Monday 13 May 2024

Discussing Artefact Provenance

Expeditionary Historian making videos on ancient civilizations
In the post above, I respond to Luke Caverns' reaction to me pointing out that in discussing archaeological artefacts, provenance is important; ending: "articles like this from a professional are just unacceptable and it's very juvenile".  That told me. Anyway, I was glad to see I am not the only archaeologist who thinks context is important, and there are problems in using artefacts from the market as a source (Flint Dibble @FlintDibble 6h):

A few notes on this. Yes, people have been looking at the antiquities market forever and revealing how many fakes are there. Go follow Erin Thompson (artcrimeprof). She has many, many threads on the fakes and fake certificates on the market. As well as looted material. This is a big deal. Archaeologists have stopped studying material without a context because it is unreliable. And we are holding people who do these scans to the same bar.

It is scientific to say that if you are making a big claim about the past that the evidence you use needs to be demonstrably reliable. It needs to be proven to be archaeological in nature and not possibly a forgery. Most academic journals ethically wouldnt even publish these stone vessels from the art market whether I submitted the paper or unchartedx. Studying these sorts of materials is a big no no and it's one of the points I'm trying to teach my following (including you)

In fact, the ethics behind this are one of the largest reasons to argue against it on Twitter.

I see pseudoarchaeologists supporting the purchase of antiquities. This one was supposedly certified as legal. But most others aren't. The one unchartedx put in a video. Nope.

Most objects without provenance on the antiquities market are either recently looted (illegal) or forgeries. Many of us are working to educate the public about this issue. If everyone goes and buys an 'Egyptian stone vessel' from who knows where. That either supports forgers or looters. This is bad and we want people to be aware of these problems

Ditto with breaking and entering on archaeology sites. This is bad and harmful and illegal

I don't fight pseudoarchaeology for shits and giggles. I try to educate people about archaeological ethics and to have a more respectful attitude towards cultural heritage around the world. It's not just there for fun speculation but it's relevant and matters. And Paul's blog is largely about the antiquities market and looting. He is an expert in it. To make light of these topics and that expertise shows a big hole in your thinking, Luke. These topics matter

Last point, Luke. You talk about an 'army of academics' in the replies... wow, they are dwarfed by the army of alternative folks who flood my mentions with real nastiness. Call me nastier names than one could imagine. And then screenshot and make fun of me for blocking them for being nasty
Same goes for US coin collectors and dealers, US antiquities activists, US metal detectorists. But UK metal detectorists are in a league of their own. On top of the abuse have been physical threats, both with a history going back more than two decades (and in Britain, archaeologists do not criticise detectorists, but pat them on the back, say "well done", and pay them a reward for digging stuff up from archaeological sites). Then the Polish ones, I challenge Mr Caverns to get an online translator onto some of the stuff they have been writing about all of my colleagues, despite fruitless years of trying to bridge the gap with the ones that want to search legally and responsibly. Maybe he could do that before next time writing proposing as some kind of a fresh new idea "hey guys, group hug, let's just work together".


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