Addressing the Alien in the Room: Why Public Perception is Imperative to the Field of Archaeology


public perception
public engagement
media portrayal
white supremacy

How to Cite

Fender, C. (2022). Addressing the Alien in the Room: Why Public Perception is Imperative to the Field of Archaeology. Pathways, 3(1), 29–42.


Pseudoscience in archaeology, or pseudoarchaeology, are ideas formed by distrust, with minimal observable evidence that explain the human past. In a world of widespread, accessible misinformation, researchers often dismiss the ideas presented within pseudoscientific theory as laughable or irrelevant. On the contrary, many of these thoughts are supported by and for colonialist or racist agendas. With popular media throughout North America now supporting pseudoarchaeology, misinformation is beginning to take a hold on public perception of the field of archaeology. To explore this influence further, this paper summarizes the origins and thoughts presented within popular pseudoarchaeology, current public understanding of archaeology, and why this matters to archaeologists. This paper primarily considers how archaeology is portrayed in Canada and the United States, although I use additional international examples to underscore the importance of global public engagement and media influences within the field of archaeology. Stressing the lack of accurate representation of archaeology, especially regarding the representation of Indigenous peoples, provides an invitation to strive for public engagement and honest discourse about the field.


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