As if the nation’s teachers weren’t already in an uphill battle, along comes another educational speed bump: Warner Bros.’ drama 10,000 BC, which just hit theaters with a load of prehistorical head-scratchers. Cavemen traveling in boats and wagons! Woolly mammoths and saber-toothed tigers twice their normal size! To be fair, director Roland Emmerich didn’t intend to make a documentary — ”Historically, it’s a fantasy,” he says. ”It’s like Lord of the Rings” — but even so, experts at top museums are readying a campaign to correct fans who leave the movie thinking cities existed 12,000 years ago and that cavemen had their own Viking-like helmets.
”They’ve mixed up so much stuff,” says Dr. Dennis Stanford, the Smithsonian’s curator of archaeology. ”In fact, there wasn’t a scene that I saw that was anywhere near accurate.” Dr. Ross MacPhee, curator of mammalogy at NYC’s American Museum of Natural History, calls the movie ”implausible,” but seems almost giddy to field queries from confused moviegoers. ”I’m not ridiculously fussy about it,” he says, adding that the museum staff is delighted that 10,000 BC may spike interest in its prehistoric exhibits. Stanford notes that audiences generally understand Hollywood’s tendency for exaggeration: ”Most educated people will just laugh.” — Additional reporting by Adam B. Vary