Deviant ancient histories: Dan Brown, Erich von Daniken and the sociology of historical polemic

Polemical works attacking fringe versions of the ancient past tend to be characterized by extreme positivism and a lack of reflexivity. It is rare to find polemics written for a popular audience by those of other methodological persuasions, for instance by 'practical realists' or deconstructionists. In explaining this fact, I examine some of the salient topoi in the polemical works attacking the outlandish theories of Dan Brown and Erich von Daniken, and suggest that these polemics should be understood by reference to Durkheimian theories of deviance. 'Imagined communities' of positivist historians (and also Christians) need the periodic identification and persecution of deviants, in order for such communities to define and maintain the boundaries of acceptable belief and practice. Attacks on 'deviant ancient historians' become contexts for positivist historians and Christian apologists to confront the more profound dangers posed to their communities by epistemic uncertainty and heterodoxy.