We can’t both be right. We think artefact hunters who target archaeological sites (albeit legally) or don’t report all their finds despite 15 years of cajoling should be publicly exposed as cultural vandals. In contrast The Portable Antiquities Scheme says very little about them. Since PAS comprises government backed archaeologists many would assume it’s us who are wrong. So we were pleased to see this article showing what U.S. archaeologists think about the issue:
“Maybe even sadder still for archaeologists is how once an artifact is removed from the ground, regardless of whose hands it might eventually end in, it has been pulled from the historical fabric where it belongs.”
(Brandon Hubbard, Staff Writer).
“It totally devalues what the artifact is, because without knowing what it is and what else might be in its surroundings, it is just another pretty thing”
(Lynn Evans, curator of archaeology for Michigan State Historic Parks).
“If you have an original manuscript in a library or archive, people — generally speaking — wouldn’t think about going into an archive and tearing a page out of a manuscript. But often people don’t see any harm in digging into an archaeological site. If you use a metal detector and just pull out the metal stuff and nothing else, it doesn’t allow you to learn from that site like it would if it was done with an archaeological method. In a lot of ways the really important thing for us is we want that site undisturbed — especially on public land because that information is the property of the people of Michigan. We feel like it needs to be protected for the public good.”
(Dean Anderson, state archaeologist for Michigan).
So when the Head of PAS says our approach is wrong it’s water off a duck’s back – for we are simply expressing the same outrage about an assault on “the public good” that is voiced by tens of thousands of American archaeologists. A bit of outrage about it from PAS wouldn’t come amiss. So far, the only outrage we’ve ever seen from them has been directed towards conservationists. Come to think of it, the only praise we’ve ever seen them express has been directed towards artefact hunters!