Illegal finders of antiquities in Ukraine: do digital data indicate grassroots growth, coincidence, false advertising, astroturfing, trolling or sockpuppetry?

I am delighted to say that Ukrainian Archaeology – particularly Ukrainian Archaeology – has published my (open-access) study of illegal finders of antiquities in Ukraine: do digital data indicate grassroots growth, coincidence, false advertising, astroturfing, trolling or sockpuppetry?

(English-language) Ukrainian Archaeology publishes selected papers from (Ukrainian-language) Arkheolohiia, the journal of the Institute of Archaeology of the National Academy of Sciences in Ukraine.

Abstract

Recently, online communities for metal detectorists have grown at rates of between 0 and 5 people per day in Belarus and Poland and between 10 and 25 people per day in Russia. Meanwhile, one “pair” in Ukraine has grown at a rate of 49-51 people per day; another “pair” in Ukraine has grown at a rate of 550-566 people per day. This paper explores the possible causes of this impossible growth. Based on data before the suspicious surge in activity, it is estimated that there are at least 25,402 metal detectorists in Ukraine.

Note

I found these quirks in the data while exploring ‘black archaeology’ in Eastern Europe: metal detecting, illicit trafficking of cultural objects and ‘legal nihilism’ in Belarus, Poland, Russia and Ukraine, which has now been published by Public Archaeology (for which there is an open-access postprint copy, as well as the paywalled official publication). Initially, they were merely curiosities – and problems – within that article. However, their analysis grew into a separate article-length study.

I did not only have to consider grassroots growth, coincidental statistics and false advertising. I also had to consider astroturfing, trolls and sock puppets, internet propaganda in Russia’s war on Ukraine and beyond, and cultural heritage propaganda in Russia’s war on Ukraine.

I suspect that someone is seeding fake accounts in online communities of metal-detectorists in Ukraine, either to make them appear too good to miss for detectorists, or to make them appear too large to regulate for authorities. Yet the data remain confusing.

Citation

Hardy, S A. 2017: “Illegal finders of antiquities in Ukraine: Do digital data indicate grassroots growth, coincidence, false advertising, astroturfing, trolling or sockpuppetry?” Ukrainian Archaeology, 2016, 3-14. [pdf]

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