This post comes courtesy of the North Carolina Archaeological Society (NCAS). The Society's most recent newsletter addresses the problem the archaeological community has with the American Diggers and Diggers television series. It also provides a handful of talking points and the contact information for parties related to the production of both series.
Two main goals of the North Carolina Archaeological Society are to promote responsible attitudes toward archaeological resources and to discourage careless and destructive activities. The Society relies on its members to help achieve these goals, and right now your help is urgently needed!
This spring, Spike TV plans to air American Digger, a reality series following native North Carolinian and former professional wrestler Ric Savage and his American Savage team as they plunder archaeological resources across America. According to the show’s teaser, “Once the team identifies an area they think is ripe with high-value artifacts and relics, they’ll have to convince the current homeowner to give them permission to dig up their backyard. If American Savage is persuasive enough, they'll get a chance to dig up the tenant’s backyard using their state-of-the-art equipment, and divide the cash they get from selling the artifacts they find there with the tenant.”
Last month, the National Geographic Channel (NGC) launched a similar show, Diggers. NGC has already aired reruns of the first episodes, and Diggers has become a topic of discussion in online forums devoted to metal detecting and treasure hunting.
Both of these new reality shows encourage the destruction of archaeological resources for profit and rob current and future generations of opportunities to understand and learn from history. The Society for American Archaeology (SAA), the Society for Historical Archaeology, and other professional and avocational archaeology societies strongly condemn the shows and have launched campaigns to raise awareness and encourage action.
In response, NGC has agreed to run a disclaimer informing viewers that there are laws protecting archaeological resources. According to a recent memo sent to SAA members by president Fred Limp, NGC has also expressed willingness “to enter into discussions with the archaeological community to determine how to raise awareness of the impacts of the use of metal detectors for treasure hunting.
”As of this writing, Spike TV has yet to formally respond to archaeologists’ concerns. However, the Huffington Post reported on March 2, 2012 that the station’s spokesperson Shana Tepper maintains that because American Digger is filmed on private property, Savage and his crew are “getting artifacts that are otherwise rotting in the ground.”
Please join NCAS board members in expressing your own concerns about the airing of American Digger by writing the companies involved. Contact information and talking points are provided below.
- Rather than encouraging a responsible attitude toward archaeological resources, this show encourages destructive and careless activities that will rob current and future generations of the chance to understand and learn from their shared past.
- Archaeological resources are limited and irreplaceable. They should be left in the ground until responsible and scientific methods can be used to ensure that important information is not lost during their removal.
- Some states (including North Carolina) have laws protecting all unmarked human burials and skeletal remains, even those located on private property.
- The methods and behaviors that American Digger promotes are not only irresponsible but also disrespectful toward descendent populations. By normalizing and glamorizing such behaviors, the show may encourage viewers to imitate them.