Summer 2021 - ARCH 105 D100

The Past in the Present: Archaeology in Popular Culture (3)

Class Number: 3802

Delivery Method: In Person


  • Course Times + Location:


  • Instructor:

    David Maxwell
    Office: Online only via Zoom
    Office Hours: TBA



Critical thinking using archaeology and pseudo-archaeology as examples in popular culture. Emphasis on the role that pseudo-science plays in undermining legitimate science in current society.


Science is under attack in popular media, with archaeology particularly subject to misuse. In 2019, the best-selling "non-fiction" book was a pseudo-archaeological study of a "lost" ancient civilization which was responsible for all subsequent ancient state-level societies. Traditionally, archaeologists have laughed off such far-fetched works as nonsensical and not worthy of attention. With the current social and political climates and the rise of "fake news," archaeologists are now in the position where such works need to be not just debunked, but contextualized.

Saucers, Pseudoscience, and Secrets is designed to present issues of "alternative" archaeology so as to demonstrate the underlying intentions and agendas of those who pass on conspiracy theories of lost cultures, lost races, and alien encounters in the past. The course is designed to teach students to assess the (frequently convincing sounding) evidence and arguments constantly presented online and in the press. The approaches will be useful far beyond archaeological studies, and can be applied to many other fields of study. This is a lecture course with no tutorials presented asynchronously. Lecture notes are available for downloading prior to class at


  • Midterm Exam I 33%
  • Midterm Exam II 33%
  • Final Exam 34%



Feder, Kenneth L. 2019 Frauds, Myths, and Mysteries: Science and Pseudoscience in Archaeology. 10th edition. Oxford University Press.

Bahn, Paul. 2012 Archaeology: A Very Short Introduction. 2nd edition. Oxford University Press.

Department Undergraduate Notes:

Students with hidden or visible disabilities who believe they may need classroom or exam accommodations are encouraged to register with the SFU Centre for Students with Disabilities (1250 Maggie Benston Centre) as soon as possible to ensure that they are eligible and that approved accommodations and services are implemented in a timely fashion.

Deferred grades will be given only on the basis of authenticated medical disability.

Registrar Notes:


SFU’s Academic Integrity web site is filled with information on what is meant by academic dishonesty, where you can find resources to help with your studies and the consequences of cheating.  Check out the site for more information and videos that help explain the issues in plain English.

Each student is responsible for his or her conduct as it affects the University community.  Academic dishonesty, in whatever form, is ultimately destructive of the values of the University. Furthermore, it is unfair and discouraging to the majority of students who pursue their studies honestly. Scholarly integrity is required of all members of the University.


Teaching at SFU in summer 2021 will be conducted primarily through remote methods, but we will continue to have in-person experiential activities for a selection of courses.  Such course components will be clearly identified at registration, as will course components that will be “live” (synchronous) vs. at your own pace (asynchronous). Enrollment acknowledges that remote study may entail different modes of learning, interaction with your instructor, and ways of getting feedback on your work than may be the case for in-person classes. To ensure you can access all course materials, we recommend you have access to a computer with a microphone and camera, and the internet. In some cases your instructor may use Zoom or other means requiring a camera and microphone to invigilate exams. If proctoring software will be used, this will be confirmed in the first week of class.

Students with hidden or visible disabilities who believe they may need class or exam accommodations, including in the current context of remote learning, are encouraged to register with the SFU Centre for Accessible Learning ( or 778-782-3112).