Caveat emptor : the intellectual consequences of undocumented excavation, with special reference to Roman period archaeological material from Turkey
Haley, Shannon M.
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This paper explores how undocumented excavation affects archaeological research. Roman period remains in Anatolia are often victim to undocumented excavation. The problem is extensive and reflects the modern esteem for classical antiquities. Undocumented excavation has many negative effects. It changes site topography and stratigraphy and results in the loss of an artefact’s archaeological context. The problems presented by undocumented excavation are explored in tliree different case studies. The first chapter studies sculptures attributed to the sites of Perge and Boubon. The second chapter focuses on third century coin hoards attributed to a var iety of sites in Anatolia. The third chapter discusses the mosaics of Zeugma and Antioch. The study of these different bodies of evidence demonstrated that undocumented excavation presents very complex problems for archaeological research. The loss of archaeological context means there is no way for a scholar to verify an artefact’s authenticity. The attribution of an artefact to a specific site may be based on a scholar’s expectation of where such an artefact should be found. In this way, unprovenanced material corrupts the data available to the archaeologist. Over time, this results in the acceptance of beliefs about the role of these artefacts in the past, even though these beliefs rest on data that is far from secure.