So how long does someone has to be dead before it is considered archeology instead of grave robbing?


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Pathfinder Lost Omens, Rulebook Subscriber

Must admit that I'm really curious about that.


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I asked an archaeologist about this and he just got really uncomfortable.


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Long enough that no family members will show up claiming the stuff you stole, er, uh, archaologized.

How long that actually is, well, that varies with every case.


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I think it's more the intent than the time.

If you're doing it to study the past & preserve relics, then it's archaeology. Removing relics from a tomb because there is a real threat that they'll be stolen or destroyed if left alone isn't grave robbery - it's preservation.

If you're going into tombs in order to pillage it for monetary and/or prestige gains, then it's grave-robbery.

The type of "archaeology" practiced in the mid- to late-1800s, especially by European (read: Britain, Germany, and France) cultures concerning places like Egypt, was a very big dark-gray area, because while they did loot tombs partially for preservation, they did it mostly. "For the Glory of the Ktarl-Ktarl British Empire!" and/or for personal gain, with fairly little regard as to respecting the cultures where those artifacts came from (although, in hindsight of how tumultuous the Middle East has been in the last century, and several radical groups in various nations doing things like destroying ancient artifacts, maybe it's a blessing in disguise that ancient Egyptian, Babylonian, Mesopotamian, Hindu, and Arabic relics are far, far away from those areas for the time being).


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In the case of a 10,000 year old skeleton found near the Columbia River, that was not considered to be long enough by many.

Sovereign Court

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If you're an archeologist? An hour.

If you've got any reason to think it's bad? Eternity.


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So...I'm confused. Let me clarify this, uh...

They're dead, right? Yes?

Okay...

Okay, so...what's the problem again?

I mean, geez. First they tell me it's wrong to sell humans' teeth while they're still alive, now this. I can't win!


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This is a question as hard to answer as that time I asked my history teacher exactly how important someone had to be before "murder" became "assassination".

Hard to draw an exact line.

Sovereign Court

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Kobold Cleaver wrote:
I mean, geez. First they tell me it's wrong to sell humans' teeth while they're still alive, now this. I can't win!

It's okay so long as you're selling them to fae who visit you at night and the transaction is hidden from prying eyes by a pillow.


Its purely intent and how the world views the individual.

A grave robber takes from the dead from a mixed perception in the form of "Fame, Wealth". Fame in this case can also be related to "Bragging Rights".

A archeologist takes from the dead from a mixed perception in the form of "Knowledge, Preservation". Not that Archeologists don't get paid, but that isn't the soul reason an Archeologist does what he does. Its more about a sense of intrigue and understanding ancient/old cultures.

Sometimes being a grave robber and being an archeologist goes hand in hand depending on the motive of the individual "Fame, Preservation, Wealth". Fame and Knowledge are the most interchangeable here which again depends on the motive and intent of the individual.

Then comes the standing of the individual, their reputation.

An archeologist would have a reputation as an upstanding member of society who is celebrated.

A grave robber would have a reputation as a dishonorable member of society who is reviled.

Sovereign Court

Mummified Familiar wrote:

Then comes the standing of the individual, their reputation.

An archeologist would have a reputation as an upstanding member of society who is celebrated.

A grave robber would have a reputation as a dishonorable member of society who is reviled.

So basically - the archeologist has better PR?

(So tempted to make references to other societal equivelents - but I will refrain.)


Charon's Little Helper wrote:
Mummified Familiar wrote:

Then comes the standing of the individual, their reputation.

An archeologist would have a reputation as an upstanding member of society who is celebrated.

A grave robber would have a reputation as a dishonorable member of society who is reviled.

So basically - the archeologist has better PR?

(So tempted to make references to other societal equivelents - but I will refrain.)

Yep the archeologist would have better PR than the Grave Robber.

