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In his book “Introduction to the Oxford Companion to Archaeology,” Fagan states that

"To archaeologists, the human past is owned by no one. It represents the cultural heritage of

everyone who has ever lived on Earth or will live on it in the future. Archaeology puts all human

societies on equal footing." (Hirst, pg. 104). The statement describes the ownership status of

cultural heritage. Fagan states that there is no single individual, not even the archaeologists can

claim to own any specific piece of an artifact or artistic practice. The statement is a response to

benefits archaeologists enjoys as the primary gatekeepers of the past.

The statement is true considering that all archaeological sites belong to the state and the

people regardless of its place of existence (either on public or on private land). Therefore, any

interference with such sites requires consent from an archaeologist with a legit permit. The

process of issuing licenses to archaeologists ensures the safety of the shared resource. In some

places, such as Nova Scotia, there is legislation that protects archaeological sites from

exploitation. The notion of putting humans “on equal footing” is achieved through the provision

of permits to archaeologists to ensure that the places are safe at all time.

However, some archeologists may fail to understand and follow Fagan’s statement. For

instance, limited collaboration has existed between the archaeological community and the metal
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detector hobbyist. Most of the archaeologists consider hobbyists as looters that overshadow their

knowledge. In stereotyping the hobbyists as looters, the archaeologists fail to understand a

simple statement that no individual owns the human past and consequently archaeological sites.

Fagan work is admirable as he tries to create a balance between archaeologists and the

rest of society. He clearly understands that archaeologists might gain a monopoly and claim the

human past due to their knowledge and association with archaeological sites. He thus sets the

heritage of human history from a group of intellectuals to the hands of everybody who has

existed on the face of the earth.

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Works Cited

Hirst, K. Kris. The Archaeologist's Book of Quotations. Routledge, 2016.

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