4.3. Are only UMDs interested in archaeology?

Although UMDs are placed in the spotlight by the administration and French professional archaeologists, they are not the only ones who are interested in archaeology in France. As has been mentioned, a voluntary archaeologist can be a UMD, but the reverse is not necessarily true. I will now turn to the issue of voluntary archaeologists.

in this article, 'voluntary archaeologist' designates any person who is not paid for doing research and carries out quality archaeological work. The quality can of course vary in relation to the scientific norm, because some voluntary archaeologists do not publish their work. This does not detract from the interest of their approach, whether from originality in prospection, analysis or experimentation. For example, the contribution of Philippe Bonnenberger's work to knowledge about the production of medieval manuscripts should be mentioned. Apart from an article for the general public (Bonnenberger and Gransard-Desmond 2001), Philippe Bonnenberger has not published, but was part of the codicology section at Institut de Recherche et d'Histoire des Textes (IRHT) and has produced several documentaries for the team. Similarly, Jean-Pierre Houdin made a significant contribution to knowledge about the construction of the pyramids of Giza (Houdin and Brier 2008; Houdin and Houdin 2002). However, the contribution of voluntary archaeologists is not limited to scientific revolutions. Many of them have contributed to archaeological research through more traditional work, which is just as important. In particular, the case of Philippe Ferrando can be cited, a voluntary archaeologist within Roman numismatics who has also contributed to several articles in collaboration with professional archaeologists (Ferrando 2010). Of similar importance are Christian and Thierry Giraud, whose field-walking without electronic devices enabled the identification of a Mesolithic site for a CNRS team led by Luc Laporte. After having notified the relevant authorities, Christian and Thierry Giraud took part in the excavation which led to the report of Laporte et al. 2000, in which the collaboration of Christian and Thierry Giraud was mentioned. Additionally, there is the work of the GRHALP (Groupe de Recherches Historiques et Archéologiques de Louvres-en-Parisis), founded in 1972 by volunteers, which led to the creation of Archéa, a museum that was granted Musée de France status in September 2010. Although these volunteers dedicate an important part of their life and their finances to actions that earn no money for them, they are not isolated cases, neither within archaeology nor in other scientific disciplines. A French voluntary astronomer, Claudine Rinner, demonstrated on 29 November 2011 that volunteers have a place even in disciplines that require a significant investment in equipment (Dauvergne 2012). They represent the survival of the Learned Societies of the 19th century, just like other volunteers who also add their weight to the body of archaeological knowledge by volunteering to take part in planned archaeological excavations or library research for data that they share with both professionals and other more-involved volunteers. Any legislation or steps taken against treasure hunters and vandals should therefore take into account voluntary archaeologists in order not to turn them unjustly into criminals, which would not benefit future archaeological research. In other words, the different dimensions in which volunteer archaeologists can contribute should be taken into account, which are likely to be in the same fields as professionals: prospection, field technician, site director, inventory, material analysis, documentary research, experimenter, and so on.

Some unions are afraid that jobs would be taken from them by volunteers. However a volunteer can never replace a professional for one simple reason: a professional is under contract, and so has an obligation to produce results while a volunteer is, at most, under a moral contract, but without any obligation to provide results. Their only reward will be the respect earned from completing a task. What is more, companies will never have enough money to employ so many people. There will thus never be enough professionals, or enough money in relation to the task of understanding the past. Doing without volunteers of any sort would reduce archaeology to an economic objective and it would no longer be science.

Similarly, another section of the French population, ordinary citizens, take part in archaeological research at a lower level. They are neither UMDs nor voluntary archaeologists. By 'citizen', we mean any person who does not dedicate a regular time to archaeological research, whether in the field, analysis, library work or experimentation. Generally, an ordinary citizen's contribution comes down to indicating the location of an engraving, a Gallo-Roman wall, a coin hoard, or any other element that is of interest to archaeology. However small this contribution may be, it is of no less importance to the identification and location of archaeological sites. In practice, the main contributors are farmers and anyone whose job involves working with natural resources. However, they are not the only ones, as shown by the discovery in November 2008 of a coin hoard during ordinary earthworks in a garden of an Arpajon property (in the Essone department). After excavation, archaeological authorities estimated the hoard comprised 40,000 Roman coins dating from the 3rd century AD. In contrast to the involvement of volunteer archaeologists, citizens' interventions remain limited, since they rarely receive proper acknowledgement. Perhaps the wealth of the French past is so great, we are no longer able to take account of the general public's great disappointment in this respect. Indeed many volunteers and professionals have told ArkéoTopia of how farmers and potholers have come to them to report their discoveries without wanting to involve the relevant authorities for fear of a destroyed field, blocked access to a cave or simply being considered unlawful or even lacking information relating to the discovery. Once again, any legislation or measure taken against treasure hunters and vandals should take into account the actions of ordinary citizens. This point will be returned to later, however, the importance of legislation being integrated and measured by professionals can already be highlighted. Indeed, they should act not as guardians of a temple, but rather as a benign point of reference for volunteers and ordinary citizens, all of whom are involved in the same efforts to save traces of human history and facilitate understanding of both the ancient and recent past.


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