This post is a digression off the polytheism path, but it is about an issue that is, in my mind, VERY important.
I was watching TV the other day when I saw a commercial for a show that would be airing soon (by the time that I’m writing this it has actually aired its first episode). The premise of the show is straightforward: a company led by a man named Ric Savage engages in “artifact recovery” in which they find artifacts and then sell them, and this company is the “best in the country” at what they do.
Don’t let the “artifact recovery” fool you: it is nowhere near as fluffy as it sounds.
The group goes anywhere that they have heard rumors of artifacts being located and dig up the ground in whatever way they can to get their hands on the artifacts. Not only do they use regular old shovels, but they also employ such destructive machines as backhoes.
I would be ok with this if they were part of an actual, honest-to-gods archaeological excavation and used proper documentation: but they aren’t, and they don’t. They are just a group of people with super macho attitudes and a TV contract that go around destroying American history.
In the words of Mr. Savage, “We’re not out to rape and pillage the ground, we’re not grave robbers: we’re historians. We want to feel history in our hands. This is the only way you can do that: by digging.”
As a student of archaeology and someone who cares a lot about conservation and history of all eras, I can’t tell you how much this kind of thing disgusts me. What Mr. Savage is doing is “raping and pillaging” the ground: that’s what archaeology is. I once had a professor who said that archaeology is the only field of detective work in which you murder your informant once you’re done with them. As soon as the first level of topsoil has been taken off, the archaeological site is destroyed. Another gem from that same professor: context is everything. We need documentation of where artifacts were found, because once the context is lost, the artifact is, sadly, next to useless.
And to take the artifacts and sell them for money – for personal gain – is even more despicable. Those artifacts need to be documented, they need to be studied: if someone wants one for their own personal collection, then they’ll just have to wait.
I don’t even want to think about how many people might see this show and think that this sort of thing is OK. Looting of archaeological sites is a major problem – not to mention illegal! – and I feel that this show is condoning that.
I have seen comments that say that this show is fake, and I hope to the high heavens that that is true. But I doubt it.
I have a link below to a petition against the show. You certainly don’t have to sign it if you don’t want to. There is also a Facebook group against the American Diggers with some good, relevant information.
Thank you for taking the time to read this, and I should hopefully get back to the irregular unscheduled Religio Romana posts soon.
Link to the Facebook group: http://www.facebook.com/pages/People-against-Spike-TVs-American-Digger/193110227460512