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"Stealing" Archaeology
Imagine the scene...

You are walking across a field/ down a path, in any country, wherever, that is literally made of broken pot sherds, they are so numerous you are crunching them underfoot. So. Do you pocket a couple of sherds to take home and practise your drawing skills?

Is this stealing archaeology?
Depends what you're intending to do with the information/artefacts.
What is stealing and what isn't is defined by law.
So it would depend on the legal conditions in this country you're talking about.
In many cases outside western Europe ALL archaeological finds automatically belong to the state.

I would say that without proper permission it's probably not legal...

...and drawing skills can be practiced in other ways.
Its an interesting ethical issue.

I was talking with a famous pottery specialist yesterday, and one thing that came up was knowing what is and is not important... out of ten binbags worth of pottery.. only 7 sherds were relevant.. the rest were junk.. but then, he knew which ones were important.

That said, if you don't pick them up, then they will be lost forever.. as they are destroyed. The whole thing comes down to context.. and you also have to consider, if everyone picks up a few sherds.. then one day there will be no more... on the other hand... if you don't...

This could be one for a poll....! :face-thinks:

"I don't have an archaeological imagination.."
Without landowner (not tenant) consent it is plain old stealing in England and Wales. In Scotland it would fall under Treasure Trove and need reporting.

As an archaeologist, presume you would also report it to the SMR (or HER in Newspeak), as well as the large quantities of artefcats encountered.
But how many of us pick up a sherd... or kids who pick up sherds (a 19th century plate sherd for example- or a clay pipe stem) are we eroding the resource.. or is it just a sherd? Is it a site, or a loose piece - certainly if a site is covered in sherds, then it is a site.. and ethical archaeological issues have to come into play.. However..... what about a site where topsoil is pulled off.. where finds are left unrecorded? even sites? are we looking at protecting the sherd, while at the same time missing the wider picture?

"I don't have an archaeological imagination.."
!!! After thinking about it last night I came back on to delete the thread because I didn't think it was very good.

So...a little further food for thought...

The site has been excavated/recorded to its full extent to expose the foundations of the standing buildings. Therefore has not been backfilled and never will be. The sherds have fallen out of the baulks after thousands of people have walked across/around/between them, gradually eroding the soil/spoil and literally making a path out of the archaeology...

What then?

"Kids, go get a proper job and don't take mine" - Derek Alexander
Again we come to the ethics.. and again we come to the 'does it actually matter' debate...

I suppose as archaeologists we are special Smile and must abide by a code of conduct (though sometimes when you are sending details of 4 bags of 19th century pottery to the treasure trove .. Cos its the law - you do wonder.)

Sometimes common sense comes into play... on the other hand, as I said before, if you do it, and others see, then they do it... where does it end... a site literally stripped of sherds.. But then again, if there are that many on the surface, there are plenty more where that comes from...

Me... I would say... (and I am ready to be shot down in flames) take a few sherds, draw them.. and if you really really feel terrible... take them back... but they are out of context already... and I would love to see the policeman that would arrest you for theft, or the landowner that would call the cops due to the loss of a couple of sherds... Now a complete pot!

Archaeology and Ethics... trouble is... extremes can sound silly when you say them out loud.. and it is always extremes that are cited as why you should not do something...

and no... don't delete... its interesting to see this... especially given that archaeologists regulary have to walk away from sites that are to be developed and will knowingly (but sadly) watch a house being built over the rest of the features and finds.. destroyed forever..

Ah.. a good Sunday moral dilemma!

"I don't have an archaeological imagination.."
Lets put it to the vote:face-approve:
'course if you were talking about metal objects this would be a legitimate hobby and therefore no problem. Have you thought about maybe complying with the relevant metal detecting code of practice. Oh, and as the law stands there is no problem doing this on scheduled sites (so long as you have the landowner's permission) - unlike metal detecting which is illegal under the act. The new HP bill seeks to criminalise removal of objects from sites which may constitute part of the site's special interest. Sounds like a harmless hobby to me.:face-stir:

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