Friday 18 January 2019

New Board Game Pits Archaeologists against Treasure Hunters

Raising public awareness (Ivan Dikov, 'New Board Game Pits Archaeologists against Treasure Hunters in Archaeological Sites All across Bulgaria' Archaeology in Bulgaria December 14, 2018): 
A new board entitled “Archaeologists vs. Treasure Hunters", which pits the two groups against one another on a map featuring some of Bulgaria’s most remarkable archaeological sites, has been developed and released by a group of archaeologists. Treasure hunting targetting archaeological sites [...] takes its horrendous toll on the country’s enormous cultural and historical heritage on a daily basis. [...] Bulgarian archaeologists are often pitted against treasure hunters in real life, trying to save whatever can be saved before or after the latter’s destructive raids against Bulgaria’s tens of thousands of archaeological, historical, and cultural sites. Unfortunately, the public tolerance for the treasure hunting crimes in Bulgaria remains rather high, law enforcement fails to crack down on them sufficiently and is often suspected of collaborating with the respective organized crime groups, and many people in the countryside see treasure hunting as a form of decent full or part time employment.
So, a bit like Britain really, where its the archaeologists who are promoting high public acceptance of artefact hunting, there is very little effort to stop those obtaining of selling antiquities (both from local and foreign sources) and the authorities turn a blind eye to the majority of the activity, and the potential for business connections between some of the dealers operating in the UK with foreign organized crime. The game has been developed and released by Archaeologia Bulgarica, an NGO promoting Bulgaria’s archaeology and cultural heritage chaired by Assoc. Prof. Lyudmil Vagalinski - former Director of the National Institute and Museum of Archaeology in Sofia.

The game features a total of 14 real and rather major archaeological sites from Prehistory, Antiquity, and Middle Ages, four laboratories, four police posts, four treasure hunters’ pits, a museum, and a prison.
'The goal of the archaeologists in the board game is to discover and study archaeological artifacts before the treasure hunters who steal them while destroying the respective sites and the information they contain about the past. The goal of the treasure hunters is to snatch the artifacts before the archaeologists in order to sell them on the black market'. [...] The inventors of the Archaeologists vs. Treasure Hunters board game point out that the potential conflict situations in the game are based on real life experiences, and it is never certain if the good or the bad guys might prevail.
Artefact hunters that take objects from sites and archaeological assemblages are destroying them and deleting the information that their contexts and associations contain about the past. The goal of archaeologists is to obtain that information, that of teh artefact hunters only to get the objects themselves. the game is accompanied by a booklet containing in-depth information about the 14 featured archaeological sites and the featured artefacts.
The game is meant for persons over 7 years of age and is sold in Bulgaria for BGN 54.00 (appr. EUR 27.50, USD 32.00). For the time being only a Bulgarian-language version is available but based on the reviews it is going to get, the NGO is considering creating an English-language version for the international market as well as expanding the board game with new archaeological sites.
I'd be interested to see what reception it would get in the UK, would pro-collecting archaeologists there try to block this game too as provoking discussion that might potentially lead people to question their position?  We remember the PAS's version of an 'educational' game, in which the player became a metal detectorist looting an Anglo-saxon site in order to hoik out loose artefacts.

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