Re: Ask The Mineshaft:: Raiders of the Lost Ark Edition.

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Let me be the second to say that it's totally a fake.


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 01-28-10 6:34 AM
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OK, I'm not trying to threadjack here, but I've got a similar consumer conundrum that I've been meaning to ATM about for weeks. Perhaps, while we're on the subject of the limits of consumer morailty....

I've mentioned a couple times here this great little donut shop that opened recently; it's become part of my Saturday routine at the Strip District with Iris. Then I find out that the nice, friendly owner, who has his whole family helping out, is a raging homophobe (Sample quote from his now-defunct blog: Gays are an "immoral minority").

Fuck.

I've been avoiding going back since then - much as I love the donuts, it's not a big sacrifice to me, and I'm not interested in patronizing a homophobe, even though I know that tons of businesses are run by homophobes and other kinds of scum (Hi, John Mackey!). My real issue is Iris - she adores these donuts, and it's simply impossible to just avoid them - either we patronize them fairly regularly, or I explain why not. I can easily get across to her why the guy's views are shitty - her aunts and the fathers of her oldest best friend are gay-married - but does this situation really call for that? As I say, we purchase from people with shitty politics all the time - am I being overly emotional to single out this guy?


Posted by: JRoth | Link to this comment | 01-28-10 6:39 AM
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On your second point of concern, I agree you're in the clear. Buying an item from a culture not your own is OK. I do it in a way every time I buy a tomato, and in any case whether the carving is original or a copy, if it's (pseudo-) neolithic there's no reason to suppose that the culture that created it was any more recognisably Chinese than yours.

On the first and more important point, in your position I'd be so far from knowing if the thing in question was OK that I wouldn't buy the thing on the precautionary principle.

There are probably instances where a particular type of antiquity is so common that they have virtually no intrinsic value (I've spent happy hours picking fossil ammonites out of the cliffs of southern England in the knowledge that said cliffs are practically made of the things and they'd been studied to death by the end of the 19th century.)
But there's a measurable chance that this is not the case here, and even if the carving isn't valuable in itself, buying it gives the message that tourists are a good market for more precious items, which ought to be in a museum in China. The reason Italian laws against exporting antiquities are so rigourous isn't that all Italian antiquities are ipso facto valuable, but that some are, and buying the tatty ones encourages people to try and sell the good stuff.

So I'd caution against buying such items unless you've been told by an expert in the relevant area that you can.

But I wouldn't feel too basd about it. If the things are being sold openly, the authorities presumably know about it, and if the authorities were overriding scholarly advice in permitting it, that would be a shame, and you should perhaps register a protest by not buying, but you shouldn't kid yourself that you'd be doing much good.


Posted by: OFE | Link to this comment | 01-28-10 6:43 AM
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Explain that celery is just as good as donuts and, with its pleasingly phallic shape, much less likely to be purveyed by homophobes.


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 01-28-10 6:43 AM
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3: you only want to buy heirloom jade sculptures in the summer, because otherwise they're just trucked in from someplace and unlikely to be good and juicy.


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 01-28-10 6:44 AM
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WRT the OP, on the general moral issue of OPCH*, I'm pretty underwhelmed by claims of unique patrimony. First of all, going back more than a couple thousand years, you're looking at a pretty diluted cultural descent, and I just can't get that worked up about it (I know that this is not an uncontroversial position). And if you're talking about a minor trinket - neither unique nor especially well-wrought or distinctive - then I don't see it as a big deal at all. There are probably more of these little carvings than there are people who culturally identify as Hongshan-derived.

As for contributing to a bad market.... Assuming for the sake of argument that it's real, then there's a pretty real risk that something hinky has happened in its provenance, whether bad archaeology or outright theft of one sort or another. But I struggle with the conclusion that only super-duper-certified antiquities should be purchased, because that's going to mean that no one but the ultra-wealthy can have them (because super-duper cert is pricey), and that seems like a bullshit result. But maybe that's me lacking the courage of my convictions (have I mentioned the donuts?).

So what about ancient coins? That sets aside the cultural issues (coins are meant to be traded away) and drills down to the archaeological ethics of non-unique artifacts. Am I a bad person for buying an Alexander the Great drachma**?

* Other Peoples' Cultural Heritages, yeah you know me

** I haven't. Assuming that that was a relevant currency to AtG anyway.


Posted by: JRoth | Link to this comment | 01-28-10 6:54 AM
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OK, I now see that OFE has answered the OP in 3. So now everyone can talk about my conundrum.


Posted by: JRoth | Link to this comment | 01-28-10 6:56 AM
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The only currency accepted in Alexander's time was the heads of his enemies.


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 01-28-10 6:56 AM
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The problem with coins is that they are just not that attractive or desirable. Says me!


Posted by: redfoxtailshrub | Link to this comment | 01-28-10 7:00 AM
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9: RFTS always fills the tip jar.


Posted by: JRoth | Link to this comment | 01-28-10 7:02 AM
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rfts don't need no glasses to cure her numismatism.


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 01-28-10 7:03 AM
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If you don't bring the artificat back to where you got it, bad things will happen. I almost drowned while surfing once.


Posted by: Greg Brady | Link to this comment | 01-28-10 7:03 AM
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I think I would tell Iris the problem, and specifically tell her that knowing for certain that the owner feels that way makes you feel really uncomfortable shopping there. There is no reason why you have to settle on an ideally consistent position with regard to all the shops in the world. I think she can understand an explicit position of "maybe I am being too pure, but it bothers me too much to go there now."


Posted by: redfoxtailshrub | Link to this comment | 01-28-10 7:04 AM
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Wow, Professor Smith is SWPL.

2: I'd say go ahead and explain it to her and find another place to get donuts. Or if you're really big on parenting by guilt trip, give her the money and let her choose where to get snacks from. How old is Iris again?

Trying to lead a perfectly virtuous life as a consumer is futile, but just because you can't buy everything from people you like doesn't mean you're obliged to not try at all. A foolish consistency is the hobgoblin of little minds.

I'm curious how you found out about this. You Googled his name out of pure curiosity and his now-defunct blog came up? He slipped a little bigoted invective into conversation?


Posted by: Cyrus | Link to this comment | 01-28-10 7:04 AM
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9: RFTS always fills the tip jar.

I do, I do.

I especially dislike nickels. Begone!


Posted by: redfoxtailshrub | Link to this comment | 01-28-10 7:05 AM
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He slipped a little bigoted invective into conversation?

"(Sample quote from his now-defunct blog: Gays are an "immoral minority")."


Posted by: heebie-geebie | Link to this comment | 01-28-10 7:11 AM
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Oh jeez. I didn't read the now-defunct blog part, and thought Cyrus had glossed over the whole sentence altogether. Ignore 16.


Posted by: heebie-geebie | Link to this comment | 01-28-10 7:12 AM
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I wouldn't feel any qualms about someone buying Ogden Nash's writing desk.

Because of Nash's constant nose-picking?


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 01-28-10 7:14 AM
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It'd be hilarious if the blog was exclusively about donuts except for one post about the evils of sodomy.

I think you could take this as a valuable opportunity to teach Iris about the many meanings of "closet".


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 01-28-10 7:16 AM
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18: dude chewed gum like a teenybopper. Thing'd probably get stuck to the truck.


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 01-28-10 7:16 AM
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Heard about it through the grapevine. Until then I was in blissful, sugary, fatty ignorance.


Posted by: JRoth | Link to this comment | 01-28-10 7:24 AM
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In the Post: The second that that makes me feel better, perhaps irrationally, is that it wasn't sold on the basis of being an antiquity. There was a sign identifying it as one of a group of neolithic pieces, but otherwise it was presented, and I bought it, as a pleasing carving.

I once bought an apple, but I didn't feel like I was buying fruit because, except for the sign saying "Apples," it wasn't marketed as fruit.
(Analogies are banned? What?)


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 01-28-10 7:26 AM
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I just don't believe that it was actually an antiquity.


Posted by: heebie-geebie | Link to this comment | 01-28-10 7:28 AM
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And let me be the first to say that, obviously.


Posted by: heebie-geebie | Link to this comment | 01-28-10 7:29 AM
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I have a lot of art from a culture not my own. The artists may well be conflicted about their need to sell it to people like me to make a living. Or maybe they're glad that people like me like the art well enough to pay for it. If they're too conflicted, they could stop mass producing (or limited edition print producing) or limit distribution channels.

The OP reminds me of something else, though. Maybe 25 years ago, my dad read aloud from some wine publication about a wine tasting. A group of doctors in Houston had acquired a bunch of French wines dating from the time of Napoleon. Their notes were beyond pretentious -- the 1797 sounded clarion notes only hinted at in the 1805. One wine presented 'just a hint of rotting eucalyptus' -- a line that's been a family joke ever since. It's unbearably swipple to be offended that a bunch of doctors from Houston drank these wines and made catty remarks. And yet . . . who isn't?


Posted by: CharleyCarp | Link to this comment | 01-28-10 7:35 AM
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Iirc, the docs were from a single specialty. Orthopedic surgeons, maybe. Somehow this makes it worse, but I can't decide why.


Posted by: CharleyCarp | Link to this comment | 01-28-10 7:39 AM
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What if the jade artificat from the Hongshan culture was shaped like Thomas the Tank Engine? Maybe various ancient cultures in what is now China started manufacturing them 2000 years ahead of time due to some poorly worded prophecy about how to get rich.


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 01-28-10 7:39 AM
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but I'm figuring that at the low end of the market, most things are fakes.

I have no idea about this particular case and market, but that's definitely not true as a general rule. There's plenty of authentic low-end ancient junk floating around, to the point where some things just wouldn't be worth faking.

Am I a bad person for buying an Alexander the Great drachma**?

Kinda. The problem of course is not that the particular non-unique drachma won't be available to scholars or to the world, but that there's a good chance that it's on the market as a result of destructive looting. Ancient coins are a good example of a ready market in authentic, mostly low-end antiquities, and that market has been the incentive for quite a bit of looting, professional and amateur. Looting really sucks, if you care at all about the archaeological record.


Posted by: potchkeh | Link to this comment | 01-28-10 7:44 AM
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To JRoth: You could buy this button http://www.cafepress.com/+stop_bigotry_mini_button,331711183 (or similar) and wear it everytime you go to this donut shop. I see only one possible downside -- he may slip some poison in the donuts he sells you.


Posted by: peep | Link to this comment | 01-28-10 7:53 AM
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"that's going to mean that no one but the ultra-wealthy can have them (because super-duper cert is pricey), and that seems like a bullshit result. "

The ultra-wealthy get to do a lot of things nobody ought to be able to do. Why should the middle class have the right to convert objects of historical interest or religious veneration into private status symbols, just because rich assholes do it? And what about the poor and their objet d'art needs?

I have an idea: why not buy a painting or sculpture from a living artist? There's probably one in your city.


Posted by: mcmc | Link to this comment | 01-28-10 7:53 AM
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Posted by: | Link to this comment | 01-28-10 7:55 AM
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why not buy a painting or sculpture from a living artist?

Can an artist ever be said to really live?


Posted by: heebie-geebie | Link to this comment | 01-28-10 7:55 AM
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You can say anything, heebie.


Posted by: mcmc | Link to this comment | 01-28-10 7:57 AM
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I have an idea: why not buy a painting or sculpture from a living artist?

According to various TV ads I've seen, you can frequently find new art if you go to the conference rooms of suburban hotels.


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 01-28-10 7:57 AM
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Oh lord, wontcha buy me some artifacts and antiquities.
My friends all have drachma, I must address these inequities.
Worked hard all my lifetime, no help from my dogs-and-kitties.
So lord, wontcha buy me artifacts and antiquities.


Posted by: Janis Joplin | Link to this comment | 01-28-10 8:00 AM
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You were in China, M/tch Dr. Jones?


Posted by: Stanley | Link to this comment | 01-28-10 8:06 AM
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The whole "other culture" aspect is interesting. I don't really get the discomfort at a gut level, certainly not for an item like this. I sort of understand it for really important cultural artefacts, and obviously I understand it when it's something like the Elgin Marbles which were basically stolen while the country was being occupied by foreigners. But for me it's far more important that important cultural artefacts are on display to the public (preferably for free) somewhere for them to be near their place of origin, even if they're in private hands. Of course, it's pretty easy for me to say that as a citizen of two imperial nations with fantastic public and private sector museums.

For instance, why on earth does Russia restrict the export of modern samovars? It's not like they're going to run out of them, and they could use the money. In fact, I wouldn't be surprised if the ban wasn't a cunning Soviet plan to get hard currency into the system via bribes of border officials.


Posted by: Ginger Yellow | Link to this comment | 01-28-10 8:06 AM
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Russia restrict the export of modern samovars?

Really? Weird.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 01-28-10 8:10 AM
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37: Once they let the secret to hot water get out, everybody will want some.


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 01-28-10 8:11 AM
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Once they let the secret to hot water get out, everybody orthopedic surgeons from Houston will want some.


Posted by: CharleyCarp | Link to this comment | 01-28-10 8:17 AM
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But for me it's far more important that important cultural artefacts are on display to the public (preferably for free) somewhere for them to be near their place of origin, even if they're in private hands. Of course, it's pretty easy for me to say that as a citizen of two imperial nations with fantastic public and private sector museums.

Yeah, this is pretty much my attitude. I once encountered someone who was genuinely outraged after a trip to the Metropolitan Museum of Art -- "they have so many stolen treasures from my country!". But then there was the recent Chinese attempt to uncover plundered artifacts, which came up empty. Museums tend to have acquired things legally, but if you trace the provenance back far enough, probably there's something questionable in the history of most sufficiently old art. I can't say I care; it seems worthwhile to me that this stuff is put on display (and that museums all over the world have things from other cultures, not just their own). But I do worry a little that I'm only comfortable to say that because I live in a part of the world that's rich enough to do this well.


Posted by: essear | Link to this comment | 01-28-10 8:20 AM
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I guess I've never seen a modern samovar. The only ones that I have seen were unused (except as decoration) and clearly intended to be heated by some type of combustion. Are there plug-in models?


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 01-28-10 8:20 AM
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I pretty much agree with OFE's 3.

It seems to me that the way antiquities are handled by most countries is a little self defeating. People want to own antiquities (I certainly do), but a lot of places make it very hard to obtain them legally. I wonder if it might not be better to create a market in certified and provenanced antiquities, with some portion of the price going to archaeologists doing high quality work digging the things up in the first place. Given the shit funding of archeology and the high price people are willing to pay for an object with an interesting story it might be possible to fund excavations by selling the finds. You'd want to place restrictions on the purchases to ensure they weren't damaged and that they were available for scholarly study, but there's nothing intrinsically horrible about selling really old stuff.

Incidentally, a good friend of mine is an archaeologist who once got fired for sending death threats to looters.


Posted by: togolosh | Link to this comment | 01-28-10 8:21 AM
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Incidentally, a good friend of mine is an archaeologist who once got fired for sending death threats to looters.

I don't know how somebody got through grad school without learning to deliver death threats in-person and with no witnesses.


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 01-28-10 8:23 AM
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I suppose they went to school before e-mail and thus never got accidentally cc'ed on a death threat.


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 01-28-10 8:25 AM
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I don't know how somebody got through grad school without learning to deliver death threats in-person and with no witnesses.

More proof of the decline in academic standards.


Posted by: peep | Link to this comment | 01-28-10 8:27 AM
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If the standards had declined more quickly, I'd have a Ph.D.


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 01-28-10 8:28 AM
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I think the Other People's Cultures and the analogy to blues and jazz in the original letter misses the point. People have always traded art from one area to another. The problem comes when poor countries' cultural heritage is essentially over-fished, with most of it making its way into private markets abroad, and/or, as folks have said, when most of the objects enter the market through looting or theft. The notion that it is All Our cultural heritage, though, is nonsense. We only consider saying that because we don't have to travel to Tokyo or Cairo to see George Washington's sarcophagus writing desk or the crown jewels or the what have you. Countries don't always protect their antiquities well (the Taliban's preservation techniques were not endorsed by UNESCO), but that doesn't mean you get to buy from the black market just to get the shiny thing you want.

I say if you're going to collect someone else cultural heritage, just try not to be a dick about it. If you buy someone else's sacred Buddha, don't use it for an ashtray. If you see a nice neolithic stone carving, ask the person behind the desk about the provenance, and don't buy it if you don't feel good about it.


Posted by: Jimmy Pongo | Link to this comment | 01-28-10 8:41 AM
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My family had a samovar, but we didn't know what it was, so we just used it to make tea in.


Posted by: Natilo Paennim | Link to this comment | 01-28-10 8:42 AM
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I thought that is what a samovar was for. At least to make tea with, not 'in'.


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 01-28-10 8:56 AM
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I guess I've never seen a modern samovar. The only ones that I have seen were unused (except as decoration) and clearly intended to be heated by some type of combustion. Are there plug-in models?

By modern I just meant not an antique. All antiques are subject to export retrictions in Russia, including samovars, but samovars made in the last 50 years are also restricted. And yes, there are plug-in models, but you can export those.


Posted by: Ginger Yellow | Link to this comment | 01-28-10 8:56 AM
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50: Yes, l'esprit d'escalier would have had it thus: "My family had a samovar, but we didn't know what it was for, so we just used it to make tea."


Posted by: Natilo Paennim | Link to this comment | 01-28-10 9:05 AM
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All this talk of samovars is making me want a samosa.


Posted by: heebie-geebie | Link to this comment | 01-28-10 9:09 AM
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I have restaurants selling both samosas AND sambusas within easy walking distance of my house.


Posted by: Natilo Paennim | Link to this comment | 01-28-10 9:12 AM
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People, don't use your antique Russian samovars: they almost always are made with a shit-ton of lead.


Posted by: Jackmormon | Link to this comment | 01-28-10 9:13 AM
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On the third hand, without a market for antiquities to give them monetary value, far more would simply be bulldozed during the construction of McDonalds' in third world countries.

I say if you're going to collect someone else cultural heritage, just try not to be a dick about it.

I have trouble with this. It keeps getting translated in my head to "if it's important to me, you must treat it with reverence". I'm sorry, but no.

I hear that the Catholic Church is kinda keen on these cheesy sculptures of guys nailed to crosses. But I'm peeved with the political activities of that church in this country (and besides, they don't sell good donuts) so if I want to express my opinion by desecrating a crucifix, I'm gonna. I mean, like, piss on it.


Posted by: Michael H Schneider | Link to this comment | 01-28-10 9:17 AM
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55: Does that explain the House of Romanov?


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 01-28-10 9:20 AM
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56: No federal funding for you!


Posted by: M/tch M/lls | Link to this comment | 01-28-10 9:30 AM
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[Where's teo when you need him?] If your guilty conscience would by assuaged by some research, one good starting place might be Who Owns Native Culture?


Posted by: adamhenne | Link to this comment | 01-28-10 9:32 AM
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I'm inclined to agree with everybody who assumes that it's fake. So the discussion may be moot in this particular case, but I appreciate everybody's thoughts.

The problem comes when poor countries' cultural heritage is essentially over-fished, with most of it making its way into private markets abroad, and/or, as folks have said, when most of the objects enter the market through looting or theft.

Over-fishing is different from the issue of looting. Assume, for the sake of argument, that the artifact is genuinely 4000 years old how long am I/my people going to own it for? 40 years? 100 years? It will be back in circulation in no time, comparatively speaking.

I understand the general concern particularly when it comes to items with some unique cultural value. But in this case I don't feel like I'm actually taking it off the market for any significant length of time. In 50 years some Chinese tourist can buy it in an antique store along with whatever American antiques are popular among the Chinese in 2060.

that doesn't mean you get to buy from the black market just to get the shiny thing you want.

Define black market. That is one of the things that interests me about the question. From my perspective there was nothing black market about the transaction -- I walked into a gallery, looked through the items on display and purchased one of them. It may have traveled through the black market to get there, but it wasn't in the black market by the time I encountered it.


Posted by: Missouri Smith | Link to this comment | 01-28-10 9:47 AM
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There are 4 surviving Mayan codexes. None are in Mexico. On the other hand, Egyptian hieroglyphs were not deciphered by Egyptians.

Traffic in national treasures is the real issue, I think, with trade in trinkets possibly encouraging more serious looting. Local neglect of fragile physical patrimony is a counterweight, but sounds patronizing.

There is a particular Egyptian, Zahi Hawass, who appears on camera in every single recent documentary. My kid loves them, so I see a lot of him. He radiates hilarious self-promotion combined with a desire to control how his country's past is presented.


Posted by: lw | Link to this comment | 01-28-10 9:53 AM
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Psst! Want a piece of the True Cross? Cheap!


Posted by: Jesus McQueen | Link to this comment | 01-28-10 9:54 AM
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Over-fishing is different from the issue of looting.

Over-fishing almost certainly entails looting.

I understand the general concern particularly when it comes to items with some unique cultural value.

This is a problem, but it isn't the main problem. Archaeology used to be about finding objects with "unique cultural value", but it hasn't been for quite some time. It's about extracting information about a culture from its material remains, and you can't do that if someone comes to a site and hacks away at it with a shovel hoping to find something they can sell, whether or not that stuff is unique.


Posted by: potchkeh | Link to this comment | 01-28-10 9:57 AM
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On the other hand, Egyptian hieroglyphs were not deciphered by Egyptians.

Yes, but if Egyptian hieroglyphs were left undeciphered, then we wouldn't have to worry about a revived Imhotep taking over the world.


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 01-28-10 9:58 AM
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I DIDN'T SEE ZAHI HAWASS IN "GRIZZLY MAN"


Posted by: OPINIONATED GRANDMA | Link to this comment | 01-28-10 9:58 AM
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61: wasn't there a long New Yorker article about him recently?


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 01-28-10 10:03 AM
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66: Yes! Something about some wheeler-dealer shit with regard to some UN position on antiquities?


Posted by: oudemia | Link to this comment | 01-28-10 10:11 AM
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#63 gets it exactly right.

On the topic of antiquities, I just received an email from Amazon telling me "that The Odyssey of Homer - 1st Edition is now available. You can order yours for just $25.99!"

Only 26 bucks for the first edition of The Odyssey! I'd buy it, but it's probably been pillaged from a cave somewhere.


Posted by: Populuxe | Link to this comment | 01-28-10 10:27 AM
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68: I've never read it, being a bit wary of sequels.


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 01-28-10 10:29 AM
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Psst! Want a piece of the True Cross? Cheap!

James Carroll wrote about a visit to Jerusalem during which an archaeologist pointed out the threshold of a large city gate from the early first century A.D. and told Carroll that the stone was the one object in the world that he confidently believed that Jesus had touched, and Carroll kissed the stone. I had several thoughts: (i) as ridiculous as the veneration of relics seems to us on the other side of the Reformation, I would probably do the same; (ii) I can't believe Carroll doesn't remember the "riding upon an ass" verses; (iii) I wonder if the archaeologists tell visitors that story about random stones just lying around; and (iv) they must get lots of crazies trying to chip stones and steal dust all over Jerusalem, so it's not like the True Cross economy has entirely withered away.


Posted by: Flippanter | Link to this comment | 01-28-10 10:30 AM
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63 is correct.

There was an ad in Sky Mall for "Oedipus" by Rex Sophocles.


Posted by: oudemia | Link to this comment | 01-28-10 10:30 AM
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73 must be putting us on.


Posted by: JRoth | Link to this comment | 01-28-10 10:35 AM
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God said to Abraham "kill me a son"


Posted by: togolosh | Link to this comment | 01-28-10 10:40 AM
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so it's not like the True Cross economy has entirely withered away

Not having been to Jerusalem, I haven't experienced it myself, but I've read in several accounts that people hawking pieces of the True Cross itself are part of the landscape. In Tadmur/Palmyra some guy tried to sell me coins that he insisted were from the Greco-Roman era. Yeah, sure they were.


