Thursday, 30 July 2020

Thomas and Pitblado Uravelling (II): Response to Watkins

Is this teaching archaeology and
preserving the archaeological
record? (Lenborough Hoard)
In their response to the 'debate' articles in Antiquity Pitblado and Thomas (2020 'Unravelling the spectra of Stewards and Collectors') at the end of their text respond to SAA president Watkins' comments (for link, see my comments on it here).

I wonder what the motivation is behind this. They say that while Watson 'highlights Society bylaws and principles that denounce looting', he does it 'without also recognising the importance of equally relevant principles and bylaws related to stewardship (e.g. Principle 1) and public education (e.g. Principle 4)'. That would be fair enough IF we ascertain that what those principles define as stewardship applies to what Pitblado and Thomas are talking about. One click of the mouse (it's all it takes ladies) shows that its not, because the SAA code is clearly and consistently talking about "the archaeological record" and not individual loose items ripped from it. Likewise a click of the mouse...  and oh dear:
Archaeologists should reach out to, and participate in cooperative efforts with others interested in the archaeological record with the aim of improving the preservation, protection, and interpretation of the record [...].
What kind of preservation of the archaeological record is extracting diagnostic finds from a surface scatter or stripping off all the flint tools? How do you teach archaeology (as opposed to artefactology) by metal detecting?

The Helsinki group may justify their research grants, networking 'mobility' jaunts and other projects by claiming they are 'encouraging public participation in archaeology'. They do not seem to me to have ever defined just what is archaeology. And I think they really ought to.

They apply a Two Wrongs Argument (beloved of collectors generally)
ongoing disturbance of archaeological sites [...] is an occupational hazard of the invasive methods of professional archaeologists, as well as those of hobbyists and looters. 
They then say that 'as archaeologists we mitigate these invasive methods by documenting as much as possible' hmm, that is part of what archaeology is, in fact. They then go on:
It is problematic, however, to assume, as Watkins seems to do, that only archaeologists can capture or share trustworthy contextual information. This is an example of the stereotyping of nonprofessionals by professional archaeologists that we take to task in our debate piece. 
Their dismissal of it illustrates their confusion, and the confusion that emerges from the PAS 'citizen archaeology' model of artefact hunting. If an artefact hunter captures[observes and documents] and shares trustworthy detailed contextual information, why are they then not amateur archaeologists? Nobody has any problems with amateur archaeologists, many of us have worked with them, helped them.

The problem that Pitblado and Thomas seem not to see is if somebody removes archaeological material from an archaeological deposit or assemblage and does not or cannot observe and document and then share trustworthy contextual information, then they are not archaeologists and are doing archaeological damage.

The problem for their 'spectrum' is that surely the only kind of "responsible" artefact hunting there can be would be  the first kind (therefore archaeology), and not the second kind, selfish acquisitive looting?

Which group is it when an artefact hunter wanders across a complex structured surface site (a lithics scatter for example), picks up a few tools that take their fancy, and then report, "I found them behind that hedge over there"? Is that archaeology? Is that "trustworthy detailed contextual information" about the site (not object) when the composition and nature of the wider artefact scatter(s) and the precise position of the sampled items within it/them were not recorded? And then if there is no such information about what these people did to that site (not object) is it really "ethical archaeological practice" to have anything to do with it? How?

But now we can turn to their response to the thought-provoking text by Morag Kersel.

No comments:

Creative Commons License
Ten utwór jest dostępny na licencji Creative Commons Uznanie autorstwa-Bez utworów zależnych 3.0 Unported.