March 02, 2012

"Digger" shows promote archaeological looting

'Diggers,' 'American Digger' TV Shows Said To Promote Looting Of Archaeological SitesArchaeologists are mounting a campaign against two new cable TV shows that they say encourage and glamorize looting of American archaeological sites.

On 20 March, Spike TV will premiere a new show called American Digger, while a show called Diggers on the National Geographic Channel made its debut 28 February. Both shows "promote and glorify the looting and destruction of archaeological sites," Society for American Archaeology (SAA) President William F. Limp wrote in a message posted earlier this week to the SAA listserv.

The premise of American Digger, which is being hosted by a former professional wrestler, was laid out in a recent announcement by Spike TV. A team of "diggers" will "scour target-rich areas, such as battlefields and historic sites, in hopes of striking it rich by unearthing and selling rare pieces of American history." Similar locales are featured in National Geographic's Diggers. In the second episode, set in South Carolina, Revolutionary War and War of 1812 buttons, bullets, and coins were recovered at a former plantation.

After viewing the first two episodes of Diggers, Iowa's State archaeologist John Doershuk posted a review to the American Cultural Resources Association listserv, in which he lamented: "The most damaging thing, I think, about this show is that no effort was made to document where anything came from or discussion of associations—each discovered item was handled piece-meal."

"It was ironic that they [the show's on-air diggers] are destroying the entire basis of what they're interested in," Doershuk told Science Insider by phone. "These are non-renewable sources. There's only so many of them from these time periods."
Comment:  For more on archaeological looting, see Looters Vow to Keep Looting and Pay-to-Dig Archaeology.

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