Hugh Eakin, a senior editor at The New York Review of Books discusses several recent volumes which he has read recently. He has produced an interesting and informative account of the destruction of archaeological sites in Iraq by artefact hunters looking for saleable collectables, putting the phenomenon into its wider social and political context. This provides a useful foil for the renewed flurry of special-pleading claims currently emerging from the US artefact collecting milieu that the “scale of the looting of archaeological sites in Iraq has been exaggerated” or the looting is “a fiction” (see, among other things, earlier posts on this blog). Such claims are clearly based on a dearth of information, or rather the lack of willingness to do any research into what information is available. In the world-view of such a collector, anything which conflicts with such a one-sided view is regarded either 'false propaganda', or in the light of the conspiracy theory part of the milieu attempts to foster, it must be "news made to order" (ordered that is by the scheming power-hungry archaeologists out to persecute the innocent victimised collector).
It is clear from the ‘evidence’ with which they attempt to support such arguments that the pro-collecting agitators are largely reliant for their information on isolated newsfeeds found somewhere on the Internet rather than more intense research, reading books and academic texts together with deeper consideration of the issues. This is just another reflection of the 'karaoke culture' and a dumbing down of culture of which I feel domestic portable antiquity collecting is to a great extent a sad reflection.
An interesting development, for those with an aversion to the medium of academic paper, is SAFE's recent adaption of Elizabeth Stone's "Antiquity" article into a web-based presentation. The slideshow is a must-see for those who insist on not trying to understand the nature of the evidence from high-resolution satellite imagery and the type of conclusions that can be drawn from them. An excellent piece of work presented in a user friendly way, making accessible to the wider public the real background to those news articles. Keep up the good work SAFE.
Rory Bremner 1998, 'We all star in Our Karaoke Culture', New Statesman, Vol. 127, September 25, 1998.