Kenneth Feder

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Kenneth Feder
Archaeologist Ken Feder.jpg
Born (1952-08-01) August 1, 1952 (age 61)
New York City, NY
Citizenship United States of America
Nationality American
Fields archaeology, anthropology
Alma mater State University of New York at Stony Brook (BS), University of Connecticut (PhD in Anthropology)
Known for Author, Fellow of Committee for Skeptical Inquiry

Kenneth L. "Kenny" Feder (born August 1, 1952) is a professor of archaeology at Central Connecticut State University[1] and the author of several books on archaeology[2] and criticism of pseudoarchaeology such as Frauds, Myths, and Mysteries: Science and Pseudoscience in Archaeology.[3] His book Encyclopedia of Dubious Archaeology: From Atlantis to the Walam Olum was published in 2010. He is the founder and director of the Farmington River Archaeological Project.

Early life[edit]

Feder was very interested in cryptozoology and ancient astronauts as a teenager, when a book called Morning of the Magicians about extraterrestrial aliens turned him on to what he describes as the nonsense in archaeology.[4][5] "Essentially it was Erich von Däniken before Erich von Däniken", referring to the popular author and popularizer of ancient astronaut theories. "I knew it was crap and it got me really pissed off," Feder has stated, adding that researching the claims that were made grew his interest.[5] According to Feder, after becoming a professor, he asked his students what they wanted to learn in the class. They expressed interest in the same things he was interested in as a teen, but he couldn't find a book that dealt with answers to these pseudoscience topics, which led to the writing of his first book, Frauds, Myths, and Mysteries: Science and Pseudoscience in Archaeology.[5]

Ken Feder recovering the tip of a stone spearpoint at a 1,000-year-old archaeological site in West Simsbury, Connecticut.

Career[edit]

Feder is the founder and director of the Farmington River Archaeological Project which studies the prehistory of the region in northwest Connecticut.[3]

He gained his Bachelor of Arts in Anthropology in 1973 from the State University of New York at Stony Brook, his Master of Arts in anthropology from the University of Connecticut in 1975 and his Ph.D. in anthropology in 1982.[3]

In 1993, Feder published an account of his archaeological investigation into a 19th-century historical site in Barkhamsted, Connecticut entitled A Village of Outcasts: Historical Archaeology and Documentary Research at the Lighthouse Site, in which he detailed a case study of a group of Native Americans, emancipated African-American slaves, and European settlers who formed a settlement that lasted from 1740 to 1860.[6] In a review of Feder's book in American Anthropologist, Boston University's Mary Beaudry praised Feder's writing and efforts to draw attention to the settlement and "to turn [its] site report into a work of wider relevance," but also criticized the work, suggesting that "problems ensue from the perspective prehistorians often bring to historical sites," and suggesting that the field methods used in Feder's study lack the modernity of contemporary archaeological methods.[7] Feder's concentration on the narrative of the story reconstructed by the evidence he examined at the Barkhamsted Lighthouse community site was a key aspect of his interest; of the study, Feder has stated, "That's the coolest lesson for me about the lighthouse—it's also a story about how our country is made up of not only these famous folks we always read about, but about ordinary people who do these extraordinary things living in extraordinary circumstances."[8]

Feder's next book is tentatively called Archaeological Odysseys: 50 sites in the United States You Should See Before You Die, and is traveling all over the U.S. visiting these sites. "These have to be places where anybody, you don’t have to be an [a]rchaeologist, would go and you go, 'Wow! That’s really impressive, that’s gorgeous, that’s all mysterious and then talk about this is what it means, this is who built these things, this is how old these places are. So it’s kind of a travel guide/time travel guide, let’s call it that.'[9]

Feder stands in front of ancient pictographs at Sego Canyon in Utah.

Skepticism[edit]

Feder appeared in the episode on ancient astronauts in the National Geographic Channel's Is It Real? and several episodes of the BBC documentary series Horizon discussing Atlantis and Caral. In 2004, he spoke at the World Skeptics Congress in Italy.[3] He is also a fellow of the Committee for Skeptical Inquiry (CSI), an international organization which promotes scientific inquiry.[10]

Feder's 1990 book Frauds, Myths, and Mysteries: Science and Pseudoscience in Archaeology attempts to explore various archaeological myths and misunderstandings by comparing phenomena that might otherwise appear unexplainable to similar occurrences and events that are scientifically documented.[4] Gordon Stein, writing for The Skeptical Inquirer, said of Feder's analysis, "While some of these (e.g., Piltdown Man) have been covered by many previous authors, few have tried to use the tools of modern scientific archaeology to show why probability is greatly against the authenticity of the particular claim," going on to state that Feder uncovers areas "not often examined critically in the popular literature."[11] Feder's work is used as a textbook in a number of undergraduate courses[12] and is currently in its seventh edition.

