I already blogged about the recent claims that Cambyses‘ lost army had been found. When I finished my article, I briefly suspected that I had been too harsh in my criticism, and when I found a press release stating that the people who had made the claim were not involved in the project, I initially thought that this was mudslinging among colleagues fighting for a scoop. But it turns out I was too kind: read David Meadows’ article here.
The journalists who swallowed the initial press release, ought to have checked their facts, and the problem is that no one seems to do that any more. We have seen the now notorious Pasargadae Hoax: the Iranian authorities are building a dam in the Sivand (true) and the tomb of Cyrus will be flooded (not true, but you can always make a photo montage to prove a point). We have seen the press releases by Dutch archaeologists. We have seen the outrageous claims made in Israel, where connecting a find to a Biblical person results in a miraculous multiplication of funds.
I know that there are sincere archaeologists, who really do their best to tell the truth. I also know that there are honest journalists. But archaeology is rapidly becoming a suspect discipline.
Unfortunately these sensational, oversimplified articles seem to be really good at getting attention. I’ve seen the Cambyses’ army thing posted on many forums. So if you want publicity, or readers for your newspaper/news program/blog, this is an effective strategy. I don’t know what the solution to this is.