Professor Martin Carver is one of the clearest thinking archaeologists in Britain today. He is also editor of the renowned periodical Antiquity, to which his December editorial about the value of archaeology is particularly thought-provoking.
the historic environment (if it exists) is not some genteel parkland tended by complacent executives; it is a battlefield of values, and it would be good to have some of them discussed. For example, why should we pay a treasure hunter 1000 times more than an archaeologist to dig up an object? Even to my politician, it seems pretty obvious that new finds like this year’s Crosby Garrett Roman helmet need to be in a museum where people can see them; and equally obvious that the sums of money paid to treasure hunters are as absurd as their public adulation. Two million pounds for the helmet and three for the Staffordshire hoard – these are sums that could keep a small museum going for several years.It would indeed be good to have some of these values discussed as Carver urges. Where are the bodies who should be initiating and participating in this discussion with the public about what archaeology is about and for, and where - in that case - artefact hunting fits in the wider scheme of things?
Photo from Facebook