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Reading Passage "Archaeology" Duplicated Below


 
 
 
 
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Archaeology as a profession faces two major problems.
First, it is the poorest of the poor. Only paltry
sums are available for excavating and even less is available
for publishing the results and preserving the sites
once excavated. Yet archaeologists deal with priceless
objects every day. Second, there is the problem of illegal
excavation, resulting in museum-quality pieces being
sold to the highest bidder.
 
I would like to make an outrageous suggestion that
would at one stroke provide funds for archaeology and
reduce the amount of illegal digging. I would propose
that scientific archaeological expeditions and governmental
authorities sell excavated artifacts on the open
market. Such sales would provide substantial funds for
the excavation and preservation of archaeological sites
and the publication of results. At the same time, they
would break the illegal excavator's grip on the market,
thereby decreasing the inducement to engage in illegal
activities.
 
You might object that professionals excavate to
acquire knowledge, not money. Moreover, ancient artifacts
are part of our global cultural heritage, which
should be available for all to appreciate, not sold to the
highest bidder. I agree. Sell nothing that has unique
artistic merit or scientific value. But, you might reply,
everything that comes out of the ground has scientific
value. Here we part company. Theoretically, you may be
correct in claiming that every artifact has potential scientific
value. Practically, you are wrong.
 
I refer to the thousands of pottery vessels and ancient
lamps that are essentially duplicates of one another. In
one small excavation in Cyprus, archaeologists recently
uncovered 2,000 virtually indistinguishable small jugs in
a single courtyard. Even precious royal seal impressions
known as/melekh handles have been found in abundance --
more than 4,000 examples so far.
 
The basements of museums are simply not large
enough to store the artifacts that are likely to be discovered
in the future. There is not enough money even to
catalogue the finds; as a result, they cannot be found
again and become as inaccessible as if they had never
been discovered. Indeed, with the help of a computer,
sold artifacts could be more accessible than are the
pieces stored in bulging museum basements. Prior to
sale, each could be photographed and the list of the
purchasers could be maintained on the computer. A
purchaser could even be required to agree to return the
piece if it should become needed for scientific purposes.
It would be unrealistic to suggest that illegal digging
would stop if artifacts were sold on the open market.
But the demand for the clandestine product would be
substantially reduced. Who would want an unmarked
pot when another was available whose provenance was
known, and that was dated stratigraphically by the
professional archaeologist who excavated it?

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