Société d'archéologie de l'uOttawa – uOttawa Archaeology Society

Join AIA in Opposing Treasure Hunting Shows

Hi everyone. I am pasting the recent AIA e-update here, just in case you don’t already get it!

Dear AIA members,

The AIA has learned of two new TV shows that promote treasure hunting to find archaeological objects. National Geographic’s “Diggers” airs tonight and Spike TV’s “American Diggers” will air next month. Both shows feature metal detectorists and at least one (“American Diggers”) emphasizes the commercial value of the found objects. The AIA believes that these shows promote the looting and destruction of archaeological sites.

The AIA has joined several other groups including the SAA, SHA, and RPA in voicing concern about these programs and the negative messages they send about cultural heritage and its recovery. Links to copies of the SAA and SHA letters can be found at the bottom of this letter.

We would like to ask you, our members and archaeology enthusiasts, to send letters and/or e-mails to the companies involved asking them to alter the message of the shows and to provide disclaimers during the airing of the show that makes it clear that what the shows are promoting is unethical and in some instances may even be illegal. We hope that they will engage in a meaningful dialogue with archaeologists about the illicit practices they promote.

Elizabeth Bartman
Elizabeth Bartman

Voice your Concern

Spike TV
Scott Gurney and Deirdre Gurney
Gurney Productions, Inc.
8929 S. Sepulveda Blvd., Suite 510
Los Angeles, California 90045

Kevin Kay
President, Spike TV
1633 Broadway
New York, New York 10019

Send comments or questions regarding National Geographic Channel television programming:

There are also Facebook Pages where you can comment.
One is a “People against American Diggers” Facebook Page:!/pages/People-against-Spike-TVs-American-Digger/193110227460512

If you would like to add comments to the Spike website, please visit the comments section at the bottom of the following page:

The Spike TV announcement is available at:

See Letters Submitted by the SAA and SHA

SAA Letters:
http ://

SHA Letters:



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One thought on “Join AIA in Opposing Treasure Hunting Shows

  1. George on said:

    The dull-witted outrage I see concerning this mere TV show would be better directed at how such artifacts–our heritage, our ancestor’s labor–is treated *after* it is removed from the ground, especially by “professionals.”

    An artifact may survive, buried, for thousands of years: When removed from the ground and taken to a museum, it begins to die.

    For years I was involved with museums and object “conservation,” and am absolutely disgusted with the way an artifact may be treated once taken from the ground–or an attic–and subjected to the museum environment: Ridiculous atmospheric/environmental conditions; bright, hot, UV-emitting lights blazing directly on books, fabrics, dyes and other organic materials on display; objects placed on freshly-painted surfaces in new display cases with no barriers between the artifact and the paint–the paint and wood outgassing, subjecting the object to damaging vapors; objects–in vaults–covered with dust and soot; insect infestations which have devastated artifacts; previous pesticide mitigations which have contaminated objects with lead, arsenic, mercury and other toxins to the point one can’t go near them without a Haz-Mat suit; objects improperly stored, in some cases piled willy-nilly on top of each other; steam and plumbing pipes running across vault ceilings, in some cases dripping with condensation or leaking outright; inept conservators; clueless curators–the list goes on-and-on. I have seen this in the US, the UK, even Germany.

    I would be hard-pressed to believe that many of the commentators against this series have not witnessed some of these disgraces in various museums. A few may be responsible for some of them.

    Years ago, on the second-floor of the Cairo Museum, I went to the rear of the hall to see that Cairo’s 1-inch annual rainfall had, over the years, leaked through a window, into a showcase, destroyed much of the millennia-old organic material holding together some of Tutankhamen’s jewelry, and stained the lining on the bottom of the showcase. I have seen the same sort of disgrace in a museum in the Eastern US and even here in the Mid-West.

    A great many museums need to clean up their acts before they maintain they are the only appropriate places for artifacts. I wonder how many would be willing to let Spike–or any other TV team–inspect their vaults with cameras?

    But to the point of the breast-beating and gnashing-of-teeth concerning the series: There were tens of thousands of cannon and hundreds of thousands of muskets used during the Civil War–not to mention beer bottles, bullets and artillery shell fragments. The North American Continent is littered with arrowheads. How bloody many of these and other artifacts do museums think they need anyway? All of them? Every single, solitary one? Why? What will be done with them? Will they be all put on display? No. No, not by a very, very long shot. They would need a collective display space the size of Rhode Island. Will they eventually be seen as useless to the museum, deaccessioned and sold at auction? Maybe, it happens. Will the original finders (legitimate owners) see any money from such an auction? No. They can go suck an egg as far as museums are concerned.

    In many, if not most cases, a typical artifact–one of many (maybe hundreds or thousands) of it’s type–will be placed to languish in the museum’s vaults. Even rare and one-of-a-kind artifacts meet this fate: There is a strong likelihood it will never be seen again. Ever. Remember the humongous warehouse at the end of Raiders of the Lost Ark? Yeah. Kinda like that. Only sometimes, not as clean and well-organized. Or big.

    While it is true that these objects may be available for inspection by researchers, (not always; ask the Vatican which has turned away some of the most eminent researchers in the world), the reality is the overwhelming majority will never be properly examined or placed on display. They will go forever unseen and unloved, unlike the same or similar objects in the hands of private collectors.

    Returning to the major point: Does anyone REALLY believe these Spike people–being filmed for worldwide TV–will let a significant find go unreported? That they won’t allow the context to be properly documented? You’re delusional. Let me clue you in, pal: Nobody’s going to go to jail or be publically pilloried for a TV show. Get real. Get help, you need it.

    If I find anything more intriguing than an arrowhead on my property, am I going to call an object-related-professional to have a look at it, and continue the dig? You bet! It may be something never seen before, perhaps of tremendous historic significance. If so, I will place it on permanent loan to an appropriate museum and monitor it’s care, because–unless you really believe Robin Hood deserved the death penalty for poaching the “King’s” Deer–it’s mine.

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