The Object is the Thing: Developing a Framework for Understanding the Culture of Looting.

Author(s): Katharine Fernstrom

Year: 2015


Objects are central to looting. The illegally excavated object has a relationship to the past person who produced it; the landscape that held it; the person who clandestinely excavates it; and the people who sell and buy it. To date, in the United States, there are no systematic multi-State data assemblages that can be used to analyze the culture and behavior of looters. Studies of dealers and collectors examine object relationships after the looting has occurred. Understanding the connection between the looter and the object happens in the dirt. I propose a framework for assembling multi-State information about the relationship between looters and objects at the site where they engage with one another. The information can be collected from archaeologists, NPS professionals, conservationists, recreational hikers and campers, and assembled in a computer file for analysis. Relevant information might include GPS coordinates; remaining artifactual remnants; culture and phase designations; environmental surroundings; and a photograph of the style of the excavation/backfill. Assembled on a multi-State scale, aggregate information can be used to address such questions as: do successful looters sample the landscape systematically? Are there trends and "fashions" in the kinds of sites that are targeted in a given time-frame?

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The Object is the Thing: Developing a Framework for Understanding the Culture of Looting.. Katharine Fernstrom. Presented at The 80th Annual Meeting of the Society for American Archaeology, San Francisco, California. 2015 ( tDAR id: 397894)

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