Would you trust the Gnome Archeologist who has a good reputation for doing his job and trying to safely preserve lost artifacts to be put in museums... or the Dwarf Grave Robber who has a reputation for selling such artifacts on the black market for personal profit and tends to defile the resting place of the dead?
(Race is interchangeable, even replaceable by different races)


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Adventure Path Charter Subscriber; Starfinder Charter Superscriber

As an Archeologist, I would say long enough for any relatives of the occupant of the tomb, that were alive whilst the occupant of the tomb was also alive, to be all dead.

Does that help? I only hold an Associate Degree in Archeology by the way, but also one in Anthropology and Primatology.


Mummified Familiar wrote:


Would you trust the Gnome Archeologist who has a good reputation for doing his job and trying to safely preserve lost artifacts to be put in museums... or the Dwarf Grave Robber who has a reputation for selling such artifacts on the black market for personal profit and tends to defile the resting place of the dead?

I don't trust dwarves, so...

Sovereign Court

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It's not a question of how long has it been dead but was permits and permission acquired beforehand.

Indiana Jones had problems with his Research Designs.

If the OP is curious beyond the "gee I wonder" stage reading up on the NAGPRA laws is going to explain the difference in much greater detail.

Grand Lodge

deusvult wrote:

It's not a question of how long has it been dead but was permits and permission acquired beforehand.

Indiana Jones had problems with his Research Designs.

If the OP is curious beyond the "gee I wonder" stage reading up on the NAGPRA laws is going to explain the difference in much greater detail.

What doesssssss he expect when we're the ones running everything?


Rynjin wrote:

This is a question as hard to answer as that time I asked my history teacher exactly how important someone had to be before "murder" became "assassination".

Hard to draw an exact line.

It isn't the import of the person, but the reason for the killing. Assassinations are politically motivated (ie, committed for reasons in the persons professional life) while murder is done as part of another crime or to someone for personal reasons. Also, murders are perpetrated on random people by crazies.

As a distinction; if Jackie had killed JFK for being a man-slut then that would have been murder.


And if JFK had been sniped by some crazy with a gun who hated him for personal reasons?

It would still have been called an assassination.


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chbgraphicarts wrote:
"For the Glory of the Ktarl-Ktarl British Empire!"

I salute your Outlaw Star referencing.


If you're an archeologist then you can do it at any time you like. Just make sure to have your archeology papers in order.


Rynjin wrote:

And if JFK had been sniped by some crazy with a gun who hated him for personal reasons?

It would still have been called an assassination.

Weren't most of the attacks on presidents (or other important political figures) in recent decades done by "lone crazed gunmen"?


Rynjin wrote:

And if JFK had been sniped by some crazy with a gun who hated him for personal reasons?

It would still have been called an assassination.

You can't hate someone for personal reasons if you don't know them, personally. (That is to say, you hate him because he is the president and XYZ, not just XYZ.)


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Now I wanna make a character who isn't an Assassin, because he agrees to kill people on if his contractor has an exclusively emotional/personal vendetta.

"No no, I'm not an ASSASSIN. They dabble in POLITICS. I have no appreciation for politics."


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BigDTBone wrote:
Rynjin wrote:

This is a question as hard to answer as that time I asked my history teacher exactly how important someone had to be before "murder" became "assassination".

Hard to draw an exact line.

It isn't the import of the person, but the reason for the killing. Assassinations are politically motivated (ie, committed for reasons in the persons professional life) while murder is done as part of another crime or to someone for personal reasons. Also, murders are perpetrated on random people by crazies.

As a distinction; if Jackie had killed JFK for being a man-slut then that would have been murder.

That doesn't seem right at all to me. Political leaders have often been assassinated by people with no evident political motives -- any deliberate killing of the head of state of any nation would be called an assassination, with the only exceptions I can think of being when said leader is torn apart by an angry mob in the process of being overthrown.

And ordinary people are often killed for political reasons -- such killings are generally referred to as acts of terrorism and not assassinations.

