The one thing that almost all anthropologists are united in is the whole-sale despising of cultural imperialism. Even if you are unfamiliar with the definition I’m sure you’ve run into it. Sometimes it is the blatant mockery of different cultures, but most of the time it is the unspoken subtext in Western opinions about Others.
It is easiest to spot cultural imperialism in racist rhetoric about People Who Are Not Lilly White, of course, but it can be harder to identify in less extant forms. For example, most of the people fascinated by the idea that Aliens taught humans to build pyramids don’t really understand that there is inherent message in that theory that Brown People couldn’t have come up with such awesome math and architecture on their own. I’m sure the conspiracy fantasists don’t mean to be racist, but that’s what it is.
(Although, I freely admit that the idea that aliens have visited earth in the distant past is intriguing to a sci-fi geek like myself, and as long as people don’t dip into the “aliens taught them how to grow corn” silliness it’s not necessarily imperialistic.)
Cultural imperialism also colors perceptions about what people were capable of in the past, simply because they were not “modern”. We have been anatomically “modern” humans for than 100,000 years and we were as smart then as we are now. Moreover, people seem to have forgotten that our technology has only caught up with the mechanization of Imperial Rome in the last 150 or so years. The Romans in 100 AD were more “advanced” in many ways than England was in 1800 AD.
Thus it irks the anthropological masses when people are “mind-blown” by things like this:
Well, why wouldn’t Ancient Egyptians have a good knowledge of anatomy and apply it to their religious/cultural ideologies? They were highly knowledgeable in several applied sciences, after all. Why couldn’t the title just have been, “This Is Cool” or “Neat!” or “Wow” or something else that indicated surprise at the information, not that it was mind-boggling the Egyptians knew that information existed? No one had their mind blown by the idea that Michelangelo might have known what a cross section of a human brain looked like and painted it into the “Creation of Adam”. They either thought he was a very clever fellow or that we were seeing things that weren’t there just because we NOW know what brain sections looked like.
Also it annoys anthropologists (and historians I am sure) when European cultures are credited with “discovering” scientific principles or technologies that were already well established in Africa or China or India.
We are an easily vexed bunch, apparently.