Posted by: Jesus McQueen | Link to this comment | 01-28-10 10:41 AM
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I can't believe Carroll doesn't remember the "riding upon an ass" verses

If that is the guy I'm thinking of (writer who used to be a Catholic priest), I find it impossible to believe.


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 01-28-10 10:41 AM
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If you believe the Fourth Evangelist, J-Dogg went to Jerusalem more than once.


Posted by: Standpipe Bridgeplate | Link to this comment | 01-28-10 10:42 AM
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75: Exactly. It's odd, isn't it?


Posted by: Flippanter | Link to this comment | 01-28-10 10:42 AM
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Also, the ass-riding episode may have been a dramatization (professional driver -- closed course -- do not attempt).


Posted by: Standpipe Bridgeplate | Link to this comment | 01-28-10 10:44 AM
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78: "With Jason Statham as Jesus. The Redeemer. July 4 in theaters everywhere."


Posted by: Flippanter | Link to this comment | 01-28-10 10:45 AM
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Matthew has Jesus riding into town on two different beasts at once, a colt and a donkey. He had a wide stance.


Posted by: Standpipe Bridgeplate | Link to this comment | 01-28-10 10:50 AM
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OT: If it weren't in freaking Brooklyn, I'd go to this lecture.


Posted by: Flippanter | Link to this comment | 01-28-10 10:52 AM
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I think the answer to Missouri Smith's question is immediately discernible from the word-count of the question.


Posted by: Standpipe Bridgeplate | Link to this comment | 01-28-10 11:03 AM
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56: OK, but there you're choosing to be a dick, to prove a point or something. Andre Serrano was commenting on his on culture, not treating other people's beliefs like junk because, hey, fuck them. Now, I don't think Serrano was being a dick, though of course other people do, but he wasn't going for insulting for insulting's sake.

60: The thing is, we don't live in geological time. In addition to the issues of looting that potchkeh identifies, where the damage can't be undone, it still sucks to have most of your national antiquities live an expensive plane flight away.

I wasn't thinking of your case, necessarily when I said "black market," more JRoth's question, "Why should only rich people get to own priceless artifacts?" The fact that you raise the question of provenance — and it seems from what you've written that said provenance is unknown because you didn't ask — indicates that you understood that the object could have left its country of origin by foul means as easily as fair.


Posted by: Jimmy Pongo | Link to this comment | 01-28-10 11:06 AM
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Since this thread is wandering all around but has attracted unrelated questions, allow me to drop mine in:

I'm applying for a job with a large company, and they want to know about my bonus and option situation at the startup I'm at now (they already know my current salary). This makes sense to me, assuming they want to make a competitive offer (and compensate for the fact that they can't give me stock options in the same spirit).

However, my current company has cancelled all bonuses both years I've been here, due to crappy economic performance. Should I explain this to them, or just say "no bonuses"? Relatedly, how much about my options should I say? "I have some"? "I have N for $X, which are Y% vested"? Something in-between? Any reason not to tell them everything?


Posted by: Thomas Edison | Link to this comment | 01-28-10 11:10 AM
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Any reason not to tell them everything?

Bidding against oneself is unwise, but I don't know the market practice in your sector. Perhaps a smile and an "it's a pretty standard compensation package, given the market and the size of the company."


Posted by: Flippanter | Link to this comment | 01-28-10 11:14 AM
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and they want to know about my bonus and option situation

If you take the option, I've got a bonus right here. Laydeez.


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 01-28-10 11:21 AM
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You might assume, Tom, that folks at new company know, or within a reasonable time will come to know, folks at current company. I'd try hard to avoid the appearance of being misleading.


Posted by: CharleyCarp | Link to this comment | 01-28-10 11:21 AM
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No more masturbating to J.D. Salinger.


Posted by: apostropher | Link to this comment | 01-28-10 11:23 AM
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Well, to be fair, he would have sued you for it while he was alive if he'd known what you were up to.


Posted by: Natilo Paennim | Link to this comment | 01-28-10 11:30 AM
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One last payday for Joyce Maynard.


Posted by: Flippanter | Link to this comment | 01-28-10 11:31 AM
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89: Fuck it, then. I'm heading to the bathroom.


Posted by: apostropher | Link to this comment | 01-28-10 11:32 AM
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If was were fourteen I'd probably be devastated. Go read "The Burglar in the Rye" by Lawrence Block.


Posted by: OFE | Link to this comment | 01-28-10 11:33 AM
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He totally faked his death.


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 01-28-10 11:41 AM
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56: OK, but there you're choosing to be a dick, to prove a point or something.

I assure you, the only reason I eat hamburgers is to insult the Jain. I make sure to work on Sunday, to insult Christians. I only look at pictures of scantily clad young women to insult Muslims. Even those implausibly buxom yet, somehow, bouyant ones on the covers of paperback books. Really.


Posted by: Michael H Schneider | Link to this comment | 01-28-10 11:41 AM
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The Catcher in the Rye movie, now coming soon to a theater near you. Which should provide a nice payday to JD's kids, who, by all accounts, deserve one.


Posted by: Robert Halford | Link to this comment | 01-28-10 11:46 AM
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Okay, I'm back. It was a very stupid thing to do, I'll admit, but I hardly didn't even know I was doing it. My hand still hurts me once in a while.


Posted by: apostropher | Link to this comment | 01-28-10 11:46 AM
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95: Michael Cera as Holden Caulfield?


Posted by: peep | Link to this comment | 01-28-10 11:47 AM
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96 is very good, I think.


Posted by: ari | Link to this comment | 01-28-10 11:49 AM
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I think the answer to Missouri Smith's question is immediately discernible from the word-count of the question.

Eh, I had that thought but, really, if you read the question you'll see that what interested me was a related issue -- my defense of the idea that cultural borders should be porous.

and it seems from what you've written that said provenance is unknown because you didn't ask

Part of how it matters (psychologically if not ethically) that I was on vacation at the time is that being on vacation entails getting into the mindset of, "this isn't something I normally do but, here I am, I have the chance, I don't know when I'll be back, I should go for it."

I didn't ask because I didn't think about it. Had it been a local gallery I probably wouldn't have gotten it, would have mulled it over and then made a decision and come back, as it was I went with the vacation attitude of, "take the opportunity as presented."

That, really is my response to OFE's (correct) response, "I'd be so far from knowing if the thing in question was OK that I wouldn't buy the thing on the precautionary principle. "

But let me ask a serious question. There's a good rule of thumb (alluded to by SB above) that if you spend a bunch of time wondering if [X] is a good idea it probably isn't. That's a reasonable guideline, but I think it may not be the best description of this situation. I've spent a bunch of time thinking about this not because it seems particularly questionable (though it may be) but because it's a novel question and one that relates to some personal areas of interest.

Consider this, I'm pretty careful about what I buy, but this year I will still end up contributing at least an order of magnitude more money to businesses that support sweatshops than I will to the global trade in antiquities. That isn't to say that one wrong obscures another wrong, just that the decisions that we make on a daily basis have way more impact on the world than the things we do once, and that SB's rule of thumb may be deceptive in this case.


Posted by: Missouri Smith | Link to this comment | 01-28-10 11:50 AM
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99.last to 96.


Posted by: NickS | Link to this comment | 01-28-10 11:50 AM
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So do you think he burned the 15 novels in the safe before he died? Cause if he didn't it's going to be like a goat moving through the body of an anaconda to get them all edited and published and criticized and distributed and read.


Posted by: Natilo Paennim | Link to this comment | 01-28-10 11:55 AM
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Missouri Smith doesn't seem to be doing a very good job of concealing his identity.


Posted by: teofilo | Link to this comment | 01-28-10 11:55 AM
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As you might expect, I have a lot of thoughts on this issue. Here are some posts on related issues. This one is particularly germane to the present question, especially the issue of looted versus fake.


Posted by: teofilo | Link to this comment | 01-28-10 11:58 AM
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Missouri Smith doesn't seem to be doing a very good job of concealing his identity.

I almost replied with my standard pseudonym but I decided that the "Missouri Smith" name was too good to pass up.

But, no, I don't think anonymity is really necessary in this case.


Posted by: Missouri Smith | Link to this comment | 01-28-10 11:59 AM
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I know nothing about Chinese archaeology or antiquities laws in China, so I can't really speak to the specifics of this particular situation. As a general matter, though, something like this is almost certainly either looted or fake, and either way it does contribute to the overall demand for antiquities, though to an extent so small that it's probably not worth worrying about as an individual. The bigger questions are really more about values, and they are very thorny and hard to answer. I do like the way the OP distinguishes between the issue of looting and the more general issue of ownership of cultural property; these are different, though related, matters, but people in these debates very often conflate them.


Posted by: teofilo | Link to this comment | 01-28-10 12:02 PM
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I almost replied with my standard pseudonym but I decided that the "Missouri Smith" name was too good to pass up.

You've also used your standard URL in all your comments.


Posted by: teofilo | Link to this comment | 01-28-10 12:03 PM
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(I'm just addressing various issues that have come up in the thread as I think of things to say.)


Posted by: teofilo | Link to this comment | 01-28-10 12:04 PM
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I'd like to see Seymour played by Charlie Sheen.


Posted by: jms | Link to this comment | 01-28-10 12:06 PM
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You've also used your standard URL in all your comments.

Yes, I was trying to explain that was intentional.

I was actively trying to reveal my identity while using the MS title.


Posted by: Missouri Smith | Link to this comment | 01-28-10 12:07 PM
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The second link in 103 contains the quoted line "Ivory geegaws will hopefully join them before all the elephants not in zoos dies a painful death."

This is a paradigm for me of stupid policies thought up by people who can't be bothered to understand the dynamics of the situation they intend to regulate. Ivory bans encourage poaching, feed the black market, and generally do the opposite of what is intended Zero tolerance, zero thought.

Applying this idiotic logic to the trade in antiquities will have the same resounding success as the war on drugs.


Posted by: togolosh | Link to this comment | 01-28-10 12:28 PM
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A lot of people seem to have concluded it's probably fake just from the information provided, which I don't think is really justified. Knowing if an antiquity is likely to be faked generally requires pretty detailed knowledge of the specific area, the types of antiquities found their, and their nature and relative quantities.

The market for antiquities is actually pretty interesting from an economic perspective; I don't know if anyone has studied it in depth, but it would be a worthwhile thing for some economist to do. Basically, there's a huge (and growing) demand for antiquities, mostly in the US but to some extent also in other rich countries. People buying these things generally choose them on aesthetic grounds (the OP is a great example) without necessarily knowing or caring much about the cultural background beyond not wanting fakes. (Of course, since they don't know much about the stuff, collectors are unlikely to be able to spot fakes, so they rely on experts to authenticate stuff, which leads to all sorts of ethical quandaries for archaeologists. Oscar White Muscarella, formerly of the Met, has written extensively on this issue.)

Turning to the supply side, there are antiquities all over the world, and if you look hard enough in any given place you can probably find some that meet the aesthetic standards of collectors. You have to look a lot harder in some places than others, though. If the antiquities in demand are hard to find but fetch high prices, or if they're hard to find but easy to imitate, most of the stuff on the market is going to be fake. (Some have argued that this is actually good for archaeology, since it discourages actual looting.) This seems to be true in many parts of Latin America.

If, however, the antiquities in question are hard to make but easy to find, people are going to loot instead. Coins are a perfect example. Europe and the Middle East are just covered in Roman coins, and even the rarer older (and later) types can be found pretty easily, especially with a metal detector. It's really hard to fake a coin, though, so no one bothers. Similarly, the Southwest has tons of potsherds and arrowheads, and higher-value stuff is pretty easy to find if you know where to look. Making a convincing replica of an Anasazi pot, though, would be really hard. So, a Roman coin or Anasazi pot that you buy in a gallery somewhere is virtually certain to be authentic, but it may or may not be looted. The process by which this stuff gets from the ground to the gallery is very murky, of course, so it can be impossible to tell where an object originated by the time it gets to the gallery.

I don't know which category Chinese neolithic carvings fall into, so I don't know if this piece is more likely to be looted or faked, but I'm sure someone does.


Posted by: teofilo | Link to this comment | 01-28-10 12:29 PM
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94: My mistake. Obviously you were proposing to piss on crucifixes because they were the most servicable urinals available.


Posted by: Jimmy Pongo | Link to this comment | 01-28-10 12:31 PM
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this year I will still end up contributing at least an order of magnitude more money to businesses that support sweatshops than I will to the global trade in antiquities

This doesn't directly pertain to MS's conundrum - you do right where you can when you can, rather than committing to a basket of do-goodism that's precisely this big - but it relates to something else I was thinking about: the issues related to shitty custodianship* by Poor Countries Rich in Cultural Patrimony are orders of magnitude more problematic than the increase in looting caused by small-time antiquity purchasers. Yet my sense from this thread and from other reading about these issues is that bien pensant/SWPL types are willing to advocate for return of cultural artifacts regardless of the problems while being pretty Puritanical about antiquity purchasing.

IOW, it's "don't buy that drachma because it might encourage someone to dig an inappropriate hole in Anatolia," but it's also "the Imperialist West was so wicked to PCRiCP that artifacts must all be returned, regardless of their actual likely fate." Seems like the kind of nearsighted thinking that is endemic to being a Good Liberal these days.

* We'll use the Lydian Horde as the signal example here, but it's hardly unique


Posted by: JRoth | Link to this comment | 01-28-10 12:32 PM
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Making a convincing replica of an Anasazi pot, though, would be really hard.

If you got good at it, could you make good money, say something over $100/hour if you set-up an assembly-line? And is there a wiki with tips?


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 01-28-10 12:34 PM
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There was an ad in Sky Mall for "Oedipus" by Rex Sophocles.

Rex Sophocles is the super-swinging private dick of Thebes who will stop at nothing to crack a case.


Posted by: Populuxe | Link to this comment | 01-28-10 12:35 PM
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110: Togolosh, what are you saying that based on? I don't have any citations, but my impression was that there was less poaching rather than more in the period following the East African ivory ban.


Posted by: Jimmy Pongo | Link to this comment | 01-28-10 12:40 PM
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Yes, I was trying to explain that was intentional.

Ah, okay.


Posted by: teofilo | Link to this comment | 01-28-10 12:42 PM
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113:
I understand the reasoning, but this line of thinking bothers me a good deal. Sure, some third world countries may not do a good job of preserving their antiquities. In many cases, this is because local governments and people don't have the money or infrastructure to do so, and the enduring problem of third world poverty is largely a consequence of a history of colonialism and exploitation by first world nations, blah blah fucking blah. For touristing first worlders to now justify their export of antiquity by essentially saying those brown people won't take care of it as good as I will is pretty fucked up. Again, I understand why in hard practical terms there's some truth to that reasoning, but know that Tony Jaa will come and kick your ass and in some way you will have deserved it.


Posted by: jms | Link to this comment | 01-28-10 12:43 PM
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111: If I live in Southeastern Britain, and I dig up one sesterci in my garden bed (and a bit more digging reveals no more), should I rebury it? If I don't, have I looted. If I haven't looted it, can I sell it in good conscious?

The whole country used to be littered with arrowheads (or so I've always heard/read). Were the millions of kids who found them and brought them home looters? Were they destroying important archaeological records?

Should I be picking up trash from my street? Hell, what should I do when I dig up broken china in my back yard?

This sounds facetious, but it's really not intended that way. I'm hearing intimations of ironclad rules that make no sense in the context of some pretty common situations, and so I'm trying to figure out what the principles are and whether they really demand bright line boundaries.


Posted by: JRoth | Link to this comment | 01-28-10 12:44 PM
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If you got good at it, could you make good money, say something over $100/hour if you set-up an assembly-line?

No, because no matter how efficient you got, your capital costs would always be way higher than those of the guys out there digging up real pots, who could then undercut your prices.


Posted by: teofilo | Link to this comment | 01-28-10 12:44 PM
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The title of this post could have been shortened if we just put a "using namespace Ask The Mineshaft;" somewhere in the page headers.


Posted by: nosflow | Link to this comment | 01-28-10 12:47 PM
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120: Too bad. I've always wanted to make more money, work with my hands, and defraud people. I'll probably never be able to combine all three.


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 01-28-10 12:48 PM
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122: I have a suggestion.


Posted by: apostropher | Link to this comment | 01-28-10 12:51 PM
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119: The moral issues are not necessarily clear-cut, of course, which is what you seem to be getting at, but I'll take a stab at answering those questions from a legal perspective. I don't know much about British antiquities laws, although I think they're pretty similar to American ones, so I'll skip the first paragraph and concentrate on the others.

The whole country used to be littered with arrowheads (or so I've always heard/read). Were the millions of kids who found them and brought them home looters?

Depends where they found them. If it was private land, and they had the permission of the landowner, then no. If it was public land prior to 1906, then no. If it was public land from 1906 on, then yes. Laws change, so the legal definition of "looting" does too. In the US we have very strong protections for private property, so our antiquities laws always have huge loopholes because it's very difficult to apply them to private land.

Were they destroying important archaeological records?

This can't be answered from a legal perspective, of course. From an archaeological perspective, the answer is always and everywhere yes.

Should I be picking up trash from my street?

Sure, if you want. Doesn't have much bearing on these issues, though, unless the trash has been piling up for decades.

Hell, what should I do when I dig up broken china in my back yard?

Whatever you want. It's your land.


Posted by: teofilo | Link to this comment | 01-28-10 12:52 PM
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118: But that's exactly my point. The only argument that makes sense - "returning the Lydian Horde to an underfunded "museum" in a backwater town with no funding for security is bad for the preservation of human culture and the increase of human knowledge and good for petty thieves" - is treated as out of bounds because it has yucky implications. But that's just stupid. People who were afraid of condescending to residents of Turkey (who, P.S., are no more closely related to the makers of the Lydian Horde than I am) effectively guaranteed the disappearance and, it appears, destruction of a literally irreplaceable collection of antiquities. Can you conceive of another train of logic that would end with "and so we'll destroy these artifacts" as an acceptable conclusion?

Now, the logical implication is to handle these situations in a similar way to what I believe the Egyptians are doing with the King Tut stuff - cart it around rich Western countries in order to A. raise money so that the PCRiCP can actually take care of these things and, incidentally, B. satisfy the curiosity/cultural imperialism of Westerners. But - because it would be a yucky argument - you can't make that a precondition of repatriation, and so you get fuck-ups like the Lydian Horde.


Posted by: JRoth | Link to this comment | 01-28-10 12:53 PM
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123: I want to defraud from a higher socio-economic stratum.


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 01-28-10 12:55 PM
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This one is particularly germane to the present question

An interesting post, which does clarify some of the issues for me. I guess the question is whether there is a general cultural norm against buying any artifact of unknown provenance (as there is in the example of osprey eggs). I accept that I was in no position to determine to provenance of the item. I also feel like, absent a general norm prohibiting buying any such item what I did was relatively harmless.

I'm just not sure that norm exists or, if it does, how general it is. Perhaps I shouldn't have bought it just in support of such a norm.

I just feel like there's good reason for the norm, on the other side, that if something is for sale in a legitimate business that it's reasonable to buy it without getting oneself too deep into an ethical quandary. (or any business. Heck, I have no idea what the odds are that I have at some point purchased a stolen item on ebay). There's a reason why most efforts start from the supply side rather than the demand side.

I have more thoughts, but I'm getting farther and farther behind in the thread, so I'll put it in a separate comment.


Posted by: Missouri Smith | Link to this comment | 01-28-10 12:56 PM
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Sure, if you want. Doesn't have much bearing on these issues, though, unless the trash has been piling up for decades.

Teo has never been to Pittsburgh.


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 01-28-10 12:57 PM
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124: Yeah, thanks, but I'm really only interested in the moral/ethical concerns, not the legal ones.

While I'm on the subject, if anyone with a metal detector discovers an antique ring at Presque Isle Beach in Erie, PA, it's not a fucking artifact, it's my wife's, and we'd like it back. Thank you.

Doesn't have much bearing on these issues, though, unless the trash has been piling up for decades.

But today's trash - if left alone on the street - is tomorrow's archaeological record. There's no distinction whatsoever, except which end of the timeline you happen to stand at.


Posted by: JRoth | Link to this comment | 01-28-10 12:57 PM
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...returning the Lydian Horde....

Their second album was pretty bad, but they're no Sublime Porte.


Posted by: Flippanter | Link to this comment | 01-28-10 12:58 PM
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I guess the question is whether there is a general cultural norm against buying any artifact of unknown provenance

As a descriptive matter, in our society, I would say the answer is definitely no, and by that standard you did nothing wrong.


Posted by: teofilo | Link to this comment | 01-28-10 12:59 PM
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120: I'm genuinely surprised that pot-hunting is that easy. I mean, potter's wheels, clay, and paints aren't expensive. How many man-hours go into digging up a valuable Anasazi pot?


Posted by: JRoth | Link to this comment | 01-28-10 1:01 PM
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But today's trash - if left alone on the street - is tomorrow's archaeological record. There's no distinction whatsoever, except which end of the timeline you happen to stand at.

Again, though, legally there has to be an arbitrary line drawn. In the US the general rule is that anything over 50 years old is historic, and anything over 100 years old is subject to specific protections.


Posted by: teofilo | Link to this comment | 01-28-10 1:01 PM
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How many man-hours go into digging up a valuable Anasazi pot?

If you already know where to look, maybe 2 or 3. If not, it would be more, but not necessarily much more.


Posted by: teofilo | Link to this comment | 01-28-10 1:03 PM
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From an archaeological perspective, the answer is always and everywhere yes.

Something I've been thinking about in this thread: I recently read a book that talked, among other issues, about how poor a job record labels have done as a repository of unique cultural artifacts (in their case original session and master tapes). The author argued that there's a fair amount of stuff that we as a culture would probably want to have preserved that has just been thrown in the trash and that there's no oversight of the record companies at all.

He suggested a law that required record companies to make a semi-annual inventory of their tapes fitting [some description] and talked about how valuable that would be for cultural preservation.

My immediate reaction was, "of course this would be valuable." My second thought was that there are good reason why you can't save everything. How far do you want to go? Every piece of paper on which an artist took notes while they were working on an important project? It seems important to me to recognize that "preserve everything" isn't possible and, as such, isn't a good conceptual framework. There has to be some way to work from within a framework of "minimize unnecessary loss." (and, to be clear, after reading the book, I would support some sort of regulation of the sort proposed).

I feel like the same has to be true of archeological artifacts. "always and everywhere yes" isn't the basis for a workable policy.


Posted by: Missouri Smith | Link to this comment | 01-28-10 1:03 PM
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132: I've been doing some research, and I think the real expense would come from obtaining the proper clay and the minerals for glazing and in firing the pots in a way that looked a bit authentic. Plus, they didn't have a potter's wheel, so you'd have to do it the hard way.


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 01-28-10 1:04 PM
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It seems important to me to recognize that "preserve everything" isn't possible and, as such, isn't a good conceptual framework.

Right, and in practice the actual laws take this into account. You don't have to preserve everything everywhere always.


Posted by: teofilo | Link to this comment | 01-28-10 1:05 PM
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Which is why I specified that that answer was from an archaeological rather than a legal perspective.


Posted by: teofilo | Link to this comment | 01-28-10 1:06 PM
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136: Right, and I think the main investment would be the time it would take to learn to do it well. Which would be considerable.


Posted by: teofilo | Link to this comment | 01-28-10 1:08 PM
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Which is why I specified that that answer was from an archaeological rather than a legal perspective.

Absolutely. I really appreciate your perspective.

I'm just trying to explain why I'm not convinced that there's a clear guideline to follow in this circumstance (while still agreeing with OFE in 3 that "I wouldn't buy the thing on the precautionary principle" is a fine starting place).


