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The Archaeologists Role in Looting: Commodity Fetishism and the Tragedy of the Commons

Author(s): Erin Ray ; Holley Moyes

Year: 2017

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In Marxist philosophy, commodity fetishism imbues an object with a value not inherent to the object itself. This paper explores the ways in which archaeologists have contributed to the fetishizing of archaeological material which in turn promotes the looting of archaeological sites. By nature of our profession, old objects hold more value than modern ones or even replicas. Contextual information about these objects is arguably just as, if not more, important than the object itself. In many communities where archaeologists work, we transfer the perceived value of old objects to members of the community. But the value of the contextual information is not transmitted. We suspect that our selective transmission may lead to a tragedy of the commons in which individuals outside of the profession consume or loot a shared resource – the archaeological record. We will take a critical look at how we as archaeologists influence looting and suggest possible solutions at a community level.

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The Archaeologists Role in Looting: Commodity Fetishism and the Tragedy of the Commons. Erin Ray, Holley Moyes. Presented at The 81st Annual Meeting of the Society for American Archaeology, Vancouver, British Columbia. 2017 ( tDAR id: 429389)


Looting Marxism

Geographic Keywords

Spatial Coverage

min long: -107.271; min lat: 12.383 ; max long: -86.353; max lat: 23.08 ;

Record Identifiers

Abstract Id(s): 17069

Arizona State University The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation National Science Foundation National Endowment for the Humanities Society for American Archaeology Archaeological Institute of America