In April 2001 Feder was consulted by a producer who was putting together a documentary about Atlantis for ABC, to follow the release of the network's parent company, Disney's, animated feature Atlantis: The Lost Empire that same year, and who was "looking for a reputable university anthropologist who was of the opinion that there is [a] historical and cultural connection between Atlantis and the native civilizations of the ancient New World."[5][13] Feder issued criticism of the documentary, which he stated was "packaging a television program to look like a science documentary that [...] amounted to an infomercial for a cartoon."[5][13] In the end, Feder did not contribute to the resulting documentary, Voyage to Atlantis: The Lost Empire, which aired June 10, 2001.[13][14]

Discussing the Bosnian pyramid with Steven Novella, Feder stated that it does not make sense that Visočica is anything other than a natural formation. "It's all about physical evidence... ancient pyramids don't build themselves." Feder claimed that pseudoarchelogists lack the training to do a professional job evaluating items they may find.[15]

Feder's book Encyclopedia of Dubious Archaeology addresses popular myths, by attempting to provide easily understood explanations for why some inaccuracies are perpetuated.[16] In his book, Feder also attempts to delineate the differences between findings that are questionable from "outright frauds."[16]

Personal life[edit]

The Cardiff Giant is Feder's favorite archeological fraud.[5] Kenneth Feder lives in Connecticut. He has two sons.[17]

Feder sits in front of historical petroglyphs showing Native Americans on horseback using bows and arrows to hunt bighorn sheep. The petroglyph panel is located in Arches National Monument in Moab, Utah.

Books[edit]

Quotes[edit]

  • "Too many people find the pseudoscience more interesting than the real deal archaeology which is fascinating... part of that is the fault of archaeologists... we don't talk to the people who are desperately interested in archaeology and don't have the background to evaluate the claims made."[15]
  • On the first day of class he tells his students "Don't believe me because I'm the guy at the front of the classroom... its all about did the things that I'm saying are they researched? Is there evidence to back it up? Question authority."[5]
  • "This is why we're skeptical, we aren't closed minded, we have certain rules of evidence we have to adhere to."[15]
  • "It's impossible for any civilization to have existed and not leave... diagnostic psychical evidence, that is, something that reflects them and only them."[5]

References[edit]

  1. ^ "Feder's website at CCSU". Retrieved 2007-08-12. 
  2. ^ "Oxford University Press: Linking to the Past: Kenneth L. Feder". Retrieved 2007-08-12. 
  3. ^ a b c d "World Skeptics Congress 2004: Kenneth Feder". CICAP. Retrieved 2009-07-29. 
  4. ^ a b Feder, Kenneth (1990). Frauds, Myths, and Mysteries: Science and Pseudoscience in Archaeology. McGraw-Hill Humanities/Social Sciences/Languages. ISBN 978-0078116971. 
  5. ^ a b c d e f g h "Fee-Fi-Fo-Fum!". MonsterTalk. Retrieved 2013-01-21. 
  6. ^ Feder, Kenneth (1993). A Village of Outcasts: Historical Archaeology and Documentary Research at the Lighthouse Site. Mayfield Publishing. ISBN 978-1-55934-255-1. 
  7. ^ Beaudry, Mary (1 December 1994). "A Village of Outcasts: Historical Archaeology and Documentary Research at the Lighthouse Site. Kenneth L. Feder". American Anthropologist 96 (4): 1034. 
  8. ^ Miller, Robert (16 Aug 2003). "Forest Lighthouse; Archaeology Gives Form to Tale of a Marginal Community; Researchers Pursue a Romantic Tale of Love and Escape". Hartford Courant. 
  9. ^ "Ancient Alien Astronauts: Interview with Ken Feder". MonsterTalk podcast. Retrieved 2013-01-21. 
  10. ^ "CSI Fellows and Staff". Center for Inquiry. Retrieved 20 June 2012. 
  11. ^ Stein, Gordon (1990). "Mysteries, Myths, and Misconceptions — Frauds, Myths, and Mysteries: Science and Pseudoscience in Archaeology by Kenneth L. Feder". The Skeptical Inquirer 15 (1): 88–89. 
  12. ^ Arnold, Bettina (2005), "Teaching with intent: The archaeology of gender", Archaeologies 1 (2): 83–93, doi:10.1007/s11759-005-0023-5 
  13. ^ a b c Feder, Kenneth (2002). "Atlantis in Fantasyland: A Mickey Mouse documentary about the lost continent". Skeptic 9 (3): 11–12. 
  14. ^ "Voyage to Atlantis: The Lost Empire (2001) - Overview - TCM.com". Turner Classic Movies. Retrieved 1 February 2013. 
  15. ^ a b c "Podcast 56 - August 15, 2006". Skeptics' Guide to the Universe. Retrieved 2013-01-20. 
  16. ^ a b Wrinkle, Bobbie (January 2011). "Feder, Kenneth L.: Encyclopedia of Dubious Archaeology: From Atlantis to the Walam Olum". Library Journal 129. 
  17. ^ "Solving Mysteries". The Fifth World Skeptic Congress. Retrieved 1/25/2013 (citation says daughters, Feder stated in personal email he has sons).. 

External links[edit]