Monday 13 May 2024

Edutainer thinks it's time for What he calls "Toxic Archaeology" to End [UPDATED]

Over in Texas, USA, Luke Caverns ("Degree in Anthropology: but now an Expeditionary Historian making videos on ancient civilizations")* with 39.2K subscribers on You Tube thinks "It's time for Toxic Archaeology to END", though in talking about it, he comes over pretty toxically himself:

In today’s video, I examine the modern day battlegrounds of archaeology (this platform) & address how Academics can be just as Toxic and petty as what they claim to be fighting against /In this video, I break down an article posted by an archaeologist on X/Twitter refuting the Pre-Dynastic Vase research. This is, in my opinion, how NOT to argue against "Pseudo-Archaeology".

He admits he's writing this on behalf of Matt Beall, his friend, collector and businessman, who bought a stone vase from a certain dealer and whom I allegedly "attack" by questioning whether what he has subsequently done with it actually has much sense [my post  Granite Vase Fantasies: Rubbish In, Rubbish Out - and yes, there are typos in it; previous one on same topic here]. The video is here:

..Posted on You Tube by Luke Caverns May 12, 2024

Those of you who are too busy to watch it all, I'll save you a bit of time, there is a preamble to here, then after saying "I wanted to draw to light (sic) one of the worst examples...") the guy procedes to rather boringly and monotonously read out (almost) my whole post aloud [but without citing his source i.e., posting the LINK to my post]. He stumbles over intonation and a few words, pausing a couple of times to complain he's found some uncorrected mistypings. This goes on to here. Then there is an ad hominem swipe, noting that an archaeological colleague has "a tough time" writing English. The actual nitty-gritty of his video is at the end -  the bit after that

It seems he's running out of things to talk about, just a month ago (Mar 30, 2024) he published another ad hominem hit-piece article aimed at somebody else whose ideas he came across on the Internet, "Explaining why Billy Carson is wrong on Ancient America" ("I believe that 90%+ of the people in the in this ancient civ community are genuine, curious independent researchers" - 12,141 views  Mar 30, 2024). I have no idea who Billy Carson is, but Caverns' spiel is very similar in format to his "break down" of my text - except, mercifully, he does not read Carson's texts out aloud too. Anyway, he starts with an over-theatrical sigh, before focussing on  grammar-police castigation about spelling of Maya and it goes downhill from there. Get a life.

For the rfecord, I'll just address a couple of the comments Caverns made about my blog post:

1) He says he does not believe that friend Matt Beall is mistaken and that he does not believe the vase in question is a modern fake because... "there would be a duplicate". I do not really understand the reasoning here. The originals if one of a group deposited in a tomb or used in a palace would more likely be made in sets for storage etc, a fake could be a one-off. In the same way as a lathe-turned wooden bowl could be. What's the problem? Did Mr Caverns do lathe-turning in his woodwork classes at school? Did his bowl look like the one the other boy before him produced? (Apart from his of course being the most perfect, having no mistakes, no doubt.) The fact the same lathe is used does not mean (of course) that every object turned on it would be a duplicate of the one made before. Bonkers.

He also says that in his opinion, it is not a fake because "so many ["tens of thousands"] were dug up" - yes lots of things have been dug up and dispersed from ancient Egypt and the classical world in general - so by Luke Caverns' reasoning,  there will be very few fakes of any artefacts like that on today's market, oil lamps, Greek vases, terracotta figurines, shabtis, scarabs, faience amulets - anything. Yes? I beg to differ. The market is full of fakes, some sold by dealers with shiny galleries and expensive suits.

Above all, whatever Mr Caverns thinks, it is not "pseudoscientific" (sic) to point out that given the current state of the antiquities market, an artefact that cannot be tied to an excavated context (grounded) is "probably fake".

On the basis of what he says, I would question what Mr Caverns understands as a pseudo-scientific approach. My approach here is source-critical. Where does that evidence come from, can it be associated with 100% certainty with the archaeological record? Mr Caverns on the other hand does not bother about that, he says  "there is an insane amount of artifacts up on these legal markets prior to the late 1900s that you can still buy today and nobody's looking at them and saying oh those are probably fake". So his is not source critical, more like wishful thinking. But that is not what we can base conclusions on. 

In any case, I'd like to see him define "insane numbers". Most big London auction houses can include about two of these vessels in a big antiquities sale, that (and their price) does not mean that if they are on that part of the market, they are two-a-penny. Maybe Mr Caverns is happy to look at them and nod his head that they are "probably real", the discerning buyer would do well to exercise caution when the paperwork is less than complete. Big auction house have expertise that 'should' cut out the fakes, but ... I happen to have my own thoughts on that. [caveat emptor and all that].    Let's leave aside the legality of a market that handles items without gettimng the paperwork that show an object has been acquired and moved between countries fully licitly, but Mr Caverns, if the object was "dug up in the 1900s", how do you know you are buying one dug up in the 1900s if you've not got documentation of the collecting history instead of assumptions or a dealers nod-nod-wink-wink-assurances? 

Note that Mr Caverns omits in his reading the loaded sentence, why does he do that? Is it because he understands "what the author might have had in mind", or because he dismisses what he does not understand, because he's not read any discussion of the antiquities market on my blog except to pick holes in the spelling? Huh!

