Well… this is my opinion…and this is how I feel about it:
Much to my personal dismay, I have discovered over the past 3 years that the professional archaeology community in the mid-south and nationally has become so insular, walled in, and secretive that it has become nearly impossible for me to obtain information/data necessary to pursue some of my own personal lines of interest and research in Tennessee archaeology. It is usually expressed in the form of unanswered messages; ignored requests for professional papers, archaeological information/data, or consultations; outright refusal to render assistance; and unfounded assumptions that I must somehow be an artifact collector prowling for information that would allow me to find and loot archaeological sites (simply because the person that has been contacted does not immediately recognize my name or my background in Tennessee archaeology). For anyone with enough willingness and intelligence to relieve themselves of the looter fantasy, you may do so by clicking the “My Profile” button on the home page of this blog.
I would urge archaeology graduate students and practicing archaeologists in the mid-south region and elsewhere to give the foregoing some very serious thought. All of us care about protecting the archaeological record and protecting archaeological sites from looting. However, in this regard, it seems pretty clear to me from personal experience that a new and almost mindless level of zealotry has developed over the past few years—a zealotry that even has the power to “lock out” from professional discourse people with legitimate academic credentials, research experience, and interests in the archaeology of the region. And I am not referring to “locking out” people who have developed a bad social reputation, those who have pissed off some prominent person, or those who have committed some heinous act against the archaeological record. I am talking about personal-assumption-based zealotry that locks out well-meaning and well-intentioned people without even asking pertinent questions about their qualifications and intentions. In general, the original source of this mindless zealotry, the factors that are driving it, and the individuals (if any) responsible for it are unknown to me. I say “if any” out of admission that this could be some sort of rising superorganic phenomenon—albeit a destructive one— that has a life of its own apart from any driving personalities.
In light of the foregoing, I have to ask a serious question. Does any archaeologist these days take the following seriously, or are they just meaningless suggestions written on a piece of toilet paper:
SAA Principle No. 5:
Intellectual property, as contained in the knowledge and documents created through the study of archaeological resources, is part of the archaeological record. As such it should be treated in accord with the principles of stewardship rather than as a matter of personal possession. If there is a compelling reason, and no legal restrictions or strong countervailing interests, a researcher may have primary access to original materials and documents for a limited and reasonable time, after which these materials and documents must be made available to others.
The Archaeologist’s Responsibility to Colleagues, Employees, and Students
2.1 An archaeologist shall:
- Give appropriate credit for work done by others;
- Stay informed and knowledgeable about developments in her/his field or fields of specialization;
- Accurately, and without undue delay, prepare and properly disseminate a description of research done and its results;
- Communicate and cooperate with colleagues having common professional interests;
- Give due respect to colleagues’ interests in, and rights to, information about sites, areas, collections, or data where there is a mutual active or potentially active research concern.
No matter what the current situation may be or why (and I admittedly do not understand it), I fully intend to continue my own personal pursuits in Tennessee archaeology. I will not be deterred by anything or anyone. If you do not like me personally or professionally for some cause very old or very new, then I have the same thing to say to you that my old friend Dr. Patricia Cridlebaugh used to say in such situations, “That’s just tough darts!!!” Furthermore, if any person (avocational or professional) ever lets their fantasies get the better of them and starts falsely accusing me of being a pothunter, looter, or grave robber, we are going to meet in a court of law. I have zero toleration for such nonsense.
Thank you very much for visiting the Archaeology in Tennessee blog over the past year and for making it such a success. This blog has been far more successful than I ever dreamed possible when it was begun a year ago. My target numbers for annual visitors and views were exceeded with much room to spare, and writing articles for the blog was a lot of fun. One famous archaeologist in Tennessee, who is also an old friend in the excavation squares, once asked me how on Earth I found the time to do all of this blog writing. I did not give this person a sufficient answer at the time. The answer is: 2 to 4 hours of sleep some nights.
The Archaeology in Tennessee blog is now officially shut down. We may be back at some unspecified later date—or maybe not at all. Have a nice summer.