Saturday, 10 December 2011

When is an Archaeological Artefact not an Archaeological Artefact?


Thinking about Raimund Karl's paper on finds and their reporting, it turns out that in Austrian legislation even World War two artefacts are covered in some measure - but in rather an odd way - by Austrian legislation. Certainly the Second World War can be studied through the methods of archaeology. Certainly the disjecta and standing monuments of war are its archaeological traces, but to what extent should they all be the subject of blanket legislative protection? What purpose would the reporting and recording of every single spent cartridge case from the fields that surround Warsaw or recovered from a cable trench under a pavement in one of its districts serve? There are still people alive that can tell many stories of "what happened on that street corner on march 31st 1943", the details etched into their memories (albeit colourised by selective retention and embellishment).

Photos: two auctions finishing today of cartridge cases found in the countryside of Poland (Mauser and Lebel, the latter not WW2 but a nice photo). These are not weapons, nor (I would argue) "lost property", but relics of the past. So is private collecting them a problem for archaeology?

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