It’s been a cosmic year at Archeothoughts.  Of this year’s posts, the top three most read have to do with Oak Island (what else?), moralizing gods, and exploding stars.


Much of this year’s output was shaped by the fact that I am preparing a collaborative guidebook for archaeologists, teachers, and heritage professionals on addressing pseudoarchaeology with the public, in the classroom, and online. While the most viewed new post of this year was about Oak Island, if I Include posts from this year and years past, nearly 6000, or about a third of this year’s page views were for posts on pseudoarchaeology, mainly about Oak Island.

The lesson here for me, yet again, is that when people are exposed to the claims of pseudoarchaeologists, they do their own research.  Unlike the sources of pseudoarchaeological claims, their consumers are curiosity driven, just as academic researchers are.

Late in the year, for example, I noted that there was a correlation between Curse of Oak Island airings in Canada and the US, and spikes in views of my related blog posts. We have to be there to help people find answers to their questions when they have them. It is up to us to be visible, to occupy space in the conversation, and to have thinking prompts ready for those who are searching for them.

Here are the kinds of google searches that led people to my posts this year: “is curse of oak island legit archaeology”, “what do archaeologists think about oak island”, etc.  I argued that when people look for what archaeologists have to say about these pseudoarchaeological claims, they should find a welcoming environment for their inquiries. They shouldn’t be made to feel dumb for asking questions. They should find help, not judgement. We should treat the public much like we (hopefully) treat our students and colleagues.

Moralizing gods

On a more ethereally academic plane, my posts on the moralizing gods question (disaster? debacle?  Imbroglio? Comedia? I struggle to find the right term in the right language) were collectively second in numbers of views, and the second most viewed individual post of this year was on this topic as well. This is an important subject, not so much because of the specific question of whether moralizing gods predate complex societies or not, but because it asks us to reflect on two fairly fundamental questions: 1) how should archaeology treat missing data? and 2) is cultural evolution more Darwinian, or is it more Lamarckian?

A sidelight of the controversy, which I suspect for many has become the highlight, is the feud between the various teams and personalities involved. The way in which much of the debate has been carried out is a clear example of how not to do academia. On the other hand, the episode shows the speed at which we can work when data is open, research tools are transparent, and publications are accessible. Now if we could just keep the openness and lose the meanness, we would be in business.

Exploding stars

It is interesting that the year ends with apprehension about the dimming and possible explosion of the star Betelgeuse, because the first big post of this year, in terms of readership, was a critique of a news item on the role of exploding stars in the evolution of human bipedalism. It is the third most read new post this year.

Just as we have to be pre-positioned with online content and resources when people have questions about the claims of pseudoarchaeologists, we have to help them with their basic questions on evolution, especially human evolution. Evolution is one of the most, and most easily misunderstood topics out there in media and among the public. A tiny bit of effort on our part can make a huge difference.

When a story on evolution makes the wrong kind of big splash, it is up to us to address it quickly, in a way that its public will see as relevant, and that will be informative. It is a bit trickier than with pseudoarchaeology, because there usually isn’t a pseudoevolutionist pushing the story, so it isn’t as readily identifiable.  The process, however, is the same.

Past posts with staying power

The most viewed posts this year overall, however, were from years past. The most viewed post this year, and the most viewed in the history of archeothoughts, is of course about Oak Island. But the second most viewed of this year, and now the second most viewed overall, is a bit of a sleeper hit.

In October 2018, I wrote a little post about the fact that my mother was inexplicably getting email from, asking her to upgrade to Premium. This launched me on a bit of an investigative journey that revealed some patterns and some issues with’s targeted advertising, and which also turned into a rewarding journey of family discovery.

After getting a modest 62 views in 2018, the post suddenly started picking up steam in April 2019, and has since accumulated over 2300 views. I guess that’s the moment when the number of people annoyed with’s emails reached a critical mass. Incredibly, “ spam” is the all-time most frequent single search phrase that has landed people at archeothoughts. Other relevant searches include “how did get my email” and “academia mentions fake”.

I can’t end the year without mentioning the flashlight holding post, which is the fourth most viewed of this year. This was originally from 2017, and describes an in-class collaborative research project on the change over time from under-hand to over-hand flashlight holding in film and television. It is a project that the student got a lot out of, and that produced some interesting results from a research perspective.

The post didn’t initially make much of an impression. It got about 150 views in its first 18 months. Then in February 2019, it was featured on John Warner’s Inside Higher Ed column, and it is now the fourth most viewed post overall, in addition to being the fourth most viewed this year, right behind the pseudoarchaeology and the spam.

The lesson here, is that you should put the material you believe in out there. You never know who is reading, or why. You never know what they will find that will help them, and you never know when they will find it. Whatever you make a living at, take the time you have to do the work you believe in, and share it widely. The new year is as good a time as any to start doing that, or to keep at it.

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