Wednesday, April 4, 2012

Television and Archaeology: The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly

This entry is going to be rather unique compared to the previous ones as it relies solely on my own experience and opinions. This time I will look be looking at three different television shows that are similar in that they all have connections to archaeology, but are different in how they portray it. I have used the headings 'The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly' to portray my personal opinion of each.

The Good:

National Geographic recently aired a new show titled 'Diggers' which follows the stories of a team whose hobby is metal detecting. Although this seems like a fair idea for a show, many people took issue with it before its pilot even aired, saying that it encouraged treasure hunting and the destruction of historical sites when proper measures are not taken to document the site before removing artifacts.

With the show promoting the destruction of historical sites and possibly artifacts, you must be questing why I have placed it under the banner of 'The Good'. National Geographic has acknowledged the concerns and issues raised, and while they are continuing forward with the show, they have agreed to consult with archaeologists over the issues raised. As you will see, this is quite the agreement compared to other shows.

The Bad:

Spike has also jumped on the bandwagon of having a show centred around metal detectors. Recently they aired their show 'American Digger'. It was met with the same concerns that 'Diggers' was. People criticized it for promoting recovery for profit, and the destruction of sites.

Unlike National Geographic, Spike's response to these concerns were quite different. Essentially Spike responded that what they were doing was not illegal, and that it was not anybody else's business. But, this is a television show, it is mean to be everybody else's business. For the reason, 'American Digger' and has earned the title 'The Bad'.

The Ugly:

A wild mummy chase across Egypt. Sounds exciting... except mummies can not run so it is really not a chase, but a hunt. 'Chasing Mummies' which has been aired on the History channel snags the title of 'The Ugly', though not for reasons you would expect.

A team of archaeologist, led by Dr. Zahi Haswass, travel across Egypt in search of ancient mummies. Although the show does not show anything being documented before being moved around, Hawass is Secretary General of the Supreme Council of Antiquities and is trained in proper excavation techniques. What earns 'Chasing Mummies' the title of 'The Bad' is Hawass's attitude towards his team (and other people in general). Constantly yelling at them and calling stupid, the show is not complete without Hawass threatening to fire someone multiple times.

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