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Frauds, Myths, and Mysteries: Science and Pseudoscience in Archaeology

31 customer reviews
ISBN-13: 978-0874849714
ISBN-10: 0874849713
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About the Author

Ken Feder received his Ph.D. in anthropology from the University of Connecticut in 1982. He is a full professor in the Department of Anthropology at Central Connecticut State University where he has taught since 1977. He is the founder and director of the Farmington River Archaeological Project, an on-going survey of an inland, upland valley in north central Connecticut. He is the author of several books including Human Antiquity: An Introduction to Physical Anthropology and Archaeology (with Michael Park); Frauds, Myths, and Mysteries: Science and Pseudoscience in Archaeology; A Village of Outcasts: Historical Archaeology and Documentary Research at the Lighthouse Site; The Past in Perspective: An Introduction to Human Prehistory; Field Methods in Archaeology (co-editor with Tom Hester and Harry Shafer); Lessons from the Past: An Introductory Reader in Archaeology (editor); and Dangerous Places: Health, Safety, and Archaeology (co-edited with David Poirier). He is a Fellow of the Committee for the Scientific Investigation of Claims of the Paranormal. He has been the recipient of the Excellence in Teaching Award at Central Connecticut State University. He has appeared on a number of television documentaries about archaeology for BBC Horizon, the History Channel, and the Learning Channel. He lives in West Simsbury, Connecticut with his wife, two sons, and three bad cats. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 224 pages
  • Publisher: Mayfield Pub Co (April 1990)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0874849713
  • ISBN-13: 978-0874849714
  • Product Dimensions: 0.5 x 6 x 9.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 12 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (31 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #2,451,758 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

37 of 40 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on January 2, 1998
Format: Paperback
This is an outstanding book written as a result of the author's own reading in the paranormal genre. Kenneth Feder points out how believable he found "The Morning of the Magicians" until it wandered into his own field of expertise: archeology. After comparing notes with chemists, physicists, historians, etc. he found the same response-- that such books seem perfectly logical--at least in areas in which one has no knowledge.
All the big name hoaxes are here: the Cardiff Giant, Piltdown Man, the Shroud of Turin; but presented in a way that's fresh for the initiated and straight forward for the budding archeologist; and since he's writing as an archeologist, Feder never lapses into the bitter sarcasm so common to skeptical writers.
There are surprises: who knew one of the largest pyramids in the world was in St. Louis, or that the Shroud of Turin was declared a fake in 1359? Above all Feder's love of archeology and sincere delight in the real mysteries of the past should make this book required reading for anyone interested in human history.
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30 of 36 people found the following review helpful By GF on March 7, 2001
Format: Paperback
A superlative journey to the edges of reason and beyond with a witty and knowledgable guide. As the claims of self-styled "alternative" historians of the ancient past gain more and more publicity, it is excellent to encounter such a balanced and well-reasoned antidote to their poison. Particularly useful is to realize that the supposedly "new" theories of the likes of Graham Hancock(who is not addressed in the book, unfortunately) are, in reality, little more than recycled flim-flam from earlier speculative and paranormal movements.
One previous reviewer brands the book "too sceptical," which is nonsense. Feder actually subscribes to the Theran theory for the origins of the Atlantis myth (which I personally do not), but the investigative process by which he reaches this conclusion is clearly charted in the text. He is no dogmatist, dismissing ideas out of hand. He carefully presents the cases for and against various claims and exposes flaws based on a comparison with the observable evidence and archaeological procedure. In any case, it is also hard to see how one could be "too sceptical" about claims that aliens built the pyramids.
An excellent read. Highly recommended to any with an interest in "alternative" archaeology, esp. if you've tended to believe such "theories" in the past.
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33 of 40 people found the following review helpful By C. J. Hardman on October 30, 2001
Format: Paperback
Kenneth Feder has collected a whooole bunch of examples of funny hoaxes and archaeological misadventure in this curiously good book. Read about the Cardiff Giant scam, the Piltdown man hoax, Noah's ark tomfoolery and fakery, the slippery slope of Creationist craziness, Atlantis Atrophy, the Shredded evidence for the Shroud of Turin, and more!
Feder's volume is interesting, stimulating, and even if you are a well read skeptic, you will probably learn something new. I personally was reminded how easy it is to fool people who want to believe something and aren't moved to investigate or challenge the beliefs they are comfortable with. The gist of the book seems to be that people who rely mostly upon faith can end up believing just about anything, while those who are inclined to question and test new information via logic, scientific methods, and common sense are more likely to actually uncover the facts for themselves, doing away with faith altogether.
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful By A. Coleman on June 29, 2009
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
After listening to an interview with Kenneth Feder on an episode of The Skeptics' Guide to the Universe, I bought this as a gift for my brother who recently graduated with a degree in archeology. He enjoyed it immensely and lent it to me afterward. Even though it's not my area of study, I had no difficulty following it and found it as immensely fascinating as its author. I would highly recommend this book for either the expert in the field or curious lay person.
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19 of 25 people found the following review helpful By Virgil Brown VINE VOICE on May 25, 2006
Format: Paperback
One can't blame Kenneth Feder for wanting to write this book. In the first chapter, he states his reasoning: In the late 1960s he subscribed to a book club lured by the cheap price of four books. One was on psychic sciences, one on yoga, one on the black arts, and one on magic. Claims in these books based on physics, biology, psychology, and history seemed reasonable to Feder because he thought that he did not have "the knowledge to assess them intelligently." But archaeology ... that was another matter. Feder is a professional archaeologist who weighs in this book.

I like the 1st chapter which is on epistemology. Feder probably could have waxed eloquent on epistemology, why we know what we know. Instead he tells the story of two maternity wards in the Vienna General Hospital. In Ward 1, the mortality rate for women was five times the rate of that in Ward 2. In 1848 Ignaz Sammelweis tackled the problem. Was Ward 1 more crowded? Was birth position a factor? Were the student doctors in Ward 1 too rough? Did the appearance of the hospital priest pose a psychological factor? Sammelweis tested all of these hypotheses and came up with zilch. It was something of a stroke of luck when Sammelweis lost a male doctor friend of his who had the same symptoms as the women in Ward 1. Bacteria was totally unknown in the 1840s. Yet Sammelweis determined that the same "cadaveric material" that existed in dead bodies made its way via student doctors from autopsies to women in Ward 1.

The Cardiff Giant was a money magnet from the beginning. Just after Stub Newell "discovered" the giant, he got a license to display it and within three weeks raked in $7,000 at 50 cents a look. Cousin George Hull eventually confessed, but by then P T Barnum had made a copy of the giant.
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