Liberty's Edge

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Note: B.A. in Anthropology, M.A. in Physical Anthropology with a heavy emphasis in archaeology.

As to the OP's question, I believe the difference between grave robbing and archaeology deals much more with the intent and specifics of one's actions than with any hard and fast rule as to the age of the remains in question. This is especially true for Physical Anthropologists who sometimes do double duty helping with crime scene investigations.

But in a nutshell, how does one go about doing what they are doing? If they are keeping careful records of where everything was found, preserving it to the best of their ability, and publishing detailed reports of their work then you've got an archaeologist. If you're dealing with somebody who is moving rapidly through a site using a pick and shovel, scattering the "worthless" stuff all over the place to get at the valuable stuff which is then sold on the black market, you've got a grave robber.

As other posters have pointed out, the methodology employed by a lot of the earlier archaeologists left much to be desired. But as time has gone on the discipline has grown and matured.


David knott 242 wrote:
BigDTBone wrote:
Rynjin wrote:

This is a question as hard to answer as that time I asked my history teacher exactly how important someone had to be before "murder" became "assassination".

Hard to draw an exact line.

It isn't the import of the person, but the reason for the killing. Assassinations are politically motivated (ie, committed for reasons in the persons professional life) while murder is done as part of another crime or to someone for personal reasons. Also, murders are perpetrated on random people by crazies.

As a distinction; if Jackie had killed JFK for being a man-slut then that would have been murder.

That doesn't seem right at all to me. Political leaders have often been assassinated by people with no evident political motives -- any deliberate killing of the head of state of any nation would be called an assassination, with the only exceptions I can think of being when said leader is torn apart by an angry mob in the process of being overthrown.

And ordinary people are often killed for political reasons -- such killings are generally referred to as acts of terrorism and not assassinations.

They were chosen to be killed by virtue of their office, therefore it was an assassination. It doesn't matter if it was directly related to politics or not, some dude decides, "I'm going to kill the president of the United states, or the CEO of Walmart, or the Superintendent of Schools, then they are killing an office holder not a person (abstraction); thus assassination.


BigDTBone wrote:
David knott 242 wrote:
BigDTBone wrote:
Rynjin wrote:

This is a question as hard to answer as that time I asked my history teacher exactly how important someone had to be before "murder" became "assassination".

Hard to draw an exact line.

It isn't the import of the person, but the reason for the killing. Assassinations are politically motivated (ie, committed for reasons in the persons professional life) while murder is done as part of another crime or to someone for personal reasons. Also, murders are perpetrated on random people by crazies.

As a distinction; if Jackie had killed JFK for being a man-slut then that would have been murder.

That doesn't seem right at all to me. Political leaders have often been assassinated by people with no evident political motives -- any deliberate killing of the head of state of any nation would be called an assassination, with the only exceptions I can think of being when said leader is torn apart by an angry mob in the process of being overthrown.

And ordinary people are often killed for political reasons -- such killings are generally referred to as acts of terrorism and not assassinations.

They were chosen to be killed by virtue of their office, therefore it was an assassination. It doesn't matter if it was directly related to politics or not, some dude decides, "I'm going to kill the president of the United states, or the CEO of Walmart, or the Superintendent of Schools, then they are killing an office holder not a person (abstraction); thus assassination.

It's not as simple as "job related". If you kill the bank president (or a teller, for that matter) as part of a scheme to rob the bank, that's murder, not assassination. If you decide "I'm going to kill a cop", that's not assassination, even though you're targeting an abstraction, not an individual person.


Rat-a-tat-tat!


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22.3 years


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If you have a degree in archeology it is always archeology.
If you don't have a degree it is always grave robbing.


Like, 48 hours?
But what do those buried people care, they're dead! (I hope)

Grand Lodge

Pathfinder Adventure Path, Starfinder Roleplaying Game Subscriber
Rynjin wrote:

This is a question as hard to answer as that time I asked my history teacher exactly how important someone had to be before "murder" became "assassination".

