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2019-06-09 10:06:53   •   ID: 2106

Archeologists and Collectors: Different Worlds

Figure 1
Here I display early 20th century findings - a Middle Paleolithic scraper from Venosa (Basilicata, Italy; Figure 1 and 2) and a small Handaxe from Fontmaure (Vienne, France; Figure 3).

While the first item was part of a private collection of a Professor from Padua, the second comes from the Excavator of Fontmaure L. Pradel, parts of his collection were sold after his death.

Science is the observation, identification, description, experimental investigation, and theoretical explanation of natural phenomena.

The reliability of the scientific results can be verified or falsified by the replication of the investigation, the validation by other investigations and by theoretical models.

Figure 2
Therefore, science is an open process, working with hypotheses that can be verified or falsified.

Paleolithic archaeology has become a highly specialized, interdisciplinary scientific discipline, therefore, there can be no hobby archaeologists- as there are no hobby doctors.

Most of the founders of modern Prehistoric research were keen collectors themselves, and even F. Bordes gave away artifacts from Corbiac as "souvenirs" to others.

Today there are virtually no points of contact between scientists and collectors of Paleolithic artifacts, which is the logical consequence of the professionalization of Archaeological science and the unproven paradigm, that collecting artifacts will inevitably stimulating looting. For some archeologists, collectors are criminal, dull and ignorant creatures.--but that's it...

Collectors of Paleolithic artifacts may find Paleolithics during systematic field-walks ideally under the auspices of local authorities, others are more interested in the beauty and aura of exceptional pieces or representative tool-kits from a provenanced location see: 1392 .

Collectors are deeply emotional involved in their collections, they are an important part of their Identity, and well-being. I know collectors, who assemble "fossil directeurs" from the French Paleolithic, collect only perfect symmetrical Handaxes, assemble exceptional lithics from Eurasia and Africa- the motives for a collection are manyfold....

The common view of Archaeolocists, that antiquities are collected for gaining social prestige is reductionist, dismissive and insufficient. The same hols true for psychopathological interpretations, although collectionitis occures in certain individuals.

Figure 2
Regarding the fact that many thousands of Paleolithic artifacts were amassed in large Collections during the late 19th and early 20th century, especially in France, where private activities were allowed until 1941, the collector can choose from items circulating in collectors networks without getting involved into legal issues.

There is simply no need to acquire items from looting operations and of course Collectors should develop a sensible ethical view on collecting. A network between other collectors remains the best option for the acquisition of legal and authentic Stone tools.

Anyhow, even the fact that Paleolithic artifacts in private hands are decontextualized, they may be recontextualized, which is far the best what a collector can do with scientifically uninteresting stone tools- for his/her own pleasure and the pleasure of others.

Suggested Reading: Erin Thompson: Possession: The Curious History of Private Collectors from Antiquity to the Present