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Real or fake objects?

Started by Alan Botter, December 12, 2021, 01:51:44 AM

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gaius asinius

Artifacts need not be imbued with loads of intrinsic value to be meaningful. Even mundane objects like a disposable chunk of concrete are capable of evoking thoughts and imagery of vanished people and places. These objects are of value not because of their historical importance, but because they represent a hearkening to some indeterminable point of contact with things now lost – a yearning for situations and societies that ONCE WERE but are apparently NO MORE. Mental journeys to people, places and events that, in their totality, remain forever outside our grasp. This is because regardless of what we accrue, our insights into past people and places remain entirely relative, like the proverbial blind men describing an elephant. One touches the side, and declares it like a wall. Another touches the trunk, and declares it like a snake. A third grabs the tail, and declares it like a rope. These assessments are accurate, based upon individual perception and experience. But the elephant is none of these things. The three wise men remain eternally insensible to the animal's true nature. Our need to understand the past should be tempered by the realization that, as a species, maybe we were never designed to see the elephant. But our need to know are cultural and biological imperatives.



I suppose when I used the term "intrinsic value" I had in mind the grubby meaning of "made of precious metal" (since, in large measure, this determines whether one must report the find to the PAS). Historical significance does also implicitly carry the sense of intrinsic value, as you suggest, since the most quotidien of items, discovered in a particular context, may yield highly informative evidence of past lives and cultures. From that point of view, I can sympathise with those professional archaeologists who grind their teeth at the activity of amateur "treasure hunters", even the honest ones, since they lift items out of their setting and thereby denude an historic location. Weighed heavily in the balance against that view is the fact that perhaps the majority of these finds are extracted from the plough soil where they have been subjected to centuries of disturbance and destruction. In that sense, metal detecting arguably salvages precious artefacts from the ravages of ever more intensive farming practices. But yes, to hold a piece of our past in one's hand and let the mind consider the inherent meaning of it from our far-removed standpoint of the 21st century is a stimulating and mind-expanding experience, one which the fraudsters are working to devalue and undermine.