Posted by: NickS | Link to this comment | 01-28-10 1:10 PM
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139: Plus, I'd have to find a market. The middle-men used by the looters probably don't re-stock from Craigslist. And they can probably tell a real from a fake better than almost anyone and wouldn't want to hurt their reputation by selling a fake.


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 01-28-10 1:10 PM
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129.2: I'm sorry, but obviously you can't take care of it and it would only be lost again. I'm keeping it for its own good and the preservation of human culture.

Also, "Lydian Hoard." Or "Karun Treasure."


Posted by: Jimmy Pongo | Link to this comment | 01-28-10 1:11 PM
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116: I'm basing it on the experience of the Southern African countries that manage their elephant populations well - I don't know about the East African situation in detail, but I get the impression that one of the key factors there was a failure to involve the local population in protecting the elephants. The model used in SA, Botswana*, and (to a lesser extent) Zimbabwe, ensures that the people living right next door to the elephants directly profit from tourism and ivory. As this is the same group that the poachers are drawn from (or at least that the poachers will have to interact with) the people who best know the landscape, the elephants, and the likely miscreants have a strong incentive to prevent poaching. With a ban in place the incentive is reduced or eliminated (for those regions that have little or no tourism). In essence if you view the elephants as a commonly held resource like cattle you get local cooperation and leadership in protecting them and if they are just big crop-stomping pains in the ass you don't. Of course this dynamic requires functioning government, basic civil order, and tolerable levels of corruption, which don't obtain in some of the war ravaged regions that have seen the worst poaching.

* Guess which country has the most elephants in the world? Yep! Botswana has more elephant by weight than it does people.


Posted by: togolosh | Link to this comment | 01-28-10 1:12 PM
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141: All important concerns as well.


Posted by: teofilo | Link to this comment | 01-28-10 1:12 PM
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Just to clarify what I'm doing in this thread, I haven't necessarily made up my mind on all of these issues. I'm mostly trying to explain the various perspectives that different groups have.


Posted by: teofilo | Link to this comment | 01-28-10 1:15 PM
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Moby Hick, you might be interested in Play Money -- a book by a journalist who decided to see if, for one year, he could make more money buying and selling items within MMORPs than he had as a journalist (and barely succeeded).


Posted by: NickS | Link to this comment | 01-28-10 1:16 PM
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Hell, what should I do when I dig up broken china in my back yard?

Reconstruct it for display. (This, along with some other stuff, is from my backyard midden, probably from the teens or twenties. I'm going to make a glass-topped display chest/coffee table to house it one of these days.)


Posted by: Jesus McQueen | Link to this comment | 01-28-10 1:17 PM
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140: I don't think anyone's arguing about this particular case as such. We all do things and only later ask ourselves if there might be some implications worth thinking about, whether we're on vacation or not. I just think there's a reasonable middle ground between presuming that anything you buy in a store is ethically just fine and agonizing over each and every purchase.


Posted by: Jimmy Pongo | Link to this comment | 01-28-10 1:17 PM
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Also, most of these issues that get discussed involve different countries, often with wildly varying levels of wealth, and the historical and diplomatic considerations involved. Since my experience is just within the US, I don't really know anything about that stuff, and any opinions I might express wouldn't be particularly well-informed.


Posted by: teofilo | Link to this comment | 01-28-10 1:18 PM
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146: It looks interesting, but if I'm going for a job without benefits, it has to pay much more than my current job.


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 01-28-10 1:21 PM
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134: Astonishing.


Posted by: JRoth | Link to this comment | 01-28-10 1:21 PM
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151: I find your reaction fascinating. What do you find so surprising about it?


Posted by: teofilo | Link to this comment | 01-28-10 1:23 PM
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"Lydian Hoard."

Dammit.


Posted by: JRoth | Link to this comment | 01-28-10 1:23 PM
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Maybe I'll go dig a hole in Braddock and "find" George Washington's ball-point pen or something.


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 01-28-10 1:24 PM
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Plus, they didn't have a potter's wheel, so you'd have to do it the hard way.much higher quality.


Posted by: JRoth | Link to this comment | 01-28-10 1:29 PM
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152: It's as if they are so common you'd half expect there to have been a paleo-American Al Gore muttering about landfill space and the need for biodegradable pots.


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 01-28-10 1:30 PM
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156: Who's to say there wasn't?


Posted by: teofilo | Link to this comment | 01-28-10 1:31 PM
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157: Now I'm trying to banish the mental image of Al Gore in a loin cloth.


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 01-28-10 1:33 PM
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I feel like the same has to be true of archeological artifacts. "always and everywhere yes" isn't the basis for a workable policy.

As Teo has probably pointed out already, from an archeological standpoint the concern isn't just about the artifacts, it's about the site, the number of artifacts on site, their position, etc.

Seems like the kind of nearsighted thinking that is endemic to being a Good Liberal these days.

A museum professional/curator whose name I can't remember now published a book a year or so ago arguing that museums should regard themselves as repositories of global culture and that they should, in fact, retain material when they deem the polities of origin incapable of protecting it on behalf of the world. Superficially, this doesn't sound like a bad idea, since it would protect treasures like the Lydian Hoard--and in fact, I would be surprised to learn that museums don't take precisely such facts into consideration; less superficially, in an age where no "global civilization" really exists, arguments for protecting artifacts on behalf of the world are still really about who has the power to hold on to them.


Posted by: Populuxe | Link to this comment | 01-28-10 1:34 PM
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146: Interesting. Again, I don't really know but what occurs to me is: a) southern African nations have the ecological luxury of managing their elephant populations in a way that other countries don't any more, b) the legal trade from areas where elephants who aren't endangered still creates demand for those that are, c) community involvement is key, but you can foster tourism and control populations without selling ivory. Of course, none of that makes it an easy question and not selling ivory is a massive sacrifice for poor nations/communities.


Posted by: Jimmy Pongo | Link to this comment | 01-28-10 1:36 PM
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152: I've never lived anyplace with a significant archaeological record*; the idea of finding old arrowheads, let alone ancient pottery, is utterly alien to me.

It's probably also related to my personal family record - we have no heirlooms, no journals or photo albums**. IME, physical history began after WW2. It takes very little in the way of antiquity to impress me: a copy of the Times from before I was born will do the trick.

* Obviously Native Americans were near and around places I've lived, but not in any kind of concentration, and of course the populations were gone long before any European development occurred (e.g., in Pittsburgh, virtually the entire population was wiped out by secondary infection - by the time the first European reached the Forks of the Ohio, there was nothing left but a couple small villages and old burial mounds (none inside the City, afaik)

** I can tell you literally nothing substantial (as opposed to vague half-memories) of my ancestry beyond my own grandparents. I'm a rootless cosmopolitan!


Posted by: JRoth | Link to this comment | 01-28-10 1:40 PM
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IME, physical history began after WW2.

Half of the nice houses in Pittsburgh are older than that.


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 01-28-10 1:46 PM
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It's really hard to fake a coin, though, so no one bothers.

This isn't true, I think.
http://rg.ancients.info/guide/counterfeits.html

Recently, this started. Counterfeits are really interesting to me. Counterfeit stamps were a big deal a century ago. Counterfeit art started appearing as soon as people started paying for art.
But valuable coins aren't a good idea any more, if they ever were.


Posted by: lw | Link to this comment | 01-28-10 1:49 PM
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160: You have a point, but I'd prefer to see these things handled in ways that didn't fuck the people who have shown that they are capable of handling things in a sustainable manner. From the Botswana perspective the ivory ban reads like folks in e.g. Burundi show that they are incapable of governing themselves and the mighty former colonial powers sweep in to rescue them by fucking over people who *can* run their own countries. That's an unfair oversimplification, but it captures the general sense of things.

Also the ban activates my "zero tolerance for zero tolerance policies" reflex.


Posted by: togolosh | Link to this comment | 01-28-10 1:49 PM
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163: Huh, interesting. Well, it's still true for pots.


Posted by: teofilo | Link to this comment | 01-28-10 1:53 PM
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If I ever turn to the dark side it will be in producing counterfeit ancient documents. I'll need someone to do the writing, but I'm pretty sure I could beat carbon-14 dating.


Posted by: togolosh | Link to this comment | 01-28-10 1:56 PM
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Physical history began
In nineteen forty-five
Before the end of rationing
And the Duke of Windsor was still alive.


Posted by: Flippanter | Link to this comment | 01-28-10 1:58 PM
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I've never lived anyplace with a significant archaeological record*; the idea of finding old arrowheads, let alone ancient pottery, is utterly alien to me.

This makes sense, and I think is true of most people on the East Coast. (Not true, btw, of most of the South and Midwest.) Archaeology in the Northeast seems to be focused mainly on historic-period stuff, which makes sense.

In many parts of the Southwest, though, there are ruins literally everywhere. Montezuma County, Colorado, for example, has over ten thousand known sites in its 2000 square miles. Lots of these are clearly visible on the surface, so if you go out onto the mesas or into the canyons and know what signs to look for, you'll see plenty, and if you start digging in any of them you're almost sure to find at least one intact or nearly intact pot. If you start digging in cliff dwellings, which are much less numerous but have much better preservation conditions than open sites, you'll find lots more stuff, including perishable artifacts that sell for huge amounts of money on the black market. The amount of land for which these conditions obtain is staggering, and it's very thinly populated and impossible for the authorities to actively patrol. Montezuma County has about 25,000 people, again in an area of 2000 square miles.

The result of all this is that looting in the Southwest is very easy to do and very hard to stop. It's a huge problem, and I honestly don't know if there's any solution.


Posted by: teofilo | Link to this comment | 01-28-10 2:00 PM
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I can tell you literally nothing substantial (as opposed to vague half-memories) of my ancestry beyond my own grandparents. I'm a rootless cosmopolitan!

I find this really amazing too. So different from my own experience that I can't really relate to it at all.


Posted by: teofilo | Link to this comment | 01-28-10 2:02 PM
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But that's exactly my point. The only argument that makes sense - "returning the Lydian Horde to an underfunded "museum" in a backwater town with no funding for security is bad for the preservation of human culture and the increase of human knowledge and good for petty thieves" - is treated as out of bounds because it has yucky implications.

First, I don't think that's the only argument that makes sense. Also, in my experience it's not treated as out of bounds. You hear just that argument quite a lot. See, e.g., 159.last. And yes, it does have yucky implications. High minded rhetoric about preserving human culture and increasing human knowledge is often just a fig leaf, as 159.last also points out. And why is taking yucky implications into account when coming to an opinion on something shortsighted? Your knee seems to be jerking just as hard if not harder than these bien pensant/SWPL types you describe.


Posted by: M/tch M/lls | Link to this comment | 01-28-10 2:04 PM
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This makes sense, and I think is true of most people on the East Coast. (Not true, btw, of most of the South and Midwest.)

Growing up, it was still common to turn up arrowheads in a plowed field, even one that had been plowed already a couple of times before. It was so common that we didn't bother picking them up.

The amount of land for which these conditions obtain is staggering, and it's very thinly populated and impossible for the authorities to actively patrol.

Are these ruins being exploited opportunistically but in a disorganized fashion, kind of like the start-up meth labs people put up in their basements around here, or is it a more regimented operation?


Posted by: Robust McManlyPants | Link to this comment | 01-28-10 2:06 PM
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I'm with JRoth. I don't think I even remember my great grandparents names. In a certain sense, it makes as authentic Americans in a way that teo isn't, and why we should have the vote, and teo should not.


Posted by: Walt Someguy | Link to this comment | 01-28-10 2:06 PM
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169: I'm with JRoth, or almost: I know some stuff about my great-grandparents, but not solidly, and a story or two that goes back before that.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 01-28-10 2:08 PM
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169: I can go back a bit further than my grandparents as my family still holds some fields that have been ours since around the Civil War and they took some notes. Topically, some of these notes included reference to earlier inhabitants who were not inclined to accept a bill of sale from Union Pacific as a valid claim of ownership.


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 01-28-10 2:10 PM
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Other than my surviving maternal grandmother, I don't even know my grandparents' first names. I'm not sure how many siblings my mom has. Basically I know nearly nothing about my family history beyond my own memory. When I ask specific questions, my parents deflect; my grandmother gives long, discursive, basically nonsensical answers.


Posted by: jms | Link to this comment | 01-28-10 2:12 PM
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Are these ruins being exploited opportunistically but in a disorganized fashion, kind of like the start-up meth labs people put up in their basements around here, or is it a more regimented operation?

Both, and in some areas the former type seems to be connected directly to the meth epidemic. They call them "twiggers": tweakers who dig to support their habit. It's not totally clear how common this type of looting is, though, and most of it is probably more organized.


Posted by: teofilo | Link to this comment | 01-28-10 2:13 PM
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You people are weird. I can describe my family history in considerable detail going back to the eighteenth century (in some branches).


Posted by: teofilo | Link to this comment | 01-28-10 2:14 PM
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But then, if anyone here could do that I suppose it would be me.


Posted by: teofilo | Link to this comment | 01-28-10 2:15 PM
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It has occurred to me that it's weird just how little I know about my family. I don't even know where my dad grew up. That's why I started trying to ask my grandmother some questions. I quit because talking to her is crazy making.


Posted by: jms | Link to this comment | 01-28-10 2:16 PM
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177: Most 14 year-old orphans fleeing the Ireland in 1850 were lacking literacy and material possessions. I could probably do better on the Italian side of my family, but only if I spoke Italian and were willing to walk into a town in Sicily and ask nosy questions.


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 01-28-10 2:18 PM
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I'm with JRoth, or almost: I know some stuff about my great-grandparents, but not solidly, and a story or two that goes back before that.

My father's side of the family is like this. His grandparents were all immigrants from Eastern Europe who raised their children speaking English and didn't talk that much about their history.

I do know more about my mother's family.


Posted by: NickS | Link to this comment | 01-28-10 2:19 PM
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176: There's an old post or thread about the phenomenon of twiggers, but I can't find it at the moment. By alameida, if I remember correctly. I immediately thought of it and started searching for it upon reading 171.


Posted by: M/tch M/lls | Link to this comment | 01-28-10 2:19 PM
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177: No, teo. You are the weird one.

I think I know the name of one of my great grandparents. There's a story about how he changed his name to avoid being drafted into the Czar's army.


Posted by: peep | Link to this comment | 01-28-10 2:21 PM
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Most 14 year-old orphans fleeing the Ireland in 1850 were lacking literacy and material possessions.

Presumably they knew their parents' names, though.

Although, to be fair, I know much less about the branch of my family that closely matches that description.


Posted by: teofilo | Link to this comment | 01-28-10 2:21 PM
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183.1 gets it right.

I usually wow people by saying that I can name all my great-grandparents.


Posted by: Cryptic ned | Link to this comment | 01-28-10 2:22 PM
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No, teo. You are the weird one.

As always. I'll console myself by basking in the light of a computer screen.


Posted by: teofilo | Link to this comment | 01-28-10 2:22 PM
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Oh wait I am reminded that my dad actually has the family genealogical records at their house, with everyone's names going back like a 1000 years. So, I guess I have no excuse for not knowing.


Posted by: jms | Link to this comment | 01-28-10 2:22 PM
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177: I can too.

I find it strange that people are calling the East Coast barren of things of archaeological significance. That just doesn't compute with what I know about the Indians there. (Unless it's an issue of definition.) The Iroquois left plenty of marks on the land.


Posted by: Parenthetical | Link to this comment | 01-28-10 2:23 PM
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They call them "twiggers": tweakers who dig to support their habit.

I find this very depressing.


Posted by: Flippanter | Link to this comment | 01-28-10 2:23 PM
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Genealogy's really more of a Southern thing, isn't it? It's the side of my family that comes from the South that I know all this stuff about. The other branches I know very little about, and it mostly stops at the point of immigration.


Posted by: teofilo | Link to this comment | 01-28-10 2:23 PM
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The Iroquois left plenty of marks on the land.

Not that you can see, really. At least, not in the way that the Hohokam or the Mississippians did.


Posted by: teofilo | Link to this comment | 01-28-10 2:24 PM
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I don't know much about British antiquities laws, although I think they're pretty similar to American ones, so I'll skip the first paragraph and concentrate on the others.

Screw complicated moral questions! I'm going to answer easy legal ones! In England and Wales, this sort of thing is covered by the Treasure Act (yes, really). Anything found which is deemed by law to be treasure must be reported - failure to do so can get you up to three months in prison.

Treasure comprises:
Any metallic object, other than a coin, provided that at least 10 per cent by weight of metal is precious metal (that is, gold or silver) and that it is at least 300 years old when found. If the object is of prehistoric date it will be Treasure provided any part of it is precious metal.
Any group of two or more metallic objects of any composition of prehistoric date that come from the same find (see below)
All coins from the same find provided they are at least 300 years old when found (but if the coins contain less than 10 per cent of gold or silver there must be at least ten of them). Only the following groups of coins will normally be regarded as coming from the same find:
hoards that have been deliberately hidden
smaller groups of coins, such as the contents of purses, that may been dropped or lost
votive or ritual deposits.
Any object, whatever it is made of, that is found in the same place as, or had previously been together with, another object that is Treasure.
Any object that would previously have been treasure trove, but does not fall within the specific categories given above. Only objects that are less than 300 years old, that are made substantially of gold or silver, that have been deliberately hidden with the intention of recovery and whose owners or heirs are unknown will come into this category.
Note: An object or coin is part of the 'same find' as another object or coin if it is found in the same place as, or had previously been together with, the other object. Finds may have become scattered since they were originally deposited in the ground.

All archaeological finds are the property of the landowner (unless agreed otherwise), but in the case of treasure, the owner must allow museums to buy it (if they want) at a "market" price set by a panel of experts.


Posted by: Ginger Yellow | Link to this comment | 01-28-10 2:25 PM
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Also, on the East Coast all the prehistoric stuff is totally covered by the results of centuries of continuous development in a way that isn't really true of other parts of the country.


Posted by: teofilo | Link to this comment | 01-28-10 2:26 PM
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Not that you can see, really.

Ok, so yes, there are no ruins. But there are still plenty of things of archaeological significance. I consider California to be a place where you can often be reminded of the previous inhabitants, and the natives here certainly left nothing like the Hohokam or the Mississippians.


Posted by: Parenthetical | Link to this comment | 01-28-10 2:26 PM
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184: Yes, they did know their parents' (and grandparents') names and the village they were from. That tells you less than you might think because the spelling of the last names almost certainly got mangled and they pretty much only used five different first names for men.


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 01-28-10 2:28 PM
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160: It's rather similar to the legalize-and-tax argument for pot, no? If you outlaw something for which there is demand (and don't forget, demand for ivory has a lot more to do with East Asia than with Westerners who adhere to current taboos against ivory acquisition), then you lose the opportunity to manage it and legitimately derive revenue for it, but you don't, actually, prevent transactions from taking place. In the case of drugs, that means gang activity; in the case of endangered species, that means speciecidal poaching.


Posted by: JRoth | Link to this comment | 01-28-10 2:28 PM
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all the prehistoric stuff is totally covered by the results of centuries of continuous development

Ok, this is probably it. But anecdotally, I still know of plenty of people who have found artifacts on the East Coast casually.


Posted by: Parenthetical | Link to this comment | 01-28-10 2:28 PM
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But there are still plenty of things of archaeological significance.

Of course, and this is true everywhere. But the popular understanding of archaeology relies very heavily on things that you can physically see. And on the East Coast, there's virtually nothing like this of prehistoric date.


Posted by: teofilo | Link to this comment | 01-28-10 2:29 PM
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Genealogy's really more of a Southern thing, isn't it?

Tell that to the Mayflower people.


Posted by: Standpipe Bridgeplate | Link to this comment | 01-28-10 2:29 PM
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192: We've all read the Lovejoy books, Ginger.


Posted by: Flippanter | Link to this comment | 01-28-10 2:29 PM
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194: I wouldn't know how to recognize any archeological remnant of the Iroquoi in NY other than maybe Route 9W, which I have a vague belief was a pre-Dutch native American trail.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 01-28-10 2:30 PM
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But the popular understanding of archaeology relies very heavily on things that you can physically see.

Oh. I didn't realize we were using a popular definition.


Posted by: Parenthetical | Link to this comment | 01-28-10 2:30 PM
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196: Those lessons are really hard to apply in the context of looting, though.


Posted by: teofilo | Link to this comment | 01-28-10 2:30 PM
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That's why I started trying to ask my grandmother some questions. I quit because talking to her is crazy making.

I wish I'd spent more time asking my Irish grandmother questions before she died. Not long before that she'd begun telling stories of the Black and Tans and I suspect there were some very good tales I shall never hear. I should, in that light, make a point of getting more stories from my surviving grandmother.

I can name two great grandparents -- my mom's mom's mom and my dad's dad's dad. It does seem insane not to know more than that about my family history.


Posted by: Di Kotimy | Link to this comment | 01-28-10 2:31 PM
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202 to 201, I think.


Posted by: Parenthetical | Link to this comment | 01-28-10 2:31 PM
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I didn't realize we were using a popular definition.

Yeah, since this all started from JRoth's perspective, we've really only been talking in popular terms.


Posted by: teofilo | Link to this comment | 01-28-10 2:32 PM
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Tell that to the Mayflower people.

Where do they live?


Posted by: teofilo | Link to this comment | 01-28-10 2:32 PM
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Where do they live?

Red Sox Nation.


Posted by: Standpipe Bridgeplate | Link to this comment | 01-28-10 2:33 PM
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All of them?


Posted by: teofilo | Link to this comment | 01-28-10 2:34 PM
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All of them live there, yes.


Posted by: Standpipe Bridgeplate | Link to this comment | 01-28-10 2:34 PM
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207: Go look in the Social Register. I think it still exists and will tell you any Mayflower-offspring.


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 01-28-10 2:35 PM
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They share a common religion centered on the ritual baking of beans.


Posted by: Standpipe Bridgeplate | Link to this comment | 01-28-10 2:35 PM
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I dunno. How many public libraries in Massachusetts have separate genealogy rooms?


Posted by: teofilo | Link to this comment | 01-28-10 2:36 PM
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I could probably do better on the Italian side of my family, but only if I spoke Italian and were willing to walk into a town in Sicily and ask nosy questions.

Or if someone in your family started doing genealogical research and happened to come across a distant cousin who had traced the Italian family back 700 years. Which was nice for us, but doesn't happen to everyone. The other side, like yours, came to the US as Irish famine refugees; we know their parents names, I think (as in, they're written down somewhere), but beyond that there's nothing.

Red Sox Nation.

"From Mayflower to Massholes: the Pilgrim Legacy in New England"


Posted by: Jesus McQueen | Link to this comment | 01-28-10 2:36 PM
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And why is taking yucky implications into account when coming to an opinion on something shortsighted?

Well, I'm basically begging the question in that I'm saying that people who are absolutists are wrong to be absolutists. People who carefully weigh the likely fate of repatriated artifacts against the inherent claim of the PCRiCP are outside my complaint. But, to be honest, I'm not sure I've seen a single person in this thread express an opinion other than "being patronizing towards PCRiCP is yucky, and so it's out of bounds."

Anyway, it's not "kneejerk" to say that an absolutist position is wrong - I don't think I've written anywhere that, because I think the "yucky" argument is shortsighted, PCRiCP can suck it.


Posted by: JRoth | Link to this comment | 01-28-10 2:37 PM
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Okay, just how many Roman Catholics of Irish and Italian descent do we have here, anyway? I'm starting to think we should recruit outside the clan.


Posted by: Standpipe Bridgeplate | Link to this comment | 01-28-10 2:38 PM
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213: I know of at least one such.


Posted by: Flippanter | Link to this comment | 01-28-10 2:39 PM
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Come on, WASPs, represent.


Posted by: Standpipe Bridgeplate | Link to this comment | 01-28-10 2:40 PM
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I'm not sure I've seen a single person in this thread express an opinion other than "being patronizing towards PCRiCP is yucky, and so it's out of bounds."

