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Archaeologists Petition To Reclassify Popular Netflix Documentary as ‘Science-Fiction’

I actually have a history degree, can I get a Netflix docuseries?

Ancient Apocalypse Graham Hancock Netflix

Netflix’s latest documentary series is causing a commotion. Creator/host Graham Hancock is a journalist known for his pseudoscience theories and unsubstantiated historical claims. He’s written several books about his ancient historical thoughts, but with Ancient Apocalypse he wanted to up his game and “overthrow the paradigm of history.” He claimed “big archaeology” wouldn’t look into his claims so he had to make this series himself. Actual archaeologists had some notes.

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Although Ancient Apocalypse has been popular on the streaming platform since its premiere in November, many academics are questioning its credibility. The Society for American Archaeology (SAA) penned an open letter to Netflix and ITN, the series’ production company, condemning the show and asking for it to be re-categorized as “science-fiction” rather than “documentary.”

What is Ancient Apocalypse?

The show consists of eight roughly 30-minute episodes in which Hancock explores different monuments of the ancient world. His goal is to connect these ancient places with an undocumented society that dates back to the Ice Age. Basically, he thinks the lost civilization of Atlantis influenced the development of the world before disappearing from history. The only person who appears on the show to stand with Hancock against the academic world is the extremely controversial podcaster Joe Rogan. (I guess he’s an expert in all the sciences now.)

The complaints against Hancock

SAA president Dr. Daniel H. Sandweiss wrote a three-page letter explaining why the society had issues with Ancient Apocalypse. Their complaints boiled down to three key points:

(1) the host of the series repeatedly and vigorously dismisses archaeologists and the practice of archaeology with aggressive rhetoric, willfully seeking to cause harm to our membership and our profession in the public eye;

(2) Netflix identifies and advertises the series as a “docuseries,” a genre that implies its content is grounded in fact when the content of the show is based on false claims about archaeologists and archaeology; and

(3) the theory it presents has a long-standing association with racist, white supremacist ideologies; does injustice to Indigenous peoples; and emboldens extremists.

The SAA is 100 percent correct in its assessment of the flaws of Ancient Apocalypse. Hancock repeatedly bashes the field of archaeology while simultaneously appearing desperate to be accepted by that community. He claims they are afraid of his research. To be clear, his “research” is comprised of him saying things “could” be older than they appear and that similarities across cultures make him think there is an unseen connection. To back up his ideas, Hancock interviews other authors and uncredentialed “experts” (and Joe Rogan, for some reason).

Hancock repeatedly shuns logical arguments laid out by archaeologists in favor of racism and conspiracy theories. For example, instead of accepting that pyramids exist around the world because that is the easiest way to make a tall structure, Hancock argues the mythological white population of Atlantis taught indigenous societies how to establish functional societies. Atlantis has only existed in mythology so making a “documentary” about how the people of that society shaped the world seems irresponsible and dangerous.

I love history and there is so much interesting material from our past that could and should be mined for documentaries. Instead, real money and time were put into a show based on the thoughts of a mediocre white man and framed as factual. Come on, Netflix, you can’t be that desperate for new content ideas.

(featured image: Netflix)

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D.R. Medlen
D.R. Medlen (she/her) is a pop culture staff writer at The Mary Sue. After finishing her BA in History, she finally pursued her lifelong dream of being a full-time writer in 2019. She expertly fangirls over Marvel, Star Wars, and historical fantasy novels (the spicier the better). When she's not writing or reading, she lives that hobbit-core life in California with her spouse, offspring, and animal familiars.

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