Wednesday 29 July 2020

Kersel: Elegant, Archaeological and Cuts to the Point

What we are discussing in reality
Is this "Responsible" if the artefact
 hunters show some of the artefacts
that  they've removed, and say which
 hole they came from and how far
down, and then look after them nicely?
 I think not (Fifa, Jordan 2016)
The fourth and final response to the Thomas and Pitblado piece in Antiquity is an intelligent and well-written two pages that brings on-the-ground experience to the feelgood waffle of the preceding three texts (Morag Kersel, 'Engaging with Demand and Destruction' ). The title makes clear that naive engaging with collectors is an engagement with the commodification of archaeological material and the destruction of archaeological evidence. The first paragraph elegantly and succinctly summarises the eight pages of the original protagonists (though ending with the significant point that their dichotomy 'archaeologists/collector stewards' omits a mention of how the local populations benefit from what is proposed).

The second and third paragraphs relate what Thomas and Pitblado assert to what  Kersel has determined from collectors and artefact hunters actually on the ground, about their motivations and attitudes. She also questions how T and P define "stewards" (and collectors).

She then addresses the fundamental question that Thomas and Pitblado ignore (I'd put the word "responsible" in inverted commas there):
we should also ask whether the responsible and responsive acquisition of artefacts—by stewards or collectors—causes harm [...] In In the Holy Land and in the UK, ongoing demand for both legal and illegal objects can and does result in the ruin of archaeological landscapes. While Thomas and Pitblado are correct to advocate for greater collaboration with responsible and responsive stewards and collectors, this engagement must be one that highlights the clear connection between demand for artefacts and the destruction of archaeological sites and objects. .
and the information they provide when not treated as loose collectable commodities.

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