Thursday, June 30, 2016


by Mr. Mean-Spirited

Academic anthropologists use the word pothunter as an insulting term for an ordinary person who discovers an archaeological artifact – you know, a member of the uncredentialed public who actually has the impudence to unearth a prehistoric object. No subculture receives more archaeological hatred than pothunters. The experts do have a reason to fear this self-service excavation. Pothunting is not just a personal, private collection of relics—but all this unapproved acquisition actually undermines the very foundations of the American establishment. Although this self-service excavation is proudly despised by the academic overlords, think of pothunting as guerilla archaeology.

Pothunters aren’t hypocrites about what they are doing—while university employees are not completely honest about their true objectives. Credentialed archaeologists will argue that pothunting destroys the context in which a pre-Columbian artifact might be discovered, and so it does—but what anthropologists might claim in the classroom is not exactly what they do in the field. Even if the academic excavator does bother to notice the context, no other person will ever be permitted to see the evidence. At least ordinary citizens get to see what the pothunter discovers.

Once a tenured authority has laid claim to an enticing figurine, the object goes straight to the basement of a museum—never to be viewed again. In spite of the fact that these assistant professors can bum a pitcher of lite beer from you with teary-eyed promises to “restudy” such treasures, they never even bother to unwrap the plastic around last year’s discoveries. There are cabinets of artifacts in the basement of a museum that haven’t even been looked-at for fifty years—those pots would be better appreciated if they were sitting on someone’s bookshelf, rather than being stored in some institutional warehouse. While uncertified taxpayers aren’t even allowed a peep at the loot in the museum backroom, the pothunter’s figurine collection will be vigorously admired by friends and nobodies.

Pothunters do not ask for your tax money. Tenured archaeologists don’t even set foot in the field without getting a government grant to pay for their little trip. These academic parasites can’t even scrape the dirt off the bottom of their grant-purchased shoes without looking up the proper procedure in the government-written manual; these publication-conscious professors won’t even put the ignition key in the official, corporate-sponsored SUV without approval from a university committee.

Pothunters pay their own way. Pothunters aren’t looking for a handout. Say what you like about pothunters, at least they aren’t asking for government money. The only looting here is what is happening to a taxpayer’s hard-earned income when it gets into the university system. The only theft of resources is the academic grant system itself.

Pothunters often do better prehistory than these scholastic pretenders. Anthropologists are there to provide academic justification for the existing social order. All university professors provide the wink-wink, nudge-nudge support for multicultural elite that funs this government. Archaeologists decide exactly what they are going to find before they even start the excavation.

After all, these poor professors wouldn’t get tenure without displaying adequate political correctness, like the way a plumber is required to display an adequate amount of butt crack. American archaeologists are there to legitimize the existent reservation system—because Indian land means Indian casinos, and the Indian gambling industry means plenty of cash to spread around to politicians. Anthropologists are they to promote cultural relativism – because increased migrant flow means government immigrant funding.

A tenured anthropologist’s job requires that the artifacts match the official view of prehistory. Pedagogues will be the first to cover-up and cast-aside any Chinese porcelain discovered amongst Anasazi grave-goods. Academics will conceal and camouflage any evidence of early Caucasian migration to North America—as the strange saga of Kennewick Man will demonstrate. Some associate professor’s entire career is going to depend on making anomalous, inconvenient Solutrean artifacts disappear from the archaeological record of the Americas. Whenever you hear of a farmer discovering a Viking rune stone, the archaeologist is the first to pronounce the artifact impossible because it contradicts his textbook. Whenever you read of Roman artifacts being discovered in North America, the anthropologist is the first to go around and hush it up. You can be confident about one thing in life: a tenured faculty member will always whisk-broom anything politically incorrect from his dissertation.

In illicit contrast, the pothunter is certain to boast about any anomalous finds to his redneck buddies. Anything that challenges academic orthodoxy will be widely publicized by a pothunter —the amateur has prestige on the line at the local dive bar.

Don’t get me wrong, current American Indians have cultures that are worthy of our respect and admiration, but those present-day cultures seldom have any historic or genetic connection with the pre-Columbian civilizations that left their artifacts upon the landscape. Amateur archaeology demonstrates that many previous societies have flourished and perished in the same geography. And because of the multicultural elitists, traditional Anglo-Americans will soon be yet another population group that has forever vanished upon this continent.

Just as you would not trust a news reporter who takes government money, you should not trust an archaeologist who receives official funding. Institutional excavation legitimizes the authoritarian control of knowledge; getting a government permit for an excavation will merely support the existing power structure. Pothunting liberates archaeology from its bureaucratic overlords. Unsanctioned excavation returns a glimmer of the marvelous to the trenches; unauthorized shoveling is a muddy insurrection.

Pothunters understand more about a vanished civilization than the experts. Because of the intimate experience with the geographic area, pothunters have an intuitive appreciation of the vanished culture. This illicit sweat allows such a deep, immediate awareness of a vanished society that the academic in-crowd tries to exorcise with the word “amateur.” Horror of horrors, terror of terrors, some relic hunters have even used a few of those pre-Columbian arrowheads to actually bring down a wild turkey. Pothunters actually experience the off-the-grind lifestyle of the civilization that they are excavating.

Faculty members diligently avoid getting any antique grime on the fashionable outdoor wear; a university employee will only spend the night in a motel suite with high-speed wifi, and the professor will only dine at the restaurant in town with the best wine list (all on grant money, of course). If any physical labor is required, they will delegate spadework to their unfortunate students; there is a sucker needing a degree born every minute.

Pothunters are damn-near inspirational. No matter how many buzzwords can be squeezed into a committee-written article, the peer-reviewed periodical isn’t going to get the general public interested in antiquity. Analysis of ceramic shards—no matter how impeccable the statistics, no matter how expensive the electron microscope—can never inspire. In unlawful contrast, the Redware glimpsed on a neighbor’s bookcase will motivate future exploration. It wasn’t the footnotes about African ethnography that inspired Braque and Picasso—as much as ritual objects of an exceedingly curious provenience that fertilized the blossoming and blooming of modern art.

If Indiana Jones were doing a little extracurricular archaeology, the only thing that he might like to find is something nice for the mantle.


  1. I agree, people who reckon they know stuff are much more accurate than people who spend their whole lives studying.

  2. I can only hope that Poe's Law is at work here. But I fear it isn't.

    1. Poe’s Law is the contention that it is impossible to tell the difference between a parody and the genuine article. In reality, “Poe’s Law” is one of these internet assertions that looks profound to the ignorant, but actually says nothing. If you can’t make a distinction between a fake and the factual, that says more about the reader than it does about the text itself.

      If you can’t tell the difference … well, maybe you aren’t as clever as you think yourself to be. Maybe you just aren’t as smart as you imagine.