Monday, July 25, 2011

Oldest art in Western Hemisphere found by fossil hunter. Ack.

A few years ago, James Kennedy, an amateur fossil hunter, found a piece of fossilized bone at Vero Beach in Florida. For two years, the bone sat in a box under his kitchen sink (!!!) until he discovered that on the bone was an engraving of a mammoth. After three years of research, scientists have determined that the engraving on the fossilized bone (which belonged to a mammoth, a mastadon, or a giant sloth) is the oldest known prehistoric art ever found in the Western Hemisphere, clocking in at 13,000 years old.

This excites me. I am legitimately excited about this find. HOWEVER, I’m really not so keen on its finder, James Kennedy, or on the NPR article about this event. NPR has featured some unfortunately misleading word use before, but I’m having a hard time finding anything redeeming about Kennedy’s first quote: “I mean I’m not a scientist. I just go out and dig up bones good. I’m good at finding them. That’s one thing I do do, buddy.” Yeah, buddy. I’m sure you do do.

I’m frustrated for three big reasons right now: first, this guy may have found an incredibly important artifact (ecofact? which word would be best here?), the importance of which has brought Vero Beach to the attention of archaeologists and researchers again, but who knows what kind of context he may have destroyed in order to get this bone. Second, he’s going to sell the bone. Not donate it to a major institution that could keep it safe and make it available to the public and to scholars for research, but sell it to someone rich enough who may or may not make it available for research and education. He automatically looses about a thousand points with me for this. Third, this NPR article is the only one I can find that has recently covered this story, and they seem to be playing up the “treasure hunter makes it big” angle and encouraging looting.

Yikes, NPR. This is not what loving history responsibly looks like, and you should know that. This is not what we’re encouraging here. We are encouraging people having an interest in these things, but being wise enough to know that if they want to interact with them on regular basis, they should get a degree first or volunteer for a legitimate institution/organization. Not go and dig stuff up and keep it under their kitchen sinks. We are encouraging the preservation of history, no matter how old, and the sharing of this history with the world, not just one person for lots of money. We are also encouraging better journalism; you made Charles Lacer sound like a looter, and you’re sort of making James Kennedy sound like one too. If there is something I am missing from this story that may be redeeming, then I am sorry, Mr. Kennedy, for disliking you. However, from what I understand, James Kennedy is not interested in loving history or finding ways to enjoy prehistoric artifacts in a responsible way. This is 2011, not 1911. Most of us are aware that there are many legal and mutually beneficial ways to enjoy and preserve very very old things. Those people who are aware of this and choose to dig anyway should be financially bitch slapped by the government for consciously threatening the preservation of our common history.

1 comment:

  1. ur just jealous,or is it that time of the month? u might be surprised to know all iv done in the name of science in this matter. urs truly J.K