Archaeologist braves the Joe Rogan podcast to counter Graham Hancock's nonsense

I've written a couple of pieces about former foreign correspondent for The Economist and best-selling pseudo-archaeologist Graham Hancock's wildly popular Netflix "docuseries" Ancient Apocalypse. In those pieces, I described how archaeologists have pointed out the white supremacist nonsense driving Hancock's thesis and have urged us to consider the power of everyday people instead of focusing on fictions about "aliens" creating ancient civilizations. I was surprised that, following their publication, I received more vitriolic email responses than on anything else I've ever written for Boing Boing. People get upset when you disturb their ancient alien fantasies.

I was intrigued, then, to learn that archaeologist Flint Dibble (it's his real name, I had to look it up and check, though!) recently subjected himself to similar backlash by deciding to appear on Joe Rogan's podcast to discuss archaeology with Graham Hancock. Dibble has a PhD in archaeology from the University of Cincinnati and is currently a professor at Cardiff University. His research focuses on urbanism, climate change, religious ritual, and everyday life in ancient Greece.

He didn't make the decision lightly, as he explains in a recent op-ed in SAPIENS, which is a blog published by the prestigious anthropology-focused Wenner-Gren Foundation, in partnership with the University of Chicago Press. The mission of SAPIENS is to deliver "trusted, compelling, and relevant anthropology stories to a public audience." In his SAPIENS piece, Dibble first explains the rise in popularity of the kind of pseudo-archaeology on full display in Hancock's work, including Ancient Apocalypse:

Pseudo-archaeology, or "alternative history," draws major attention and casts itself as legitimate. Hancock's books consistently rank as bestsellers on Amazon in the subcategory of "archaeology." Ancient Apocalypse was one of Netflix's most popular "docuseries."

Beyond Hancock's creations, Ancient Aliens dominates the History Channel. YouTube, TikTok, and other social media abound with archaeology-themed accounts describing giantslizard peoplemud floodsfake civilizations, and claims that the Roman Empire didn't exist.

Many people buy it. Based on a recent survey by Chapman University scholars, nearly 50 percent of people in the U.S. believe in lost civilizations or ancient aliens. 

Dibble then explains why it was so important for him to address pseudo-archaeology and Hancock on Joe Rogan's podcast, which has a huge audience—including 14.5 million followers on Spotify, 16.4 million YouTube subscribers, and almost 19 million Instagram followers. I think it's probably safe to say that Rogan's podcast has been seen and heard by far more eyes and ears than probably all of the peer-reviewed archaeological papers published in the last century. 

If pseudoarchaeology was just silly fun, it might not be so important to attempt to counter its disinformation. But it's not—it is actually harmful and facilitates white supremacist views of the world. Dibble explains:

This spectacle is not about winning an argument.

My goal is to share the magnitude and diversity of human achievement. Pseudoarchaeology robs Indigenous peoples of their heritage. Hancock's narrative of engineering feats from some "lost" civilization includes the Sphinx in Africa, pyramids in Mesoamerica, and an enormous, terraced monument in Indonesia.

Does it include Stonehenge? No, Hancock says ancient British people built that.

Hancock and other pseudo-archaeologists center White Europeans as able creators while chalking up the accomplishments of other peoples to outside influences: the Atlantis civilization, aliens, lizard people, or the "lost" empire of Tartaria. Real archaeology inoculates people against the online and in-person racists who take Hancock's polished presentation of a mysterious civilization and twist it into overt white supremacy.

Dibble also clearly states that he knows what he's up against—Rogan's audience largely comprises males between the ages of 18 and 34 who lean politically conservative. Dibble argues:

I don't expect to convince Hancock or his die-hard fans. But among the millions who may listen, some may be swayed—not by occult mystery but by beautiful realities of our human past.

I'm currently listening to the podcast now, and so far Dr. Dibble is doing a great job. I'm not sure the audience will care how well he actually does, though, if they want to just continue to believe in ancient aliens. Some of the comments I read predictably dismiss Dibble, but, to my delight, some reveal that Dr. Dibble is changing minds. One commenter stated:

This is why discourse is important. Before this I was convinced that Graham Hancock was onto something. After this argument, I understand now why Graham Hancock's theory is considered a fringe theory.

This is encouraging news! Great job, Dr. Dibble!

If you want to watch the episode, here you go. For more of Flint Dibble's work, check out his YouTube.