Tuesday 23 April 2013

Archaeological Looting is an Environmental Issue

"Archaeological Looting is an Environmental Issue" argues Paul Barford on the SAFE website (April 23, 2013). Dealers and collectors try to present it as an "ownership" issue and related to "access to the past". This however is an object-centred (not to mention self-centred) approach to the problem.It surely is however primarily a conservation issue, one can always provide ":access", but never rebuild the destroyed finite archaeological resource after it has been disrupted by plundering of collectables.
On my blog, I suggest that perhaps there is a need for a World Archaeological Resource Awareness Day (WARAD?) that could in some way focus attention on the issue of the nature and importance of the archaeological record and how prone to damage it is. While we can do little against such threats as dessication, soil erosion, coastal erosion and some other natural causes of damage to archaeological sites, there are some forms of damage which arguably are avoidable. Looting is one of them. Public attention should be brought to the fact that current modes of indiscriminate collecting are shielding the looters from scrutiny and giving them a market. A worldwide awareness day – perhaps in some way linked to Earth Day at the end of April – may well be a useful tool in the process of public education about the damage caused by looting and indiscriminate and irresponsible collecting of archaeological artefacts.
  What is wrong with saying "Stop Taking Our Past"?

Maybe a PAS-supporting British archaeologist or two would take the time to think about an answer that question: What is actually wrong with saying "Stop Taking Our Past"? Maybe also the PAS would like to add its voice to SAFE's in promoting a World Archaeological Resource Awareness Day - it surely would fit in with its (declared) mission.

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