Between the market and history: practices of illegal archeology. A sociological view of the everyday life of a digger

Connoisseurs of the old look through online stores, large markets, auctions in order to find interesting artifacts of the past. In most cases, these items come from amateur archaeologists, often referred to as black diggers. Thus, the work examines the activities of a community of diggers that is hardly noticeable to the average person, but is non the less widespread. They can be found not only in the fields near cities and in ruined villages, but also in rugged mountain and forest areas. The group of diggers is heterogeneous both in terms of place and methods of searching, and in relation to finds and embeddedness in the antiquities market. The illegal status of digging activities creates ambiguity in their assessment and makes it difficult to study. In Russian academic works, there is a popular point of view about the need to counteract unlicensed excavations with the help of punitive measures. However, normative and disciplinary studies and judgments cannot explain how this activity is organized, how its participants are recruited, what is their motivation and internal segmentation, what are the ways of embedding in the market, and what is the significance of the found objects for diggers and outside observers. To answer these questions, it is necessary to conduct a sociological study without giving an evaluative color. The paper describes the motives for engaging in digging activities, attitudes towards finds and ways of searching within the actor-network interaction. Moral legitimations, the community of diggers, how the integration into the antiquities market takes place, as well as how the evaluation and sale of finds is carried out are also considered.

For citation: Khomchenko D.U., Shmidova E.P., Shcherbak R.S. Between the market and history: practices of illegal archeology. A sociological view of the everyday life of a digger. St. Petersburg Sociology Today. 2023. N. 19. P. 60-90. DOI:10.25990/socinstras.pss-19.k39n-v955

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