Title image: one of my favourite quotes from Arnold 2006
If you’ve read any of my blog posts about pseudoarchaeology (A, B, C, and D for example), or read any of my pop culture reviews involving pseudoarchaeology (A and B for example), or maybe even been able to catch one of the talks I’ve given about pseudoarchaeology (like A), you’ll notice a few common themes. Firstly, I talk a lot about the dangers of pseudoarchaeology – the fact that it can actually cause a substantial amount of harm. I often use the Ahnenerbe (Nazi archaeology program) as an example because the literal violent harm it caused is obvious. And secondly I talk about how we need to pay attention to the way pseudoarchaeology is portrayed in pop culture, because pop culture can be pretty influential. These all form the basis of my PhD research (I’ve included below a couple of excerpts from a research statement I recently wrote for a scholarship application. I did not get the scholarship). I’m interested in the way New Religious Movements (NRMs, often generally referred to as cults) use archaeology and pseudoarchaeology and the connections with pop culture because, as an archaeologist, I see that happening today on an increasing scale and I want a better understanding of what’s happening. I see more and more alt-right appropriations, and more alt-right overlap with NRMs. And I also see that we archaeologists are not paying close enough attention to how our work is being co-opted by these movements. I want to draw attention to that because A) Archaeologists do need to pay attention to it, and B) archaeologists can actually add a lot to conversations about current alt-right religious movements. So let’s have a quick conversation about extremely recent events – the attempted coup at the US Capitol on January 6, 2021.
I’m working on writing up a publication about this so right now I’m just going to give a quick overview of the connnection between pseudoarchaeology and the attempted coup. Remember, connections are not causation. I’m talking about connections, not causation. I’m also going to be more vague than usual regarding hyperlinks, because I read a lot of awful sites for information and I refuse to drive traffic to them. My planned article is going to include the Nashville bombing on December 25, 2020 (you can read a little bit about why I’m interested in that event on my post about my Canadian beliefs survey) but for the purpose of this post I’m going to keep my attention on the attempted coup. Furthermore, I’m going to focus my conversations largely on one man, who is a fair representation of the conspirituality of the QAnon conspiracy movement as a whole – Jacob Chansley (aka Jake Angeli, aka YellowstoneWolf, aka QAnon Shaman). If you’re unfamiliar with the term conspirituality, this basically refers to the blending of spiritualism with conspiracy theories. You’ll recognize Chansley from photos as he became a popular figure in the coup thanks to the bold Norse-inspired tattoos covering his arms and torso and the misappropriated First Nations headdress he wore. And let’s be very clear about that – it is, in fact, misappropriated First Nations regalia he wears, it is not a Viking hat (too many people are mistakenly conflating the Norse tattoos to popular, but incorrect, media depictions of horned Viking helmets). In a 2020 interview at an event in Arizona he even identified it himself as being inspired by First Nations. It’s not Viking.
I’m in the process of transcribing several of Chansley’s online videos and the influence of the occult and pseudoarchaeology in his beliefs are overwhelming. Which makes sense, because pseudoarchaeology and the occult have strong connections to the QAnon movement. In fact, if you look at the network map of conspiracies, it starts with Atlantis and winds its way into Q. Anyway, Chansley had posted several videos online, each focused on a slightly different part of the Q map, but a significant portion of which involved the overlap of the pink and the green – antiquity and extraterrestrials. One of Chansley’s videos in particular, posted online in late December 2020, gives an interesting overall look at his beliefs. That’s the video I’ve been working on transcribing the most closely, and that’s the video I want to talk a little bit about right now.
In this video, Chansley begins by stating he is a super soldier. More specifically, he is a shaman within the top secret government super soldier program. If you hear “super soldier” and immediately think of Captain America, yes! That’s exactly what we’re talking about here. Chansley believes that comic books are actually a form of soft disclosure, meaning there are secrets about real life information hidden in the pages of comics (he alleges that Marvel comic artist/writer Jack Kirby was a CIA agent who hid these secrets in the comics he wrote). He says that because of the position of where he currently sits in the super soldier program, Chansley is able to share those secrets. Chansley believes in the idea that shamanism is an ancient religion that is the root of all religions (although he is definitely engaging in Carlos Castaneda’s New Age appropriation of shamanism) and claims that Captain America is actually a representation of ancient First Nations shamans (again, the whole soft disclosure thing), as all super heroes/soldiers are. Hence, wearing a First Nations appropriated headdress is a signifier of Chansley’s shaman and super soldier status.