Okay, well, here's one (which I'm necessarily saying I agree with, but which I'm also not necessarily saying I disagree with): These are independent countries with the right to decide what to do with their own cultural heritage, and if safeguarding that heritage is a problem it's their problem, not ours. That's an absolutist opinion, but I don't think it can be fairly characterized as "being patronizing is yucky."


Posted by: teofilo | Link to this comment | 01-28-10 2:41 PM
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I'm starting to think we should recruit outside the clan.

OK, I'll cop to being a former Anglican of Church of Ireland descent. Can't get much further outside the clan than that.


Posted by: OFE | Link to this comment | 01-28-10 2:42 PM
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"Yucky" is a term of art and it distresses me to see it tossed around casually.


Posted by: Standpipe Bridgeplate | Link to this comment | 01-28-10 2:42 PM
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Come on, WASPs, represent.

The ex-girlfriend whom I've longingly wistfully occasionally mentioned here had all the provenance necessary to join the DAR, if that helps, though she never would.

The first Flippanter in the New World arrived circa 1636 and promptly skipped out on his contract of indentured servitude, setting a precedent for "You can't fire me, I quit!" problems with authority that persist in his descendants.


Posted by: Flippanter | Link to this comment | 01-28-10 2:43 PM
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214: I actually have a slight advantage on the Irish side in that only 1/2 of my Irish ancestors were famine refugees. The other half were, for Catholics of the time, relatively well-off and educated.


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 01-28-10 2:45 PM
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I'm having a hard time squaring

I'm saying that people who are absolutists are wrong to be absolutists.

with

The only argument that makes sense . . .


Posted by: M/tch M/lls | Link to this comment | 01-28-10 2:45 PM
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216: I'm only half Irish -- the other half is some Welsh/German/English hodgepodge.

Buck goes back to the next boat after the Mayflower, though, and knows all sorts of things about his family history.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 01-28-10 2:46 PM
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219: Should Italy demand back the Mona Lisa? Is there any possible justification, within the absolutist position that you offer up without necessarily endorsing, for France being allowed to keep it without Italy's active endorsement?

Also, is it OK that the Met has the Little living room? Frank Lloyd Wright was decidedly not an Easterner.


Posted by: JRoth | Link to this comment | 01-28-10 2:47 PM
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Stuff White People Like:

Genealogy
Owning Stuff
Complaining


Posted by: teofilo | Link to this comment | 01-28-10 2:47 PM
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182: It's on the personal non-pseud blog, not here. I remember it vividly and wasn't reading here regularly at the time.


Posted by: Thorn | Link to this comment | 01-28-10 2:48 PM
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224: Well, since I was talking about a specific, individual case, that's not was "absolutist" means.


Posted by: JRoth | Link to this comment | 01-28-10 2:48 PM
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Speaking of immigration, a very nice song about the author's immigrant grandfather.

As a young man he traveled through Russia / With his uncle and two other singers. / But they drafted him into the Army / And he had to escape from there. / When the guards that they'd bribed at the border / Started shooting at him and the others / They turned back, but he kept on going. / And kept going for ninety-two years ...

Posted by: NickS | Link to this comment | 01-28-10 2:48 PM
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Buck goes back to the next boat after the Mayflower

The Juneshower?


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 01-28-10 2:48 PM
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196: Pretty much. Getting a handle on illegal activity is hard, while legalization at least gives you a way to interact with the people involved and perhaps shift incentives around to minimize the negatives.


Posted by: togolosh | Link to this comment | 01-28-10 2:49 PM
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Is there any possible justification, within the absolutist position that you offer up without necessarily endorsing, for France being allowed to keep it without Italy's active endorsement?

I don't know if active endorsement is necessary, but tacit consent, yeah, probably. But when it comes to stuff like that (i.e., modern works of art created by Europeans and owned by other Europeans) there's a considerable body of precedent for how to handle disputes over ownership.


Posted by: teofilo | Link to this comment | 01-28-10 2:49 PM
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231 reflects my confusion about popular sayings. Nevermind.


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 01-28-10 2:50 PM
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And the same goes for Wright and the Met.


Posted by: teofilo | Link to this comment | 01-28-10 2:50 PM
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I got a xerox of a great-great grandfather's handwritten biography last year. He took a train to the 1889 world's fair, and was preoccupied with illness. A great-grandfather has a significant episode in his life (informing Stalin of pending German plans to attack, then fleeing because Stalin didn't believe it and wanted him killed) documented in the US congressional record, which has not even been indexed electronically pre-1983.

It's a literary commonplace, but the stories family members tell about each other's lives have at least glaring omissions quite often. My grandfather wrote a 200 page autobiography which never mentions my grandmother, with whom he had three children and then a bitter divorce. That grandmother's house was a shrine to a daughter who commited suicide.

My view of my parents changed a lot after having a kid.


Posted by: lw | Link to this comment | 01-28-10 2:52 PM
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BTW, I'm predominantly German-Irish, but have lots of English, Eastern European, and even a bit of French. Was raised Catholic, but have various other sects in my family history (I think my dad said his mom was a holy roller for a little while). I grew up with no "ethnic" traditions, and it's at least possible* that my parents and their parents were all courthouse weddings (as was mine).

* but I don't know!


Posted by: JRoth | Link to this comment | 01-28-10 2:53 PM
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228: Ah right, of course. Thanks, not being able to find it was bugging me. I was just about to link to it but then discretion kicked in.


Posted by: M/tch M/lls | Link to this comment | 01-28-10 2:53 PM
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Is there any possible justification, within the absolutist position that you offer up without necessarily endorsing, for France being allowed to keep it without Italy's active endorsement?

Well, there's the point that the artist was living in France when he finished it and it's never been in Italy in its history.


Posted by: OFE | Link to this comment | 01-28-10 2:54 PM
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235: To be clear, I actually wasn't trying to get at modern concerns there so much as the idea of cultural heritage vs. national boundaries. Why should an Syracusan artifact be allowed to stay in Rome any more than a Miletian one?


Posted by: JRoth | Link to this comment | 01-28-10 2:57 PM
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240: Well, that's a separate issue, and an important one.


Posted by: teofilo | Link to this comment | 01-28-10 2:58 PM
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239: You know, I was wondering if there was a story to that effect, but I know basically nothing of Leonardo's personal history. Still, similar examples certainly abound. I'm not sure that I buy teo's response in the context of the "absolutist" stance, but that's a sideshow, really.

On a separate note, I'm about to lose battery, so I'm probably done on this thread.


Posted by: JRoth | Link to this comment | 01-28-10 2:59 PM
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Come on, WASPs, represent.

Wasn't there a long-ago thread featuring several commenters whose ancestry went back to the Mayflower? Maybe they all left when too many Jews and Papists moved in.


Posted by: Jesus McQueen | Link to this comment | 01-28-10 2:59 PM
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239: No, that Italian guy stole it at the turn of the 20th-century. It was there for a bit.


Posted by: oudemia | Link to this comment | 01-28-10 3:00 PM
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243: Carp and Emerson, as well as Alameida, at least.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 01-28-10 3:02 PM
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Why should an Syracusan artifact be allowed to stay in Rome any more than a Miletian one?

To take this example, you could certainly argue a case for both to be in Athens, and you could argue a case for one to be in Athens and the other to be in Rome, and you could argue a case for them to stay in Syracuse and Miletus. You could also argue a case for either or both to be in New York, but it would be a very different case from any of the others.


Posted by: teofilo | Link to this comment | 01-28-10 3:02 PM
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But if JRoth leaves, who's going to step in to mount a vigorous defense of imperialism?


Posted by: teofilo | Link to this comment | 01-28-10 3:03 PM
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I'm surprised that Paren thinks of California as a place with lots of reminders of Indian presence. I can't think of anything in LA at all (outside of museum collections). Maybe there's more stuff in the Central Coast? Or the desert?

I knew one Great Grandfather very well because he, thankfully, lived until I was 13. He had some stories -- he deserted the Russian army before WWI, and lived in China from about 1910-1913. But I know very little about the family history before him.

On the other side, I have a Great-grandfather who fought in the Civil War, which is unusual since I was born in the 1970s.


Posted by: Robert Halford | Link to this comment | 01-28-10 3:03 PM
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it would be a very different case from any of the others.

I think curators should get together and decide on a standard case for the display of artifacts.


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 01-28-10 3:03 PM
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The case for sealing them in a leaden casket and sinking them to the bottom of the Bay of Bengal is different still.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 01-28-10 3:04 PM
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I'm surprised that Paren thinks of California as a place with lots of reminders of Indian presence. I can't think of anything in LA at all (outside of museum collections). Maybe there's more stuff in the Central Coast? Or the desert?

Well, there are all the missions, for one thing.


Posted by: teofilo | Link to this comment | 01-28-10 3:04 PM
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244. True dat. Forgot.


Posted by: OFE | Link to this comment | 01-28-10 3:04 PM
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I think curators should get together and decide on a standard case for the display of artifacts.

I think they mostly have. James Cuno of the Art Institute of Chicage is its main proponent.


Posted by: teofilo | Link to this comment | 01-28-10 3:06 PM
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246: "You could certainly argue" is not really saying much especially when addressing me. I am perfectly aware that I am capable of making all kinds of stupid arguments.

In fact, I could argue that all these artifacts should be destroyed, because to hold on to them is a form of ancestor worship that goes against our most deeply held values as Americans.


Posted by: peep | Link to this comment | 01-28-10 3:08 PM
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253: I'm going to have to have a talk with him about claiming credit for my ideas.


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 01-28-10 3:08 PM
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I'm half Irish, half Swiss-German but Catholics all the way down.


Posted by: Thorn | Link to this comment | 01-28-10 3:10 PM
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In fact, I could argue that all these artifacts should be destroyed, because to hold on to them is a form of ancestor worship that goes against our most deeply held values as Americans.

After you blow up Mount Rushmore.


Posted by: OFE | Link to this comment | 01-28-10 3:11 PM
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213 -- Every one of them. The GSMD has an extensive library, and so does the Old Colony society in Taunton. I'm with Teo -- I can trace virtually every branch into the 18th century, and many well into the 17th -- but very few are southern. And those that are are untraceable before 1765 or so because all the records in that part of Virginia were burnt in the Civil War.

It's taken some effort, mind you. But it's become a whole lot easier in the computer age. I think people would be genuinely surprised what clues are out there to be found.


Posted by: CharleyCarp | Link to this comment | 01-28-10 3:11 PM
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. But when it comes to stuff like that (i.e., modern works of art created by Europeans and owned by other Europeans) there's a considerable body of precedent for how to handle disputes over ownership.

A body of precedent usually referred to as World War II.


Posted by: Ginger Yellow | Link to this comment | 01-28-10 3:12 PM
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on the East Coast all the prehistoric stuff is totally covered by the results of centuries of continuous development in a way that isn't really true of other parts of the country.

I know you know it's a generalization, teo, but this is such a Westerner's view of the East Coast. There are vast swaths of New England where development amounted to farms, at most. I can't find a reference at the moment, but I recall that there was a long-held belief among archaeologists that Vermont was basically just a transit territory and hunting ground. It's now accepted that people lived there as early as 7000 BCE, but the population was small and they didn't leave much that's been found yet.


Posted by: Jesus McQueen | Link to this comment | 01-28-10 3:14 PM
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Well, I guess if quaint and romantic slave labor camps that housed Indians count, then you can include the Missions. Build a model in fourth grade!


Posted by: Robert Halford | Link to this comment | 01-28-10 3:15 PM
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After you blow up Mount Rushmore.

That actually sounds like a good idea!



Posted by: peep | Link to this comment | 01-28-10 3:15 PM
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260: In Vermont, doesn't land that isn't paved or actively used revert to forest pretty quickly? That would be nearly as bad for archeology as development.


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 01-28-10 3:16 PM
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And the DAR has a fine library, and is thus worth the effort to join. (Or SAR as the case may be). Not as good as the LOC, but what is?


Posted by: CharleyCarp | Link to this comment | 01-28-10 3:17 PM
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||

No more masturbating to the possibility of no longer masturbating to Ben Bernanke.

|>


Posted by: Not Prince Hamlet | Link to this comment | 01-28-10 3:18 PM
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I know you know it's a generalization, teo, but this is such a Westerner's view of the East Coast.

Well, yeah. But, I mean, looking out my window right now I can see at least eight houses, all of them probably built in the early twentieth century. It'd be pretty damn hard to tell what was going on in this spot a thousand years ago. And there are towns all over the country, of course, but the density of development in much of the Northeast is so much higher than elsewhere that this sort of coverage extends for literally hundreds of miles without much of a break. There are exceptions, like South Jersey and northern New England, but on a regional scale the generalization holds.


Posted by: teofilo | Link to this comment | 01-28-10 3:20 PM
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196, 232:
But the drug war comparison is wrong-headed on at least a couple of fronts: The main problem with poaching is not that it creates a criminal underclass, it's that it kills too many elephants. Similarly, the problem with the illegal drug market is not that it uses up a finite supply of drugs, such that some species of drugs might die out completely. Everyone agrees that legalization of drugs would up demand/use, they just say that it's worth it or would be better than the negative consequences of illegality.

If you're fine with killing elephants (and I assume dolphins and any other creature not techinically human, no matter how intelligent) then of course regulated hunting would make sense, providing you're not in danger of wiping out the animal entirely. In southern Africa that's not a danger. In eastern Africa it is. In west Africa we're most of the way there already.


Posted by: Jimmy Pongo | Link to this comment | 01-28-10 3:20 PM
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Through one branch, I guess I could join the DAR if I was a D. And yet, not a WASP (although, on that side, a P).


Posted by: Robert Halford | Link to this comment | 01-28-10 3:21 PM
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I guess I'm having trouble thinking of any local Native American sites, but they must have been here when Europeans arrived otherwise the rivers would have names I could spell. There are bunches of them in Ohio, but I can't think of any in western PA.


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 01-28-10 3:21 PM
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Well, I guess if quaint and romantic slave labor camps that housed Indians count, then you can include the Missions.

Why wouldn't you? Enslaved Indians are still Indians, and the missions were built because of the Indians.


Posted by: teofilo | Link to this comment | 01-28-10 3:21 PM
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Here in Ohio we have Serpent's Mound.


Posted by: peep | Link to this comment | 01-28-10 3:22 PM
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Anyway, it's not "kneejerk" to say that an absolutist position is wrong - I don't think I've written anywhere that, because I think the "yucky" argument is shortsighted, PCRiCP can suck it.

The obvious answer here is to give some money to PRCICP to look after the cultural artefacts properly.


Posted by: Keir | Link to this comment | 01-28-10 3:22 PM
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In addition to the development thing, of course, it really is true that the northeastern groups didn't leave nearly as much in the way of impressive physical remains as groups elsewhere. There are sites, but they don't look like much today.


Posted by: teofilo | Link to this comment | 01-28-10 3:24 PM
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263: Yes. Again recalling vaguely, but forest cover went down to something like 25 percent in the mid-19th century, then back up to over 75 percent today.


Posted by: Jesus McQueen | Link to this comment | 01-28-10 3:24 PM
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Forest cover may not be as bad for archaeological sites as development, but it sure makes them hard to see.


Posted by: teofilo | Link to this comment | 01-28-10 3:25 PM
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271: And numerous other sites. Not as impressive or well-preserved as in, say, the Southwest (for good reason), but there are loads of them in and around the Ohio River Valley.


Posted by: Jesus McQueen | Link to this comment | 01-28-10 3:27 PM
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270 -- So was Fort Ticonderoga (OK, only in part) but I wouldn't calll it a reminder of Indian presence in the same sense as say, Mesa Verde.


Posted by: Robert Halford | Link to this comment | 01-28-10 3:28 PM
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And not as pwned as, say, me.


Posted by: Jesus McQueen | Link to this comment | 01-28-10 3:30 PM
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276: And extending far to the south and west. It's an interesting question why mound-building never caught on in the Northeast the way it did elsewhere, but it really didn't.


Posted by: teofilo | Link to this comment | 01-28-10 3:30 PM
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. Similarly, the problem with the illegal drug market is not that it uses up a finite supply of drugs, such that some species of drugs might die out completely.

So you say. Personally, I think we should be preparing for Peak Cocaine.


Posted by: Ginger Yellow | Link to this comment | 01-28-10 3:31 PM
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I think the Little Ice Age had a much bigger depopulating effect on the pre-columbian East Coast than the West, if that matters.


Posted by: Cryptic ned | Link to this comment | 01-28-10 3:31 PM
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Halford, the SAR is for you. It's actually the older outfit.

I have a cousin who was married to a Nigerian man, and has experienced some ignorant bigotry in connection with her young children. I explained to her their eligibility in the GSMD: don't know whether it'll be worth doing, but it is a higher card in any ignorant bigotry game.


Posted by: CharleyCarp | Link to this comment | 01-28-10 3:32 PM
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277: Note that (), as a(n) historian, seems to have her own ideas for what constitutes a reminder of Indian presence. I mean, I see Indian presence everywhere I go (Piscataway! Raritan! Rahway! Passyunk! etc.), but most people wouldn't even think of it.


Posted by: teofilo | Link to this comment | 01-28-10 3:33 PM
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I think the Little Ice Age had a much bigger depopulating effect on the pre-columbian East Coast than the West, if that matters.

I'm not sure this is actually true (although I don't know much about the issue), but in any case the scale we're talking about here is large enough that depopulation induced by climate change is unlikely to have had much effect.


Posted by: teofilo | Link to this comment | 01-28-10 3:34 PM
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(the cousin lives in south-central PA -- home to centuries of ignorance and bigotry)


Posted by: CharleyCarp | Link to this comment | 01-28-10 3:34 PM
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Actually, I'm more reminded of Indians when I'm back east than in Southern Cal, because of all of those place names. But maybe that's just me.


Posted by: Robert Halford | Link to this comment | 01-28-10 3:38 PM
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Of course, there are more Indians in Los Angeles than anywhere else.


Posted by: teofilo | Link to this comment | 01-28-10 3:47 PM
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But, like all Angelenos, I never see anyone outside my own group except when I have a car accident that makes me rethink everything I know about race, class, and community.

More seriously, that's pretty interesting and unexpected (to me).


Posted by: Robert Halford | Link to this comment | 01-28-10 3:55 PM
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Genealogy's really more of a Southern thing, isn't it?

Not in my experience. I can only make a reasonable guess about what country my surname originated in, and I don't know much of my ancestry before great-grandparents. Recently my paternal grandmother has been on a genealogy kick, but I'm not at all convinced that she's doing more than digging up records of unrelated people who happen to share her last name.


Posted by: essear | Link to this comment | 01-28-10 3:57 PM
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Huh. Sally's DAR eligible, if paternal descent from a revolutionary war soldier is all you need. That's weird.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 01-28-10 3:57 PM
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Also: when I was in Malaysia in the hols, we visited the Sarawak Musuem. There's two parts of the museum, an old bit and a new bit. The museum is clearly not a very independent entity, even compared to the Georgetown Musuem. In the old museum there was a big thing about oil drilling in the South China Seas, paid for by Shell, and saying that the environmental effects were non-existent or possibly even beneficial. It had opened in 1989, and was the newest thing in that part of the museum. The new museum was covered in Barisan Nasional propaganda about the `One Malaysia' spirit. (Except this bit was shiny and new.)

So not exactly happy well-off places, right.

Now, the roof of the old museum leaked, and water was getting in on the stuff. Which really quite fucked me off, given that there was clear water damage occurring to objects, and there were probably people who really quite cared about those things.

And if somebody had said `let's return this Sarawak artefact to that museum', I would at the time have said, are you fucking kidding.

But. I don't think that's right, really.


Posted by: Keir | Link to this comment | 01-28-10 3:57 PM
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And there are towns all over the country, of course, but the density of development in much of the Northeast is so much higher than elsewhere that this sort of coverage extends for literally hundreds of miles without much of a break. There are exceptions, like South Jersey and northern New England, but on a regional scale the generalization holds.

Huh. I would have guessed that much of upstate New York has been lightly-populated enough that a lot of archaeological remains could still exist.


Posted by: essear | Link to this comment | 01-28-10 3:58 PM
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267: My 232 is a fairly general rule and doesn't depend on the details of the situation. You can't influence criminal behavior the way you can law abiding behavior. There are situations where criminalization is the best approach, but the criteria for making that call are very dependent on one's values as well as the particulars of the problem.

The question facing countries with well managed elephant populations isn't whether or not to kill elephants, it's whether or not to sell the ivory from the elephants that are killed in order to maintain a sustainable population. No culls means encroachment into agricultural land and/or ecosystem collapse due to overpopulation.


Posted by: togolosh | Link to this comment | 01-28-10 4:02 PM
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Huh. I would have guessed that much of upstate New York has been lightly-populated enough that a lot of archaeological remains could still exist.

Most of upstate New York was quite heavily agricultural until the Depression. The forested areas you see today are mostly state parks that were originally abandoned farms bought up under a New Deal program.


Posted by: teofilo | Link to this comment | 01-28-10 4:15 PM
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Is there any possible justification, within the absolutist position that you offer up without necessarily endorsing, for France being allowed to keep it without Italy's active endorsement?

But the Belgians have the Marat & a bunch of other late Davids & the Italians no doubt have a few Braques and so-forth. It isn't like the case where one country has been systematically stripped of culture for the enrichment of others; rather it's part of a network of exchange.


Posted by: Keir | Link to this comment | 01-28-10 4:16 PM
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290 -- Any line will do, DAR isn't the Cincinnati.

I just had occasion to recount to a European journalist what little is known of an ancestor of mine executed for witchcraft in mid 17th century Connecticut. In 1651, a names Allyn killed a man named Stiles, when his gun went off "accidentally." He was convicted and fined. Three years later, my ancestor, a middle aged woman, was convicted of causing the gun to go off, with the help of Satan, by witchcraft. I think she was 100-200 feet away, but am not sure: so it must have been sorcery.


Posted by: CharleyCarp | Link to this comment | 01-28-10 4:17 PM
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293.2: No, I recognize that, and it's a real issue where expanding human settlement comes up against remaining or restored animal habitat, especially when it's one of those animals that can literally walk all over humans. I just would also like to think that there's a better way, ie, if they have to be killed let's not also profit from their deaths.

Off for now.


Posted by: Jimmy Pongo | Link to this comment | 01-28-10 4:18 PM
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213

I dunno. How many public libraries in Massachusetts have separate genealogy rooms?

Quite a few I think or at least genealogical collections. The Boston Public Library has an extensive one which I used to trace the ancestry of my paternal grandmother. She was of old New England stock with many lines going back before 1700.


Posted by: James B. Shearer | Link to this comment | 01-28-10 4:18 PM
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I guess my impression of the Southernness of genealogy was probably just due to the fact that my genealogically oriented relatives happen to be Southern.


Posted by: teofilo | Link to this comment | 01-28-10 4:21 PM
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Most of upstate New York was quite heavily agricultural until the Depression. The forested areas you see today are mostly state parks that were originally abandoned farms bought up under a New Deal program.

Interesting. I had no idea.


Posted by: essear | Link to this comment | 01-28-10 4:24 PM
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And you shouldn't assume `western' museums take particularly good care over non-western art either, both physically and culturally.


Posted by: Keir | Link to this comment | 01-28-10 4:31 PM
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On a somewhat related note, I recently read that the Gene Autry Museum, which purchased the Southwest Museum (one of the largest repositories of Native American artifact) a few years back, is now closing the Southwest Museum down and moving all of its treasure into the Autry. Cowboys 1, Indians 0.*

*The SWM was founded by Charles Lummis, so yeah, really it's cowboys 1, white journalists 0.


