Saturday, 6 October 2018

Need for a Proper Terminology

Prof David Gill asksd on the Heritage matters blog,  whether we 'need to change the language used to describe such activity'. As somebody who has been discussing the long-term efects of artefact hunting on the archaeological resource worldwide, I would most emphatically say yes.

What terms do we have now? The are a bit of a mish-mash and include:
'artefact hunting'
'metal detecting'
'Treasure huntng'
'(archaeological) looting'
'subsistence digging/looting'
'arrowhead hunting'
'relic hunting'
'grave/tomb robbing'
'détection de métaux'
'nighthawks''coin shooting'
Nearly all of them are specific, collectors do not collect only metal items, or pots/lithic tools. We need a more general term. I have proposed Collectioon-Driven exploitation of the archaeological record. that seems to me to cover the aspects we need to address, that the archaeological record is being eroded and trashed in order to take out of it only what is collectable (or saleable to collectors). I'd welcome some informed discussion of this.

As David Gill says, we need to start talking about the intellectual implications of such illegal activity. I think however it is not that which is illegal that is the man problem, we are constantly tole (though never with evidence presented to back up the sclaim) that in Britain, for example, illegal artefact hunting is a minority activity. Far more prevalent is clandestine activity - both legal and illegal - where there is an opportuity for finders responsibly to report what they are pocketing and how and where it was found, but they are not doing that (see also here). We simply at the moment, when this activity is so poorly regulated, do not know what information is being lost from the finite archaeological record. It is as simple as that.

David Gill asks in the case of artefact hunting on and around Hadrian's Wall, 'What are the intellectual implications for Roman frontier studies?' - and of course such studies are not the concern of just a few jobsworth archaeologists sitting on their insular backsides not lifting a finger to combat the majority of the information loss, it is asomething that affects the global academic community and all those for which a better understanding of the past is important. British archaeologists by their passivity and refusal to face this challenge, are letting everybody down.

 Where on earth are the responses from the British archaeological community?

Vignette: Three monkeys - which British archeological opinion-forming body does not belong in this group in terms of their reaction to Collection-Driven exploitation of the British archaerological record? 

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