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History belongs to us all = ? (Read 3074 times)
Thearos
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History belongs to us all = ?
Dec 15th, 2012 at 7:56pm
 
Another brilliant post by the archaeologist Paul Barford, tireless fighter against antiquities trading and illegal looting:

http://paul-barford.blogspot.co.uk/2012/12/the-two-models-of-history-belongs-to-...

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curious_aardvark
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Re: History belongs to us all = ?
Reply #1 - Dec 16th, 2012 at 1:16pm
 
Quote:
Translated into rhinoceroses that's the "rhinos belong to us all, so we should support by every means efforts to stop poaching" and the "rhinos belong to us all, so I can have a matching rhino horn letter-opener and keyfob set" models. Which side are you on?


well I'm in neither camp.
A little too simplistic I reckon.

Yes I'm all for history and archaelogy being for everyone. However I'm not so quick to differentiate between a grave robber after artifacts to sell to earn a living and an archaelogist being paid to find artifacts funded by a museum.
Both are doing essentially the same job for a living.

Whether the artifacts end up initially in a private collection and only get donated to or discovered by a museum at a later date. Or are bought directly by the museum in question, seems a bit of a moot point.

At the end of the day everything usually ends up in a museum that has paid for it thorugh one channel or another.

Now obviously the archaeologist will argue that the 'tomb robber' is destroying historical information in his unsupervised excavations.
He's got a point.

The sensible option would be for the western world to invest in places they want to conduct their professional graverobbing in so that the impoverished indigenes don't have to resort to graverobbing to fed their families.

And yes I realise that's as simplistic and incorrect a statement of the situation as the rhinoceros analogy.

Which is my point.

It's a complex situation which 'them and us' stands and situations outlined by the rhinoceros scenario do absolutely nothing to help or clarify.
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Thearos
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Re: History belongs to us all = ?
Reply #2 - Dec 16th, 2012 at 5:10pm
 
It's not the artifacts, it's the loss of information about the past-- archaeology, like medicine, is a highly developed way of observing and interpreting data.

We're not talking about "impoverished countries", we're talking about the UK. YOUR history is being despoiled-- Neolithic farmers, Celts, Roman Britan, Dark Ages-- by people looking for baubles to sell on eBay or storing them in their shed.
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Atlatlista
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Re: History belongs to us all = ?
Reply #3 - Dec 16th, 2012 at 5:18pm
 
I think whining about the metal detecting community is a hugely stupid move on his part.  The archaeological crew I worked with over the summer had two amateur metal detectors on the team, because they're amazing at finding artifacts.  By building a rapport with them, the professor leading the project has harnessed their passion for the good of archaeology.  Now, their finds are properly recorded and tagged and put in a museum, and they're basking in the glow of praise and recognition for the skills they have developed and the finds they have unearthed.  And if they go out detecting on their own, they're sure to GPS the coordinates of any finds to the archaeologist, and apprise him of anything that seems of substantial cultural significance.  Everybody wins.  If you take the attitude of this guy, what you get is hostility, and metal detector crews tearing through important materials, far too spiteful to consider inviting an archaeologist to examine what they're finding.
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Thearos
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Re: History belongs to us all = ?
Reply #4 - Dec 16th, 2012 at 5:19pm
 
It's a very, very simple situation, actually.
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Atlatlista
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Re: History belongs to us all = ?
Reply #5 - Dec 16th, 2012 at 5:20pm
 
Thearos wrote on Dec 16th, 2012 at 5:19pm:
It's a very, very simple situation, actually.


No, it's really not.
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Thearos
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Reply #6 - Dec 16th, 2012 at 5:43pm
 
Look at the situation in the UK-- it's disastrous. If you work on Dark Ages material, a huge number of sites are getting plundered IN SPITE OF a make-nice scheme with the detectorists.

