Monday, 5 March 2012

Coiney Logic: "Looting is Good for Archaeological Remains"

Robert Kokotailo (photo: Dan Gosling)
In an argument which is truly metal-detectorist-worthy, as part of the discussion of this week's antiquities bust in Greece, on Moneta-L Canadian dugup dealer Robert Kokotailo of Calgary justifies buying looted artefacts, to save them:
If there was no international market for these items, would that stop the looting, or would they still loot simply to make money in any way they can which would include melting metal objects for there (sic) scrap metal value [?] That type of looting clearly existed and was wide spread before any international market existed. I believe that ending the international market would only result in a return to situation. If I am correct about this, then ending the international market would not stop the looting, and thus it can't be said the international market causes the looting. Thus I would submit that looting caused the international market and that market preserved the objects that would have otherwise been destroyed. Ending the international market would likely return things to the situation were the objects were destroyed, making the situation worse, not better.
Wow. So how does Kokotailo explain the opening of South and Central American burials which mostly contain pots, figurines and textiles and collectable dessicated dead bodies too? Or the digging through sites of the Nok Culture (collectable ceramics). Scrap metal does indeed have a value, but as we see in Europe, there are easier ways of getting it than digging tonnes of dry dusty tell sites for a few scraps here and there (even if from time to time one might be rewarded with some silver or gold items). Railway lines crossing remote countryside, deserted factories have loads of cables ready for the taking with far less effort than digging, even with a metal detector. We see and hear every day of thieves taking opportunities to avail themselves of such sources of relatively uncorroded metal. None of the antiquity dealers proposing this excuse has taken me up on my challenge to show that one can actually get enough scrap metal to make it worthwhile for even the most poverty-stricken would-be thief by such methods to make this a general threat to the archaeological record.
Sunday, 12 April 2009
Testing the scrap seekers myth
Or are they content just to shoot their mouths off without being able to back up their suppositions with any evidence that what they suggest is at all plausible?

On which ancient archaeological sites is there documented archaeological evidence of holes dug by scrap-metal looters (as opposed to antiquarians and artefact hunters) from, let us say, the first millennium AD and the first half of the second millennium AD? Perhaps the supporters of the scrap metal myth would like to make a list of them. If this is the general process that is claimed by adherents to this argument, the numbers of such site should run into the hundreds and thousands. I have worked on and visited many sites in several countries over a period of several decades, and I cannot recall ever seeing even a single example of such a thing. So how many ancient sites actually were seriously damaged by scrap metal diggers in the 1500 years between 1 AD and 1500 AD? Is that enough to make it a justifiable statement that "That type of looting clearly existed and was wide spread before any international [antiquities] market existed"? Can Mr Kokotailo's argument be substantiated by anything more than a few repetitive coiney anecdotes about what some bloke once saw in "Eastern bazaars"?

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