Friday 7 November 2008

Radicals, Peripheries and Central Concerns

Wayne Sayles in a comment on “Looting matters” claims:
Rhetoric on cultural property lies at the outer edge of reality and most collectors and archaeologists get along quite well together. The fringe is where the problems lie . From the archaeologist's perspective, the ACCG may seem to be at that fringe, but from the collector's perspective, there would be no need for an ACCG if not for the aggression of radical archaeologists. Finding a way back to the center is, however, an arduous and painful task.

This term "radical" used so frequently by Wayne Sayles and those in his thrall is, I guess, supposed to in some way demean. The term however has had an established use in discussions of archaeological theory for many years before Sayles adopted it to mean something else. David Gill has discussed it here, and I have touched on it here. Gill suggests that the term used by Sayles et al. should be replaced by the term ‘archaeologists with integrity’.

Sayles insists conservation is on the “fringes” of modern archaeology. That is news to me; I really think he has the order around the wrong way. Concerns about the conservation of the archaeological resource are central to modern archaeology, they are central to the way much of professional archaeology is organized today (in most European countries as part of the planning process). They are central to all the codes of ethics/ practice which actually define the discipline.

It is those who are oblivious of that which are on the fringes of the discipline.

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