Mr Beall claims his item is OK, both in terms of autheticity and legality because he has a nice printed COA that says it came from a specific, named, collection. This is interesting, because that collection is well-known, and also something is known about the way that particular owner marked his objects. I have unsuccessfully been trying to get an answer from the new owner whether the vase that he has has that feature - and he has steadfastly refused to answer. The ABSENCE of that feature would raise further questions about where the dealer got that vase. So if Mr Beall is sure that the COA accurately gives the penultimate stage of the collection history, let's hear about how it is labelled.

2) Mr Caverns thinks it is nit-picking (sic) to question whether the raw material of an object claiming to be an ancient Egyptian sone vase is actually from Egypt. It is quite a distinctive stone with some big felspar crystals (that as we see in the video when the walls of the vessel are thin and you shine a light inside are translucent... uh.... could that, uh...?). I point out that such a stone should therefore have an identifiable quarry source somewhere (you know, archaeology looks at technology and raw material sources, and yes, we start off with simple visual comparison whether it be flint, stone axe material or building stone). Ancient Egyptian hardstone quarries were in the deserts (Western or mostly Eastern) and organizing quarrying and transport of the materials was not easy. We also know quite a lot about the quarries, it has been quite well studied. Since I gave a link that suggests that the main outcrops of rose granites in use in Egypt do not have the same macroscopic petrology as that vase, I'd say the onus is on the guy who claims it is an ancient Egyptian product, if he wants us to believe him, to show us where that raw material comes from. That is not nitpicking, it is a fundamental issue. 

3) The storerooms under and around the Pyramid of Djoser at Saqqara are NOT a "pre-dynastic" context.   

4) Mr Caverns says: "I agree with Matt that there's not really a lot of material in here I mean what did he say, you don't have providence for it so therefore we cannot take it seriously at all, even though there are tens of thousands of other artifacts found in Egypt that look almost exactly like this? If I had a little alabaster figure that supposed, that somehow had some really precise cuts on it but I could couldn't I couldn't produce where exactly it came from because it was looted in the late 1700s, I don't really know that anybody would come after me saying that no this 100% did not come from Egypt because it's probably more in favor that it is real than it is not real cause there's such an abundance of them out there and I'm with Matt on this one". [BTW alabaster - gypsum - is quite soft] To me, it seems Mr Caverns and his mate Matt, miss the point. There is not supposed to be any material, I make just one simple point, if Mr Beall cannot demonstrate that the vessel is from an ancient context, from an archaeological /historical point of view, it does not matter how nicely it is made. That's all, yet he's making a huge meal out of trying to explain aeaway the issue. I do not get the point he is making about an unprovenenced figurine, it has as much evidential value as an unprovenaced vase, the alleged finger bone of St Vincent, or Cabrera's Ica stones

The rest of his text (11.31 on) seems to me to be full of the ad hominems he (falsely) accuses me of using, he questions the "thoroughness" (or alleged lack of thoroughness) of my research as an archaeologist, speculates about my "personal life",  and so on. He ends with: "articles like this from a professional are just unacceptable and it's very juvenile".  That told me, eh? 

UPDATE 14.05.2024
* Mr "Spellchecker" Caverns has now got rid of the meaningless pretentious crap, it now reads: "I'm Luke Caverns. With a degree in Anthropology, I have taken to Education-entertainment to continue my studies of Early Civilization. "

And if you were wondering, the figure lurking behind him in the dark seems to be a "Mutant Ninja Turtle" cosplay oufit (!). Seems appropriate. 

And, the collector joins in, suggesting Caverns was writing-to-order ("I expected [when?] it to be a lot more harsh than this"):
@mattbealllimitless 1 day ago
Thanks Luke, really good conversation! The guy who wrote that baseless hit piece is fine, he probably just has unprocessed childhood trauma. Honestly, I expected it to be a lot more harsh than this. And it will probably get there. I could have responded to flint in a more mature way, and I regret that and am going to message him now to apologize. It’s possible he’s right and it was made with chisels without a turning device

It’s a great discussion, hopefully we can make progress. I’ll keep sharing data, hopefully we can get some museum pieces CT scanned if the interest from the gen pop gets big enough. It’s a fun project. Lots more to come! Thanks for the level headed comments, appreciate your thoughts. It’s different once you see them and handle them right? Anyways, thanks again
Keep drumm ing up that "interest from the gen pop" going, get more kliks and LOLs... Just below it: 
@oak1550 1 day ago
I love to imagine there was an ancient lost civilization, I shouldn't be ridiculed for wanting realistic answers for an obviously lost technology.
"Lost" as in using a lathe to make a turned stone object - like a baluster for example? Mr Caverns reckons we should be discussing real archaeology with these people, really, but where to start? The fact that he starts the whole "expose" with "yesterday I was scouring the modern-day  battlegrounds of archaeology on X formerly known as Twitter" suggests that he does not consider publications, conferences, seminars to be where archaelogy is thrashed out, but only is interested in the social media. Where to start in a discussion with people whoe main background comes from such sources? 

1 comment:

CFeagans said...

If an artifact has no provenience--no context--then it is of little use. I'd say if there's evidence it was turned on a lathe that could be verified by an independent expert, that's evidence for its modern origin an as a fake.

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