Tuesday, 30 January 2018

Israel, Little Country, Better Outreach than UK

Metal detector used by
 an antiquities robber 
(photo G. Fitoussi, IAA)
In Israel, they take preventing erosion of the archaeological record through artefact hunting and collecting a lot more seriously than Bonkers Britain. Guy Fitoussi, an officer in the Israel Antiquities Authority’s theft prevention unit said "antiquities robbers are stealing our history from our hands. The Israel Antiquities Authority and the Israel Police view any damage to the antiquities sites in Israel seriously and are working together to bring the perpetrators to justice”. (Amanda Borschel-Dan, 'Negev antiquities robber nabbed with trove of 150 Byzantine-era coins'  Times of Israel 29 January 2018). But prevention is more efficient than cure.

In Israel, owning a metal detector is not unlawful, but it is illegal to look for antiquities in any part of the country, use of a metal detector at an antiquities site is therefore a criminal offense in the State of Israel. According to Guy Fitoussi, an officer in the Israel Antiquities Authority’s theft prevention unit, it is even illegal to have a metal detector in your vehicle at antiquities sites.
And in such a small country filled with antiquities, he said, “Even if you don’t mean to look for antiquities, you’ll probably stumble across them.”  To combat the problem, Fitoussi said a team of volunteers keeps an eye on the sites and, perhaps more importantly, he gives periodic informative lectures at local schools. “Part of the problem stems from ignorance,” he said. Pupils have heard romantic stories about treasure hunts and easy wealth, so when they grow up they decide to try their luck. “Maybe it sounds a bit naive that if I go to a school and tell about the more academic and informative side, it will help the youth decide not to go do that when they grow up,” said Fitoussi. As far as those who say they have a metal detector for recreational reasons, Fitoussi quipped that in a country brimming with antiquities like Israel, it’s probably better not to take a chance. There are lots of other hobbies around,” he said.
Wouldn't it be great if in Britain, instead of the archaeological community popularising collection-driven exploitation of the archaeological record and artefact collecting among members of the British public (and abroad), there was some proper archaeological outreach, sending people out to schools, explaining why Treasure hunting is damaging. The very idea, eh? Archaeologists promoting archaeology instead of collecting.

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