Pseudoarchaeology is an umbrella term for all activities that claim to be archaeological but in fact violate commonly accepted archaeological practices. It includes much fictional archaeological work (discussed above), as well as some actual activity. Many non-fiction authors have ignored the scientific methods of processual archaeology
, or the specific critiques of it contained in post-processualism
An example of this type is the writing of Erich von Däniken
. His Chariots of the Gods
(1968), together with many subsequent lesser-known works, expounds a theory of ancient contacts between human civilisation on Earth and more technologically advanced extraterrestrial civilisations. This theory, known as palaeocontact theory
, is not exclusively Däniken's nor did the idea originate with him. Works of this nature are usually marked by the renunciation of well-established theories on the basis of limited evidence, and the interpretation of evidence with a preconceived theory in mind.
Stela of a king named Adad-Nirari. Object stolen from the Iraq National Museum in the looting in connection with the Iraq war
Looting of archaeological sites by people in search of hoards
of buried treasure is an ancient problem. For instance, many of the tombs of the Egyptian pharaohs
were looted in antiquity. The advent of archaeology has made ancient sites objects of great scientific and public interest, but it has also attracted unwelcome attention to the works of past peoples. A brisk commercial demand for artefacts encourages looting and the illicit antiquities
trade, which smuggles items abroad to private collectors. Looters damage the integrity of a historic site, deny archaeologists valuable information that would be learnt from excavation, and are often deemed to be robbing local people of their heritage.
The popular consciousness often associates looting with poor Third World
countries. Many are former homes to many well-known ancient civilizations but lack the financial resources or political will to protect even the most significant sites. Certainly, the high prices that intact objects can command relative to a poor farmer's income make looting a tempting financial proposition for some local people. However, looting has taken its toll in places as rich and populous as the United States and Western Europe as well. Abandoned towns of the ancient Sinagua
people of Arizona
, clearly visible in the desert landscape, have been destroyed in large numbers by treasure hunters. Sites in more densely populated areas farther east have also been looted. Where looting is proscribed by law it takes place under cover of night, with the metal detector
a common instrument used to identify profitable places to dig.
Motivated by a desire to halt looting, curb pseudoarchaeology, and to secure greater public funding and appreciation for their work, archaeologists are mounting public-outreach campaigns. They seek to stop looting by informing prospective artefact collectors of the provenance of these goods, and by alerting people who live near archaeological sites of the threat of looting and the danger that it poses to science and their own heritage. Common methods of public outreach include press releases and the encouragement of school field trips to sites under excavation.
The final audience for archaeologists' work is the public and it is increasingly realised that their work is ultimately being done to benefit and inform them. The putative social benefits of local heritage awareness are also being promoted with initiatives to increase civic and individual pride through projects such as community excavation projects and better interpretation and presentation of existing sites