While I’d like to take each archaeological ethics principle and assess how it relates to “Diggers”, I fear that I might exceed the word count in doing so, so I’ll just touch on the violations of ethics that I noticed most strongly.
The very first thing that stood out to me was the fact that the “Diggers” crew outright put approximate dollar amounts on everything they found. The third ethical principle discussed in the lecture, that of commercialization, explicitly discourages this, and asks that ethical archaeologists discourage it in others. The show could not have more effectively violated this ethical rule. True archaeologists do not put a dollar value on findings because it actively encourages looting. If people think that findings could hold value, they’ll pilfer them for profit, which is exactly what the show displays.
Something that wasn’t so blatant, though still quite obvious is the lack of stewardship for the sites that the show visits. The very first ethical principle of archaeology states that archaeologists must work for the conservation and preservation of the archaeological record. While the hosts of “Diggers” do care for the surroundings of the site (i.e. carefully digging around the tulips), they have absolute disregard for anything that could be buried underground. While true archaeologists carefully and gradually remove soil and leave artifacts where they’re discovered until they can be thoroughly documented, these individuals rifle through the soil with tools until they find the metal object their metal detectors located. Their finding is then promptly ripped from the soil and stowed away, losing all context associated with it. That is, of course, assuming the context is still intact, with how carelessly they extract everything.
The third (but certainly not last) principle they violate on the show is that of intellectual property. This principle is that the past is, effectively, public property. It is to be used to benefit all. The “Diggers” crew, however, is swift to claim the artifacts they find as their own. They even go so far as to (playfully) argue about who owns what artifact that they find late in the episode. True archaeologists will, once all context associated with their findings is documented, either leave the findings in situ (especially in the case of remains), bring it back to the lab for analysis and further documentation, or donate their findings to a museum or other public institution. Ethical archaeologists should never keep their findings for themselves or sell them.
While entertaining, this show is quite different from true archaeology. They blatantly disregard several archaeological ethics. However, I couldn’t help but notice that they never call themselves archaeologists. Even when one of their members (hopefully) jokingly called himself “possibly the greatest combination historian, metal detectorist, human being on the planet”, he never added “archaeologist”. Overall, however, this encourages very negative behavior in the form of looting archaeological sites in several ways, and I can understand why it would cause frustration in true archaeologists.