All posts by chrismolnar

Illicit Antiquities

Why should we care that looters are flooding the antiquities market?

• When properly excavated antiquities offer a window on history and provide primary sources for scholars to interpret.
• Antiquities that are illegally dug up are divorced from the past and information about the context in which they came from is all but lost.
• Archaeological sites can truly only be excavated once, so properly documenting every piece of the puzzle is vital to fully understand the site.

Thus antiquities properly recovered and documented from a legitimate archaeological excavation are important for three reasons:

1. It has provenance.
2. It has a context.
3. It is not a forgery.

Once a site is looted, details of provenance and context are destroyed which can never be reconstructed. So how can we help avoid such catastrophes?

International organisations such as ICOM (International Council of Museums), UNESCO, UNIDROIT and INTERPOL run training programmes for heritage professionals, customs staff and police officers. They also promote ethical standards and raise awareness about threats posed by looting. They provide educational programmes which encourage local communities to preserve their archaeological heritage in order to not only save their cultural past but attract tourists and discourage looting.

Agreements between governments and the 1970 UNESCO Convention on the Means of Prohibiting and Preventing the Illicit Import, Export and Transfer of Ownership of Cultural Property (which Canada didn’t sign until 1978) have proved a powerful weapon in the war against looting. Nearly 100 countries have now signed this convention.

Ultimately, the archaeological looting will stop only when collectors, museums and dealers refuse to buy looted antiquities. Perhaps in the years to come collecting illicit antiquities will become as socially unacceptable as a stealing candy from a baby. Yet for the mean time this billion dollar industry doesn’t show any signs of slowing down.


Although at first this assignment seemed a little unclear to me, after some tinkering i found this program to be really interesting. i can definitely see the interdisciplinary applications of this progam and how it can help to find connections between material that most of us wouldn’t be able to see without the aid of Gephi. i’ll admit i’m still getting use to all the ins and outs of this program but with a little practice i think this could be a valuable tool for any researcher.

Week 2: Activity Post

Lorna Richardson, “A Digital Public Archaeology?” Papers form the Institute of Archaeology, 23(1): 10, pp. 1-12, DOI:

A Digital Public Archaeology focuses on introducing the key literature on the practice of Public Archaeology in the UK, while addressing the issues associated with the engagement of the general public. Richardson gives detailed descriptions of Public Archaeology by attacking it from multiple theoretical perspectives in which give rise to a number of archaeological sectors. An interesting point Richardson addresses is the polarity of the methodological orientations adopted by Community Archaeology projects. The first of these techniques can be described as the top-down method which was championed by Marshall, Moser and Tully. This method maintains the professional integrity of the archaeological experts, who facilitate the archaeological process, while giving a voice to voluntary, amateur assistants. The other side of the spectrum is concerned with the bottom-up approach, described by Liddle, Faulkner, Crosby, Moshenska, and Kenny. This puts the process of public archaeology in the hands of non-professionals while experts are invited to give a supportive role. However this is only half the battle, the digital aspects of archaeology are addressed to inform the reader of the contemporary methods of distributing knowledge worldwide, via the internet. The reader is confronted with several issues associated with digital media communications in which takes a fairly pessimistic view of the contemporary scene. Finally the reader is left thinking of the future of archaeology and how these internet technologies will eventually transform the way one understands and engages with this discipline.

What are some positives and negatives you see to both methods of Community Archaeology?

What are your thoughts on Richardson’s comment of the archaeological material available online as only missing the tangible materiality of the archaeological experience?


Stephen L. Dyson, “From New to New Age Archaeology: Archaeological Theory and Classical Archaeology – A 1990s Perspective.” American Journal of Archaeology, Vol. 97, No. 2 (Apr., 1993) pp. 195-206, URL: http//

This article takes a more historical standpoint than the last. Dyson begins by giving an overview of how classical archaeology functioned and why it eventually evolved. The reader finds the leading names of the twentieth century schools of archaeology in which pays an importance to The New Archaeologists. Dyson gives reason to the theoretical backing of modern archaeology and briefly describes the major literary works on the subject. The movements of post-processual archaeology illustrate the interdisciplinary efforts associated with archaeology. Throughout the article the reader is confronted with sociological, political, and individualistic implications of archaeology throughout its history. Thus, Dyson ties the contemporary concerns of theoretical archaeology to the major tenets of classical archaeology in which urges classicist to rethink their process, not only for their own good but the betterment of all archaeological schools.