Posted by: jms | Link to this comment | 01-28-10 4:48 PM
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I'm surprised that Paren thinks of California as a place with lots of reminders of Indian presence. I can't think of anything in LA at all (outside of museum collections). Maybe there's more stuff in the Central Coast? Or the desert?

I did grow up in Chumash country, yes. But I also grew up with parents actively interested in Indian history. Indian presence was always there for me, in other words. If you spend enough time poking around in the right spots you can find various artifacts all over California - tools, grinding sites, etc. Petroglyphs are not uncommon in the desert, and there are also some good examples at the Carizzo Plain, nearish where I grew up. You can see evidence of native activity and use in the landscape everywhere, if you have the necessary bits of information to look for it. After being prompted to examine my assumptions, though, I'm willing to concede that I'm the strange one.

Note that (), as a(n) historian, seems to have her own ideas for what constitutes a reminder of Indian presence. I mean, I see Indian presence everywhere I go (Piscataway! Raritan! Rahway! Passyunk! etc.), but most people wouldn't even think of it.

As above, yes, I'm strange. I think I reacted so strongly to JRoth's comment because I (perhaps unfairly) read it as a variation on the disappearing Indian myth - Indians exist out there, in the West, not on the East Coast. I think of the East Coast as a heavily Indian place because that is how I was taught to think of it, and because I can't quite separate out the past from the present, I suppose.


Posted by: Parenthetical | Link to this comment | 01-28-10 4:49 PM
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As someone who's been in Pennsylvania all my life, I was excited about the opportunity to go to the Cahokia mound sites on a trip to St. Louis. Had no idea that this sort of site was actually all over the place in places other than the Northeast.


Posted by: Cryptic ned | Link to this comment | 01-28-10 4:51 PM
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because I can't quite separate out the past from the present

And because I don't think one should. Sure, you're not going to be finding Anasazi stone dwellings in upstate New York. But farmers still find stone implements, beads, midden heaps, trade goods from Europeans owned by Native Americans. And to say that western PA didn't have much in the way of Indian history is, just, well, wrong - post or pre-contact. Assuming that somehow it doesn't count as Indian just because it doesn't fit the stereotype drives me batty.


Posted by: Parenthetical | Link to this comment | 01-28-10 4:54 PM
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Petroglyphs are not uncommon in the desert

Indeed, they are extremely common in certain places, and the Coso Range is one of the most extensive and famous rock art areas in the world.

I think I reacted so strongly to JRoth's comment because I (perhaps unfairly) read it as a variation on the disappearing Indian myth - Indians exist out there, in the West, not on the East Coast.

Interesting. I didn't really see it that way, perhaps because I was thinking of it in an archaeological context, and it's totally true that the archaeological record of the Northeast is a lot thinner and more subtle than in most parts of the country. There's lots of information out there about Northeastern Indians, but very little of it comes from archaeology.


Posted by: teofilo | Link to this comment | 01-28-10 4:56 PM
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Had no idea that this sort of site was actually all over the place in places other than the Northeast.

Well, there's nothing else quite on the scale of Cahokia, which is the biggest and most impressive mound site out there, but yes, there are lots and lots of mound sites all over the South and Midwest.


Posted by: teofilo | Link to this comment | 01-28-10 4:58 PM
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112 94: My mistake. Obviously you were proposing to piss on crucifixes because they were the most serviceable urinals available.

I was trying to say that the standard I thought you were proposing - look to the subjective intent of the person disrespecting someone else's traditional object - is seriously problematical.

The problem of the jade trinket is a piece of this larger question, as we've all by now recognized. We've already touched on some of the standard answers:

a) look to who owns the land. But, when the current landowner isn't the one claiming cultural connection, such as when a Native American group objects to building a ski area on what they identify as a sacred site, people can disagree about the result. When the landowner is unable or disinclined to protect the site or objects, we have a different sort of problem (this also happens on reservation land in the SW, where you do get Native looters on their own tribal land).

b) look to the historic owners of the land. But as Jerusalem so clearly exemplifies, this isn't always a clear answer, either. Another example is Kennewick man, where the group with the historic claim to the area - but not current ownership - probably has no cultural affiliation with the item.

c) if you're going with cultural affiliation, you've got the problem of who speaks for the group. When the historic Russian Orthodox cemetery at Fort Ross, CA, had to be dug up I have no problem letting that church decide who what how and when - but that may just be because I'm ignorant about schisms in that church. The Hopewell mound stuff in the midwest was also problematical the last time I looked, with several historic nations being possible relations, but there may be better data now.

d) then there's the whole question of whether certain types of objects should be given special treatment. Graves, bones, and grave goods are currently treated specially in many parts of the US, but I'm not sure why. I think it's because western cultural traditions giving these items special protections have been adopted by some Native people in an effort to claim exclusive right to define their own history - but I may be wrong.

But if I'm treating a crucifix disrespectfully, asking my motive only gets one so far. We may need to also ask who made the crucifix, what branch of Christiantiy they followed, and when, and whether it was ever buried with a person, and on whose land it was found, or whether it was ever stolen, and a host of other questions. Or we can say 'unless you can show a better claim under current law in this jusrisdction, it's mine to do with as I please'.

Sorry to go on at such length.


Posted by: Michael H Schneider | Link to this comment | 01-28-10 4:59 PM
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it's totally true that the archaeological record of the Northeast is a lot thinner

I am fully willing to admit that I don't know a lot about archaeology, beyond what's been put into history books and anecdotal evidence. So, yes, I was being unfair.


Posted by: Parenthetical | Link to this comment | 01-28-10 5:00 PM
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there are lots and lots of mound sites all over the South and Midwest.

The Serpent Mound in Ohio is a really neat example.


Posted by: Parenthetical | Link to this comment | 01-28-10 5:02 PM
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And to say that western PA didn't have much in the way of Indian history is, just, well, wrong - post or pre-contact.

True, but we know much more about the post-contact period in that area, precisely because it's well-documented in historical records. For the pre-contact era all we have is archaeology, and while that certainly isn't nothing, it hasn't provided nearly as much information. And from the perspective of someone like JRoth, none of that archaeology is at all obvious.


Posted by: teofilo | Link to this comment | 01-28-10 5:02 PM
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Graves, bones, and grave goods are currently treated specially in many parts of the US, but I'm not sure why. I think it's because western cultural traditions giving these items special protections have been adopted by some Native people in an effort to claim exclusive right to define their own history - but I may be wrong.

Why this rather than because the tribes have their own traditions giving the items special protections?


Posted by: teofilo | Link to this comment | 01-28-10 5:06 PM
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For the pre-contact era all we have is archaeology,

And what post-contact Native Americans had to say, too. Granted, a shaky source base, but it is there.

And from the perspective of someone like JRoth, none of that archaeology is at all obvious.

I'm willing to concede this point, as stated above.


Posted by: Parenthetical | Link to this comment | 01-28-10 5:07 PM
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There are plenty of who is who issues, even if places where we have a fair idea of what's gone on for, say, 2000 years. IIRC, genetic study shows that people of Britain seem very substantially to be descendants from the Celtic and pre-Celtic inhabitants of the island, with Angle, Saxon, Jute, Fleming, French, and Norman added in. I recall reading that a man living within 50 km was a pretty good DNA match for way old "Cheddar" man.


Posted by: CharleyCarp | Link to this comment | 01-28-10 5:07 PM
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Because every unpopulated area in the Northeast is a forest, it is harder to envision there being remnants of Native American civilizations.


Posted by: Cryptic ned | Link to this comment | 01-28-10 5:09 PM
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http://www.nytimes.com/1997/03/24/world/tracing-your-family-tree-to-cheddar-man-s-mum.html

Blessed are the cheesemakers.


Posted by: CharleyCarp | Link to this comment | 01-28-10 5:11 PM
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I just realized that peep totally pwned my 310.


Posted by: Parenthetical | Link to this comment | 01-28-10 5:11 PM
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And what post-contact Native Americans had to say, too. Granted, a shaky source base, but it is there.

True, but that's generally more useful for understanding the history of people (who moved around a lot in the post-contact era) than of the place. And it's very difficult to integrate this stuff with the archaeology.


Posted by: teofilo | Link to this comment | 01-28-10 5:11 PM
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Quite a few I think or at least genealogical collections.

Yeah definitely. Many local libraries now offer workshops and classes and etc. Genealogy is increasingly popular all over the US (and Canada).

I can trace most branches (both paternal and maternal) to the late 18th or early 19th c (which is actually pretty good for Irish RC ancestry, given the lack of reliable records).

So both Emerson and Mr Carp can boast of witch trials in the family background...interesting.


Posted by: Mary Catherine | Link to this comment | 01-28-10 5:13 PM
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understanding the history of people (who moved around a lot in the post-contact era) than of the place.

And that reveals my bias - I'm much more interested in the history of the people, so I am failing to speak in the correct terms, obviously.

It bothers me to think - though I completely understand why - that people dismiss something like Fort Ticonderoga as an important native site. The Seven Years War without Native Americans is meaningless. (Ok, that probably goes too far.)


Posted by: Parenthetical | Link to this comment | 01-28-10 5:20 PM
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Why this rather than because the tribes have their own traditions giving the items special protections?

My recollection of the arguments that were made, and that were persuasive, at the time is that they tended to be "would you want someone digging up your grondmother?". That is, they appealed no to the Native's beliefs, but to standard western beliefs.

My recollection is also that the arguments tended to be made by Native activists. That is, they were made by people whose avowed motive was to be able to write their own history. That they also tended to be Pan-Indianists.

My recollection is also that some of those pushing for special protection actually had little to no connectino to those graves they wanted to protect. For example, my recollection is that there was a Mescalero woman who was really keen on protecting both Anaaazi and mound builder (if I can use that term most broadly) graves. One could probably go back and look at the press coverage of things like Dickson Mound (Dixon Mound? My memory faileth me) in Illinois and see who was identified among the protesters.

My recollection, of course, may well be wrong.


Posted by: Michael H Schneider | Link to this comment | 01-28-10 5:20 PM
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My recollection of the arguments that were made, and that were persuasive, at the time is that they tended to be "would you want someone digging up your grondmother?". That is, they appealed no to the Native's beliefs, but to standard western beliefs.

Wait hang on, this isn't right. Firstly, the arguments you heard needn't be the motives of the activists themselves, and secondly why should Native Americans have beliefs about digging up Granny? It seems a pretty universal issue, tbh.

My recollection is also that the arguments tended to be made by Native activists. That is, they were made by people whose avowed motive was to be able to write their own history. That they also tended to be Pan-Indianists.

And this is an issue why?


Posted by: Keir | Link to this comment | 01-28-10 5:23 PM
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why shouldn't Native Americans etc.


Posted by: Keir | Link to this comment | 01-28-10 5:24 PM
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My recollection of the arguments that were made, and that were persuasive, at the time is that they tended to be "would you want someone digging up your grondmother?". That is, they appealed no to the Native's beliefs, but to standard western beliefs.

Well, yeah, because they were trying to convince Anglos to enact the legislation. Obviously I'm too young to remember any of this personally, and you're probably right about the pan-Indianism, but I'd say the behavior of tribes now that NAGPRA is in place suggests that their own traditions are playing an important role in formulating decisions. At least for the handful of tribes I'm most familiar with; in other parts of the country things may be different.


Posted by: teofilo | Link to this comment | 01-28-10 5:24 PM
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Basically pwned by Keir.


Posted by: teofilo | Link to this comment | 01-28-10 5:25 PM
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There's a whole thicket of thorny issues surrounding NAGPRA, of course. I discussed this a bit in a post a little while back.


Posted by: teofilo | Link to this comment | 01-28-10 5:28 PM
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There's nothing wrong with wanting to write your own history. However, if your motive in saying "nobody should dig up indians" is to be able to control the history, that's different than saying "our tradition holds that graves should always remain undisturbed".

And yes, there's an element of 'if you prick me, do I not bleed' appeal to universal humanity and shared whatevers. On the other hand, traditions vary a lot. Not everyone treats graves the same way, if you believe Hillerman on the Navajo. But I don't recall a lot of Natives saying 'we have always had this tradition about graves and bones, and here's how we've enacted our beliefs in the past'


Posted by: Michael H Schneider | Link to this comment | 01-28-10 5:30 PM
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However, if your motive in saying "nobody should dig up indians" is to be able to control the history, that's different than saying "our tradition holds that graves should always remain undisturbed".

Okay, but look: If, for whatever reason, you want the US to pass a law stipulating that "nobody should dig up Indians" you have an easy rhetorical strategy available to you in the Western tradition of respect for ancestral remains. This is true whether or not you, personally, are an Indian (although the rhetoric is likely to be more effective if you can credibly claim that your own ancestors' remains are at stake), and it's likely to be more effective than a strategy emphasizing the specific burial traditions and practices of Indian groups, which of course do vary considerably and are not all compatible with the political goal here. Nonetheless, it is true that a lot of Indian groups do have traditional mortuary practices that are much more compatible with "nobody should dig up Indians" than with what was the status quo, and now that NAGPRA is the status quo, those groups have been appealing more to their own traditions than to Western ones. This may not be true for all groups; I don't know. It may also not have been the main reason everyone was advocating for changing the law. But those are the facts as I understand them, and they're certainly consistent with at least some of the activists being motivated by traditional concerns, even if their rhetoric didn't reflect that.


Posted by: teofilo | Link to this comment | 01-28-10 5:40 PM
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The post linked in 326 is a good discussion another problem I should have mentioned in 308. Cultural affilliation is a slippery concept. Personally, I have problems saying that the LDS church is culturally affilliated with Orhtodox Judaism, even if they do claim to be the lost tribes.


Posted by: Michael H Schneider | Link to this comment | 01-28-10 5:40 PM
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Whoops.

Just dug up an Indian.

My bad!


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 01-28-10 5:42 PM
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There's nothing wrong with wanting to write your own history. However, if your motive in saying "nobody should dig up indians" is to be able to control the history, that's different than saying "our tradition holds that graves should always remain undisturbed".

Meh, I don't get this. It seems like a way of marginalising non-settler elements by delegitimising their motives.

And yes, there's an element of 'if you prick me, do I not bleed' appeal to universal humanity and shared whatevers. On the other hand, traditions vary a lot. Not everyone treats graves the same way, if you believe Hillerman on the Navajo. But I don't recall a lot of Natives saying 'we have always had this tradition about graves and bones, and here's how we've enacted our beliefs in the past'

There have been difficulties for Native Americans in terms of keeping up the ancient customs and all in the past few centuries...


Posted by: Keir | Link to this comment | 01-28-10 5:45 PM
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they're certainly consistent with at least some of the activists being motivated by traditional concerns, even if their rhetoric didn't reflect that.

No disagreement. It's the absence of evidence problem. The rhetoric I heard contained an abscence of evidence that they were acting in furtherance of traditional beliefs.

On the third hand, the whole notion of 'traditional beliefs' gets slippery, too, because (as you have pointed out) people are always re=inventing their culture and their cultural beliefs. Today's traditional cultural beliefs may have been newly discovered last week.


Posted by: Michael H Schneider | Link to this comment | 01-28-10 5:46 PM
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that the LDS church is culturally affilliated with Orhtodox Judaism, even if they do claim to be the lost tribes.

Far be it from me to question anyone's cultural affiliation, but this claim sounds about as credible as Shirley Maclaine's memories of living on the lost continent of Atlantis.


Posted by: Mary Catherine | Link to this comment | 01-28-10 5:49 PM
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The rhetoric I heard contained an abscence of evidence that they were acting in furtherance of traditional beliefs.

But who cares? As Keir points out, a lot of tribes don't have a whole lot of connection to their traditional beliefs these days, nor do they have a whole lot of members, and this is the direct result of a whole lot of decisions made by white people over the past few centuries. It's hardly surprising that the remaining members are not necessarily going to be overly concerned with justifying their rhetorical strategies when they finally get the chance to try to undo some of that damage and assert some of the power that those white people have finally deigned to allow them.


Posted by: teofilo | Link to this comment | 01-28-10 5:52 PM
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It seems like a way of marginalising non-settler elements by delegitimising their motives.

Well, yeah. Historty is contested. I was associated with, and had some loyalty to, one side in that contest: I was with the archeologists. I believed (and still believe) that evidence, actual bones and dirt and carbon dates and such, is important to inventing the sort of history I want. So naturally I want to deligimize the motive that says "you can't have your "evidence" because I'm the only legitimate author for this history and that evidence is mine, all mine, bwah ha ha"


Posted by: Michael H Schneider | Link to this comment | 01-28-10 5:52 PM
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333 now go read Teo's linked post about the Navajo claim of cultural affiliation with Chaco. I put it in the Atlantis category, but, you know, I'm coming from this western "science" perspective


Posted by: Michael H Schneider | Link to this comment | 01-28-10 5:54 PM
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I was associated with, and had some loyalty to, one side in that contest: I was with the archeologists.

Okay, now I get where you're coming from on this. I think, as always, we'll just have to agree to disagree. I think that, in general, the archaeologists have not been in the right on most of these issues.


Posted by: teofilo | Link to this comment | 01-28-10 5:55 PM
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You know, I wouldn't be touting the moral importance of Western science & history in relation to Native Americans; it's a bit too much like talking about the importance of medical science to black folks living in Alabama.


Posted by: Keir | Link to this comment | 01-28-10 5:58 PM
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Whenever I interact with Schneider here I'm struck by how two people who seem so similar in so many outward characteristics can disagree so much on so many issues.


Posted by: teofilo | Link to this comment | 01-28-10 5:59 PM
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I think I answered 334 in 335, by accident. I want to enact my beliefs about history, too. I think everyone should enact their beliefs. But I think that means that nobody gets to claim exclusivity or to hid what I like to think of as "the data".

337: I didn't mean to be hiding my cultural affiliations. Yes, some archeologists have done some bad things. But this gets back precisely to the place I started, which was whether I am in any moral sense obliged to respect something just because it's important to someone else. We're back to the hanburger and the Jain, the paperback cover and the Muslim, etc.


Posted by: Michael H Schneider | Link to this comment | 01-28-10 6:01 PM
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boy, my fingers seem to have a bad case of typographical errors. I really am sobber.


Posted by: Michael H Schneider | Link to this comment | 01-28-10 6:02 PM
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I'm struck by how two people who seem so similar in so many outward characteristics

I blame the fact that you're younger, smarter, and handsomer. But what do I know?


Posted by: Michael H Schneider | Link to this comment | 01-28-10 6:04 PM
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I think I answered 334 in 335, by accident. I want to enact my beliefs about history, too. I think everyone should enact their beliefs. But I think that means that nobody gets to claim exclusivity or to hid what I like to think of as "the data".

Argh ffs, this is exactly bunkum. You are white educated man; you get to claim exclusivity all the damn time.

(And ``what you like to think of as `the data' ''? Dear lord!)


Posted by: Keir | Link to this comment | 01-28-10 6:06 PM
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Yes, some archeologists have done some bad things. But this gets back precisely to the place I started, which was whether I am in any moral sense obliged to respect something just because it's important to someone else.

Maybe not in absolute terms, but in practice it does depend who those people are. A white person respecting something that's important to an Indian comes across rather differently from a Jew respecting something that's important to a Christian, for example. You can also reverse either of those sets and see the differences emerge.

Personally, as a middle-class white man living in the United States, I tend to make my choices based on a general "don't be a dick to people" rule. My experience interacting with other middle-class white men in the US suggests that this is not a popular rule among my demographic group.


Posted by: teofilo | Link to this comment | 01-28-10 6:07 PM
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I claim privilege all the time because I'm white and educated. But I'm certainly not claiming that only I have the right and power to write the history of educated white folks. I'm not saying that female historians shouldn't be allowed to write about history that involves males. I'm not saying that natives shouldn't have precisely as much right as white invaders to write the history of white settlement. But I'm saying that there must be some sort of neutral standard that allows different cultures and different traditions to co-exist with their diffrent histories.

I tend to make my choices based on a general "don't be a dick to people" rule.

Unfortunately that seems to require me to possess a functional dickishness detector module in my brain. I'm afraid I'm crippled handicapped different in that respect.


Posted by: Michael H Schneider | Link to this comment | 01-28-10 6:13 PM
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I'm saying that there must be some sort of neutral standard that allows different cultures and different traditions to co-exist with their diffrent histories.

And you're also saying that you, or others like you, get to define that standard. Which, I mean, come on.


Posted by: teofilo | Link to this comment | 01-28-10 6:15 PM
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But I'm saying that there must be some sort of neutral standard that allows different cultures and different traditions to co-exist with their diffrent histories.

Except your conception of neutral standard is, basically, white.


Posted by: Keir | Link to this comment | 01-28-10 6:15 PM
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Do I smell something being socially constructed?


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 01-28-10 6:15 PM
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344: the (only slightly) more charitable read is that a lot of people in your demographic follow that rule but their criteria for what constitutes "being a dick" rests on unexamined privilege.


Posted by: Di Kotimy | Link to this comment | 01-28-10 6:15 PM
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Pwnt by Teo.


Posted by: Keir | Link to this comment | 01-28-10 6:17 PM
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349: Yeah, that's one way to look at it, but if so, damn, that's a whole hell of a lot of unexamined privilege.


Posted by: teofilo | Link to this comment | 01-28-10 6:18 PM
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And you're also saying that you, or others like you, get to define that standard. Which, I mean, come on.

Okay, so tell me what other standard would be better. Tell me what standard I should follow when deciding the extent to which I allow others the power to determine my actions. Is there some sort of line between "never dig up dead indians" and 'don't own paperbacks with lurid covers"?


Posted by: Michael H Schneider | Link to this comment | 01-28-10 6:20 PM
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Yes Michael, ethical systems are often simple and easy to articulate in blog comments.

(Basically don't be a cunt about it, and maybe for once accept you aren't the important one in many decisions about this sort of thing.)


Posted by: Keir | Link to this comment | 01-28-10 6:23 PM
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Okay, so tell me what other standard would be better. Tell me what standard I should follow when deciding the extent to which I allow others the power to determine my actions. Is there some sort of line between "never dig up dead indians" and 'don't own paperbacks with lurid covers"?

No, there isn't. This is the fundamental problem with logical positivism. You can't come up with bright-line rules and expect anyone else to agree to them unless they already share the preconceptions that went into defining the rules. When you run into people that don't, you just have to rely on heuristics. I've already told you mine.


Posted by: teofilo | Link to this comment | 01-28-10 6:24 PM
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351: Well, yes. Quite. I might even propose "willful failure to examine privilege" as a definition, or perhaps underlying cause, of dickishness. Or maybe it's just one on a lsit of diagnostic criteria.


Posted by: Di Kotimy | Link to this comment | 01-28-10 6:25 PM
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355: You want to law school. Those aren't diagnostic criteria. They are course objectives.


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 01-28-10 6:27 PM
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I don't actually expect to convince Schneider, of course. Convincing people of things isn't really what I'm about.


Posted by: teofilo | Link to this comment | 01-28-10 6:28 PM
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I've already told you mine.

Unless I've missed something, that was "don't be a dick to people". Now joined by "don't be a cunt about it". Operationally, I'm finding these less than helpful.


Posted by: Michael H Schneider | Link to this comment | 01-28-10 6:30 PM
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Like they say in the Spike Lee movie, "Avoid Acting As Genitals".


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 01-28-10 6:31 PM
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See? It's like an unbridgeable chasm.


Posted by: teofilo | Link to this comment | 01-28-10 6:31 PM
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Don't be a 1st world white guy.


Posted by: md 20/400 | Link to this comment | 01-28-10 6:32 PM
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I missed the part where this thread went from being about a concrete question to something incredibly vague about white dudes being dickish.


Posted by: essear | Link to this comment | 01-28-10 6:33 PM
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Possibly I'm a vaguely dickish white dude.


Posted by: essear | Link to this comment | 01-28-10 6:34 PM
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362: 158.


