Friday, September 6, 2013

"Amateur archeologists are damaging important sites"

Christos Tsirogiannis
I was pleased to see my Cambridge colleague Dr Christos Tsirogiannis quoted in the debate about the unscientific removal of archaeological material from the ground ("UK treasure hunters make archaeologists see red"). He was responding to the report:
Hobbyists scavenging for ancient jewelry or a cache of Roman coins are an increasingly common sight in the UK's countryside. With some enthusiasts having unearthed thousands of pounds worth of treasure, the lure of heading out with a metal detector can be potent.
Tsirogiannis emphasises the importance of context for these objects:
"Every object has an amazing historical value, especially when it's found in its actual and original archeological context ... If something is extracted violently and by an uneducated, non-specialist person from its original context, this cannot be reconstructed."
The report did not mention some of the debate surrounding metal-detecting [see PIA]. However it did quote Suzie Thomas:
"Metal detector users are changing what we know," Thomas says, noting that users who record their finds are producing vast amounts of data. "The sub-discipline of battle archeology makes a lot of use of metal detected data because they're looking at objects like cannon balls and musket balls that are, of course, metal. Having the data of where on the field they've been found can help you reconstruct how the battle went, and that's incredibly useful information."
Perhaps more accurately, some metal detector users are detroying information that we will never be able to recover.

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