A few thoughts from a Legenda Rookie

Recently there has been uproar on the net and in media about a now cancelled TV show. I guess you all know what I`m on about. The “whole” world agreed to that the way the show was presented was so bad taste that it just had to be pulled. Legenda that had been asked to supervise this is also very upset about the way things were done. A lot of the focus from the archaeology offices was turned towards Legenda and many other soldier recovery groups that work in Russia and Eastern Europe, and there methodology is at the centre of the debate. As I am new to the group and not a professional archaeologist I`ll leave that debate for the ones with more experience and training. But one thing about that is that thousands of WWI and WWII bodies are regularly discovered and exhumed in a similar manner all over Europe by digger groups and official organisations such as the Volksbund . If the bones are turned over to a cemetery, and any items useful for identification are passed on to the authorities, then what they are doing is acceptable, and is not grave robbing or desecrations. Many archaeologists and history enthusiast in the world living far from the battlefield areas and don`t realise that in many parts of Europe the ground is full of of lost soldiers , it is such a huge number that they cannot all be exhumed in a textbook manner. What I am thinking about is how many people from the “archaeologist-academic” world are addressing us. We are being called grave robbers, looters, treasure hunters and that we have no respect for the dead. Also in the same forums and discussion threads there are a lot of threats, death threats and the sorts directed towards us. I find it interesting that not a single one of all the threats and death threats I`ve seen posted has been addressed by anyone, so you are silently accepting that kind of behaviour. I am quite disappointed, I would have expected more if you have such high morale standards as you preach in the comment fields. So, these diggers spend most of their free time doing research, seeking landowners and trying to find places fallen might still lie. They spend their own money on equipment, fuel for cars and travel. They walk, search and work full days in often hard to reach areas in difficult terrain, in rock hard soil and water filled marshes infested with mosquitoes and dangerous tics. They choose to do this in the hope to bring another fallen soldier home because they believe he deserves a named grave , his family deserves a closure to a 70 year open wound. They do this the legal way , they have themselves contacted authorities and have always wanted to do this work in the correct way , and believe me , there is enough black diggers around that don`t care about such things and really only dig for their own collections regardless of if they destroy the remains of a soldier and then they go then sell them. Legenda has always tried to “turn” such people and show them the right way to do things as contacting authorities when bodies is found. For me we are not disrespecting the dead. Yes, we might shout and dance when we find a fallen, especially when we know he will be identified by a nametag or similar, it is a very normal release after many many hours hard work. I was invited to Legenda and have done this work with them several times and seen how it s done, and the little video clips causing the uproar is really not representative for what is going on. I have not been just given a shovel and asked to pull bones out of the ground. I have been closely supervised and instructed by the boss of the group and most experienced digger , and if I`m not digging I am sifting through soil where the boss is digging to ensure nothing is lost and left behind , and the whole process is often filmed and photographed. Legenda has responded to some of these forums by inviting professionals to participate and work together to improve the methodology and quality of the work. Seeing how engaged the archaeologist community have been writing angry comments I would think some of them really was serious about this sort of work as it must be a great experience for them as well doing this work, but of all the hundreds active in the comment fields there seems to be mostly internet warriors and desk-chair archaeologists since very few has responded to the invitations. I really urge you to look past your hurt feelings and seek out a digger group if you want to do something positive. Most of these groups are volunteers and is often underfunded and would probably be as welcoming as Legenda has been towards me. – inka


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One Response to A few thoughts from a Legenda Rookie

  1. samarkeolog says:

    Thank you for this.

    Many outsiders are quiet because they have not seen any death threats. But some archaeologists have received death threats from metal detectorists, so they do sympathise with you.

    Because the programme is British-American, many of the comments have been made by archaeologists/historians in the UK and the US. They cannot come to Latvia to help; they cannot speak Latvian; etc.

    Still, they do appreciate your efforts, and I hope that some will be able to advise and support you in your work.

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