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 01-28-10 6:35 PM
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363: Don't worry about it. Some of my best friends are white dudes.


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 01-28-10 6:36 PM
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"Avoid Acting As Genitals"

So now you're against hairy people with big lips?


Posted by: heebie-geebie | Link to this comment | 01-28-10 6:39 PM
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Let's take this into an area where racial issues don't interfere, say Silesia. Who gets to write its history - Poles or Germans? Both have spent most of the modern national era denying, and at times seeking to physically erase evidence of the others past there, e.g. the Poles bulldozed almost all cemeteries after WWII. Who do ancient artifacts from Silesia belong to. This is a live issue as the Germans want the ones the Poles have 'back'. Do they belong to the region they are from or to a specific national tradition. What about if they're from before any modern understanding of 'German' or 'Polish' existed, e.g. the medieval period. And who do they belong to then - the artisans and merchants spoke a German dialect, the peasants a Polish one, the aristocracy was Slavic in background but spoke both - primarily the latter in the earlier part, but more and more German as time went on. Should Germans accept the hardline Polish nationalist historiography which erases the German past or writes it as evil and alien when it can't do so, simply in the name of atonement for past oppression?


Posted by: teraz kurwa my | Link to this comment | 01-28-10 6:43 PM
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So now you're against hairy people with big lips?

Also bald people with big heads.


Posted by: teofilo | Link to this comment | 01-28-10 6:43 PM
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Also against the rule about standing-up when a lady enters the room.


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 01-28-10 6:44 PM
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Should Germans accept the hardline Polish nationalist historiography which erases the German past or writes it as evil and alien when it can't do so, simply in the name of atonement for past oppression?

Yes. That one is easy.


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 01-28-10 6:45 PM
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Is there some sort of line between "never dig up dead indians" and 'don't own paperbacks with lurid covers"?

No, there isn't.

I can't live in that world. For me there have to be some reasonably simple rules for determining right from wrong. I need to be able to drag them out, put them into words, and play with them. Test them. See how they apply to situations, see whether I like the results.

I want to live in a world where most of us agree that I can own paperbacks with lurid covers, and eat hamburger, and you can believe that I'm going to burn in hell for all eternity if I have an abortion. Or something like that. Or at least that you shouldn't do any work on Saturday.

But I need some way of figuring that out.Figuring out what rules can be imposed by whom on wwhich others and why. Finding that line. Or at least being able to talk about it. Without that, I don't see any way for civilization to survive on earth.


Posted by: Michael H Schneider | Link to this comment | 01-28-10 6:46 PM
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Let's take this into an area where racial issues don't interfere, say Silesia.

Unfortunately, the racial issues are pretty much essential to this particular kind of dispute. Post-colonialism and all that.

(Yes Silesia as a site of colonisation etc etc, but.)


Posted by: Keir | Link to this comment | 01-28-10 6:47 PM
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356 is an Oh, Snap! moment. I never thought I'd say that.


Posted by: parsimon | Link to this comment | 01-28-10 6:47 PM
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371: So much the worse for civilization (and you), I guess.


Posted by: teofilo | Link to this comment | 01-28-10 6:47 PM
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Unfortunately, the racial issues are pretty much essential to this particular kind of dispute. Post-colonialism and all that.

True, but I think the Silesia example is interesting in pointing out all the other issues involved, and the problems that arise with this stuff even when the racial/colonial element isn't present.


Posted by: teofilo | Link to this comment | 01-28-10 6:50 PM
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371: I can't live in that world.
Then why aren't you dead yet? Seriously. Bright lines are for fanatics. Which you're not (apparently.) In fact, it doesn't even sound like you want bright lines, as such. You just want the status quo where amassing a relatively large amount of privilege insulates you from having to confront the fact that you live in a society that is daily, hourly, crushing the life out of others for its own profit. Totes liberation=totes self-abnegation. Everything else is going to be more or less fuzzy.


Posted by: Natilo Paennim | Link to this comment | 01-28-10 6:51 PM
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373: And I put in a typo.


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 01-28-10 6:52 PM
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Should Germans accept the hardline Polish nationalist historiography which erases the German past or writes it as evil and alien when it can't do so, simply in the name of atonement for past oppression?

I think I've been disqualified from further discussion. But I like the question.


Posted by: Michael H Schneider | Link to this comment | 01-28-10 6:53 PM
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True, but I think the Silesia example is interesting in pointing out all the other issues involved, and the problems that arise with this stuff even when the racial/colonial element isn't present.

Yes. As a problem on it's own I think it's very interesting, and a good thing to think about. I am wary of analogy here tho' because it is very easy to translate back to cases with racial/colonial elements and just forget about the racial/colonial element.


Posted by: Keir | Link to this comment | 01-28-10 6:53 PM
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Then why aren't you dead yet? Seriously.

Seriously? Because I have my own fuzzy heuristics. They involve a bit of some dead philosopher (I ask 'is it universalizable' as a rule?) and a bit of some other dead philosophers (does it produce the greatest good for the greatest number, without actually impossinge awful misery on anyone) and I a bit of pop psychology (does it tend to allow the most people to go the farthest in self-actualizing?) and a bit of good ol' Murican Bill of Rights stuff (does it foster freedoms such as speech, etc.).

Those things I can talk about, and examine. Dickinshness is not something for which I have a referent.


Posted by: Michael H Schneider | Link to this comment | 01-28-10 6:59 PM
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376: You just want the status quo where amassing a relatively large amount of privilege insulates you from having to confront the fact that you live in a society that is daily, hourly, crushing the life out of others for its own profit.

I'd slow down here. I'm not sure Michael has said that, though I haven't followed in extreme detail. Plenty of others here make noises in that direction, though. I wouldn't want to make Michael the fall guy for it.


Posted by: parsimon | Link to this comment | 01-28-10 6:59 PM
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372 But they don't. Except that they did in the recent past. Both Nazi and Imperial Germany saw the conflict in racial terms, and to a large extent the radical right nationalists that dominated Polish historiography of that and other disputed territories did as well. (One of my favorite documents was a description of an exhibit at Exhibition of the Recovered Territories [sic] of 1948 which explained that the 'Polish' Slav tribes that inhabited in pagan times had properly 'Nordic' skull shapes while the German colonizers were racially inferior others.)

Plus there's tons of non racial disputes of this sort - the various stolen antiquities from Italy and Greece for example. And should Roman or Greek antiquities found in Turkey or the Middle East be 'returned'? My view is nothing should be after a certain amount of time has passed. Not sure what that statute of limitations should be exactly, but certainly anything predating the twentieth century.


Posted by: teraz kurwa my | Link to this comment | 01-28-10 7:01 PM
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You just want the status quo where amassing a relatively large amount of privilege insulates you from having to confront the fact that you live in a society that is daily, hourly, crushing the life out of others for its own profit.

Oh, who doesn't.


Posted by: heebie-geebie | Link to this comment | 01-28-10 7:01 PM
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I'm not sure Michael has said that,

Thank you. I certainly wasn't aware of saying that, but because self-blindness is one of the things I'ma ccused of, I was loath to make that defense. So I thought I'd just let it slide.


Posted by: Michael H Schneider | Link to this comment | 01-28-10 7:05 PM
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For me there have to be some reasonably simple rules for determining right from wrong. I

Do unto other as you would have done unto you. A classic rule of which Teo's "don't be a dick" strikes me as a modern formulation.


Posted by: Di Kotimy | Link to this comment | 01-28-10 7:10 PM
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Do unto other as you would have done unto you.

I'd claim I was following that rule. I thought I was saying 'you get to decide about graves and stuff on your land, and graves you can show a close and direct link to (including grandmother, wherever buried, but excluding the LDS church claim to Jews and excluding the Navajo claim to Chaco that Teo describes) - and I get to do the same for those same categories (recognizing problmeatical instances)'

That allows me to dig up unaffiliated bones on private land, allows the tribes to control their land, and is fully universalizable. It excludes the claim that sounds like "all Indians everywhere and everywhen are sacred to me, and you must respect my beliefs"


Posted by: Michael H Schneider | Link to this comment | 01-28-10 7:16 PM
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Plus there's tons of non racial disputes of this sort - the various stolen antiquities from Italy and Greece for example. And should Roman or Greek antiquities found in Turkey or the Middle East be 'returned'? My view is nothing should be after a certain amount of time has passed. Not sure what that statute of limitations should be exactly, but certainly anything predating the twentieth century.

Yes, but the non-colonial disputes of this sort are very different to the colonial ones. Stolen antiquities from Greece are different to toi moko in quite important ways, and it's easy to talk about the non-colonial issues and then slide back to colonial ones without making it clear what's happening.

(And by the way, why are Roman antiquities in Turkey/Middle East to be `returned' with quote marks? I daren't say absolutely that they should be, but I wouldn't like to say that they should be treated differently to Roman antiquities found in Spain or Portugal or wherever.)


Posted by: Keir | Link to this comment | 01-28-10 7:17 PM
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the "all Indians everywhere and everywhen are sacred to me, and you must respect my beliefs" claim won't work because it's not universalizable. You end up saying "It's sacred to ME" "no, it's sacreder to ME ME ME!" and evaluating who it's more sacred to, and it gets just plain silly.


Posted by: Michael H Schneider | Link to this comment | 01-28-10 7:17 PM
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But Michael you are setting up a rule that isn't universal, because a Christian could well say that all Christians everywhere are sacred to him in the Brotherhood of Christ Our Saviour, and you know, I shouldn't like to argue against that.

(& the general issue of post-hoc rules being a bit dodgy.)


Posted by: Keir | Link to this comment | 01-28-10 7:19 PM
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Do unto other as you would have done unto you. A classic rule of which Teo's "don't be a dick" strikes me as a modern formulation.

Of course, many people like dicks done unto them.


Posted by: heebie-geebie | Link to this comment | 01-28-10 7:19 PM
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Yeah, the problem with the Golden Rule, at least in its classical formulation, is that it opens the door to exactly the kinds of excuses in 386: "But this is how I want others to treat me!" Well, okay, but people's values and priorities differ, and not everyone shares yours.

If I had to formalize my heuristic, it would be more about how other people are actually likely to react to my actions, but honestly, I think trying to formalize it is a bad idea.


Posted by: teofilo | Link to this comment | 01-28-10 7:20 PM
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Mine is "What would Teo do?"


Posted by: heebie-geebie | Link to this comment | 01-28-10 7:21 PM
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But Michael you are setting up a rule that isn't universal, because a Christian could well say that all Christians everywhere are sacred to him in the Brotherhood of Christ Our Saviour, and you know, I shouldn't like to argue against that.

I'm sorry, I guess I wasn't being clear. That's precisely the reason I'm rejecting "it is sacred to me" as a basis for a rule that says you must treat something the way I want you to treat it. Medium rare steaks are sacred to me, cows are sacred to you, who wins? is a lousy question to be asking


Posted by: Michael H Schneider | Link to this comment | 01-28-10 7:22 PM
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Plus what heebie said.


Posted by: teofilo | Link to this comment | 01-28-10 7:23 PM
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(& the general issue of post-hoc rules being a bit dodgy.)

Yeah, well, I know. My whole heuristic imitation philosophy substitute (containing no natural ingredients) is a bit dodgy. I'm not well educated.


Posted by: Michael H Schneider | Link to this comment | 01-28-10 7:24 PM
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But the point is that you are merely setting your personal moral beliefs up as objective, which is bullshit.

(Especially given the whole white male settler in relation to non-white settled people.)


Posted by: Keir | Link to this comment | 01-28-10 7:26 PM
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My whole heuristic imitation philosophy substitute (containing no natural ingredients) is a bit dodgy.

Stripping away the specifics, it seems to boil down to "I get to do what I want, and you just have to deal with it and adapt to my needs, because I get to make the rules." Which has pretty much been the white male approach to things for a long time, but that doesn't make it any more persuasive to anyone else.


Posted by: teofilo | Link to this comment | 01-28-10 7:27 PM
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Of course, many people like dicks done unto them.

And many of those people have no dicks with which to do unto others. So. It may not be a universalizable rule at all.

(Michael -- I didn't intend to imply that you are being a dick or that you don't observe the golden rule.)


Posted by: | Link to this comment | 01-28-10 7:27 PM
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"But this is how I want others to treat me!" Well, okay, but people's values and priorities differ, and not everyone shares yours.

Yeah, this is the part where unexamined privilege comes in.


Posted by: Di Kotimy | Link to this comment | 01-28-10 7:30 PM
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396, 397: are you saying that the content of my rules is an instance of white male settler privilege -

or are you saying that my desire for a set of neutral universalizable tried and found workable neutral rules of thumb is an instance of privilege?


Posted by: Michael H Schneider | Link to this comment | 01-28-10 7:31 PM
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400: In this specific case, the former, but the latter is also true generally.


Posted by: teofilo | Link to this comment | 01-28-10 7:32 PM
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395: I'm not well educated.

You did well enough in 380 in tagging deontology ("do unto others", universalizability), utilitarianism (greatest good for greatest number), and perfectionism (provide opportunity for self-actualization). Our 'folk' or intuitive psychology and ethics is a mix of those.


Posted by: parsimon | Link to this comment | 01-28-10 7:32 PM
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In this specific case, the former, but the latter is also true generally.

Okay. Let me see if I can understand this better.

We've got a problem in the world with people killing each other because of disagreements over beliefs, and over who gets to impose whose beliefs on whom. From the Crusades through the expulsion of the darkies from Spain to examples too numerous to catalog, we've got a problem. This problem threatens civilization, beyond health care reform and beyond global warming, we've got a problem in how to live together.

The only solution I see has something to do with recognizing, and agreeing to, some sort of limits on who get to do what to whom (limits other than simply power, economic or martial).

I don't know what those limits should be. My heuristics are drawn from my cultural background (of course -what else do I have to draw from?). They incorporate, to the best of my limited ability, what people (in my cultural background) have found persuasive and effective in allowing civilization to continue.

If we reject those (because it's true, they come out of a thousand western civ courses) how to we keep people from killing each other?


Posted by: Michael H Schneider | Link to this comment | 01-28-10 7:41 PM
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402: thank you. I have always depended on the kindness of strange blog commenters and writers to educate me.


Posted by: Michael H Schneider | Link to this comment | 01-28-10 7:46 PM
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how to we keep people from killing each other?

We don't. I see no reason that we are going to stop doing that anytime in the foreseeable future.


Posted by: CJB | Link to this comment | 01-28-10 7:47 PM
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405: hi, final season of Lost?


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 01-28-10 7:49 PM
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We don't.

Okay. How do we deecide whether to build the ski area on the peak, except by insisting on our settler privilege? Is there any other way? Do we decline to build, in order to atone for our sins? What about those who hold skiing as a sacrement? Flip a coin?


Posted by: Michael H Schneider | Link to this comment | 01-28-10 7:53 PM
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Why don't you ski on the sidewalk?

Stupid cyclists.


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 01-28-10 7:55 PM
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What about those who hold skiing as a sacrement?

What religion is this and how do I sign up?


Posted by: teraz kurwa my | Link to this comment | 01-28-10 7:57 PM
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Possibly you accept that `we' don't decide, that it isn't up to `us' to make decisions, that maybe universalism-as-defined-by-honkies is a bit of a failure.


Posted by: Keir | Link to this comment | 01-28-10 7:58 PM
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How do we deecide whether to build the ski area on the peak, except by insisting on our settler privilege? Is there any other way?

I feel like I must be misunderstanding you here. If the principle for decision is "I enjoy privilege, so I get to decide," it's not a very principled decision.


Posted by: Di Kotimy | Link to this comment | 01-28-10 7:59 PM
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Possibly you accept that `we' don't decide, that it isn't up to `us' to make decisions, that maybe universalism-as-defined-by-honkies is a bit of a failure.

Having only skimmed 25% of this thread I might have missed something, but is this comment arguing that only non-white people should be able to make decisions?


Posted by: emdash | Link to this comment | 01-28-10 8:01 PM
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No.


Posted by: Keir | Link to this comment | 01-28-10 8:02 PM
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I'm totally sending up the Gary Farber batsignal. Then this will be the best thread ever.


Posted by: Standpipe Bridgeplate | Link to this comment | 01-28-10 8:03 PM
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412: I was reading it as a suggestion that there's a tendency to speak of things as universal when really they only apply to our own group.


Posted by: Di Kotimy | Link to this comment | 01-28-10 8:05 PM
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How do we deecide whether to build the ski area on the peak, except by insisting on our settler privilege? Is there any other way? Do we decline to build, in order to atone for our sins?

This is completely awesome trolling here. Furthermore, if I'd like one of the apples off my neighbor's tree, my only options are to demolish his house or starve to death, right?


Posted by: heebie-geebie | Link to this comment | 01-28-10 8:07 PM
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415 is considerably more helpful than 413, thank you.


Posted by: emdash | Link to this comment | 01-28-10 8:10 PM
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Let's try some heuristics:

Should I kill this guy? Would that be a dickish thing to do? Yeah, sounds like it. Better not.

Should I build a ski resort on the peak? Would that be a dickish thing to do? Maybe, to some people, but on the other hand it would probably benefit a lot of people too. Hmmm, this is too complicated for my heuristics to handle. Better try another approach. Maybe I should talk to the people who would be affected by this action and see what they think.

Should I expand my failing ski resort on the peak and compensate for low levels of snow by making fake snow out of treated sewage water? Would that be a dickish thing to do? Kind of sounds like it, and it also kind of sounds like I would be the main person to benefit while a bunch of people might get pissed off. Probably best not to do it and just sell the resort or something.

That seems to work pretty well.


Posted by: teofilo | Link to this comment | 01-28-10 8:13 PM
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Not to me it's not!


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 01-28-10 8:13 PM
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415: She like people to be helpful, so she is helpful. Apparently this is deontology.


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 01-28-10 8:13 PM
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Which is a word I just learned.


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 01-28-10 8:15 PM
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My heuristic is "If I posted on Unfogged that I did this, would everyone make me feel like a bad person?" If the answer is yes, I don't blog it.


Posted by: heebie-geebie | Link to this comment | 01-28-10 8:15 PM
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I didn't mean to be snappish --- I just didn't mean that, and I don't really have time to explain more right then, so I thought I'd just let you know that that wasn't what I meant quickly to avoid further misunderstanding.


Posted by: Keir | Link to this comment | 01-28-10 8:16 PM
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I don't even know why you all are using "heuristics" in this discussion.

Michael asked at 403: The only solution I see has something to do with recognizing, and agreeing to, some sort of limits on who get to do what to whom (limits other than simply power, economic or martial).

There's a whole field of inquiry dedicated to this. Political science, they call it.

I thought Gary Farber was in a bit of a bad way lately, by the way, and was wanting some help.


Posted by: parsimon | Link to this comment | 01-28-10 8:18 PM
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And now I have to go to a social event, so I'll leave you to argue amongst yourselves.


Posted by: teofilo | Link to this comment | 01-28-10 8:18 PM
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No worries, Keir. (I didn't actually think that was what you meant.)


Posted by: emdash | Link to this comment | 01-28-10 8:19 PM
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To expand: there is a tendency to assume that white upper middle class America has the right to sit in judgement on the world, and that if an ethical system doesn't let white-UMC-America judge the correctness of an action, that it's somehow deficient.

But I don't think that's true; I think there are a great many things that aren't your business. And I think questions like: how important are graves? How should they be treated? aren't properly ones white-umc America should be judging.

(I've used America as an example, but you can stick quite a few countries in as examples.)


Posted by: Keir | Link to this comment | 01-28-10 8:23 PM
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(Where graves are non-w-umc-am.)


Posted by: Keir | Link to this comment | 01-28-10 8:24 PM
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425: Be careful. After reading here, I sometimes have trouble minding my tongue at real social events.


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 01-28-10 8:24 PM
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the idea that you can 'own' a culture more than someone else is just absurd to me. About the most i would think is plausible is direct decendants who knew the creator during life might have a better claim to someone's things, for example christopher tolkein. But you are 'egyptian' so you own all the mummies? fuck off


Posted by: yoyo | Link to this comment | 01-28-10 8:54 PM
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I call dibs on the Khazars.


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 01-28-10 8:57 PM
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Sorry, I had a sudden overpowering urge to act out some of my cultural traditions, so I went to Costco.

This is completely awesome trolling here.

I am, I believe, talking in good faith about what I honestly (to the best of my limited self-awareness) think.

I was reading it as a suggestion that there's a tendency to speak of things as universal when really they only apply to our own group.

But that's the question, not the answer. Do I act as a New mexican, as a white folks, as a Murrican, as a human - is group allegience left up to me (in which case I'll call everyone my group) or are you going to tell me which groups I can speak for and to?

And I think questions like: how important are graves? How should they be treated? aren't properly ones white-umc America should be judging.

Except that what we're talking about is the rules for graves on public lands in the US. In other words, yes, I'm claiming that as an American citizen, I have a right to "sit in judgement" on how the American Government decides what to do about public lands. I've already agreed that on Tribal lands whatever they want is fine. To an extent, we're also talking about the rules for deciding what to do about graves on land I own, and I do feel some right to speak to that, too. We're also not talking about closely and clearly culturally affiliated. I've agreed on that one, too. We're talking about the situation where the claim is solely "it is sacred to me".

I see this as an instance of a type of situation where cultural meanings and values conflict. It's one of a zillion. Abortion. Gay rights. Veils in France. Female circumcision/mutilation. Historic preservation. Polish history. The muzzein waking me up at 5am. Genocide in Ruanda. Saying 'not my business' just doesn't strike me as a workable response - maybe for veils in France I could say that, but somewhere there's a line.

There's a whole field of inquiry dedicated to this. Political science, they call it.

Okay, I'll take it as read that I'm simply ignorant of the answer, and the margin of this comment box is too small for it.


Posted by: Michael H Schneider | Link to this comment | 01-28-10 9:00 PM
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DO I DARE TO EAT A PEACH?SHALL I PUNCH YOU IN THE EYE?


Posted by: OPINIONATED GRANDMA | Link to this comment | 01-28-10 9:03 PM
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Of course I mean "closely and clearly culturally affiliated" to be determined by my privileged settler traditional rules. If you can come up with other rules that eliminate the possibility of having to weigh the relative merits of two claims for cultural affiliation, where the claim is based wholly on subjective factors of the claimant, tell me.


Posted by: Michael H Schneider | Link to this comment | 01-28-10 9:05 PM
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But the point is that you are merely setting your personal moral beliefs up as objective, which is bullshit.
i think people should act in accordance with their beliefs. you shouldn't stop just because someone disagrees with you. there isn't a way to figure who is "really" right.

its times like these i think the conservatives are right when they say that liberals are just as parochial as everyone else is, except in a reverse, self-loathing way.


Posted by: yoyo | Link to this comment | 01-28-10 9:07 PM
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I am, I believe, talking in good faith about what I honestly (to the best of my limited self-awareness) think.

No way. I don't believe you're genuinely this befuddled:
"How do we deecide whether to build the ski area on the peak, except by insisting on our settler privilege? Is there any other way? Do we decline to build, in order to atone for our sins?"

How on earth can we figure out to do with this mountain and this utterly nonverbal group of curious odd people-esque beings who we can't possibly collaborate with and come up with a situation that fits everyone involved? We must insist on settler's rights, or else decline to build out of aging guilt. It is a mystery.


Posted by: heebie-geebie | Link to this comment | 01-28-10 9:12 PM
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or this idiocy that if you just set up the rules right, then good results will follow, and you can avoid having to fight for waht you believe


Posted by: yoyo | Link to this comment | 01-28-10 9:14 PM
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the idea that you can 'own' a culture more than someone else is just absurd to me. About the most i would think is plausible is direct decendants who knew the creator during life might have a better claim to someone's things, for example christopher tolkein. But you are 'egyptian' so you own all the mummies? fuck off

Is surprisingly handy given that you're not Egyptian.