Hard to draw an exact line.

Assasination IS a form of murder. Technically speaking though, killing certain people will bring in additional charges besides the basic one of murder, and in some cases, those charges will eclipse the main murder charge, depending on both the victim and the defendant.


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Rynjin wrote:

And if JFK had been sniped by some crazy with a gun who hated him for personal reasons?

It would still have been called an assassination.

Just because people use words, does not mean that they are using those words correctly.

An assassination is murder committed for political motivations. That's the definition of the word. People might misuse the word (intentionally or not), but that just means they're misusing it. It happens with a lot of words.


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Purely my opinion: if there are significant gaps in our understanding of the deceased's culture that can only be reasonably answered by inspecting the remains/burial site: that's probably archaeology.

If there are less intrusive means of answering the same questions easily available, best not to exhume.


Ummm... I would say an assassination is a murder committed against someone, known or unknown to the murderer, holding an office of some kind or not, where the intended effect is not primarily the death of the person in question, i.e. the person's death is a means to an end of some other kind. It could be getting paid for the death, it could be a political motive of some sort, it could be done for religious reasons, or something else. There are, of course, a line-drawing problem, for example, serial killers do not assassinate people, because the aim for them IS directly tied to the death of the victim.


Sissyl wrote:
Ummm... I would say an assassination is a murder committed against someone, known or unknown to the murderer, holding an office of some kind or not, where the intended effect is not primarily the death of the person in question, i.e. the person's death is a means to an end of some other kind. It could be getting paid for the death, it could be a political motive of some sort, it could be done for religious reasons, or something else. There are, of course, a line-drawing problem, for example, serial killers do not assassinate people, because the aim for them IS directly tied to the death of the victim.

So if I kill a cop to escape from justice, that's assassination? Or shoot someone in the course of a robbery, for that matter.

In both cases, the death of the person is not my actual goal.

It's interesting, because we all have a fairly clear and largely shared idea of what it means, but it's a bugger to nail down. You know it when you see it though.


Trying to find the terms, but i read in an anthropology class about the Sanya and sasha or something like that, one being he dead that still had people who had met them, and one being the dead who were only known from stories.


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I think this can also be very subjective. While you can easily separate archaeology from grave robbing, grave robbing can be a superset of archaeology- in the sense that you're doing the same thing for different goals and objectives.

I'd also say that it's also a subjective matter. While you might be extracting for research/preservation, it can also be considered grave robbing if there's an intent for objects to not be removed from the tomb, as in the case with many individuals of power, such as Emperors or Pharaohs. Your reasons, however noble, collide with the interests or intent of the deceased.

Even if you have legal grounds- approval from a ruler or landowner, it can still be grave robbing if there are individuals or a society that takes offense to what you're doing. Take this for example: You find the site of a native burial mound- it's on public (government) land, and you are able to obtain permits and paperwork that allows you to excavate and study the mound. Natives elsewhere in the country, who are not families of the inhabitant(s) of the burial mound find this offensive and disagree with you desecrating the mound. What you're doing is both archaeology and grave robbing.


thejeff wrote:
Sissyl wrote:
Ummm... I would say an assassination is a murder committed against someone, known or unknown to the murderer, holding an office of some kind or not, where the intended effect is not primarily the death of the person in question, i.e. the person's death is a means to an end of some other kind. It could be getting paid for the death, it could be a political motive of some sort, it could be done for religious reasons, or something else. There are, of course, a line-drawing problem, for example, serial killers do not assassinate people, because the aim for them IS directly tied to the death of the victim.

So if I kill a cop to escape from justice, that's assassination? Or shoot someone in the course of a robbery, for that matter.

In both cases, the death of the person is not my actual goal.

It's interesting, because we all have a fairly clear and largely shared idea of what it means, but it's a bugger to nail down. You know it when you see it though.

