By writing this blog post I am breaking a promise I made to myself… I had told myself that I was going to avoid controversy and that I was going to ignore the Barford’s of the world. Especially after having met some real archaeologists online that were, well, real. Very nice people that were reasonable and well grounded. They were curious to hear my position on the antiquities trade and were open to constructive dialogue.
Anyway, what prompted me to write today was a surreal exchange I had with Barford on his blog. Once again, he decided to mention me by name on his blog and the New Yorker in me would not leave it alone…
Anyway, it is a real eye opener. It makes it very clear how archaeo-extremists think, a proverbial look “under the hood” at how their minds work.
In “discussing” the issue of laws meant to “stop” looting, he used the analogy of adultery. Rather than inject my own colorful interpretations, I will do a copy and paste of the exchange (to see it all, go to the link above):
ME: “My views tend to run on the conservative side. But I also feel that certain personal rights trump the wants of the state. I also believe that the view you try to force feed people in Glennbeckian fashion of a black and white view that anything old in the ground belongs to the state, property owner or finder be damned, is one which has ZERO hope of success. Let’s look at the most extreme scenario- if EVERY nation decided to enact a death penalty for not turning in finds people would still be out looking and land owners that found stuff on their land would just bury it again until they found a way to get something for it. It is human nature and has been since the first man found a bee hive and wanted to get at the bees honey… The ancient Egyptians had pretty horrible penalties for ACTUAL looting, yet people still looted. Now look at it from a modern perspective- most rational people do not view a chance find or finding something that does not have a living owner or that is even known to exist as looting.”
BARFORD: “As for penalties not working…. Seducing other people’s spouses has been around for a long time too, but you find adultery a lot less frequent than in America in countries which have harsh penalties for it. Probably that works too for stealing cars, drug smuggling and a whole lot of other things, why not looting archaeological sites?”
ME: “Are you seriously using adultury as an example to make your argument? It actually is a PERFECT example- In Islamic countries that interpret Sharia in a very extreme way, the penalty for adultry is extremely harsh. But they also go to great extremes to limit the rights of WOMAN so that they do not have an opportunity to commit adultry AND woman are regularly (falsely) accused of adultry and men are rarely prosecuted unless they manage to get at another man’s wife and he actually cares enough to do more than just have her stoned to death. So, you would have the rights of land owners, finders, collectors and dealers completely stripped away and give the authority to those you deem fit?”
(By the way, the “Glennbeckian” jab was in response to a comment he made where he used the “term”, I used it to imply extremism, because Beck is nothing if he is not extreme. On the “Extremists, Kooks and Trolls” scale, he is right below Barford.)