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Bad Archaeology protagonist exhibits Worst Scholarship: Fitzpatrick-Matthews lame efforts to control mindshare
Keith Fitzpatrick-Matthews patrols (or used to patrol) the internet, television and other news sources of presumed disrepute on his debunking crusade to enforce respect for the opinions of mainstream archaeology. As a self-appointed thought cop, his duty is pouncing on dissenters of the status quo at badarchaeology.com   After all, archaeology, as a subjective humanity — instead of the objective science it thinks it is — is cloaked in arrogant omniscience denouncing, in an actual or virtual peer review gauntlet, any discovery or advocate challenging its almighty tenets, dismissive of anyone who doubts its supremacy by enforcing conformity to an institutional dogma fortified over decades. History suffers from this indignity. When peer reviewers are wrong, who corrects them?
 
Officer Fitzpatrick-Matthews' lack of credibility and scholarship, fueled by his ignorance, bias and policing tactics, must be exposed.
 

Dr. Barry Fell endures as archaeology's favorite target of disdain. Fell sat for interviews with me in 1984, once at a TV studio in Albuquerque where he was attending a conference, and again at his San Diego home, retired as a Harvard University professor of marine biology. His passion for epigraphy had grown in his worldwide travels. He was convinced ancient adventurers, navigators, explorers, and traders made their way around the planet on the high seas. With few exceptions mainstream archaeology enforces a myth of North America's exemption from any foreign cultural contact until Leif Erikson, briefly, on Nova Scotia's north coast a millenium ago.
 
Barry Fell's challenge to such dogma earned him the contempt of many — archaeologists, anthropologists, historians and nervous clergymen backing Columbus' perilous reputation. Clearly, Dr. Fell was not without his faults. He had an arrogant streak and committed errors in some decipherments. Pioneers are known to stumble in trailblazing coherent, transformative theories. One thing Howard Barraclough Fell was not, however, was fringe, the condescending adjective many, if not most, archaeologists dredge from their collective vocabularies to tar the reputation of this scholar and author of America B.C. decades after his death.
 
In September 2011, Keith Fitzpatrick-Matthews initiated badarchaeology.com/controversies/barry-fell. Since then, the associated blog has counted at least 26 responses not including Fitzpatrick-Matthews' defensive replies. Here are excerpts from his first and fourth:
 
29 November 2012: "Old World scripts do not appear in the Americas. There are claims that they do, none of which stand up to scrutiny as the products of pre-Columbian explorers: those that actually look like genuine Old World scripts are of recent date, while Barry Fell saw things in scratches that no Old World epigrapher would ever recognise as a script."
 
26 August 2013: "The problem with Fell's 'evidence' is that it is so poor. His ogham, for instance, consists of irregular scratches on flat rock surfaces. Only someone with complete ignorance of real ogham could make that mistake and in doing so, we can work out (in a forensic sense, if you like) that he learned the ogham script entirely from books, where the lines that make up the characters are indeed drawn on a flat surface, with a line through the centre. Familiarity with real ogham stones would have shown him that this line is not an imaginary mid-point (as he seems to have been convinced) but an edge of the stone: true ogham is written across an edge. That is how it works. To see scratches on a flat rock surface as ogham goes against everything we know about the real thing. This is not speculation on my part. These are the uncomfortable facts for anyone who wants to believe in Fell's supposed ogham." (underlining is my emphasis)
 
Fitzpatrick-Matthews is either ignorant or dishonest, arrogantly echoing the No Flat Ogham mantra parroted by myopic archaeologists since at least 1977, as if the unwashed believers were somehow equivalent to deranged flat-earthers. Fitzpatrick-Matthews is an archaeologist employed 55 kilometers north of London. The world's motherlode of ogham rock inscriptions, in situ and curated in Dublin, is within 700 km west of his home. To him and his fellow misguided ArchaeoPriests, adopt some humility, halt the bullying of discovery, and take the initiative to actually investigate what is unknown to you instead of echoing ad infinitum lame, shopworn and self-serving untruths as irrefutable fact. I believe Fitzpatrick-Matthews engages in egregious professional malpractice and must be held accountable.
 
sketch of flat ogham stone at Dunloe Gap near Killarney, Ireland
Exhibit A: my 1987 sketch of a monumental stone at Gap of Dunloe near Killarney, Ireland busting Fitzpatrick-Matthews for his false claim flat ogham is non-existent. Watch Sacred EquinoX prequel a 15-minute Irish cavalcade of Flat Ogham inscriptions, coast-to-coast, surveyed 1986-1988
 
19 February 2016: notes, from an investigative journalist, pertaining to sourcing, bias, neutrality and credibility
 
Wikipedia is a favorite online haunt of desk-bound wordsmiths out to spread their Truths. I have no idea of Keith Fitzpatrick-Matthews' time spent pounding the keyboard versus undertaking dirty fieldwork. It doesn't matter. My point is he's quite fond of pivoting to Wikipedia when confronted with, and seeking cover from, troublesome contrarians drawn to his blog. So, here's my take on Wikipedia from real-world experience: the good, the bad and the ugly.
 
