Pseudoarchaeology — also known as alternative archaeology, fringe archaeology, fantastic archaeology, or cult archaeology — refers to interpretations of the past from outside of the academic archaeological community, which typically also reject the accepted scientific and analytical methods of the discipline. These pseudoscientific interpretations involve the use of archaeological data to construct theories about the past that differ radically from those of mainstream academic archaeology in order to supplement new historic claims with evidence. Claims like these exaggerate evidence, draw dramatic, romanticized conclusions, and more.
There is no one singular pseudoarchaeological theory, but many different interpretations of the past that are at odds from those developed by academics. Some of these revolve around the idea that prehistoric and ancient human societies were aided in their development by intelligent extraterrestrial life, an idea propagated by those such as Swiss author Erich von Däniken in books such as Chariots of the Gods? (1968) and Italian author Peter Kolosimo. Others instead hold that there were human societies in the ancient period that were significantly technologically advanced, such as Atlantis, and this idea has been propagated by figures like Graham Hancock in his Fingerprints of the Gods (1995).
Many alternative archaeologies have been adopted by religious groups. Fringe archaeological ideas such as archaeocryptography and pyramidology have been embraced by religions ranging from the British Israelites to the theosophists. Other alternative archaeologies include those that have been adopted by members of New Age and contemporary pagan belief systems. These include the Great Goddess hypothesis, propagated by Marija Gimbutas, according to which prehistoric Europeans worshipped a single female monotheistic deity—and various theories associated with the Earth mysteries movement, such as the concept of ley lines.
Academic archaeologists have heavily criticised pseudoarchaeology, with one of the most vocal critics, John R. Cole, characterising it as relying on “sensationalism, misuse of logic and evidence, misunderstanding of scientific method, and internal contradictions in their arguments.” The relationship between alternative and academic archaeologies has been compared to the relationship between intelligent design theories and evolutionary biology by some archaeologists.