.Antiquity hunters and collectors tend to stress that those archaeologists who oppose the status quo in artefect hunting and antiquities market as out-of-touch 'dinosaurs', unwilling to fall into step with their more progressive and liberal-minded ("anything goes") colleagues who support, condone and eagerly await the appearance ('from underground") of new finds from artefact hunting. People like "Never back Down" UK detectorist John Howland writing on the Dick Stout blog:
some archaeologists are slowly realising that we are a valuable resource that can considerably assist their endeavours, and importantly, respect our methodology.I was struck by the tone of an abstract of an article published last year which seems likely to place a different slant on this type of 'partnership'. I wonder whether it is in the reading list on "portable antiquity issues" that the PAS have for public benefit on their website? The text is called "Congenial Bedfellows? The Academy and the Antiquities Trade" and was published (November 2011) in the Journal of Contemporary Criminal Justice November 2011 27: 408-437 and the abstract goes like this:
The illicit trade in antiquities and other cultural objects is socially harmful in several respects. Private collectors and museums are generally considered culpable in providing end demand by acquiring illicitly traded objects, but this article suggests that the facilitating actions of academic experts have previously been overlooked. Through a series of case studies, it examines different ways in which academic expertise is indispensable for the efficient functioning of the trade and suggests that a knowledge-based ethical environment for academic practice would allow scholars to make more informed choices about the propriety or otherwise of their involvement with the trade.I'd note two things here. The first that the Journal of Contemporary Criminal Justice seemingly has no issues with the notion that it is private collectors and museums are generally considered culpable in providing end demand by acquiring illicitly traded objects - in other words the tenet which those involved in the no-questions-asked trade strenuously deny: "collectors are the real looters". Secondly I find it interesting that the text's author identifies the problem as the inability of "scholars to make more informed choices about the propriety or otherwise of their involvement with the trade". I would broaden that to "with artefact hunting" as the two are inextricably related. I made a sarcastic remark about Britain's mega-million public funded outreach Scheme for dealing with portable antiquities issues having a website where the public who pay for it can find information on the issues surrounding collecting of archaeological artefacts. I invite my readers to search it for even a smidgen of information for the general public who pay for it can find information on the issues surrounding collecting of archaeological artefacts. Where is the bibliography containing the link to that article? Nowhere. The PAS do not consider it part of their 14-million-quid outreach to provide such a basic piece of information even as a few dozen bibliographic references, so if the PAS is not going to do it in Britain, who is? (see the 1970 UNESCO Convention article 10).
On what basis are archaeologists at present in Britain making their decisions to make more informed choices about the propriety or otherwise of their involvement with artefact hunting and the trade? Certainly, I would suggest, nothing balanced coming from the PAS. The latter just present one side (the 'propaganda of [their own] success') of the story.
Vignette: congenial in bed with the archaeologists.