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Learning in the Pub – Pseudoscience, archaeo-appeal and colonial identity in Southeast Queensland

12/05/2015 @ 18:00

Dr. Steve Nichols is an Australian archaeologist and Registrar for the Department of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander and Multicultural Affairs in Queensland. He is presenting a talk on pseudoscience, archaeo-appeal and colonial identity in southeast Queensland

The popular archaeology of southeast Queensland has a strong tradition of pseudoscientific claims about ‘secret visitors’ in the past. Two well-known examples are the claims of a mysterious ‘pyramid’ at the hinterland township of Gympie, and the purported wreck of a ‘Spanish Galleon’ on Stradbroke Island in Moreton Bay.

The promotion of these theories has become a thriving cottage industry, with books, news stories, websites and documentary film being produced for consumption within and beyond the region. Analysis of this material shows that it blatantly exploits all the elements of popular ‘archaeo-appeal’, combining adventure, mystery and conspiracy with buried treasure, established stereotypes, and the promise of an explosive secret that will inevitably ‘rewrite the history books’.

But the enduring public fascination with these theories is also firmly situated in long-standing and deep-seated Eurocentric discourses about the past which continue to reproduce colonial identities within the dominant settler culture of contemporary Australia.

In light of recent postcolonial trajectories in Australian archaeology, it is suggested that local manifestations of ‘fringe archaeology’, such as the case studies considered here, are a key public arena in which to engage and unsettle the colonial ‘tropes’ that characterise much popular thinking about the past.

We’ll be in the Charlotte Room




Brisbane Skeptic Society


Stock Exchange Hotel
131 Edward Street
Brisbane, Queensland 4000 Australia