Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Sour Grapes

Archaeologists rightly view themselves as custodians of the past, but their institutional arrogance, their disdain for collectors [who historically were welcome allies in their pursuits] or other "amateurs" [such as metal detectorists in the U.K.] and their tendency to create and disseminate knowledge largely to and for only their own peers will not serve them or their discipline well in lean economic times.

Unfortunately, instead of the recognition of the benefits of greater outreach and working with collectors and metal detectorists rather than demonizing them, we probably can expect little but more sour grapes, at least from the purists in the archaeological field. See and

The truth is programs like the Treasure Act and PAS get public money and support even in lean economic times because they are popular with large segments of the public at large. In contrast, it will become increasingly difficult to justify funding for conservation projects that only seem to benefit small groups of archaeological professionals.


Dorothy King said...

Hey, I'm an archaeologist, and I love the PES - and have no problem at all with metal detectorists as long as they report the finds. Most archaeologists I know feel the same way. I also have no problem with amateurs - they started the field, and still do a lot of good, particularly the ones who sponsor exhibitions and digs. After all, if we're going to claim we excavate to clarify the past for people, then 'people' include amateurs!

Cultural Property Observer said...

Thanks Dorothy. I guess I have been to too many CPAC meetings and read too many blogs that display the sentiments complained about.

Best wishes,

Peter Tompa

Drastic Plastic said...

This is well said, and Dorothy's comment is also a valuable point.

Scholarship needs its audience. There is little convincing reason for government to waste funds on classics when they have other uses for the money, unless not doing so is politically risky and would make them look bad. Archaeology has benefitted enormously from Indiana Jones in this regard.

The headbangers do real damage to everyone. But most scholars are simply pleased to find someone else interested in their specialist subject.

Paul Barford said...

Question to CPO: Before you decided to "enter the debate" about values and evaluation, did you actually READ what Prof. Carver had to say about the issue as a whole?

Did you understand it?