistory and history disseminated to large audiences, that challenge scholarly accounts of the past. Secondly, it analyzes the remarkable contemporary popularity of these claims.


This project places the study of a major component of contemporary popular culture, alternative (pre)history, firmly on the academic map. Since a number of these alternative narratives about the past function as myths in emergent religions, Alternative Archaeology is also set to contribute significantly to our understanding of how new religions are born and how they feed off popular discontent with such institutional pillars of society as academia. Moreover, since many such myths creatively reuse occultist motifs, the project will add an ethnographic, contemporary perspective to a field dominated by historical approaches. Finally, it is a key ambition of Alternative Archaeology to shed light on the social mechanisms that contribute to the acceptance of "fake news" more generally.


The monograph will be based on an analysis of printed texts, fieldwork, interviews, and archival research. Since an alternative view of the past can only arise as a rejected counterpart of "mainstream" academic research into history and archaeology, the project will identify a set of key source materials dating from the institutionalization of these fields in the 19th century and up to the present. The main questions asked of this material include: what themes does one find in these sources, what methods for understanding the past do they advocate, what are the backgrounds of the most influential authors, and how do they argue for the veracity of their claims? Fieldwork and interviews will shed light on how controversial theories about the past continue to be produced and disseminated.

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