Monday, August 11, 2014

Standard Operating Procedure?

By his silence on allegations contained in the Economist Magazine article linked below, Archaeo-blogger Paul Barford, the self appointed voice of the archaeological community on issues relating to portable antiquities, only seems to confirm that it's standard operating procedure to excavate without publishing or fully studying artifacts, sometimes for decades or even centuries.  CPO has covered this subject before, noting, for example, that  coins excavated in Rome over a century ago still await study and publication.

Barford long ago alienated himself from his former colleagues in the United Kingdom, criticizing them for their acceptance of the UK's Portable Antiquities Scheme.  So its no great surprise that Barford blames  British archaeologists rather than the Egyptian Military Dictatorship for this latest scandal.  But Egypt holds King Tut's grave goods, and has happily exploited the long-dead boy king for years, securing millions upon millions in the process.

If Egypt wants our help in "protecting" antiquities to supposedly ensure they are studied and published, the least we can expect is for Egypt to make that happen, either by funding the study itself or by requiring that objects be published within a reasonable amount of time in return for the privilege of excavating in the country.


John H said...

Yep, Barford's one crazy mixed-up kid with a very short memory.

Only a few weeks ago he was stating loudly, that it was a 'scandal' that thousands of excavated finds were languishing unclassified, and unreported, in sheds and hangars across this Sceptered Isle.

Currently he's on a jihad against UK Detectorists, the PAS, you, me, collectors, and anyone who does not share his odd views.

Perhaps we should regard Paul Barford as something of a 'national treasure' for providing us with so much humor and amusement.

Usual warm regards

John Howland

Cultural Property Observer said...

Yes, Mr. Barford also goes after those who agree with him philosphically if they don't agree with him on a specific point. See this condescending post here directed at an attorney associated with the LCCHP:

Cultural Property Observer said...

Arthur Houghton asked me to post this:

"Peter, your friend in Warsaw has really lit off on the defensive about the non-publication of the Tutankhamen material. Speaking as an archaeologist, I can tell you that archaeology's darkest secret is the under-publication of excavation finds and analysis. Many -- not all -- archaeologists give enormous time, attention and money to the physical excavation of archaeological sites, leaving the excavated material in storehouses unexamined, unmeasured, unpublished. I can't understand why the undistinguished Warsaw fellow would want to defend the practice. He should apologize to us all.

Warm regards and thank you for exposing his chicanery.


Cultural Property Observer said...

Thank you. I'd also note the as far as Mr. Barford it now also appears to be concerned, Egypt is not a military dictatorship and the Muslim Brotherhood are not "extremists." In so arguing, Barford again appears at odds with another strong proponent for the archaeological community who quite rightly views the MB as an extremist organization.

John H said...

Yeah, he's sure one crazy mixed-up kid alright.

AH makes a vital point. But then again, for PB to have embraced the Soviet system with such enthusiasm, complete with it's institutionalized torture of suspects, imprisonment without trial, state-sponsored murder and beatings of political dissidents at home and abroad, then the MB must seem to be akin to Civil Rights campaigners.

I wonder what his excavation reports are like, that is, if he ever wrote any! These, if they exist, could become sought after collectors items.

Best regards

John Howland

Cultural Property Observer said...

John, excavation reports do exist; however, the issues relating to them include the long delays between excavation and publication (often decades, it not more) and the lack of accessibility.



Ed Snible said...

Why focus on polished publications? The complaint at the heart of the MOUa restricting is the loss of "archaeological context". This phrase has a precise meaning. In archaeological practice, context is recorded on "context recording sheets". How many context recording sheets for King Tut's tomb have been published? For a typical excavation, how many context recording sheets are made available to third parties for scientific or archival purposes? My fear is that a fire or flood at certain university archives will result in a huge loss of archaeological context. It is surprising that a field so protective of context does not take steps to ensure offsite backup of all field journals, lab notebooks, etc.

Voz Earl said...

"I can tell you that archaeology's darkest secret is the under-publication of excavation finds and analysis."

The obvious reason for such under-publication is that most of it isn't worth publishing. All the significant stuff gets priority, and the rest...well, it's often voluminous and not terribly informative.