No, because an assassination is not something that happens at the spur of the moment. It needs preparation and premeditation. It is also specific, in that there is a certain intended victim.


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I have minor in Paleoanthropology and Archaeology and a major in Classics and Ancient History. The start point is fluid if you are looking at battlefield or forensic archeology, then the sooner the better.

The difference between Archaeology and thievery is:

An Achaeologist should not break laws and should respect the customs of and consult with locals. Any information gathered from the dig should be published and artefacts should go to a museam. The context of the artefacts must be respected.

Thieves do respect context they don't record in meticulous detail where each change in colour of the soil is, at what level the artefacts are found and they smash and grab and sell to the highest bidder.

One is learning the other is profit.


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If you love archaeology, I recommend a TV show called Time Team. It ran for 20 seasons and is hosted by Tony Robinson (Baldric from Blackadder).

Wiki link....

You can find all the episodes on YouTube... I suggest starting about season 15-16 and going backwards and forwards from there.

It's very interesting to see the changes in tech over 20 years. Plus the experimental arch is cool, one episode they hand made Flint and bronze axes and chopped down some trees. It was interesting in to see the changes in technique and speed.

It's not a dry show and can be both funny and exciting. For a British show the cast is diverse with both male and female specialists.


A someone with a degree in archaeology, we asked one of our professors this. The simple answer is it varies, but he asked a simple question: will we learn something new by examining this persons burial, there remains and the artifacts with them? If the answer is probably yes, then it becomes archaeology. Because that is what the core of archaeology is.

On an interesting side note, if you watch an episode of Time Team set in York look for the giant mole. It was a horribly hot summer that years as well...


I will learn what george washingstons skull is worth on ebay.

Road trip!


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I think the right answer is "Stop asking questions and keep digging"

Grand Lodge

Pathfinder Adventure Path, Starfinder Roleplaying Game Subscriber
The 8th Dwarf wrote:

If you love archaeology, I recommend a TV show called Time Team. It ran for 20 seasons and is hosted by Tony Robinson (Baldric from Blackadder).

Wiki link....

You can find all the episodes on YouTube... I suggest starting about season 15-16 and going backwards and forwards from there.

It's very interesting to see the changes in tech over 20 years. Plus the experimental arch is cool, one episode they hand made Flint and bronze axes and chopped down some trees. It was interesting in to see the changes in technique and speed.

It's not a dry show and can be both funny and exciting. For a British show the cast is diverse with both male and female specialists.

I can't help but wonder how much damage they do to science because of digs being rushed for television drama purposes. Real science in the field generally makes poor tv because it isn't that dramatic.


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They are very good at what they do. Time Team generally explores sites that are to be developed and thus ruined any way or sites that have been plough damaged. If neither then it's exploratory test trenches leaving majority of the site for later excavation.

All of the archaeologists are the top of their field and it's very professionally done. It got to the point where they were being used by the various government heritage departments to assess sites for thier significance.

But any digging professional or otherwise does damage...

Liberty's Edge

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The 8th Dwarf wrote:

But any digging professional or otherwise does damage...

Quite correct. It is common when practical to leave sections of an archaeological site alone so that future excavators with better methods and techniques can come back later and get more information out of the dig than the current crew could.


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Queen Moragan wrote:
As an Archeologist, I would say long enough for any relatives of the occupant of the tomb, that were alive whilst the occupant of the tomb was also alive, to be all dead.

That can be arranged.

Liberty's Edge

Drejk wrote:
Queen Moragan wrote:
As an Archeologist, I would say long enough for any relatives of the occupant of the tomb, that were alive whilst the occupant of the tomb was also alive, to be all dead.
That can be arranged.

True, but committing mass murder/genocide in order to fulfill that requirement would most definitely put one in the grave robbing category.


Eleven minutes and fifteen seconds, precisely.

(But could you, uh, maybe set your watch five minutes early, or somethin'? I got places to be, see. I know a guy...)

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