Posted by: Keir | Link to this comment | 01-28-10 9:18 PM
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He's probably not Christopher Tolkein either. Which is too bad because I'd like my copy of The Children of Húrin signed.


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 01-28-10 9:27 PM
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No way. I don't believe you're genuinely this befuddled:

I think I am that befuddled. I said 'here are my rules of thumb for deciding these question, based on dodgy understandings from some philosophy courses many decades ago". Teo and Keir, I understood to be saying "but those are your cultural traditions, you can't apply them to Native people" . I don't like that answer because (a) there are situations in which decisions have to be made; and (b) some of those situations end up with people killing a lot of other people.

Them Teo (and possibly Keir) seem to be saying "well, you have to talk to th people involved and decide how important it is to them". I don't like that because I really don't think anyone should be in the business of deciding whose beeliefs about the sacred are better or stronger or more sincere than someone elses.

So since my little rules of thumb have been rejected (they are indeed from my traeditions) I want some other rules. Or principles. Or something.

If you're saying that all such disputes should be mediated and a reasonable accomadation arrived at that all parties find acceptable - well, I could live with that. Except that (a) it would probably end up with similar situations being treated differently, which I tend to find unjust; and (b) I think there are a lot of such disagreements where no acceptable mediated settlement is possible.


Posted by: Michael H Schneider | Link to this comment | 01-28-10 9:32 PM
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I don't like that because I really don't think anyone should be in the business of deciding whose beeliefs about the sacred are better or stronger or more sincere than someone elses.

I'm all confused now. You're saying that statements about what is sacred are excluded, but that the right criterion to judge is whether people are "closely and clearly culturally affiliated" -- but to determine that, don't you have to talk to them and decide how closely affiliated they feel that they are? Is this not relevant?

Maybe it all hinges on 'clearly'. You can appeal to Descartes for that one, if we're playing grab-bag of old dead white philosophy dudes.


Posted by: essear | Link to this comment | 01-28-10 9:35 PM
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You want enlightenment modernist hocus-pocus voodoo and the oppression of the subaltern.


Posted by: Standpipe Bridgeplate | Link to this comment | 01-28-10 9:35 PM
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how closely affiliated they feel that they are?

Yeah, this is a problem with my set of rules of thumb. It's why I acknowledged that I was using my imperialistic definition of cultural affiliation to oppress the already oppressed. So to speak.

My intuition says that if we allow claims based primarily on subjective belief we get into a morass. This is the problem of the Navajos and Chaco, or the Mormons and the Jews, and the like, while allowing the Russian Orthodox Church and the Fort Ross cemetary. If you look at objective factors (continuity of language, same rituals, maybe similar genetics, same settlement patters, other bits of what I like to call 'data') at least you have a facially neutral method.


Posted by: Michael H Schneider | Link to this comment | 01-28-10 9:40 PM
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"Is surprisingly handy given that you're not Egyptian."

well, most people who claim to own stuff believe their own bullshit. whats weird is that anyone else falls for it too.


Posted by: yoyo | Link to this comment | 01-28-10 9:42 PM
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I mean, this 'same culture' rule makes about as much sense as saying that whoever looks most like the person in a painting or the person depicted in a sculpture should get to claim the work, until a better look-alike comes along.


Posted by: yoyo | Link to this comment | 01-28-10 9:50 PM
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Do you actually think that? Like seriously, that when you get down to it `culture' and all that's just rot?

(And `` `Egyptian' '' what the fuck?)


Posted by: Keir | Link to this comment | 01-28-10 9:57 PM
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I mean, this 'same culture' rule makes about as much sense ...

Here's the example I keep coming back to. Ft Ross, a state park in California. The park contains the partially reconstructed remains of the firsat Russian settlement in CA, from the 1800s. A fort. Associated buildings. There were Russians and natives living there. A cemetary, which is clearly identifiable (both from headstones and historical records) as the place that members of the Russian Orthodox church were buried.

For some reason it's necessary to move some of the graves (highway widening, I think, but it doesn't matter). No descendants of individual burials can be identified. Do we let the Russian Orthodox Church decide who and how and with what ceremony the burials get disinterred or not?

I say yes. Cultural affiliation. This example may or may not have anything to do with any actual park, living or dead, and any resemblance is purely coincidental.


Posted by: Michael H Schneider | Link to this comment | 01-28-10 9:58 PM
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yes


Posted by: yoyo | Link to this comment | 01-28-10 10:02 PM
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Wow, quite a party since I left.

teo's don't be a dick rule
Ahem. (Though teo's done a much better job of explaining it.)

Michael we're on to a whole nother set of questions now, but fwiw: It's sad that there's no simple and universally effective way to resolve conflicting beliefs, but here we are. Living in a pluralistic and tolerant society means sometimes holding off on your own desires so as not to really piss off others, even if you think they shouldn't be all that pissed off in the first place. Other times people are just going to have to suck it, because the harm that comes from, say, banning abortion far outways the benefits of not upsetting lifers.

If you really want to side with the archeologists against this "sacredness of human remains" business, then drop the Indian McGuffin and argue for digging up the chuchyards of New England. You get to stand with Science against Belief and it's (mostly) just white people. Win win!


Posted by: Jimmy Pongo | Link to this comment | 01-28-10 10:11 PM
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Wait, I crossed with 447 and now i have no idea what you're arguing. So your problem with Indian people objecting to their and only their graves being unprotected is that contemporary Indians don't have the right to care about ancestral remains because ... I'm not clear; something about a lack of institutional continuity?


Posted by: Jimmy Pongo | Link to this comment | 01-28-10 10:14 PM
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444: While "We plundered it fair and square" is a perfectly reasonable argument.


Posted by: Jimmy Pongo | Link to this comment | 01-28-10 10:17 PM
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finders keepers has the benefit of being administratable, even if it is just as dumb as any other excuse for 'ownership'


Posted by: yoyo | Link to this comment | 01-28-10 10:24 PM
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banning abortion far outways the benefits of not upsetting lifers.

I'm cool with comparative harm as a rule of thumb for evaluating choices. It can get slippery in deciding what constitutes harm (as with Teo's assertion that the harm of grave robbing outweighs the value of any data collected) but as a rule, I can live with it.

I'm not sure how to measure and weigh the harm to archeology and the importance of discerning genetic relationships among prehistoric populations, and looking into epidemic and disease as revealed in skeletal populations - but those are things that are discussable.

ontemporary Indians don't have the right to care about ancestral remains because ...

I want to draw line somewhere between "my great grandmother" or even "the prehistoric people who lived in this same general area and built the same sorts of houses and buried in the same sort of mounds and used the same sort of pottery which our great grandparents were using when white folks arrived" one the one hand ...

and "I have a deep belief that all Natives are One People and all Native remains are equally sacred to me, including the remains of the folks which historical records show my ancestors slaughtering and taking for slaves in the 1600s"

My problem with the latter is the same as my problem with abortion (all fetuses are sacred!) and gay rights (all gays are abomination!) and lurid paperback book covers (nekkid women evil!). It's not generalizable. You can't say 'if anyone thinks it is sacred, everyone else must follow this belief'. Undisturbed graves are scred to you, archeological data is sacred to me. Impasse. We need some sort of principled rule for making a distinction, a principle that at least many people can agree on, to avoid bad things.


Posted by: Michael H Schneider | Link to this comment | 01-28-10 10:27 PM
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see, e.g.
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kennewick_Man


Posted by: Michael H Schneider | Link to this comment | 01-28-10 10:28 PM
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And Teo's post, that he linked to way back up there somewhere, is a much better and more nuanced exploration (although I haven't fully digested it yet). It's this one:
http://gamblershouse.wordpress.com/2009/11/19/what-does-it-mean-to-be-navajo/


Posted by: Michael H Schneider | Link to this comment | 01-28-10 10:34 PM
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I'm going to bed, but the archeological value you're arguing for would be a lot more compelling from more recent graves. That may be meet my grandmother or it may be this is my ancestor because I've looked up the records and my people put names on gravestones. Either way those rules say only "our" graves are real graves. It's not even who gets to decide what happens to the remains. It's white folks' remains are presumptively sacred and Indian remains are not.

I know about Kennewick man, but I think you're getting lost in the ownership thing and missing the more immediate issues of how do we live together and whose graves are subject to digging up.


Posted by: Jimmy Pongo | Link to this comment | 01-28-10 10:46 PM
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Living in a pluralistic and tolerant society means sometimes holding off on your own desires so as not to really piss off others, even if you think they shouldn't be all that pissed off in the first place. Other times people are just going to have to suck it, because the harm that comes from, say, banning abortion far outways the benefits of not upsetting lifers.

Michael can speak for himself (obviously), but I gathered that what he's looking for are some standards for deciding which category a given situation falls in. And FWIW, it seems to me like a bunch of people jumped to accusations of racism without reading very carefully or assuming good faith.


Posted by: Not Prince Hamlet | Link to this comment | 01-29-10 12:06 AM
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Which is to say that I think Michael largely got jumped on because what he said initially looked like it was starting out to be the sort of thing unpleasant people say, not because he actually said anything particular unpleasant.


Posted by: Not Prince Hamlet | Link to this comment | 01-29-10 12:27 AM
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-ly.


Posted by: Not Prince Hamlet | Link to this comment | 01-29-10 12:27 AM
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This was an absurd discussion. Michael obviously had in mind "what rule do we draw so that Kennweick Man is on one side, and more recent remains are on the other." And yet, he insisted on arguing on some level of airy generality that allowed everyone else to play the role of St. George versus the Dragon of Illiberalism.


Posted by: Walt Someguy | Link to this comment | 01-29-10 1:52 AM
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118: I noticed that France does a much better job of this than Italy, and it was kind of painful to see great art rotting in Italy. Are the Italians third -worlders?


Posted by: Bostoniangirl | Link to this comment | 01-29-10 4:45 AM
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Are the Italians third -worlders?

Borderline.


Posted by: OFE | Link to this comment | 01-29-10 5:07 AM
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They just have so much great art that they get complacent. "Oh, another Canaletto gone mouldy. Still, plenty more where that came from."
This is why a programme of targetted pillaging is so vital - it spreads the wealth around.


Posted by: ajay | Link to this comment | 01-29-10 6:03 AM
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This was an absurd discussion.

That's employing a standard from a different culture.


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 01-29-10 6:37 AM
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More genealogy: Barack Obama distantly (tenth cousins) related to Scott Brown.


Posted by: Mary Catherine | Link to this comment | 01-29-10 8:14 AM
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finders keepers has the benefit of being administratable

Were you never a child, yoyo?


Posted by: essear | Link to this comment | 01-29-10 8:36 AM
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re: 461 and 462

Well, I can't speak for Italy in general, but I thought the museums in Rome were far superior to those in Paris. Better organized, better captioned, less insanely crowded, less insanely ridden with camera-wielding shitebags, generally nicer all round.


Posted by: nattarGcM ttaM | Link to this comment | 01-29-10 8:48 AM
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re: 465

Once you get out to be about 10th cousin aren't you more or less in the 'are human, and have ancestors from the same hemisphere'?


Posted by: nattarGcM ttaM | Link to this comment | 01-29-10 8:50 AM
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467. Well, the saying is that the third world starts when you go south of Rome, and certainly the museums in Naples were in a shocking state. The exhibits were better off than the building fabric, though.


Posted by: OFE | Link to this comment | 01-29-10 8:54 AM
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I thought the museums in Rome were far superior to those in Paris. Better organized, better captioned, less insanely crowded

Is this an apples-to-apples comparison? A place the size of the Galleria Borghese is a lot easier to organize and keep un-crowded than the Louvre or the Orsay. And the Vatican Museum is anything but well-organized and uncrowded.


Posted by: essear | Link to this comment | 01-29-10 9:04 AM
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I was astonished to see open windows and basically no humidity control at the Hermitage.


Posted by: Bave Dee | Link to this comment | 01-29-10 9:55 AM
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469: I thought the wogs start at Calais?


Posted by: oudemia | Link to this comment | 01-29-10 9:57 AM
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Oh, and to go back 200 comments or so, my grandmother has traced one line of my dad's family back to William Bradford, governor of the Plymouth colony. (She does genealogy partly for Mormon reasons, partly because she's obsessed with British royalty and keeps hoping to find aristocracy in the family tree.) And we haven't had PapistsRoman Catholics in the family for centuries, I'm pretty sure.


Posted by: Bave Dee | Link to this comment | 01-29-10 10:00 AM
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471: Just climate, maybe? Does it ever get hot enough to be humid in St. Petersburg?


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 01-29-10 10:02 AM
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re: 470

The Borghese is kind of a special case, I suppose, and my be my favourite museum/gallery anywhere. But I was thinking more of the Modern Art museum, the various churches around Poppolo, the Capitoline, etc all of which I thought were pretty decent. And I didn't think the Vatican was anywhere near as bad as the Louvre.


Posted by: nattarGcM ttaM | Link to this comment | 01-29-10 10:04 AM
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471: The czar didn't know any good HVAC guys.


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 01-29-10 10:05 AM
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Well, the saying is that the third world starts when you go south of Rome,

Good news for the Bulgarians!


Posted by: Cryptic ned | Link to this comment | 01-29-10 10:07 AM
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re: 473

I think something like 1 in 3 British people can trace their ancestry back to royalty if you go back seven or eight hundred years. The difference between Joe Bloggs and Prince Charles is he can trace his back via 3000 different routes, whereas the rest of us only by one or two.*

* I'm paraphrasing a geneticist I saw on TV.


Posted by: nattarGcM ttaM | Link to this comment | 01-29-10 10:09 AM
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Hey, English people -- I think we're going to be in London the week of the Fourth of July.

What would you do with a ten and eight year old other than the Tower of London, and who's near enough London to say hi to?


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 01-29-10 10:10 AM
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re: 477

And the porridge-wogs...


Posted by: nattarGcM ttaM | Link to this comment | 01-29-10 10:10 AM
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re: 479.2

Me, probably.

re: 479.1

Hampton Court, Windsor, the London Eye, Tate Modern, the British Museum, the Science Museum, the Victoria and Albert, etc etc. The list is long. If their attention span isn't bad, get groundling tickets for Shakespeare's Globe [def. worth it].


Posted by: nattarGcM ttaM | Link to this comment | 01-29-10 10:12 AM
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478: I think the point of saying that you're tenth cousins with someone, or that you can trace your ancestry back to Charlemagne, is to implicitly brag about your family record-keeping and stability -- it's easier to find records on rich people than poor people.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 01-29-10 10:12 AM
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480: Or the green wogs.


Posted by: oudemia | Link to this comment | 01-29-10 10:17 AM
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481: Excellent -- I knew Oxford was pretty close to London on the map, but that can be deceiving depending on local conditions.

I'm so looking forward to this -- Sally hasn't been out of the country since she was a year old, getting chickenpox (or Italian mystery pox) in Florence, and Newt never. One of the publications Buck writes for (The Reg/ist/er) is flying him out so he can actually meet everyone he works with, and we're making a vacation out of it.

I figure they could probably manage a Shakespeare play; I'll keep the Globe in mind.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 01-29-10 10:18 AM
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483: I could only find a recent version of that song, but, man, here's "Alternative Ulster" from '79.


Posted by: oudemia | Link to this comment | 01-29-10 10:20 AM
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OFE's in London, right?


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 01-29-10 10:22 AM
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Or "Suspect Device" from '78!

(Sorry. I'll stop now.)


Posted by: oudemia | Link to this comment | 01-29-10 10:22 AM
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re: 484

It's probable we'll be in London by then anyway. Am relocating [still working in Oxford, but will be commuting most of the time].

The Globe is quite a bit more entertaining than ordinary Shakespeare, esp. for kids. You get to stand [you can even lean on the stage if you find a place early enough], the action is really close [sometimes spilling off the stage into the audience], it's much more 'live' than in a normal theatre. Productions can be mixed. I've seen some there that have been really fantastic and some that have been not so good.

A trip out to Oxford might be something to do if you run out of things to do in London [not probable, though, I suppose]. It's about 50 minutes to an hour on the train.


Posted by: nattarGcM ttaM | Link to this comment | 01-29-10 10:23 AM
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484: HMS Belfast is pretty good from a ten-year-old's point of view, thinking back. Oxford is easily day-trippable and there are some interesting things to see there (mediaeval colleges, shrunken heads, mahogany X-ray machines). The Maritime Museum in Greenwich (east London) is also good fun, and they might have the Cutty Sark open for visitors again; if not, the Golden Hind is only a replica but a fairly good one.
If they want to see a proper castle, the closest and most impressive is probably Dover, also about an hour away by train.
The Globe's great - though you need strong knees to last through (eg) King Lear or something as a groundling.
Do not forget to try out the famous echo in the British Museum Reading Room!


Posted by: ajay | Link to this comment | 01-29-10 10:47 AM
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When I was the age of Newt and Sally the London Underground was pretty exciting. Might not be for New Yorkers, though. The maritime museum at Greenwich is teh awesome if you like boats even just a little bit.


Posted by: togolosh | Link to this comment | 01-29-10 10:47 AM
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Plus, if you go the Greenwich you can stand astride the Prime Meridian.


Posted by: togolosh | Link to this comment | 01-29-10 10:49 AM
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if not, the Golden Hind is only a replica but a fairly good one.

Ooo, Buck should like that too.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 01-29-10 10:50 AM
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And Harrison's chronometers! Neat.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 01-29-10 10:54 AM
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The camera obscura at Greenwich was pretty cool.


Posted by: Bave Dee | Link to this comment | 01-29-10 10:57 AM
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OFE's in London, right?

Wrong. I'm 250 miles away. Ajay and Alex are, though, and Asilon is in Reading which is closer than Oxford.

I'm tempted to come down.


Posted by: OFE | Link to this comment | 01-29-10 11:58 AM
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Michael obviously had in mind "what rule do we draw so that Kennweick Man is on one side, and more recent remains are on the other." And yet, he insisted on arguing on some level of airy generality that allowed everyone else to play the role of St. George versus the Dragon of Illiberalism.

Not to revive a dead argument, but it's more than that. Native people, being people, are full of shit at times, so "what any native person says, goes" isn't a workable standard when there's a conflict between what one or more native people want and what one or more non-native people want. I don't think anybody disagrees with that. The conversation Michael wanted to have is actually a more interesting one than another chorus of "whitey sucks", however true "whitey sucks" may be.

if you go the Greenwich you can stand astride the Prime Meridian

It's such a cool coincidence that it happens to run through the Royal Observatory.


Posted by: Not Prince Hamlet | Link to this comment | 01-29-10 12:01 PM
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And I didn't think the Vatican was anywhere near as bad as the Louvre.

Now that I think about it, the fact that I went to the Vatican Museums in July and the Louvre in February probably has something to do with my thinking that the Louvre is infinitely less crowded.


Posted by: essear | Link to this comment | 01-29-10 12:04 PM
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Kind of like the neat coincidence that John O'Connor's middle name was Cardinal, and then the Church made him one?


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 01-29-10 12:05 PM
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Not to revive a dead argument, but it's more than that. Native people, being people, are full of shit at times, so "what any native person says, goes" isn't a workable standard when there's a conflict between what one or more native people want and what one or more non-native people want. I don't think anybody disagrees with that. The conversation Michael wanted to have is actually a more interesting one than another chorus of "whitey sucks", however true "whitey sucks" may be.

That conversation is an interesting one, but it was really hard to get there from what Michael was saying.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 01-29-10 12:07 PM
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Pittsburgh is near 79 degrees in longitude. I can visit a prime meridian even if I can't visit The Prime Meridian.


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 01-29-10 12:09 PM
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500: Possibly the difference lies in who you've seen being unreasonable lately. If your frame of reference is the Kennewick Man controversy, you start the conversation with a different set of assumptions than if your frame of reference is pothunters and boorish archaeologists. Or American culture generally, for that matter. And it's certainly true that conversations on charged topics that start from different sets of unstated assumptions about what the conversation is about often deteriorate quickly.


Posted by: Not Prince Hamlet | Link to this comment | 01-29-10 12:11 PM
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501 to 499, not 500.


Posted by: Not Prince Hamlet | Link to this comment | 01-29-10 12:12 PM
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And I don't mean to say that there were no boorish archaeologists in the Kennewick man controversy. I don't remember a lot of the details.


Posted by: Not Prince Hamlet | Link to this comment | 01-29-10 12:14 PM
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If your frame of reference is the Kennewick Man controversy, you start the conversation with a different set of assumptions than if your frame of reference is pothunters and boorish archaeologists.

This, definitely. I don't think this is quite what was going on in this thread, though.


Posted by: teofilo | Link to this comment | 01-29-10 12:18 PM
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Kind of like the neat coincidence that John O'Connor's middle name was Cardinal, and then the Church made him one?


Er wunderte sich, daß den Katzen gerade an der Stelle zwei Löcher in den Pelz geschnitten wären, wo sie die Augen hätten.


Posted by: nosflow | Link to this comment | 01-29-10 12:21 PM
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And, circling back to the China issue, we have this.


Posted by: teofilo | Link to this comment | 01-29-10 12:43 PM
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I knew Angelina Jolie was not to be trusted.


Posted by: Not Prince Hamlet | Link to this comment | 01-29-10 1:00 PM
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No shit.


Posted by: Opinionated Jennifer | Link to this comment | 01-29-10 1:04 PM
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Wow, I didn't know anything about this Kennewick Man controversy until just now. To quote some interesting parts from the Wikipedia page:

Based on the Native American Graves Protection and Repatriation Act (NAGPRA), five Native American groups (the Nez Perce, Umatilla, Yakama, Wanapum, and Colville) claimed the remains as theirs, to be buried by traditional means... This fixed the age of the skeleton at approximately 8,400 radiocarbon years or 9,300 calendar years, not the nineteenth century, as had originally been assumed... Kennewick Man was not European but rather resembled South Asians and the Ainu people of northeast Asia.

This makes me think that bad cases make bad law. How often could corpses or relics plausibly be tied to any of five distinct groups that still exist? How often is something first assumed to be about a century old and then revealed to be over 8,000 years old? How many archaelogical finds are more closely related to the Ainu than anyone now living where they are found?

Nothing could have prevented a mess in that situation.

The Umatilla argued that their creation myths say that their people have been present on their historical territory since the dawn of time, so a government holding that Kennewick Man is not Native American is tantamount to the government's rejection of their religious beliefs.

It's tragic that our law takes this ridiculousness seriously. Call me imperialist if you want, and if absurd laws exist I suppose it is good that they are applied in equal defense of an embattled minority, but this interpretation of the First Amendment is still absurd and I think and hope I'd say the same thing about a white Christian making the same argument.


Posted by: Cyrus | Link to this comment | 01-29-10 1:12 PM
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Yeah, it's really unfortunate that the Kennewick Man case has loomed so large in the public discourse on these matters, because it was such a bizarre and unlikely combination of circumstances that it was virtually certain to end up as the total clusterfuck it was.


Posted by: teofilo | Link to this comment | 01-29-10 1:23 PM
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Right -- it actually didn't occur to me that Michael was mostly thinking of Kenn. Man until it was explicitly brought up. It seems so entirely different from most grave-robbing cases.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 01-29-10 1:25 PM
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I don't think he was, actually.


Posted by: teofilo | Link to this comment | 01-29-10 1:35 PM
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511: But it's not entirely different from the sort of controversies that crop up all the time wherever Native Americans and white folks brush up against each other.


Posted by: Not Prince Hamlet | Link to this comment | 01-29-10 1:35 PM
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Although he might have been, he could just as easily have been thinking primarily of any or all of several controversial but less sensational cases within the Southwest.


Posted by: teofilo | Link to this comment | 01-29-10 1:37 PM
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513: frottage is a social construction.


