Wednesday 17 July 2013

Focus on Metal Detecting: Oh, the Irony....

A bit earlier, I reported ('Macedonia's Kuzman Questioned Over Antiquities', PACHI blog Wednesday, 17 July 2013) that:
On a metal detecting blog near you, a metal detectorist is beside himself with excitement that, as he puts it, "a RECENT ARTICLE [...] kind of puts things in perspective". The "things" he has in mind are the debates about policies towards artefact hunting and collecting. The article contains allegations about the illicit antiquities trade [...] in which state officials are alleged to have been involved.
It is quite interesting that artefact hunters, the metal detector using ones in particular, continue to deny that there is any connection between their hobby and the trade in illicitly-obtained archaeological artefacts. This is, they insist, the work of a specialist group of individuals - unrelated to and condemned by them - who do not deserve the name "metal detectorists" (eh?). Yet here, when it serves to score points, the two are facilely equated.

Is it not ironic that artefact collectors loudly proclaim their rights to handle these artefacts and if they so wish to profit commercially from their sale, but the moment a perceived "other" (one described by the media as an "archaeologist") does the same thing, it is held up as an example of wrong-doing by an archaeologist? This is quite apart from the fact that the use of stories like this to "put things in perspective" is nothing more than another of those 'two-wrongs-make-a-right' arguments which are the staple of the collecting world's self-justifications.   

[I would suggest that, before they start throwing stones on the basis of some skimpy reports, artefact collectors might consider what any allegations here most probably involve. It seems very likely, bearing in mind who the accused are, that these officials are accused of using the power endowed by their position to issue export licences for items which their accusers feel should not have received export licences. In other words this is the conflict between what collectors like to call (pejoratively) "cultural property nationalism" with what they like to call (approvingly) "cultural property internationalism", the release of cultural property onto the open market. So, whose side are the collectors on? Let us see if charges are brought and what they involve.]

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