I certainly do not think all archaeologists are incapable of learning from
history, although that is not to say that none of them are. It does seem to
me, however, that "history oriented" investigations and discoveries of
numismatists and others oriented toward artifact studies are often
undervalued by archaeologists. Arguments which in effect assert that site
specific contextual information is all important frequently tend to conflict
with modern views of the importance of learning from the past, and not
repeating past errors that have led to disastrous results. Perhaps the
preventable (and in many cases horrible) deaths of many millions of people
should receive at least some weight in current archaeological opinion.
No one will, however, easily succeed in convincing me that an education
focusing upon archaeology inherently prevents one from being an impractical
advocate of poorly thought out measures. In that spirit I would like to
invite listreaders other than extremists such as Paul Barford, to present
reasons why his remarks and those of similar extremists should be taken
It is important to state that I am absolutely open to rational discussion of
issues that does not rest upon ideology unsupported by factual evidence. Let
us cooperatively discover the truth, without prejudice.
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From: British archaeology discussion list [mailto:[log in to unmask]]
On Behalf Of John Hooker
Sent: Sunday, August 17, 2008 4:35 AM
To: [log in to unmask]
Subject: Re: [BRITARCH] Archaeology's Limits, "where coins come from" and
export licence evasion
Nigel Swift wrote:
> John Hooker said -
> "the only solution to the looting problem is better methods in the
countries where this is happening"
> I don't think that is true. It is akin to saying?the ivory trade can
> only be controlled in Africa, not the United States or Europe. The
uncomfortable but inescapable reality is that it takes two to tango and
looting is overwhelmingly a response to the prices which collectors in rich
countries are prepared to pay for looted goods. It is therefore not the case
that action?in poor countries is?the only solution.
An absurd, misleading, and false analogy. Should all thefts be prevented
by banning ownership? Perhaps if all collecting, all archaeology and
all museums were banned then eventually people would lose interest in
the past. One could make a case that such expenditures lessen the amount
of money that could be better spent on medical research, solving world
hunger and the like and that the study of the past does nothing at all
to improve the modern condition. It is, after all, a well known fact
that no one has ever learned from history. Any interest in the past can
only thus be viewed as personal gratification, and thus akin to
recreational drugs and prostitution. Any ancient monuments should, of
course, be dismantled and their materials recycled as the mere sight of
them might promote an interest in the past. Books and other media which
refer to the past should also be destroyed. You see, false analogies
can be used to make any point whatsoever!
How about another false analogy?: Looting of the past should be promoted
as this provides an outlet for criminal activity that deters from
property crimes against living persons, lessens the amount of illegal
drugs traded, and lessens illegal poaching of endangered animals as
looters would likely turn to such practices if looting were not profitable.
Or: Archaeology should be banned as this promotes attention to the past
instead of to the real problems of the present and the future with which
all responsible people should be concerned. Psychiatrists have proven
that many mental problems are the direct result of such fixations to
Or: Ancient art should never be displayed because art should be ever
evolving through new expression. Having peoples needs for art satisfied
by viewing the products of long-dead artists adversely effects the
livelihood of contemporary artists and in some cases, can lead artists
to engage in criminal activities to make up for their loss of income.
Or: As earlier archaeological methods did not include techniques that
are currently used and are seen to be of great value archaeology should
stop until such a time that all possible methods are discovered.
However, taking an object or two such as coins from a site only does
limited damage to the integrity of the site as a whole when compared to
current archaeological methodology which is totally destructive.
Or: Cultures, and thus people, have evolved. The preservation and
conservation of past cultures and the objects of these cultures can thus
be seen to be against natural evolution and thus an unnatural act which
must be stopped if we are to properly develop as a species.
Or: Child abuse can be effectively stopped by making it illegal for
people to breed.