To be published on Wikipedia, authors consent to review by the public and by the website's management. A primary distinction Wikipedia's Ogham article attempts to establish is between 'orthodox' (or monumental) inscriptions carved along standing stone corners AND the 'scholastic' style, explained as having evolved only after the literati, introduced to paper and Christianity, began imitating linearity on stone, as well. Flat Ogham, it could be just as reasonably postulated, preceded the adoption of the convenience of using stone edges to define stem lines. What's with the assumption of a binary, either/or, stylistic division, anyway? Multiple styles* co-existed in Ireland. Y'know, different strokes for different folks! Accurate, physical dating of rock inscriptions (or, in this case, a claim the transition from one style to another happened at 600 CE) would be notoriously difficult. It's conjecture given multiple regions and other variables. Everyone has different penmanship, after all. Why should have ancient stone engravers been any different in groove styling than graffiti artists' diversity today? This article's authors deviate from a neutral narrative with a tip of their collective cap toward a favorite, Damian McManus, elevating his beliefs at the expense of trashing those of his 20th century predecessor who catalogued all known Irish and UK Ogham, R.A. Stewart Macalister. This is classic — discretionary editing based on an opinion compliant with an agenda. Macalister's Wikipedia article's been up since 9 December 2012. No one's yet initiated a Wikipedia article on McManus.
 
And, what about this core text passage in the article's 'Theories of origin' section?
 
A direct quote excepting re:Macalister parenthetical: Later scholars are largely united in rejecting this theory (re: Macalister assertions of Gaulish-Greco-Roman origins of Ogham circa. 600 BC), however, [McManus] primarily because a detailed study of the letters [citation needed] shows that they were created specifically for the Primitive Irish of the early centuries AD. The supposed links with the form of the Greek alphabet that Macalister proposed can also be disproved.[citation needed] :unquote
 
Wikipedia article co-author UtDicitur (her/his chosen editorial handle) entered the above passage on 19 May 2008, text that has remained unchanged for 9 years. Inquiring minds want to know: a-) how many scholars were surveyed, b-) were any Macalister backers queried? Archaeologists: kindly support your assertions, reveal your evidence and cast aside your biases!
 
On 16 July 2010 the superscripts alerting authors of 'citation needed' were added. When a doctoral thesis is tagged with annotation deficiencies by the departmental chair, the candidate had better make corrections. However, in this case omissions do not seem to matter to Fitzpatrick-Matthews. The editor-in-chief enforcer at badarchaeology.com followed up his No Flat Ogham declaration on 26 August 2013 at his Controversies rant re: Barry Fell, with a link to this article on his next blog. Lacking corroborative annotations, Fitzpatrick-Matthews verifies nothing with this citation. Citing a deficient article favoring one scholar and diminishing another without reason underscores Fitzpatrick-Matthews' spectacular superficiality. The Ogham article is graded 'B' by Wikipedia, and that's generous considering its unsubstantiated claims and unfinished work, undeserving of scholarly merit. While it may escape overt bias, it is not objective.
 
4 other [citation needed] suggestions are scattered about within 'Theories of origin'. That's the status of the article as of this dateline — archive — the one in force since the latest update 10 January 2016. Clarification, even a revision comporting impartiality, could occur overnight or never.
 
Scholastic ogham — compare with today's archive live since 25 July 2015 — is a spin-off failure of Ogham. Wikipedia co-author Kwamikagami updated both articles on 13 June 2011, returning to again edit the main article 2 days later. Another, going by the handle Dbachman, modified both articles on 19 November 2010. The subordinate article is such a trainwreck, in fact, that Wikipedia warns with a header: "This article has multiple issues. Please help improve it or discuss these issues on the talk page. This article needs additional citations for verification. This article may require cleanup to meet Wikipedia's quality standards."
 