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 01-29-10 1:40 PM
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I know some archaeologists in The Home of the Brave and the Land of the Free (TM) who have a significant income stream from doing emergency appraisals where a construction project has unearthed a burial. They have n hours to get into the site, record any points of archaeological interest and get out, leaving the local government to hand over the body to somebody for reburial.

Colour me (with a "u") unconvinced.


Posted by: OFE | Link to this comment | 01-29-10 1:45 PM
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516: That sounds like a system for complying with some state-level burial law. Some states have them, some don't, and I believe they differ a bit from state to state. At the federal level, NAGPRA and various other federal laws apply, and they specify an extensive process for archaeological survey and, if necessary, excavation, as well as a method for dealing with burials and tribal consultation. This is what most professional archaeologists in the US spend most of their time doing.


Posted by: teofilo | Link to this comment | 01-29-10 1:51 PM
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Much more about federal-level excavation here.


Posted by: teofilo | Link to this comment | 01-29-10 1:53 PM
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Shorter this thread.


Posted by: teofilo | Link to this comment | 01-29-10 4:21 PM
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Ah, the idealism of youth.


Posted by: Not Prince Hamlet | Link to this comment | 01-29-10 4:27 PM
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Think back to this moment the next time everyone gets all shocked by my cynicism.


Posted by: teofilo | Link to this comment | 01-29-10 4:37 PM
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Somebody probably said this already -- if that's right, sorry; I was and am avoiding this thread's particulars, but I can't help looking in periodically to see what's the haps -- but if you're interested in the Kennewick Man controversy, this is a pretty good read. There are problems with the book, for sure, but I think it's still a useful introduction. And as I said, it's a very easy read.


Posted by: ari | Link to this comment | 01-29-10 4:48 PM
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I've been aimlessly clicking on the "Random" button at SMBC for several minutes now.


Posted by: Walt Someguy | Link to this comment | 01-29-10 4:50 PM
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523: Me too. It's pretty great.


Posted by: teofilo | Link to this comment | 01-29-10 4:52 PM
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This is a disturbing glimpse at our future.


Posted by: Walt Someguy | Link to this comment | 01-29-10 4:52 PM
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Me three! Even this is funny. And true.


Posted by: ari | Link to this comment | 01-29-10 4:57 PM
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That conversation is an interesting one, but it was really hard to get there from what Michael was saying.

Okay, as long as the horse is dead, I don't think it's too wrong to keep beating it. I'm sorry that I did such a poor job of communicating.

I think that what was going on was an inability to communicate across a cultural chasm. Okay, not chasm, more of a tiny fissure. That's the part I find so discouraging: I think I share at least 80% of my cultural assumptions with most of the people here, yet we were talking right past each other.

I think that the world has a serious problem communicating across cultural fissures. Or chasms. I think it's a serious problem. I think the problem leads to a lot of pain and death and other bad stuff.

I think that one of the cultural assumptions (norms, perhaps) that I don't fully share is something like "you should always treat others' beliefs with deference and respect".

Way back in the beginning, at 56, I tried to challenge the "don't be a dick about it" rule of cultural sensitivity (sorry about the later misattribution of the rule). My example of a group whose sacred things I didn't think I should be obliged to defer to was of a western white (largely) group - the Catholic church.

83 responded with what I took to be the normal 'you can't criticize others' beliefs, you must respect them unless you have something really important to say' standard. I disagreed again in 94, and mentioned things I thought I should be allowed to do that might ofend Jain, Christians and Muslims.

I probably should have dropped it there, but in 308 I came back and tried to put the question of respect for other cultures into the context of the OP. I tried to wrap the jade trinket into as brief as possible survey of some of the problems that have arisen in the real world where you'vegot people from different cultures negotiating the question of what it means to respect someone else's beliefs.

I mentioned Kennewick, Fort Ross, Jerusalem, the ski area case, and graves, and tried to tie them all back to the Crucifix. Later I mentioned DIckson Mounds. It's a burial mound site in Illinois that had been excavated and the burials left desplayed in situ. It was reburied and covered in 1992. (I remember some of those events). That was my way of trying to put some larger context and some real world examples into the discussion of treating others' beliefs with respect. My point, which apparently wasn't clear, was again that a nice simple rule such as 'treat others' beliefs with respect' doesn't really work in this world.

NPH is, I think, right in saying that Kennewick is not that unusual for situations where cultures meet (my wording, not his). Yes, it's a clusterfuck. But it's also a fairly typical clusterfuck, not all that different from some of what the US did recently in Iraq, or 200 years ago on this continent.

That was very much the discussion I wanted, and tried, to have. Sure, Whitey Sucks, but sometimes the Catholics suck and sometimes it's the Mormons and sometimes it's America and sometimes it's the Natives that suck and I really, really wish I had a better system for deciding "who sucks?"

That's my cultural belief: that saying "you're a dick if you don't treat others' beliefs with respect" isn't an adequate norm. Others disagree. But apparently we have no shared language for exploring that disagreement.


Posted by: Michael H Schneider | Link to this comment | 01-29-10 5:05 PM
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527 seems like a pretty good description of the problem here. In response, I'll just reiterate what I've been saying all along: Yes, there is a cultural chasm there, and I don't think there's a way to bridge it. You can keep trying if you want, but I don't think you can ever find the set of clear-cut, unambiguous rules you want. I don't think this is a problem; it's just the way things are. I don't really expect that very many people here are going to buy the postmodernist arguments that I've been presenting in this thread, but I do stand by them.


Posted by: teofilo | Link to this comment | 01-29-10 5:18 PM
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Fair enough. Thank you for your courtesy.


Posted by: Michael H Schneider | Link to this comment | 01-29-10 5:22 PM
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What kind of half-assed ending to the argument is that. Christ, what is wrong with you people? One of you is right, and one of you is wrong, and we can only establish who through the excellence of your personal insults.


Posted by: Walt Someguy | Link to this comment | 01-29-10 5:51 PM
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479 -- A few years ago, my son (then 11) I rented a car and drove out to Stonehenge. Driving in Britain is a total hoot, and getting out of London worth while.


Posted by: CharleyCarp | Link to this comment | 01-29-10 5:54 PM
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Is it too late to troll? Because I haven't read much of the thread, but I feel compelled to point out that white people dig up their ancestors a lot more than you'd think, particulary when their bones are in the way of growing cities (Paris catacombs, for example). On the other hand, no one really cared enough about the Chinese cemetaries in SF when they were carting the dead white males and females off to Colma - they just built over them.

Of course, it's not so much the digging up as it is who's making the decision about whose dead ancestors are being tossed into which piles of bones. But the "don't dig up dead people" norm has been surprisingly flexible.


Posted by: fake accent | Link to this comment | 01-29-10 6:50 PM
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I'm digging up fake accent's dead ancestors right now.


Posted by: Walt Someguy | Link to this comment | 01-29-10 7:01 PM
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Just so you know, their tradition is going to weigh like a nightmare on your brain.


Posted by: fake accent | Link to this comment | 01-29-10 7:05 PM
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A nightmare is a dream mountain.


Posted by: nosflow | Link to this comment | 01-29-10 7:12 PM
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It strikes me that the current post on Crooked Timber speaks to some of the issues raised in this thread.

Never mind the wandering into the question of organ donation; just the first paragraph of the post along with early comments regarding reflective equilibrium do enough to suggest that reasoning from first principles is not enough in this our messy lives with and among one another.


Posted by: parsimon | Link to this comment | 01-29-10 7:13 PM
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524: It'll only came as a relief from the voice in my head that is as stark and uncompromising as the Canadian Shield.


Posted by: Walt Someguy | Link to this comment | 01-29-10 7:18 PM
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reflective equilibrium

Good point.

It's not completely unlike the common law method of discovering legal principles, as least as described bt Karl Llewellyn (IIRC). He said it incolves considering a case, deriving a rule, applying the rule to the next case, seeing if it works well; if not, revise the rule. (for whatever value of "case" and "works well" you like).

I'm going to throw in another anecdote of dubious relevance: Long, long ago (late 80s?) I was sitting in a large but uncrowded hall at the annual meeting of the AAA*. One of the DeLorias (Vine, I think) was saying 'how would you feel about seomeone digging up your grandmother?' I remember thinking that this really did assume the answer to the pertinent question, which I'll get back to after this digression.

I remember listening on the radio to an eminent anthropologist from the University of Chicago commenting on protest demonstrations at Dickson Mounds. He was saying (IIRC) "these are Native American protesters, these burials in this mound are obviously Native American, so it's up to them and not up to white folks what happens to them".

It's the whole question of authenticity and identity construction and othering. It's Edward Said and orientalism. It's Nativism and immigrants. It's the Jets and the Sharks, the Hutus and the Tutsis.

Asking about 'your grandmother" presupposes a particular notion of kinship. In particular, it seems to presuppose an idealized notion of western kinship (which isn't even the notion of kinship observed among free ranging westerners). It assumes the notion of kinship that has the Academic Westerner sitting at a table in Bong-Tnuctip Land interviewing a native: "What do you call the woman who bore you" Oh, you call her K!mom. note: mother=k!mom. What do you call the male child of her k!mom? In other words, marriage and blood. It leaves no room for the real life questions: is your ex-wife's first husband's adopted daughter's boyfriend a member of your family, considering that you always invite them to Thanksgiving and Christmas?

Everyone is always reinventing themselves, their group identity, and is always othering others (so to speak). And yet my intuition says "Mormons just ain't Jews, never were, never will be". It also says "Mescaleros ain't related to Middle Woodland mound builders, never were, never will be". So I dunno.

* no, not Automobile, Anthropological.


Posted by: Michael H Schneider | Link to this comment | 01-29-10 7:39 PM
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I'll just say for my part, Michael, that we were misunderstanding eachother. As I hope would be clear from my later comments, I didn't mean "Don't be a dick" to imply "defer to other people's beliefs in all areas." That's not even possible. I simply meant, in the context of the OP, if you're collecting objects from another culture give some thought to the beliefs and sensitivities of that people. That way, if they come over to your house, you won't have to feel like an asshole. From your early examples I thought you were expressing a general hostility to religion. I should have been clearer that debates about public or personal morality are very different from not desecrating other people's sacred symbols or objects if you can help it. Of course there are situations where not doing so costs you something non-trivial, and there you're going to have to weigh the advantage that you think you or others are going to gain from a perceived desecration against the hurt it's going to cause. Not to import an old discussion, but if you look at the first part of this thread from EotAW (I'm JPool over there), you can see that what I'm arguing for is not so much post-modernist (though, yeah some) and certainly not unthinking defference, as considering individual cases, and their costs and benefits.

In any case, with the Native American remains thing, yes we can recognize that there are many systems of kinship and many kinds of mortuary practice, but at the end of the day if one group's ancestors bones get left where they were buried (or, when necessary moved and then reburied) and other people's get paved over or plowed under or dug up and put in a drawer, then, if you're part of that latter group, you understandably start to feel a bit singled out. And of course when it takes place as part of a larger pattern of dispossesion, violence and discrimination, then it feels like one more instance where the dominant culture is saying "Fuck you." So as interesting as the larger questions of identity and historical memory versus available historical record are, if they're only applied to one side in the conflict it becomes one big excuse to dismiss the claims of indigenous people.


Posted by: Jimmy Pongo | Link to this comment | 01-29-10 8:40 PM
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huh, Llewellen and kennewick man bring back law school memories.

Also, it was during that time i was wondering about london a sunday night, without much to do. went passed the Globe, realized it was open, and had a really great time for some silly low price. can't remember what play, but i can't remember much about most narrative art i consume.

and yes, i am a (man)child.


Posted by: yoyo | Link to this comment | 01-29-10 8:53 PM
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Thank you, JP, that helps me understand. Maybe if I point to some of the places where we seem to diverge you'll be able to correct me if I'm wrong.

I'm going to start with the first sentence of you second paragraph. I'm assuming that you're writing in something like the same tradition I was taught, and this is the topic sentece which identifies the key concepts. You say:

but at the end of the day if one group's ancestors

Two questionable assumptions underlie that statement. First, that we have one group. Second, that they have ancestors. I think both those assumptions are problematical.

According to my creation myths, at the time europeans arrived North America was home to a bunch of different groups. That experiences and beliefs varied both within and between (among?) these groups. That the Ho-chunk were different from the Seminole and both were very different from the people of Ohkay Owingeh. I'd also say that the Spanish speakers who arrived in the 1500s were different from the Athabaskan speakers who arrived (probably) in the 1400s, and they were not the same as the English in the northeast or the French speakers in the midwest and Canada. In other words, the Mohawk steel workers who helped build the Empire State Building are a very different bunch than the Navajo who were enjoying(!?) the government remedy for sheep overgrazing at the same time.

"Ancestors" is also problematical, even though you so blithely discard any non-western notion of descent. Once you disaggregate the Pueblos from the Ho-Chunk, the question of who are the descendants of the Anasazi is different from the question of the descendants of the Mississippians. Both of those are cake, however, compared to identifying the descendants of the people buried in an Archaic mound.

Even assuming group and ancestor, you have a problem with your characterization of what happens to the bones. You divide it into two: left where they were buried (or, when necessary moved and then reburied) and other people's get paved over or plowed under or dug up and put in a drawer, As fa pointed out above, even western practice isn't so simple. Certainly there were widely varying practices among the people we're now calling natives. There's archaeologoical evidence of reburial, where (most) of the bones of someone (or sometwo) who's had time for the bones to disarticulate is gathered up and buried. There's also historical evidence of bodies being deliberately left exposed, and not buried at all (at least for a time). There has also beed widely varying treatment of non-white bones by the dominant culture at different times and places.

I'm certainly not denying that English speaking european settlers tended to oppress natives as if they were a large undifferentiated mass, and to treat their bone (and their artwork etc) as if they were curios. I'm saying that I'm not sure that the way to remedy the effects of this past mistreatment, and to do right in the future, is to treat Natives as a large undifferentiated group and always rebury any bones that aren't clearly historic white folks. I take this position despite the fact that some individual members of the oppressed groups are saying "treat us as one undifferentiated mass and always let us rebury."

I also recognize that culture changes, and beliefs change, and there's nothing inherently illegitimate in a group of people deciding to aggregate and co-identify, and nothing inherently wrong in that group identifying itself as the descendants of a prehistoric group. However, culture is contested, and I think that others who also have some interest in that prehistoric group have a right to contest the claim. I think that the question of how to decide such competing claims is one we should be able to discuss.

I had intended to go back and disagree with your fisrt paragraph, but in an effort to be clear I've gone on far too long. Let me just hint that I'm not at all sure that the rules for dealing with sacred bones should be any different from the rules dealing with sacred mountain peaks - and that when we're dealing with non-exclusive sacred symbols (US flags, crucifixes, phylacteries, Hopewell Propellers*) I do think the rules should be different.

*the funny looking thing pictured on the upper left corner of this page:
http://www.caa-archeology.org/


Posted by: Michael H Schneider | Link to this comment | 01-30-10 1:48 PM
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I'm all for discussion, I'd just be opposed to any presumptive finding in favor of archeologists or developers or whoever.

As far as I'm concerned, it's not a matter of you being wrong (there's that damn pomo thing again), as the two of us having different beliefs about what the relevant questions are to a particular dynamic. For me, the more relevant point here is one that you acknowledge: we can all (hopefully) agree that race is a biological myth and still recognize that it is a social reality. Similarly, while we can raise empiracal questions about the validity of particular historical memories or mythologies, but that doesn't make them irrelevant to figuring out how to resolve a particular contemporary conflict.

I still think that Kennewick Man was a particularly extreme case and not typical of these sort of political conflicts. When multiple contemporary Indian governments claim ownership of a particular set of remains, and the historical record is spotty at best, and archeolgist have a competing claim for historical knowledge, then you need to work out how to resolve that, not so that everyone is happy, but at least so everyone feels they weren't dismissed out of hand. If the argument is "Ethnic identity is impossible to establish at this time-depth and there are unique advantages to studying these remains, so lets discuss possible compromises," I'm all on board. If, however, it's "You people can't prove anything historically, so we're keeping these bones forever. Another triumph for science!" then I'm pretty sure you're being a dick.

Again, I'd be a lot more comfortable with your line of argument if you were arguing for digging up remains or remains older than x as a general rule, rather than Indian remains specifically. People in contemporary New England are living very different lives from their Puritan "ancestors," so clearly we should be able to dig up and study all of those remains and then keep them in storage cabinets in case we want to study them some more later. I'd still disagree with this argument, but it'd sound a lot less like "Damned Indians, getting in the way of my historical study."


Posted by: Jimmy Pongo | Link to this comment | 01-31-10 11:27 AM
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Race is a social reality, but that doesn't mean it is fixed and immutable. It's constructed (we've been through that discussion, right?) and can be reconstructed or demolished or even renovated under the supervision of a licensed social architect*. Besides, we're really talking ethnicity, which is also constructed, and also subject to change.

Native identity in the new world has been constructed and reconstructed and demolished and had aluminum siding put on many times over the many years. No problem. That's the nature of identity, ethnicity, social identity and all that. But: social construction means that everyone in the social group gets to participate in the construction. It takes a village to construct a group identity.

Upthread there were people saying "you are not in the social group, you get no say". I disagree. We're talking about a history that includes a lot of different people - Europeans (of many types) and natives (of many types) and a lot of events and times. We're talking (in part) about the effects of European settlement - and surely Europeans have a legitimate interest in how that history is constructed. We're also talking about identity of a group of citizens in the modern USA. Surely everyone is part of the village that particiaptes in the creation of American identity - especially when you're affecting public lands and federal treaty obligations.

Kennewick is not that unusual, at least according to my memory (always a dubious source). Another example I've mentioned before is Dickson Mounds. Look at this web page ** and read one official version of the history. You'll notice that we have the State of Illinois participating in the creation of the generalized homogeneous "Native" identity. The bones were reburied, but there's no discussion of whose bones they were or what the cultural affiliations were. They were all "Native bones".

If you go around the country visiting parks and museums (as I like to do) you'll notice that there are practically no more displays of anything to do with mortuary practice. None. They've all been purged. And yet there's also very little on the history of culture and change in the archaeological record, especially as it relates to modern nations.

I think the problem is that people have been following the recipe for evaluating claims that I thought I heard being suggested here: talk to the various people, see who it's important to, and how important it is to them.

This has led to a competition to see who can manifest the most outrage. Some individual natives have been very good, talking about "let my Granny rest in peace!". In contrast, archaeologist tend to be all "well, Ales Hrdlicka's influential report to the BAE in 1907 about human skeletal remains found ... ." So on the outrage-o-meter it's Native activists 1, white folks zero. In my recollection this is true even when the connection between the natives and the remains is very very tenuous. My recollection of the Dickson mounds protest is that most of the burials were middle woodland (ca 1000 CE) while one of the major activists was Mescalero. The Mescalero are an Athabaskan speaking group who probably immigrated from northern Canada to the Southwest US around 1200 to 1500 CE.

I think the social construction of history - and the related construction of identity - is a game everyone should be allowed to play. I don't think Mormons should have the exclusive right to write Mormon history, I wouldn't let Jews have the exclusive right to the history of Jerusalem, non-Catholics should be able to write the history of that church, etc.. I think that makes for a better and richer world.

The problem with "everyone feels they weren't dismissed out of hand." is you end up with no limits at all. Everything grinds to a halt, just as it did with Kennewick. You end up spending so much time and money considering every person's feelings that you can never settle anything. It's far easier to simply throw up your hands and say "rebury everything", which is what happened at Dickson (IIRC). You end up with a history from which a whole lot has simply disappeared. You end up with Dickson Mounds State Park, a park built around a burial mound, with no information on the burials.

The other problem with "everyone feels they weren't dismissed out of hand" is that all the crazies come out. You get the Navajo who feel a deep cultural attachment to Chaco. You get the new age spiritualists who are sure that they're the reincarnated spirit of Sacajaweya. You get the patriots who say "I get to decide how you treat your American flag." You get the Kennewick clusterfuck.

If I can put in broader context again, I don't think that every history of WWII has to give serious attention to the Holocaust deniers. I don't think that the Smithsonian exhibit on the Enola Gay should minimize the effect on the civilian population, nor should it shy away from questions about the necessity of the attack. I don't think textbooks in Texas should eliminate evolution and replace it with the wonderful heroism of Phyllis Schlafly.

My way of limiting this mess is to say: first, your subjective feeling aren't something I can evaluate, or weigh, or judge, so I'm refusing to consider them. If all you've got is your subjective feeling, tough.

It's my social reality, and I wanna build it my way.


*n.b. this is a joke
** http://www.museum.state.il.us/ismsites/dickson/history.htm


Posted by: Michael H Schneider | Link to this comment | 01-31-10 6:01 PM
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There have been a few times where I'd have colleagues in African or African-American studies express suspicion about arguments on the socially constructed nature of race, thinking that they were just one more way to dismiss people's experience of racism or take apart their cultural identity. "C'mon," I would think, "no one promoting a constuctivist view of race thinks of it that way, they just want to emphasize that there no (or no independently meaningful) biological there there." And then I find myself in this conversation.

OK, we're arguing in a dead thread and I really feel like you're trolling me now, so perhaps it's best just to stop. If you want to respond to my last paragraph in 542, I'd be very interested as to why this just seems to be about Indian remains to you. Otherwise, I'm afraid the things that seem to outrage you don't outrage me.

In case I didn't make this clear before, I'm a historian and I think that an accurate and compelling reconstruction of the past is a very fine thing, but it doesn't always come first or trump other concerns. I also don't find your description of the conflict between Native activists and archeologists (which, of course, don't take place in isolation from the broader conflicts) all that persuasive. I don't think the opinions and desires of Euro-Americans are in any danger of being shut out of the discussions of how land or sites are managed in this country. I don't expect you to agree with me, but if you say that Indian people don't have any more claim to pre-Columbian remains than you do (and in fact have less because there are fewer of them to vote or they're not advancing science or your side won, or whatever it is that you're actually arguing), then I say "You're on stolen land. Have some fucking humility."

I'm also having a hard time reconciling "I'm not very well educated" with "while attending the annual meeting of the American Anthropological Association," but that's neither here nor there.


Posted by: Jimmy Pongo | Link to this comment | 01-31-10 9:18 PM
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I'd be very interested as to why this just seems to be about Indian remains to you. ... but if you say that Indian people don't have any more claim to pre-Columbian remains than you do

Before I abandon this I'm going to correct this misstatement of my position.

I'm saying that:

1. The bones problem is one instance or example of a larger class of problems encountered in the context of contact between (among) cultures: what to do when some people claim a special right to possess or control certain objects or symbols, and this claim is wholly based on their subjective beliefs*.

2. That 'Indians' is not the appropriate analytical category for bones in the US (or for mountain peaks, or much else). That a finer grained analysis, taking account of individual and tribal history, belief, and practice, is necessary.

3. That this finer grained analysis is going to involve something like cultural affiliation, but that identifying and defining cultural affiliation is problematical, culture bound, and a can of worms.

4. That absent clear ownership (under whatever legal system) or clear cultural affiliation (however determined) everyone should have equal right to play with the history, the symbols, and the material. I recognize that both ownership and affiliation are contested and culture bound concepts, and I'd like to find better ones, but that's all I've got.

* that's why it may look like I'm concerned only about Indian bones. When you've got a burial with a cross for a headstone in the yard of a Catholic church, you've got something more than subjective belief to tie these bones to this particular culture. With the Catholic church you've got a strict hierarchical organization that can demonstrate historical continuity so there's really only one entity that can make a claim of special relationship. When you've got burials associated with a prehistoric pueblo on land that's been in the possession and control of one particular pueblo group for the last 500 years, again you've got a clear situation.


Posted by: Michael H Schneider | Link to this comment | 02- 1-10 9:21 AM
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