Chansley believes super soldiers are “starseeds” (he also lists some other names for them, but they all mean the same thing). Starseeds are people who have an extraterrestrial consciousness inside of their body. He blends this with other New Age beliefs, such as multiple realities (which again he claims are proven by the multiple timelines and dimensions included in comics). He talks about how people need to expand their consciousness in order to access these other realities (you might recognize this concept from my post about the Atlantis talk I went to a few years ago), and that psychotropic plants help with that (this is the Castaneda influence). He talks about how even ancient Egyptians were aware of this and that’s why they built their pyramids on special ley lines – the lines increased the magnetic energy frequencies inside the pyramids, and combing that enhanced energy with psychotropic plant use allowed Egyptians to expand their consciousnesses.
Chansley spends a lot of time talking about the usual Q theories (he truly is textbook Q) and he finds ways to tie them to pseudoarchaeological ideas like pyramids on ley lines and the sacred geometry of circular stone structures (you might recognize sacred geometry from my post about the winery here in BC). He briefly skims over other pseudoarchaeological theories, like Atlantis, the Younger Dryas Impact Hypothesis, and that there is evidence for a highly advanced ancient civilization in various stone structures and artifacts around the world (though he goes into these in much more detail in some of his other videos). It is overtly obvious that his beliefs regarding pseudoarchaeology and ancient alien theories have been strongly influenced by three popular figures in the pseudoarchaeology world – Corey Goode, David Wilcock, and Graham Hancock. I say overtly because not only are the theories of these three men intertwined into Chansley’s beliefs, he actually mentions them by name (including in some of his other videos as well).
Goode and Wilcock are especially strong influences. Both have appeared on Ancient Aliens (Goode once, Wilcock 80 appearances), but more recently have turned largely to Youtube, where they appear to be broadcasting their own NRM. On his Youtube channel, Goode talks a lot about the “blue avians” and a solar flash that Chansley references in his video, while Wilcock more generally talks about the ascension + aliens concept Chansley is fully engaged with (though I don’t have time to discuss it here, “ascension” is connected to occult theosophist Helena Blavatsky, whose NRM influence is a large part of my research focus). Wilcock himself also wraps Q beliefs into his videos, especially parts of the Great Awakening, which is the idea of a huge disclosure of information that’s an important part of the Q conspiracy. The map of the Great Awakening actually includes direct reference by name to Graham Hancock, Erich von Daniken, and many pseudoarchaeological topics (Atlantis, Bosnian pyramids, giants, ancient aliens, etc.) . I don’t have room to discuss them here, but there is plenty in Wilcock’s Jan 5th and Jan 11th Youtube videos that feed directly into the mindset that led to the events of Jan 6th. There were people leaving comments on his Jan 5th video saying they were enroute to D.C. And in the Jan 11th video Wilcock even mentions getting information from “insiders” who were at the Capitol on the 6th, and states he would have been there himself but for research he couldn’t get away from.
What I have started working on is developing a social network map demonstrating the connections between pseudoarchaeology and the alt-right. Because the connections are there, it just helps to see them visually sometimes. What I’ve included here is a small sample of what will end up being a much larger project, to show you what I’ve got in mind. I used Chansley’s video that I reference in this post. And using only people he references by name (Goode, Wilcock, and Hancock), I started looking at Youtube channels. Who is featuring who, or talking about who, on their channels. It’s not even close to being finished yet, but this gives you a small taste (Chansley outlined in yellow). I want to show that archaeologists do have an important seat at the table of discussing alt-right movements. We can do this by first paying attention to how our work is being misappropriated into pseudoarchaeology. And from there we should pay attention to who is using that pseudoarchaeology, and how it’s being used. In the mean time, I’ll keep plugging away and try again with my scholarship application this year. Because, as I hope I have demonstrated, projects like these are important.
If you have not already done so: Please fill out my survey on Canadian beliefs
Additional Suggested Reading: