Archive for August 2007

A Canadian Archaeologist in Scotland

August 20, 2007

Hi I am a 22-year-old, white, preppy, liberal, middle classed, Canadian archaeologist. This blog with be about my adventures in Scotland, as I will be attending Glasgow University to get my masters degree, which will last September to September. I will be getting my ‘M. Lit’ in a archaeology based programme however I am also very interested in Battlefield archaeology as my house in Canada lies between two 1812 Forts. Without meaning to brag, I have a lot of archaeological experience (approx 72 weeks). I was fortunate to get employment with a Private sector ‘Cultural Resource’ firm (or ‘Rescue archaeology’) and I have over four field seasons (May to Sep, as I was a university student during this time) under my belt with about a week or so assistant-supervisor status. I have worked on two human burial sites and predominantly Native American sites (which mostly yield stone tool making debris known as ‘flakes’ or debotage) but I do have some ‘historic’ experience (the term historic kind of rudely implies that only European focused history matters as simply due to the fact that it is written).

As this is my first blog and I personally would rather be too short than too long in my posts so I will call ‘er quits.


Looters- big booms badges and burials

August 20, 2007

The archaeologist in me has to go on a rant here for a minute. Please stop looting! Now there is a clear difference between human curiosity and looting. Looting is actively seeking and take all the artifacts or ‘goodies’ from an archaeological site or sites. Looting includes but is not limited to metal detecting, field walking or actually digging sites. Looters usual take the goodies for their own personal collection.
Looting is bad for numerous reasons. A selfish reason is that it can make my job very boring. Looting also removes any historical implications that a trained archaeologist can conclude. For example if you give me a cannon ball and ask me about it, I can’t really tell you anything about it apart from which nationality possible fired it based on measurements. However if my crew or myself finds a cannon ball ‘in situ’ (meaning left as it was with out being moved modified etc) we can tell which direction it was fired from, what type of cannon fired it, battles it will likely associated with, and in a perfect world which unit fired it and with the right historical records the names of the men or women in that unit, and an approximate time it was fired.
Another important reason to leave artifacts where they are is that they can tell us where important sites are so they can be documented or at least saved from destruction. With native or ‘Indian’ artifacts these could indicate sacred land that may host burials. Christians mostly believe that a dead body is simply an empty shell as the soul is gone; however native groups (such as the Huron and Iroquois) believe that the soul stays with the body (they actually believe humans have two souls, one which leaves for a heaven type area, one which stays with the body). Natives then feel that if you disturb the body you disturb the soul and its afterlife. Now it is hard to overcome a religious difference but here is a little analogy to show the anger a native person would likely feel if a native body was disturbed.
On Internet auction sites, EBay etc, you can bid on and buy military badges and buttons. While the majority of these badges are likely heirlooms there are cases of grave robbers digging up dead soldiers simply to sell their military equipment for personal financial profit. Now no matter what nationality you are it is understood that soldiers who have fallen in battle paid the ultimate price and they are deserving of respect. This kind of disrespectful treatment for those who have laid their life on the line can make you angry. Take that anger and now imagine by digging up the body you jeopardized their chance of getting into heaven or paradise, that’s probably close to the anger the natives feel.
Now to pick up something and wonder about it is natural. However if you do find something you should leave it where it is and notify archaeologists through local museums. You can also note where you found the object and what it looks like. It is really the respect and willingness to share with others that separates an amateur archaeologist from a looter; the rest simply comes with training and experience. Artifacts can tell us about a different culture or about ourselves and I personally feel they should be shared and in the words of one Junior Indiana Jones, clearly the most famous archaeologist, “They belong in a museum!”