Message #143:
From: AzTeC SW Archaeology SIG
To:   "'Matthias Giessler'" 
Subject: New Article about Culture Thieves
Date: Sun, 12 May 1996 23:44:39 -0700 (MST)
Mime-Version: 1.0


I encourage a visit to your library or bookstore to acquire the May 1996
edition of Lapidary Journal.  Annie Osburn has written a review piece titled
-- Culture Thieves (The Stolen Bounty of Pothunters and Grave Robbers Turns
Black-Market Art Into Big Bucks).  Ms. Osburn interviews a number of key
persons knowledgeable about the battle against archaeological vandals,
including -- Paul Charlton, Assistant U.S. Attorney, DOJ (Phoenix); Mark
Bahti of Bahti Indian Arts (Tucson, AZ); Rich Lange, Assistant Archaeologist
with the Arizona State Museum; Paul Fish, Curator of Archaeology at the
Arizona State Museum; Judge Sherry Hutt, Superior Court of Maricopa County,
Arizona; and, Martin Sullivan, Director of the Heard Museum in Phoenix.  Ms.
Osburn recounts the cases of Earl Shumway of Utah, John and Adam Bruce of
Arizona, Gordon Pond, also of Arizona, and the case of a Native American
mummy illegally exhumed from a site on the Tonto National Forest in Arizona.
Ms. Osburn also briefly discusses ARPA and NAGPRA legislation.

According to the article, there are more ARPA prosecutions in the state of
Arizona than any other district in the U.S.

For me, the low point of Ms. Osburn's article appears when she askes the
question: "Who really owns the past?  Is the work of archaeologists, albeit
done scientifically and with integrity and respect, in itself a form of
looting?"  A few sentences later she notes "With tightening
guidelines...some archaeologists may fear restrictions on their trade.  A
far cry from Indiana Jones, whose persona lives through high adventure and
near-death experiences all to recover precious antiquities for a university
museum, most archaeologists work a slow and painstaking existence to record
small fragments of history." 

In no way can professional archaeological site evaluation and excavation be
considered looting, especially as such investigation is specifically
required by law on federal, state and tribal lands prior to any development
activites which may impact significant sites.  One can't pass a law
requiring the activity then call it looting.  Also, most professional
archaeologists work outside of University museums.  As professionals in
business, archaeologists do carry out painstaking, expert efforts.
Nonetheless, the work is hardly slow.  Finally, the comment about Indiana
Jones, a fictional Hollywood character, holds no place in an article about
professional archaeologists.  Regardless of the claptrap Hollywood engenders
for purposes of entertainment, Indiana Jones is NOT an archaeologist.  There
is no reason to raise the ficticious Jones in discussing ARPA, NAGPRA and
site protection.

Such poor analogy makes no rational or emotional sense, and only serves to
debase the real story  -- archaeologists engaging the scientific method to
interpret the past, and, archaeologists working with Native Americans and
law enforcement authorities to protect sites from wanton destruction.

Brian Kenny
kenny@getnet.com