‘Bleeding Kansas’ is an early episode of a popular National Geographic’s popular TV show, ‘Diggers.’ It has to say that, as a TV show, ‘diggers’ might be considered as an ultimate successful one from business perspective; however, from archaeological perspective, it would be a terrible disaster.
Admittedly, an archaeological related TV show could attract people’s attention and has a positive effect if comes with scientific and professional archaeology; nevertheless, in the ‘Bleeding Kansas,’ the audience could hardly find anything with modern archaeology, instead, it actually reminds me of those early-stage, destructive, and harmful excavation, even worse.
As learnt these weeks, modern archaeology always comes with systemic and detailed project. Archaeologists usually divided the sites into grid and search carefully, in order to identify where each single artifact was discovered. However, in this film, they actually just searched and dug randomly with a metal detector, and deal with those artifacts discovered carelessly. They neither made any records, nor carefully protect them. Actually, I would call their action as treasure hunting rather than archaeological discovering. They seem do not care about protection of the site anymore, and behaved like just looking for valuables artifacts. And this is why I felt them similar with those early stage archaeologies.
Moreover, they discovered the site only with a simple metal detector, which is extremely inaccurate and uncomplete. As a result, they only get coins and bullets, and it could be believed that there are still other metal artifacts undiscovered. In our lectures, archaeology relies on cross-disciplinary research and learn more about the past. However, in the way of this TV program, people could hardly understand anything about the past. Many of their claims actually do not have any stand and would mislead the audience from the truth.
Another thing I noticed is that the producer of this TV show simply marked a ‘Potential Value’ for each artifact. It is really awkward to see that, because for one hand, value of artifacts never limited on artifacts itself, but also should take the information behind it into consideration, and that would be hard to quantified; for another hand, marking the potential value also transits an information of encouraging similar action by private and selling them. And I do not think it could be a positive signal in any way.
Overall, I would say the ‘Diggers’ is a successful commercial program; however, archaeologically, it is also unethical and past an incorrect information towards the audience. That is, it could attract audience with some dramatic plot and thrilling mystery, but just like what we talked about popular media in the first week, it is over commercialized and quite away from, even on the opposite side of, actual archaeology.