[Podcast] Archaeology in Pop Culture 2: Eclectic Boogaloo

This is the second part of a collaborative cross-podcast series with Daniel Kwan of the Curiosity in Focus podcast. Check out the first part on Episode 30 of CiF, where Kwan and I talk about archaeology in movies (and share some hot takes).


Daniel Kwan (host of the Curiosity in Focus podcast) joins this episode of GDAH to continue our conversation about archaeology in pop culture. In this, Kwan and I cover some examples of archaeology in TV, games (board and video), and music.

Kwan, being a pop culture aficionado, blasts through a list of TV shows portraying archaeology in various ways. It is the portrayal of archaeology and archaeologists that says something important about attitudes toward the discipline. From Star Trek’s even-handed application of cultural relativism in the Star Fleet’s “prime directive”, to Hank Hill’s indignant frustration with an archaeologist who ruins his yard in King of the Hill, views on archaeology’s relevance as a discipline and archaeologists’ credibility as stewards of cultural resources run wide.

Shifting to games, we give a nod to the pioneers of Archaeogaming – researchers examining the way archaeology is presented in games, and the ways archaeological theory and method can be applied to built virtual environments, the code itself, and the physical material of game packaging. As for archaeology in board games, Kwan relates examples of archaeological theory and method being applied to tabletop role playing games like Dungeons & Dragons and Coriolis.

We take two approaches to discussing archaeology in music – one is the role music plays in our experience in the field; the other covers references to archaeology or the products of its research in song. I mention my secret love of reggae and reggaeton, and how I actually used to hate it until years of working in the Caribbean/Central American nation of Belize got me hooked. There’s a song by Damian Marley (son of Bob Marley) & Nas called “Patience” that references ancient culture, oral traditional knowledge, archaeologists, Indiana Jones, and makes a call against the hangovers of colonialism – a recurring theme in reggae and Rastafarianism. At one point, Nas says “discovering the world before this world, buried in time, uncovered in rhyme”. The music video kinda rules too.

Turning to one of my favorite bands, I can’t believe it’s already been 2 years since this album came out – “Luminiferous” by High on Fire. I was floored when I read this interview with guitarist/singer, Matt Pike, who full-on believes aliens have been among humans since Ancient Sumer (Rolling Stone, 2015 http://www.rollingstone.com/music/features/high-on-fire-talk-aliens-acid-trips-and-why-new-album-doesnt-suck-20150608). Stoner and Doom metal are subgenres that are rife with references to ancient cultures and pseudoarchaeological claims to the occult. Some of my favorite bands in this style, like The Sword or Electric Wizard, often make (cheesy) references to either real or imaginary ancient material culture to relate themes of power, violence, and life experience in current real-world settings.

There are also passing references in a couple Modest Mouse songs to archaeology. I can’t find the link to the interview but their lead singer, Isaac Brock, apparently studied anthropology in school before graduating with an Associates Degree.

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