Wednesday 18 September 2013

Researcher Does Not Understand, and Makes no Effort to

I owe the link to this obscure text to Dick Stout's blog. It is from Roger Pearse's Patristics etc blog ("Thoughts on Antiquity, Patristics, Putting Things Online, Freedom of Speech, Information Access, and More …"). Here Dr Pearse holds forth on "Some questions about “looting matters”..." (September 12th, 2013) which starts: "I have a certain amount of time for the antiquities trade" and admits that when it comes to antiquity trading and related issues, like many of us: "for me it is genuinely difficult to know what to think on this question".

On the one hand, he suggests that the market gives heritage value which leads in part to its preservation, but
"on the other hand, the ready market for small, easily portable finds causes Italian and Greek peasants to rob tombs, and, in most of Europe, metal-detector enthusiasts to secretly destroy invaluable archaeological evidence in the hope of striking it rich [...] In Britain, metal-detectorists are encouraged to work with archaeologists". 
Ah! So there it's OK, because  "metal-detector enthusiasts destroy invaluable archaeological evidence" quite openly "in the hope of striking it rich". Eh?

He admits that "one of the blogs I follow is Cultural Property Observer, which [...] drew my attention to some disputes in the world of archaeology" (sic). Unfortunately, the post which attracted Dr Pearse's eye was about "a certain Paul Barford, whom I come across occasionally and whose position I find so extreme as to be very difficult to understand".  I would suggest that if he wants to "understand" anyone's position - especially if he intends writing about it - he'd do well to actually base his opinion on a bit more than one post taken out of context. [I really do not think anyone with this blog on the screen and a mouse in their hand can complain that there is "not enough material" to form a judgement on what I think.] Anyway, despite the fact that he does not understand it, he's going to talk about it anyway:
His current article is an example.  In it he attacks metal-detectorists in Britain for being pleased if they find something valuable (!), with a cartoon depicting greed, and the title jeering at them as being most likely lower-class (!).  But Mr Barford might care to reflect that his efforts are unlikely to eradicate greed from the human race. They might however, if successful, eradicate cooperation between metal-detectorist and archaeologist.  If such a ”success” is achieved, the archaeologist called out at night might find it expedient to hire bodyguards, as elsewhere in Europe; and we may as well abandon any thought of learning anything about any find by metal detector ever.  A better example of thoughtlessness and the law of unintended consequences I have yet to see.
Well, first of all I suggest that if Dr Pearse (or anyone else) sees anyone out metal detecting at night, that he not approach them alone whether its in the UK or elsewhere in Europe. It's a good start that Dr Pearse does not question that artefact hunters are out there hoiking away out of "greed" and looking for something "valuable". I'm less sure about the proposition that the way to ensure "cooperation between metal-detectorist and archaeologist" (co-operation in what, looting sites?) is to be painfully nice to them, and not pass comment on anything they do or say. Ever.  [Let's come back later to the language used and why it is used in that way here - see post below].

Dr Pearse then has a go at another blog entitled “Looting Matters: Discussion of the archaeological ethics surrounding the collecting of antiquities” by David Gill. 
 This blog is new to me.  However I had great difficulty understanding his point of view either.
Oh dear. The poor lost soul "was unable to find anything resembling an explanation for newcomers like myself on his blog.  So, inevitably, I find myself guessing his position from his posts". Ummmm... y-e-e-e-s, that IS generally what we do when we read texts (even by the Church Fathers), isn't it?  I really wonder whether every single blog about climate change really needs to begin with a "how to understand" page about the chemical and physical properties (and definition of) greenhouse gases, and telling people where "the atmosphere" is. Or conservation sites how big a rhinocerus is, what they eat and where they live. I rather think that this is the whole point of the internet, that one can look up the things we encounter and do not quite understand by clicking with a mouse without even having to separate posterior from the comfy chair. I must admit, it never occurred to me that a moderately intelligent person would have too much difficulty understanding why looting of archaeological sites matters.

I'm not even going to comment on this next bit:
Why would a professional archaeologist wish to destroy museums and cause their collections to be dispersed to Third-world states? As I said, this position is incomprehensible to me.
Yes, it probably is, maybe he should rephrase it to correspond with what IS being said.  I will comment though on this: 
Likewise Dr Gill seems to share Paul Barford’s belief that, if metal-detecting was criminalised, it would miraculously cease
He does not give a source for this. I very much doubt he can in the case of David Gill, but am 100% certain he cannot in my own case. Paul Barford believes no such thing, has never said such a thing, and instead says something else which it would be obviously too much trouble for Dr Pearse to actually check out before telling his readers  "what Paul Barford believes".

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