• FTP-0434-Black-stones-copy-1024x768
  • figure-18-1024x768
  • Figure-13-plan-of-fifa-2011-640x480
  • bab-adh-dhra-pots-on-display-at-the-pittsburgh-theological-seminary-2012-1024x768
  • MMK-Plane-1024x768
  • Iron-Age-Fort-copy-1024x768
  • FTP-IR-drawing-an-elevation-copy-1024x768
  • FTP-0115-B4-Diagnostics-2-copy-1024x768
  • FTP-0266-F4-Tabular-scraper-copy-1024x768
  • FTP-0003-Jan-27-IR-and-HB-surveying-copy-1024x768

Significance

The Big Picture and Project Objectives

At its heart, Follow the Pots urges archaeologists to rethink their privileged position of controlling how people value and use the past, to reflect on our relationship to the people and things we study, and to evaluate our own actions and how they may or may not contribute to ongoing colonial attitudes and practices. What this means is that we question the assumed authority we have as archaeologists to make determinations about what people should or should not do with their archaeological heritage resources.

In our research, we track these EBA pots as a vehicle for exploring how different stakeholders value this archaeological resource. We are interested in learning how the inhabitants of the southern Ghor value these archaeological sites and materials, whether they are looters, middlemen or simply community members uninvolved in the illegal market. We also investigate why people value these pots enough to purchase them through legal or illegal avenues.

In following these pots through legal transactions, especially involving museums, we hope to explore possibilities for ways Jordan and other countries can address the increasing problem of storage and education through museums. All excavated material has to be stored (or curated) by sponsoring institutions, whether that means by local or federal government entities, museums, universities, research laboratories or scientific institutes. Part of FTP requires us to track the movement of tomb pottery and other grave goods excavated from these sites in the 1960s. Many of the grave goods from dozens of tombs were offered for purchase in the 1970s to museums, universities, and research institutions in exchange for displaying them to the public. Currently we are ascertaining if these objects are still held by the institutions that purchased them nearly 40 years ago, and if they are still on display as mandated by the legal agreement between each institution and the EDSP.

What we do know is this: BOTH looting and excavation force a rebirth of material culture, launching pots and other grave goods onto new pathways as archaeological objects to be studied, and art, tourist, or religious objects to be purchased by collectors. We know a tremendous amount about how archaeologists value these objects, but we know relatively little about how local community members, looters, middlemen, antiquities dealers and collectors value them. If we are hoping to stem the tide of looting by working with the local community members to find a way to use their archaeological heritage resources in a different and more sustainable way, then we need to be more empathetic and open to listening and learning from these folks.

Ultimately, we hope to offer a more nuanced and balanced set of answers to the question “Why Looting Matters”? Historically archaeologists have failed to convince looters, collectors, and other stakeholders that looting is problematic, largely because archaeologists rarely dedicated time to learning about how other people might value archaeological objects. Archaeologists also tend to cast themselves as the “good guys”, with the “bad guys” roles filled by looters, collectors, and middlemen. In fact, we think that archaeologists are in many ways the same as the collectors, looters, and middlemen, because we all value these resources and want to use them for specific purposes to achieve goals. In the end, both looters and archaeologists excavate materials from the ground and send them along a path that removes them from their original context to be valued in one way or another.