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comment on archaeo-sensationalism and looting

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  • Bob Muckle
    I would rather have over-archaeo-sensationalism than no sensationalism at all, I suppose. I feel somewhat like Pam Ford, I think, as in its like three steps
    Message 1 of 1 , Sep 26, 2009
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      I would rather have over-archaeo-sensationalism than no sensationalism at all, I suppose.

      I feel somewhat like Pam Ford, I think, as in its like three steps forward and two steps back or something like that. And I can embrace the thinking of Deborah and George insofar as perhaps increasing enrolment. In fact, I have come to depend on archaeo-sensationalism in my teaching....using the popular media stories as kind of a springboard to generally thinking and reading critically, especially in the context of archaeology. I believe I've had quite a bit of success with this past week, using my the stories about the skeletons found at Troy and the Anglo-Saxon hoard found in Great Britain. (Don't ya just love that description....hoard?). Both stories generated quite a bit of discussion, because most students were aware of the stories...(one of the good things about all these tech toys is that news spreads around the world almost instantly, and those who would never normally read a newspaper or watch television are getting their initial news via 140 (or less) characters on their mobile phones (or whatever it is we call these devices that do use multitudes of mediums to communicate with), and linking to video and more complete news reports. These, and stories like them, provide absolutely fabulous 'teachable moments' for me. I wouldn't be surprised if those short snippets of critical discussion are more meaningful to them in regards to understanding anthropology, than multiple lectures and chapters from a textbook.

      I find the discovery in Great Britain quite fascinating. I'm not familiar much at all with the potential significance of this find to archaeology in general and more particularly to the Anglo-Saxon period, so I eagerly await the scholarly reports to come out. By the time that happens though, the public interest will undoubtedly have waned, and there will have been a litany of new discoveries of "treasure" and stories of the amateur treasure hunters.

      About looting in Great Britain......I'm not sure if it the same now as a few decades ago, but I came to understand during mutiple visits to Great Britain some years ago, that one of the biggest problems facing archaeologists was the perceived monetary value of their discoveries. Archaeological projects depended quite a bit on both volunteer labor of the unemployed (if they wanted to keep the money coming from the government..."on the dole" I believe it was called....many of them were required to work on excavations). The problem was that many of the volunteers and those who were required to work on the projects really had no interest in anything but treasure. By day, they would dutifully excavate and sieve...all the while keeping an eye for the "hot spots" of treasure (ie. where the Roman coins and Medieval artifacts were), and then under the cover of darkness they would return to loot the site, often with metal detectors.

      I'm pretty sure that the problem of looters in the United States and Canada pales in comparison with the problems of looters in Great Britain.

      Bob
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