Why nobody thinks ‘Nazi War Diggers’ is a good idea
Over at her excellent deathsplanation blog, Alison Atkin has laid out an incredibly thoughtful and professional letter to National Geographic International in response to the network’s plans to broadcast a
relic-hunting looting-for-profit “reality archaeology” program called Nazi War Diggers.
While my opposition to the program grew out of more or less simple professional anger at a show that seems to encourage illegal and unethical digging, Alison is an actual, honest-to-goodness osteoarchaeologist (someone who specializes in the archaeological recovery and interpretation of human bones), and
does has done* research involving the identification and repatriation of victims of mass casualty events. Put another way, this program steps directly on her professional toes, and therefore I think she ought to be listened to.
She has drafted a letter of concern and sent it to several email accounts in an attempt to reach people at the National Geographic International network (no easy feat, as she explains). I highly recommend reading it, available at this link. Here’s an excerpt:
Regardless of whether these actions undertaken in the name of this programme were legal, they certainly were not ethical. The recovery and repatriation of human remains, from any context, requires the presence of individuals trained archaeological and osteological techniques and methods. I will freely admit that I felt nauseous while watching the manner in which the human remains being excavated were treated – callously and without care. These are the remains of a human, who was a son, and possibly a brother, husband, father – who died during an unimaginably terrible war and horrific circumstances – and regardless of their nationality they deserve dignity in death. Anything less is completely inexcusable.
See what I mean? Quality stuff.
Go Alison go!
*Edit to clarify Atkin’s research history