It's what Barford has been writing about a lot recently.
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Thearos
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Re: History belongs to us all = ?
Reply #7 - Dec 16th, 2012 at 5:45pm
 
Again-- not the objects-- it's the tearing through of stratigraphical context (and the discarding of anything that's not sellable). It's not a heroic form of local knowledge. It's pitiful.
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Atlatlista
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Re: History belongs to us all = ?
Reply #8 - Dec 16th, 2012 at 5:56pm
 
You have to make-nice with them, or make metal detecting illegal.  Those are your options.  If you make metal-detecting illegal, you do lose out on the finds that amateurs bring to the attention of the professionals, like the Staffordshire Hoard.
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Bill Skinner
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Re: History belongs to us all = ?
Reply #9 - Dec 16th, 2012 at 5:56pm
 
I think that all of you are right, and that's the problem.
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Mauro Fiorentini
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Re: History belongs to us all = ?
Reply #10 - Dec 16th, 2012 at 6:06pm
 
Guys, you should really come to Italy and see how a wonderful stock of cultural heritage is being awfully managed.
Long story short, don't buy antiquities, not as individuals, and more than even not as a Museum (a famous Museum in NY paid lots of thousands dollars to a friend of mine, who sold them a fake he made. I love this guy. Eat my shorts, "museum"  Cool ).
Greetings,
Mauro.
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Thearos
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Re: History belongs to us all = ?
Reply #11 - Dec 16th, 2012 at 6:31pm
 
The Corby helmet was restored by a saleroom, not a professional lab-- so that a lot is unclear (the top finial looks very weird indeed). And it's not in a private collection.
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Mauro Fiorentini
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Re: History belongs to us all = ?
Reply #12 - Dec 16th, 2012 at 7:00pm
 
Here where I live, the Regional Superintendent was a boozer.
The Inspector has a high school degree (literature) and it's easier to speak with the Pope than with her.
People working in the offices of the Archaeological Superintendance have months of holidays and very elastic working times.
There're WONDERS stored in the Museum's stores, and no money to put them on display.
Meanwhile the University of Rome found an unicum in Europe, but they can't find 20'000 to promote the third season of excavation.
Pompeii and the Coliseum are falling down.
Archaeological cooperatives pay a wage of 4 /hour and give you the money 6 months after the end of the excavation.
Oh and shipwrecks - there're tons of amphorae and other stuff under 3 meters of water, the relative Archaeologist knows this, but won't recover them unless she finish an article on them - which she begun writing in 1980 (for real!!).
After all this, buying antiquities may have the sound of a romantic revenge, but it's not  Roll Eyes
We just need (in my opinion) a close control from someone who's not a public institution, we may enjoy the money and control of a private sponsor, while keeping the usability of our wonders free as a public good.
Greetings,
Mauro.
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Thearos
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Re: History belongs to us all = ?
Reply #13 - Dec 17th, 2012 at 9:12am
 
In the case of the UK, the change is very striking, between the love of the great public for archaeology (witness the Time Team programmes on television), and the very, very recent promotion of metal detectoring as a substitute. Witness the end of the Timeteam shows, replaced by "Hidden Treasures" etc, which are all about metal detectorism. How did this happen ? A few big finds by detectorists, and all the Timeteam approach (careful excavation, sample trenches, focus on context, on small objects-- e.g. broken pipes, etc-- as a way of recovering the past, often of the humble, e.g. railway workers, in very local settings) goes to naught.
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Bill Skinner
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Re: History belongs to us all = ?
Reply #14 - Dec 17th, 2012 at 10:05am
 
Thearos, that was what Atlatlista was talking about, training the amatures.  I don't know all the details, but it sounds like TV sensationalized poor practices, and many sensitive sites are being destroyed because of it.  So, what you will have to do is educate the people most likely to listen, which is pretty near all of them.  Most people do not want to destroy these sites, but they do want to have a feeling of "touching " history.  In the US, that's why people pick up "arrowheads".  Most don't know what damage they are doing when they do this. 

Now, the ones doing it strictly to sell the artifacts and to hell with the site are a different story.  Those people should be stopped and there are laws to do so.  The problem is most judges won't or don't see this as anything except a waste of their time, so most offenders are let off with a slap on the wrist.

And last, ranting and raving never solved anything.  Tell the writer to take his passion and intelligance and come up with a plan to educate those that will learn and to protect the sites and to prosecute those that willfully destroy.

And this is my pet peeve with museums, most have lots of stuff in boxes that is never displayed, it is apparently too much effort to rotate their displays, the place where I do a lot of my stuff re organized in 2009, the last time prior was 1986 and the time before that was in the early 60's.  You could visit the place in 15 year intervals and not see any changes.  So, why go back?
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