A dissenting opinion

18 Aug

Much is said about Archaeologists on the Internet these days from other fans of metal detecting. Most of it is not very flattering to the professional Anthropologists.

I however, have been as vocal as I can be with my contrasting opinion. Then I realized that I had not posted that opinion on my metal detecting blog. So here it goes.

Archaeology is a sub-discipline of Anthropology. Anthropology is the study of man, society, and the development of said society. Archaeology is the study of old societies and their development. Archaeology is not a pure science, say, like mathematics but instead uses many other sciences. Nowadays, there are a bunch of specialized areas of Archaeology such as Paleoethnobotany, Zooarchaeology, and on an on. The folks who do this, the arkies, as we love to call them, dedicate a great deal of time to acquire the skills to do their job. And that’s kind of the point of this post. The difference between the Arkies and the metal detecting folks is one mainly of scope.

Scope. I love that word. It means, in the context of my post here, that we, the dirt fishers, do this as a hobby while the arkies do this as a profession. So, while we may find a cool relic of historical significance, AND, we may, through some research, shed some light on its purpose and origins, we really do not add much to the greater body of human knowledge. There have been some exceptions of course. To mind comes the guy in the south of the U.S. somewhere who identified the remains of a lost group of African-American soldiers of the Civil War. That was a great job but it is the exception that proves the rule.

The arkies on the other hand, cannot just dig up something and put it in a pretty display box for family and friends to admire. Their scope is different. They have to put that item into perspective. They have to connect the relic to a much greater picture; the picture of human development. To that end, they have to meticulously map and research and research and study. And compare and study and research and look for more stuff to connect the relic to. And then, when they are all done, and often before they are done, they are subject to peer review. That is, all the other arkies who read the research paper written on that relic then get to weigh in and tell you that you’re full of it. And mind you, these other arkies are not just giving their opinion but often have the evidence to back up their words. 

So, when I hear fellow hunters go on about Archaeologists, I wish they would read more on the subject. I know that many people who have negative opinions on Archaeology and Archaeologists are coming from negative experiences. Maybe we were accused of looting, or stealing, or ignorantly damaging sites. I believe that’s where most Archaeologists got it wrong. Most of us are genuinely interested in history as evidenced by the unending hours we spend researching sites and researching relics. Yes, there are bad apples on both camps here, but both sides should concentrate on the 99% who are dong the right thing. And for sure, if we are unfairly maligned, we metal detectorists should complain and fight back as arduously and vociferously as possible, without throwing the proverbial baby out with the proverbial water. Archaeology is important and arkies are doing an important job.

Recently our club invited the head State Archaeologist to give us a talk. It was great. Dr. Hoard (stay the jokes about his last name please :D) is not your grandfather’s arkie. He is a young and hip dude. Him and his team have already developed a strong relationship with the metal detecting community. Rock on! Also, on Dick Stout’s blog, you will often see posts by an arkie (Lisa McIntire) who has a great sense of humor and who is trying to bridge the divide between both camps. So things are achangin’ and I hope it’s for the better.

Last I want to tell you what prompted me to write this post now. The place is called Göbekli Tepe (I think it means ‘bellybutton hill). It is in Turkey and it is at this point the oldest temple ever found. It is about 7000 years older than Stonehedge and about 5 to 6 thousand years older than Mesopotamia. It is as we speak, rewriting human history. It is a fascinating mystery that will someday yield all its secrets, thanks to our friends the arkies.

Thank you for stopping by!


4 Responses to “A dissenting opinion”

  1. Lawdog1 August 18, 2014 at 1:44 pm #

    Excellent, as always. Thanks.

    • pulltabMiner August 19, 2014 at 8:51 am #

      Thank you! Controversial topic in the hobby but it shouldn’t be.

  2. Dick Stout August 29, 2014 at 8:04 am #

    Dave I have never doubted that archaeologists accomplish great things. What I do doubt is any willingness on their part to work with the metal detecting community despite a talk or class here and there. I will also never accept their premise that we do more harm than good when it comes to preserving history.

    I worked with archaeologists years ago and invited them to various events when I was with the FMDAC. They treated me and my detecting friends like second class citizens after we spent an entire day helping them and we didn’t even get a verbal or written thank you. When they came to the events their speeches were extremely anti-detecting, despite the fact that it was a metal detecting event. That happened twice and I never again asked them to participate.

    I know this is only my opinion and I do respect yours. Just be careful what you wish for and be very careful what information you choose to share with the archaeological community.

    • pulltabMiner September 9, 2014 at 8:40 am #

      Thank you Dick. Your opinion is worth many other people’s facts. I have occasion to speak with some other old timers in the hobby and they tell pretty much the same story as yours. I know that we may be lucky in Kansas with our head archaeologist and that this may change if he moves on. I can only continue to work on trying to improve things. I mean, we even have a budding archaeologist in our club and perhaps that’s the beginning of a beautiful friendship…well, I can dream can’t I? 🙂

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