Archaeology Side’s Propaganda Experiences

Propaganda is a significant factor in all major public disagreements.  It is never enough to just subdue a perceived opponent. You also have to go after him psychologically and degrade his reputation before great masses of people to win their hearts and minds to your cause.  Propaganda by its very nature is a cleverly crafted fabric of truths, lies, half-truths, distortions of reality, hiding of truths, and the use of one or two small incidents and a few individuals to broad-brush a large group of people and paint them in as negative a manner as possible. This page asks  professional archaeologists to tell us about instances of propaganda that collectors of Native American artifacts and historic-era artifacts use to unfairly paint all professional archaeologists as bad people.  For example, one of the most famous pieces of artifact collector propaganda is: “All professional archaeologists are hypocrites because they really just want the artifacts alone—the same unpardonable sin they accuse us of committing.”  Tell us about specific instances where artifact collectors have attempted to paint all professional archaeologists as bad people.  Tell us what they said and why it was so wrong and unfair.  You may do so in the Leave a Reply box below.

The following is an Example of Archaeology Side Propaganda Experience of the general kind or type that we would like to see professional archaeologists write into the Leave a Reply box below.  Your experiences can be either short or long.  That is all up to you.

Example of Archaeology Side Propaganda Experience

Occasionally, an ordinary citizen will find a few artifacts on the ground surface.  This person would like to know what types of artifacts they have, who made them, and how old they are.  For several decades in various media venues, I have seen artifact collectors advise these citizens to avoid taking their artifacts to a professional archaeologist or museum curator to get their questions answered.  The collectors advise the citizen that no archaeologist or museum curator can be trusted.  An archaeologist or curator will ask him to leave his artifacts at their facility for a while until they can be properly examined so an accurate opinion can be offered.  The citizen will happily leave his artifacts there for a couple of weeks or months.  Then the citizen will come back to retrieve their artifacts and the related archaeological information they had sought. When he does, he will be confronted by an archaeologist or curator who will tell him that they have no idea who he is or what artifacts he is talking about.  The archaeologist or curator will claim that they have no such artifacts in their possession and kindly ask the upset citizen to leave the facility and never come back again.

In reality, nearly all professional archaeologists and museum curators are honest and ethical  professionals who would never dream of plotting and implementing such illegal thievery.  However, even the archaeological barrel may have had one or two bad apples in it, and it is possible that this story could have happened to one or two citizens somewhere and at sometime in the past. Rather than accept the truth of our overall professional integrity, many artifact collectors who dislike professional archaeologists delight in seizing onto this old tale and freely passing it around as propaganda to make all professional archaeologists and museum curators look bad in the eyes of other artifact collectors and the American public.  We archaeologists and museum curators believe this is wrong, unfair, and just plain dirty dealing.

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