Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Controversy Over Diggers TV Shows

Dear Colleagues,

Late last week the Society for American Archaeology Board was informed that there are two TV series planned that promote and glorify the looting and destruction of archaeological sites. They are American Diggers and Diggers. The first is scheduled for Spike TV and the other for National Geographic TV. As past SAA President Bob Kelly wrote in a recent e-mail in response to American Diggers, "This shameless and shameful program will glorify and promote the mindless destruction of archaeological sites in the U.S."

SAA and other groups, such as SHA, have already prepared and sent strong letters condemning both of these programs to the production companies, networks, and others. Copies of the SAA letters can be found on the SAA website (http://bit.ly/w2MHJM, and http://bit.ly/wzT7IA). The letters provide details on why we are so concerned. Up to this point Spike TV has not responded to the public outcry. Leadership of National Geographic, however, has indicated that, while they are unable to stop the showing tomorrow on such short notice, they will place a disclaimer into the show that speaks to laws protecting archaeological and historic sites. They are also willing 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. We will advise you of developments in this area.

We are also in conversations with SHA, RPA, AIA, NASA and others to develop a coordinated response and next steps.

BUT for the Spike TV program we need your help. We ask you to individually send letters and/or e-mails to the companies involved—or take advantage of social media outlets (see below)—urging them as strongly as possible to stop this show. The contact points that we have identified so far for the Spike TV project are provided below.

Spike TV
Scott Gurney and Deirdre Gurney
Gurney Productions, Inc.
8929 S. Sepulveda Blvd., Suite 510
Los Angeles, California 90045

Kevin Kay
President, Spike TV
1633 Broadway
New York, New York 10019

Stephen K. Friedman
President, MTV
c/o MTV Studios
1515 Broadway
New York, New York 10036
Shana Tepper

Philippe Dauman
President and Chief Executive Officer
Viacom Inc.
1515 Broadway
New York, New York 10036

There are also Facebook pages where you can comment

One is a "People against American Diggers" facebook page:

If you would like to add comments to the Spike website, please visit the comments section at the bottom of the following page:

The Spike TV announcement is available at

From the website:
In the US, there are millions of historical relics buried in backyards just waiting to be discovered and turned into profit. "American Digger" hopes to claim a piece of that pie as the series travels to a different city each week, including Detroit, MI, Brooklyn, NY, Chicago, IL and Jamestown, VA searching for high-value artifacts and relics, some of which have been untouched for centuries. After pinpointing historical locations such as Civil War and Revolutionary War battlefields, Savage’s first task is to convince reluctant homeowners to let his team dig up their property using state-of-the-art metal detectors and heavy-duty excavation equipment.

Fred Limp, RPA
SAA President


Anonymous said...

As a metal detecting enthusiast and historian for the past 20 years I actually will admit that I am just as frustrated with these recent shows. I hope that there will be no alienation of the "good" folks in this matter. I would suggest reaching out to the relic hunting community for additional support. The major websites are already condemning the first show. I have thought for years that there has to be some middle ground for those of us who conduct ourselves with moral fiber and those who make an educational career out of it. Each year I do recover items, I do not sell them, my wife displays them in her classroom after they have been documented and preserved. Her students get to hold and feel history in a way most don’t. They receive a lector from me on the history and context of the items. Other items are donated to local museums that are struggling to collect items from local history.

These shows are painful for me to see, as I know what the outcome holds – and increased level of people mimicking what they see on television and a public outcry for metal detecting reform. For years there have been large populations of people who are honest and carry themselves with integrity. Like anthropologists and archaeologists – we have bad apples. I hope you will find additional support from those like you and like me.


Anonymous said...

Give me a BREAK!!!! are you for REAL???? its ok for you and SAA members but not the general public?

Anonymous said...

Yes, in the same way it's OK for a cardiologist to do heart surgery but not the general public.

Anonymous said...

You people need to get a life. Its a hobby. The same as fishing, hunting, or any other recreational activity.If all the so called historians are so worried about a couple coins or old relics being found by average guys, why dont the get off thier asses and go find them first. Most of the relics found by detectorists end up in our local museums anyway. And what is not donated to the museums is treasured by collectors like myself. So stop worrying about other peoples hobbies and go get a life.

Donald said...

As an archaeologist, I've seen first hand the destruction cuased by amatuer and thieves to archaeology sites in the U.S. and Mexico. Unless proper documentation of an excavation is recorded the history and importance of the site is lost forever.

Anonymous said...

Give me a break the artifacts they find would just rot in the ground and nobody would be able to enjoy them if they didn't dig them up. Get a life or perhaps a job so you have something better to do. I LOVE the show. And it's private property with permission given by the landowners.