17th Century Brick Pottery Kiln Site

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I recently had the good fortune of being involved in the excavation of a pottery kiln dated to 1680 located in Isle of Wight County, Virginia. Thought I would share a photo. (Author pictured)

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America’s Heritage is Not for Sale

I wanted to create a post in order to draw more attention to two American television shows that are currently promoting the looting and destruction of archaeological and historical sites around the country. There is a growing movement among archaeologists, history buffs, and academics who are sickened by what they have seen and read.

The first show, airing on the Spike TV network, called “American Diggers” follows a former pro-wrestler turned relic-hunter as he and his crew pay-off landowners to hunt for treasure on their property. The goal of the show is to sell whatever artifacts the unsystematic digs turn up for a profit. As a trained archaeologist with two degrees in Anthropology, it hurts me to see our collective heritage defiled by none other than mercenaries. I first heard of this television series through Professor Lynne Goldstein (@LynneGoldstein on Twitter) of MSU who tweeted about it. A few dozen retweets and mentions later, Kristina Wyckoff (@kcelwyckoff) created a petition at Change.org called Stop SpikeTV From Looting Our Collective Past! which collected over 12,000 signatures in the first four days of its existence. Please consider adding your signature and/or writing to the producers of the show.

The second, which airs on [gasp] the National Geographic Channel (@NatGeoChannel), simply called “Diggers”, feels like a personal betrayal due to the Society’s departure from their normally ethical practices as stewards of American heritage. Promoting a show which encourages amateur looting of archaeological sites (very similar to the “American Digger” show) is a very reckless and irresponsible move by the National Geographic Society. This program was brought to my attention by archaeologist Sarah Miller (@semiller88); I have since witnessed a large number of professionals and archaeologists who have boycotted the show and are speaking out. A petition against the show (Stop Airing the Television Show Diggers!) was created by Jeffrey Baker and is quickly gathering signatures. If you feel as strongly as I do about this subject, please let National Geographic and the producers of the show know that you do not approve.

While the permits, grants, approvals, and bureaucratic red tape involved in processual archaeology may be a huge pain in the butt, these things are here for a reason. Once archaeological sites are dug-up, artifacts are removed, and natural provenience is destroyed, they are gone forever.

See also: The Society for Historical Archaeology’s (SHA) statement on The Ethics of Historical Archaeology and the show “American Diggers”