Monday, January 26, 2009


I know, I know, I start this new exciting blog and then promptly go on vacation for almost two weeks (and take a week to recover). And it's a shame, really, because the first 4 days of that "vacation" were actually archaeology-related. I went to the AIA conference in Philadelphia, where I interviewed with graduate schools, voted on AIA resolutions at the Council meeting, drank more than I should have, and discovered Philadelphia might not be the worst place in the world to spend 5-7 years of my life. I had a mental list going of blog-related topics from that weekend, too. I'll save them up for a later date, when I lack other inspiration.

But not today! Because today, as I was eating my breakfast cereal, I heard on Morning Edition a crazy story about Ohio and Kentucky feuding over a rock with some graffiti on it (dating back to at least 1847, when an "archaeological publication" noted it). Essentially, some guy decided it would be fun to try to find this rock, which had been underwater since the 1920s, when the Ohio River was dammed. So he and a buddy went out scuba-diving, found it, hauled it to the surface, and offered it to the local (Ohio) museum. Eventually Kentucky found out, and now they are raising a stink about the rock belonging to them, since it was an antiquity registered in Kentucky (having, presumably, been on the Kentucky side of the river before it was submerged). The original guy and his buddy are also facing charges because they illegally moved an antiquity.

There are so many convoluted issues in this story, I am forced to make a list to keep track of them all.
  1. What the heck is the archaeological significance of this rock anyway??? The story doesn't say anything about who made it, when, what's inscribed on it (other than a face that "looks like Charlie Brown"), or any other bit of information that would tell us why we should care. This is why people don't understand what's so wrong about removing an object from it's in situ location, and why it is against the law to do so.
  2. I'm sure some people care about legal disputes and state's jurisdiction, etc. I'm not one of them.
  3. A major problem in China right now is that with the building of the Three Gorges Dam, tons of ancient sites are being covered up. Conveniently for China, a lot of those sites are thought to have associations with non-ethnically Chinese people who lived in the region and might make a territorial claim to the land based on ancestry. Damming of the Nile has also destroyed many sites in Egypt. Damming = bad for archaeology and site preservation.
  4. Now I'm looking more closely at the face image, and it seems to have the year 1856 inscribed in it. Does something just over 150 years old count as an antiquity or not? Where do we place that line, both ethically and legally?
  5. Is it actually wrong - ethically - to have moved this rock and brought it to a place where people can see and study it? (If it warrants either of those things - I'm still not convinced.)
  6. Other thoughts? I know there's more!

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