Where to begin with this episode of “Diggers”? It is good to hear that later on in its run, National Geographic addressed some of the issues in regards to the archaeological concerns because what is being shown in this episode does not seem to represent archaeology one bit. The show not only glorifies the “treasure hunting” aspect of archaeology, but also presents it in a way that makes it appear that it’s a great hobby for any person to start doing. Just pick up a metal detector, find an old, historic site, and get to work. This, as we know if dangerous because once an item is removed from its location, the historical record is ruined and cannot be recreated. By forgoing the careful techniques and analysis that trained archaeologists use, it ruins any potential we may have had for learning about the past through a certain site and/or object.
I found it disturbingly funny that at the first site they were searching, the one guy made a point to tell the camera that while he was digging, he was being careful of the tulips. God forbid he ruin anything from the present time, but digging up and messing with the archaeological record is totally fine. In my head, I like to hope that there was an editor of the show who knew how ridiculous the entire scenario was and put that in there to show the irony of the entire situation. It was also during this first segment that I noticed the “potential value” that was displayed with every item’s description. This clearly goes against the ethical Principle No. 3 that we learned about which states, “whenever possible [archaeologists] should discourage, and should themselves avoid, activities that enhance the commercial value of archaeological objects, especially objects that are not curated in public institutions, or readily available for scientific study, public interpretation, and display.” What the two gentleman are doing in this episode of “Diggers” clearly enhances the commercial value as they are directly showing the public how they can dig up artifacts not for scientific study, but instead personal, financial gain.
At the second site, I found it interesting again that the site owner/manager said that he brought the two gentleman in to search the area in hopes to find a blacksmith shop so that later an actual archaeological dig could take place. My question for him would then be, why not consult archaeologists in the first place? As mentioned earlier, all that these two guys are doing is ruining the archaeological record. They have no interest in preserving the sites (which is another area of ethics that real archaeologists are worried about). Their true desires can be seen at the third site when they’re on the prowl for the “first shot of the civil war”. After one of the guys claims to have found it he says that this find will make him the “greatest historian, metal detector, and human on the planet”. Now, I’m sure there are some archaeologists who may have a narcissistic streak to them, but this seems to be on a completely different wave length than any real scientist. There’s no attempt to show any historical value to the find, but instead use it as a way to enhance his personal status.
I think that anyone who is even slightly trained in Archaeology can tell that this show had so many ethical problems. For profit television often does not care about ethics as much as making money so it’s understandable that it took backlash from archaeologists for them to change anything. As pointed out in the lecture this week, just because something is legal does not mean it is ethical. This is an important thing to remember, especially when dealing with people who may not be properly trained. It takes a concerned effort by archaeologists to not only do what is right, but to teach others and the general public what is right as well.