Artifact or Fiction

(American Treasures)

In 2009, I began a film project that documented the folks that call up archaeologists, asking us to come out and investigate their amazing discovery (think…a Bigfoot footprint, a meteorite with an image of God burned into it, or the Knights Templar treasure buried in a backyard in Pennsylvania). Most archaeologist ignore these claims, often for good reason – it is time consuming and often goes nowhere. But I wanted to investigate their claim, conduct an interview, and explain to them why this coffee mug was not the Holy Grail. To me this was a great opportunity to create a collection of stories over the years to use as a teaching tool in my introduction to archaeology course.


The following year the concept was morphed into a television show by Discovery Channel and given the unfortunate and unethical title of American Treasures (later renamed Artifact or Fiction). The production of the show was a constant uphill battle of trying to persuade the network to adhere to the Principles of Archaeological Ethics defined by the Society for American Archaeology. Luckily, I got to share this bittersweet experience with my friend and colleague, Jason De Leon. After six months of filming and fighting with Discovery, ten 30-minute episodes were completed.


Here are two of my favorites.

Episode 1 - Guns & moonshiners
Episode 9 - katrina & voodoo