About as un-sexy as you can get: Spike TV digs into televised looting

Spike TV, known for such masterpieces of modern television as Ink Master, 1000 Ways to Die, Repo Games, and Auction Hunters has found another way to entertain its legion of couch potato fans: televised looting.

February 15th, Spike TV announced it would begin airing a new series in March entitled American Digger.  “American Digger” follows the American Savage team (led by former professional wrestler-turned-modern- day relic hunter Ric Savage) as they scour target-rich areas, such as battlefields and historic sites, in hopes of striking it rich by unearthing and selling rare pieces of American history.

If you though Hollywood was above glamorizing the lives of thieves and criminals, boy were you wrong!  American Digger, which begins airing March 20th, aims to spit in the face of archaeological research by teaching you how to supplement your income in these tough economic times with looting!

For those of you who aren’t too familiar with how archaeology works (pay attention Spike TV execs), taking cultural artifacts out of the ground, removing them from their context, and selling them for profit is not only classified as looting, it is also disrespectful and damaging to the historical record.  In fact doing it on Federal land, battlefields and historic sites is a very serious crime and will land you in prison for a great number of years.  So why on earth would anyone consider putting that on television?

I called the Gurney Productions on Friday to ask them just that.  Unfortunately, no one was in so I’ll have to call back on Monday.

Already the outcry from individuals within the archaeological community has been loud and clear: this show is unacceptable.  The full press release, which you can read here, already has over 120 comments expressing such rightly justified emotions as disgust, horror and utter shock.  I encourage everyone to contribute to the comments section at the bottom of the press release.  State your name, your level of involvement with archaeology (even if you’re just an enthusiast), and your feelings towards bastardizing the work that real professionals do.

I for one am ready to wage a public relations jihad against any network, production company, cast, and crew who would disrespect the field of archaeology, the work that I do, and the cultures or people they would exploit to line their pockets.  Let your voice be heard.  Send feedback to Spike TV here. You can join the ‘People against Spike TV’s American Digger‘ Facebook group and sign this petition.

My name is Kurt Thomas Hunt.  I hold a BA in Archaeology and an MA in Archaeology for Screen Media.  I maintain an archaeoblog called Sexy Archaeology and serve as a consultant for production companies interested in putting good archaeology on TV.  I have also worked in the field of CRM for a number of years and witnessed firsthand the damage that can be caused by looting.  As someone who has dedicated their life to archaeology; to the conservation of heritage and to making sure that good science is a mainstay in the headlines, I am utterly disgusted by the concept of this show.  Taking cultural artifacts out of the ground, removing them from their context, and selling them for profit is not only classified as looting, it is also disrespectful to the people who created those objects and damaging to our understanding of the past.  In fact doing it on Federal lands, battlefields, and historic sites is a very serious crime and will land you in prison for a great number of years.  It is my firm belief that the series American Digger will promote the illegal hunting of artifacts and result in massive and irreversible damage to the cultural heritage of this country.  Do not let this series air.



4 thoughts on “About as un-sexy as you can get: Spike TV digs into televised looting

  1. Hello,To whom it may concern…because this concerns me! My name is Rhys David Booth, I am an Australian archaeology student and avid archaeology volunteer, in my short life (21 years old) I have had but one passion…archaeology, since the age of five I have wanted to become an archaeologist and help preserve the history of our human race one stone lithic or shared of pottery at a time. This… program not only spits in the face of that dream but of every other young archaeologist who pays years of school fees to be able to be qualified to handle such delicate objects and situations when dealing with someone else's material culture.It would be greatly appreciated if you kept the La Trobe University of Melbourne aware of the situation.Your friend and ally from down under.Rhys David Booth.

  2. I studied for my degree in History, taking anthropology classes as well to understand how we learn about the cultures that came before us. I am deeply disturbed by the concept of this programming that it would encourage the looting and pillaging of historical sites without due regards to the delicacy of the site. While they might think that loosing a few objects from the ground won't hurt anything it will leave a lasting effect on history. Without relics and serious thoughtful, careful research and surveys of a site we learn nothing, we loose that history. History relies upon the wonderful work of archeologists and anthropologist to learn what we can. Taking things out of context and selling them to the highest bidder in a show that panders to the current glut of "reality" TV is to showcase how little we value history anymore. The people who are making this show and those taking part in it have most likely never thought about how or why there are archaeological sites and historians in the first place. It shows a lack of education upon their part that they will pass on to the viewers. I have signed the petition against this show and have reached out to those anthropologist and historians that I know to encourage them to speak out as well. Let us hope that perhaps they will listen to the voices of experience and skill and not the bottom dollar.

  3. I am way late on this conversation but oh well…Does the crew American Savage do anything illegal in their business dealings that you guys know about? I hear people call them looters but if that were true would this really be on TV? I'm not sure what people are upset about?

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