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Mass Media Mistakes: Implications of Archaeological Misportrayal Essay

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If you ask the majority of citizens in the United States about their opinion on the validity of geography-based cultural heritage claims, chances are they will either look at you like you are crazy or dive into an explanation about the most recent show they saw on the history channel about the repatriation of the Kennewick Man. Like any other topic, a person’s scope of knowledge in regards to archaeology is limited to the material that they have been exposed to. In today’s society, the majority of this information is gleaned from popular media sources such as National Geographic, the History Channel, Wikipedia, and other mainstream “educational” resources. Although very popular, these resources often offer interpretations that sensationalize and misrepresent archaeological data. The media is the main conduit of educational information and therefore, has a societal obligation to accurately portray archaeological findings and data.
References to archaeology have become increasing common in popular culture. Images of cultural icons, themes, and artifacts are found in a wide range of media formats. Some movies, such as Indiana Jones, National Treasure, and Tomb Raider do not claim to have an educational significance whereas other films, such as Breaking the Maya Code and The Bible’s Buried Secrets are presented as non-fiction works. The latter films claim to have an educational intention, and should further public knowledge by clarifying and interpreting archaeological that portrays education issues should contribute to the clarifying and interpreting data. This same principle applies to other forms of media such as magazines, journals, websites, and television shows that infer educational value on the viewer. (Clarke 3)
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... to archaeology, media not only facilitates an archive of past events, it actively creates the present by expounding on past events. Even more credit is giving to television programs, movies, articles, and journals that assert an “educational value” upon the viewer. An audience’s scope of knowledge is limited to the information they receive; this becomes problematic when the media only depicts one side of an issue to create a cohesive narrative. Value-based conclusions are drawn from the information that is being presented to the audience which can have lasting impacts. Media that claims to be “educational” should take archaeologists’ input into account and shift the focus form ratings to accuracy. By holding the mass media to a higher standard of presentation, we can ensure that value-based opinions will be a result of empirical data, not sensationalized fallacy.



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