In short, tie your shoelaces, follow your heart, and blindly trust Wikipedia content at your own peril. A particular article may be nothing more than a mouthpiece or a soapbox for an academic looking for likes or the like-minded to jump in to pump their point of view. Not all who publish on Wikipedia make their points cogently (or truthfully). Academics DO gang up on others, who may well be qualified but outside of their sphere of influence, to have them bounced as contributors. I was excluded from Wikipedia's archaeoastronomy article (1 Jan - 13 Apr 2008) when I attempted to balance my opponents' bias. Watch video: Politics of Archaeoastronomy. Although I supplied multiple, authoritative sourcing for my inserts, they jacketed me as fringe and the arbiters behind the scenes favored the academic whiners who opposed me, 3 against 1, in banning balanced, but as it turned out unpalatable content (to my co-authors) within an independent section far downstream within their article, that could have offset — but just pissed off — those 'experts' in charge (handles: AlunSalt, SteveMcCluskey and a third). Today, their Fringe archaeoastronomy sub-section (part 8), smears dedicated researchers I've known in an unchallenged dismissal in ¶3. That's an unprofessional swipe I cannot edit, delete, or offer sources in the defense of Ida Jane Gallagher and Barry Fell. That's policy dictated by authorities in archaeology and history, folks, appealing to Wikipedia. Wikipedia favors academically credentialed contributors, disproportionately empowering them at the disadvantage to those they label fringe, a handy, indiscriminate catch-all phrase netting any who disagree with the establishment's grip — in archaeologists' case, a maniacal chokehold — on the information economy, regardless of fringiness. Yes, the reasonableness of some cases is legitimate within an anomalous constellation of many that are ill-conceived. This documentarian, along with countless other citizen-journalists and bloggers bypass the BS web hang-outs, conveying ideas unvarnished to the public on www!s inclusive and judgment-agnostic backbone, rather than the predictably negative filter overarching the dusty, disheveled mind-control corridors of archaeoguru Fitzpatrick-Matthews' pontificating websites, WordPress party-line dogma and stale HTML of a prehistoric (possibly, anti-historic) mindset.
 
Wikipedia has a credibility grading standard for articles based on the evidence therein presented. Without such a feature, the open-source online destination would not, itself, garner a gram of gravitas.
 
Post-processual know-it-alls who resort to denigrating deceased scholars such as Barry Fell and R.A. Stewart Macalister preclude any possibility of Fell's or Macalister's push-back on the establishment's doctrine-creep. This gaggle of authoritarian dinosaurs on the prowl believes their herd knows best and deserves to prevail. It's much more than Bull, it's Brontosaurus Shit!
 
The scribes writing in the 14th century are closer to Ogham's origins than rookie academic revisionists. In masterful penmanship, artists from the Middle Ages expressed original and comprehensive knowledge of the form and reasoning in multiple variants of Ogham, which set apart the literate from most of their contemporaries uninspired to read or write. Bonded in this crypto-alphabet, Celtic spiritualists employed stone for permanent inscriptions, probably notched wood for short messages and mementos. These were leaders of communities sharing mystic reverence for trees. Indeed, 15 names of tree genera identified Ogham's 15 primary consonantal values derived from the Roman alphabet, represented as one to five strokes beneath, above or intersecting a perpendicular stem line. Clusters of one to five dots on the stem line signified 5 primary vowels in Roman usage. The Auraicept references a shorthand, consonant-only variant, as well. More complex Ogham included ornate diphthongs for expressing linguistic nuance.
 
Watch our scholastic introduction to Ogham with linguist David H. Kelley in a Bill McGlone VHS during a 1989 canyoneering survey of petroglyphs in southeast Colorado and the Oklahoma Panhandle, examples of which Dr. Kelley authenticates as likely Ogham. :17 seconds at Anubis Caves
 
* folio 170r of the Book of Ballymote (AD 1390), part of the Auraicept na n-Éces, explaining the Ogham script.
Variants of Ogham, nrs. 43 to 77 of 92 in total, including shield ogham (nr. 73), wheel ogham (nr. 74), finn's window (nr. 75).

 
Wikimedia Creative Commons public domain art from Ireland's <u>Book of Ballymote</u> Ogham tracts, variants illustrated
 
work is in the public domain, source https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Book_of_Ballymote_170r.jpg Common Creations service mark
 
Access this and 3 adjacent pagegrabs from the Book of Ballymote by visiting digital repository Irish Script on Screen
Click Collections — Click Royal Irish Academy — in left column, click MS 23 P 12 The Book of Ballymote
select f.167v - f.177r — four folios with graphical representations are f169r to f170v

author Scott Monahan
updated with closing remarks and
authoritative Ogham December in 2017
 

 

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