Sunday, 10 December 2017

Save Everything or Strategic digital Documentation

One topic that has come up a couple of times in our class discussion has been the debate over how much information should be saved at archaeological sites. In this short video we can see the archaeologists using drones and 3D scanners to document as much as they can at the temple of Poseidon in Greece. one statement that stuck out to me was "we are creating a virtual archaeology so someone 10, 20, 30, years down the road can get back inside your head, can almost see the dig through your eyes". While I agree there is certainly something to be said for documenting as much as one possibly can at a site I think there is also an argument for the other side of this as well.

Data storage is sometimes a complicated and costly process and can not always be done very easily. If you are capturing any and everything you do there is a possibility that you are capturing a lot of unnecessary data. As we talked about in class data storage in research is not just as simple as loading things onto a single hard-drive and having it safe for 1000 years. There are certain archival standards for digital data storage that should be followed. redundancy is important and saving files in archival formats is also an excellent way to improve long term data safety.

With that being said, I personally don't think it is a great idea to capture absolutely everything at a site. At a certain point there is not much additional information that you will be able to gather from a 3D scan 10 years in the future. I certainly see the value for landscapes as these things change but i wouldn't see the value in scanning every little piece of white ware off of a CRM site. There are instances where there isnt much, if any, analytical data to be gained only at the expense of data storage.

Bullying and Silencing in Academia and On the Web

Hi all,

We have been talking a lot about social media and how it is/can be used by archaeologists but what happens when this blows up? After all of our website review presentations I have become really fascinated with how these fantastical alternative explanations for things arise. One thing that I noticed when looking through comments and social media when doing my own project was how sterile the comments tended to be. they were overwhelmingly positive. This (again) was a common theme we saw when examining the websites. It seems that much of this positivity and community participation is carefully cultivated. Those who don't agree are either removed from the conversation or are bullied away.

We as archaeologists feel that we are in the majority or the position of dominance however it seems that these communities are growing. They are often motivated by some form of ideology that doesn't mesh with our approaches or what we as academics know to be true. We often see bullying, like that in the case of Mary Beard (who was outspoken on the state of multiracial families in Roman Britian), being used to silence those who speak against this.

I don't believe that conversations on heritage should just be a matter of who can speak the loudest. There have been a number of claims in heritage that have resulted in the truth being obscured or ignored just because of influence. The myths surrounding the mounds of North America are one example of this that is still sometimes debated today by those who still are in disbelief of First Nations people building these earthworks.

Going forward I think it will certainly be hard to change these sorts of ideologies as for those that believe them they are firmly ingrained. When doing my website review the general consensus i found among patrons of these sites was that they felt ignored, and that their ideas were not being represented in media. As a result they search for publishers of similar ideas. We don't really have much power against this but what can we do to defend our discipline? Is there anything?

Sunday, 3 December 2017

The dilemma of buying and selling archaeological artifacts online

Hi everybody,

I was reading this interesting article on Business Insider that discussed the authenticity and provenience of archaeological artifacts being sold on eBay and Amazon. This highlighted a number of issues that I wanted to briefly touch upon.

The first one is whether artifacts should be sold at all. As an archaeology student, I am certainly biased in my views regarding this topic. I think all artifacts should be owned by public organizations, so that all members of society have the ability to learn from these artifacts, instead of private collectors, where almost no members of the public will have access to it. It is because of this reason that the tone of the article bothered me, as it was advocating for the ability of online buyers to purchase authentic artifacts. I do understand, however, that my views regarding who should own artifacts are idealistic and not very realistic. In a capitalist society, there are always going to be people that will pay a premium to keep a piece of history for themselves, and as such, a market exists for these people.

This brings me to my second point, which is the issue of the entire article, that of authenticity and provenience. The article does highlight a common issue of people who create fake artifacts and also looters, who illegally remove and sell artifacts from sites. Regardless of who owns an artifact, the issue of imitated artifacts is a problem, since it can lead to a misunderstanding of the past. Looting is also a major problem, it removes an artifact from the archaeological context necessary to understand it, and gives it no provenience. These are both serious issues that bring me to my third issue, which is whose responsibility is it to determine the authenticity of an artifact.

Certainly, when an individual or institution purchases a historical artifact they should at all times be wary of the provenience and authenticity of an artifact. However, the onus should be on  the retailer, even large online retailers such as Amazon, to investigate the authenticity of an artifact. In a non-online environment, a retailer is obligated to ensure the item is valid. A good example of this would be art dealers who often act in an intermediary capacity between a seller and a buyer. This is a similar capacity to that of Amazon. Overall it seems to me that websites such as Amazon or eBay need more accountability.

What do you guys think? Who is accountable for determining the veracity or authenticity of artifacts? Is it even appropriate to sell archeological artifacts in the first place? If not, is there anything the archeological community could do to limit this practice? Is there anything governments could do?

I look forward to hearing your responses.