I recently stumbled across a bizarre idea; one sermonised by archaeology’s evangelical wing that comes with just a whiff of burning martyr : –
“…it is better to leave objects and other evidence in the ground where it has been lying safely for hundreds or thousands of years. Here it remains safe for future generations to investigate with better techniques and with better-informed questions to ask.”
Whoever dreamt up such idiocy obviously didn’t think it through to its logical conclusion. This, if it ever came to fruition, would be not only the Kiss-of-Death for archaeological excavations but possibly archaeology as we know it today (and hooray to that some might say). Well, arkies and arkiedom, that’s fine…so don’t dig, be happy, but don’t try and palm this lunacy off on detectorists as ‘best practice.’
Even a half-wit can see the theory is seriously flawed and problematic, but that’s archaeology’s worry. There will always be “future generations” developing “better techniques” for “future generations” developing “better techniques” for “future generations”…et al, ad infinitum. The conundrum for them is deciding the right time to excavate. But as “better techniques” are always in the future; the right time will never arrive.
The case is clear cut. There’ll certainly be a cull. Adherents will pack up their trowels in their old kitbags and slink off home. All that’ll be left will be a few professional skeleton crews on contract to examine building and development works.
However, for the rest of us who want no truck with the insanity of abandoning artefacts to the tender mercies of chemical deterioration, will rightly cast it aside as poor heritage practice and continue to bring fabulous historical items into the light of day for study and evaluation.
Also, never let it be said it’s unethical to sell, or profit from any object found and recorded. What is unethical, is leaving artefacts in the ground, or worse still, handing artefact ‘protection’ to any organisation working to make this imbecilic policy happen. Those that do are unfit for purpose.
The utter lunacy of leaving valuable and notionally historical objects in the ground not only robs the heritage but seriously short-changes the public.
It amounts to knowledge loss by neglect.