Netflix Documentary Under Fire From Archeologists
The Society for American Archaeology is denouncing the Graham Hancock Netflix show Ancient Apocalypse. In a letter to the streaming giant, the SAA stated that they want the series to be re-classified from “docu-series” to “fiction” or “science fiction.” The show is about claims by Graham Hancock that he says support the existence of Atlantis.
The SAA’s letter says that the society formed out of a need to preserve the archaeological heritage of the Americas. They have members around the world who are students, archaeologists, and other interests involved in the preservation of Indigenous cultures. Their goals involve promoting the preservation of history and education toward that purpose, which is why they have spoken out publicly against Netflix’s Ancient Apocalypse.
They state in the letter that the premises of the Netflix show Ancient Apocalypse “run directly counter to that purpose” by undermining archaeologists as professionals. The show posits that archaeologists have “missed” or “ignored” evidence of the existence of Atlantis as a predecessor to human cultural development. In their letter, the SAA listed three complaints to support their claim.
In the first complaint, they express dismay over Hancock’s dismissal of archaeologists as a group. They indicate that Hanson’s use of descriptors such as “so-called experts” demeans their profession and “assaults” their knowledge. The letter reiterates that, contrary to the claims on the Netflix show, there is no evidence to support any of what Graham Hancock says on Ancient Apocalypse.
The second complaint is that, by Netflix promoting Ancient Apocalypse as a “docu-series,” they are implying that it is based on facts. They say that this is misleading because there are no archaeological facts to support any of Graham Hancock’s theories. In the letter, they write, “Contrary to Hancock’s claims, archaeology does not willfully ignore credible evidence nor does it seek to suppress it in a conspiratorial fashion.”
The third accusation against the Netflix series is that Ancient Apocalypse robs Indigenous people of their own culture by implying that it was “white Atlanteans” that built certain ancient structures around the world. They trace the roots of this theory to 1880s Minnesota congressman Ignatius Donnelly, who made these claims in books and articles as a means to promote segregation. The SAA says that many of the stories about European cultures “helping” the nations they conquered as a narrative intended to glorify colonization and white supremacy.
The letter, which was written by SAA President Daniel H. Sandweiss, concludes by calling upon Netflix to take actions such as re-classifying Ancient Apocalypse as “science fiction” and balancing out their programming with “the presentation of scientific documentaries and accurate reporting” on archaeological discoveries and what they say about human culture. It also refers to many efforts made by the SAA to combat “pseudo-archaeology,” such as the claims made by Graham Hancock. This effort goes hand-in-hand with preserving the reputation of the archaeological profession as academic experts on history and its artifacts.
Atlantis first appeared as an allegory in the writings of Plato, but interest in the mythos picked up once Europeans discovered the American continents, as this new knowledge made the existence of an unknown continent all too real. However, there is no evidence supporting Plato’s claims, even in the writing of his contemporaries. While it is entirely possible that comparatively advanced civilizations who created some of humanity’s greatest mysteries were around to give a boost to their less-developed neighbors, the idea of Atlantis has never been proven, and the SAA says that Netflix’s Ancient Apocalypse has done nothing to change that except insult the livelihood of archaeologists everywhere.