Message #227:
From: AzTeC SW Archaeology SIG
To:   "'Matthias Giessler'" 
Subject: Shrinking Marginal Returns
Date: Sat, 14 Jun 1997 11:15:52 -0700 

See: Message 223


I plan to forward Ms. Dean's SASIG letter to several "collectors" 
who frequent the forum.  I doubt, however, that they will react 
in a positive manner. 

Deb Dosh

Deb --

Ms. Dean knows the original did not originate with you. Please publish
her comments back to the forum.  It does not matter that the forum
members react in a positive or negative manner -- it is a forum.  My
comments (original with me) to be appended to Ms Dean's comments and
published to the forum are as follows:

Artifact collectors can protest the law as much as the desire. Their
protestations are unimportant.

To be caught in acts of vandalism or looting is a tough situation.  It
really is an inconvenience to be called to appear before a judge or
jury, and, the outcomes are never certain.  But, our system of justice
is meant to be temporarily inconvenient to alleged perpetrators. 
Persons are brought to court to answer improprieties, and answering such
charges is always personally inconvenient.

I have caught and sent to the courts several vandals and collectors only
to see them go free because they could make compelling arguments for
mitigating circumstances, plea stupidity or ignorance of the law, and so
forth. In my experience, most hobbyists can convince a judge or a jury
of their peers for leniency or dismissal the first or second time around
the system.

While it remains highly inconvenient to be put through the legal ringer,
no one should have a problem with inconveniencing vandals and collectors
to make them stand charges when they are caught doing wrong.  It is the
job of the prosecutor to convince the judge and jury to determine guilt
and assess punishment. 

Some vandals I have helped to convict, go to jail or pay fines and get
supervised probation.  Not wishing to sterotype everyone, with this next
comment, I simply will note that many of these *actual* cases had
problems (alcohol, drugs, etc) well beside my interference in their
looting activities.  They were convicted before the jury, because they
had no compelling or justifiable explanation for their alleged behavior
and acts. 

Commercial vandalism and illicit collecting helps these vandals feed
their substance-abuse habits, or, provides them with money enough to
remain blissfully marginally employed, a situation where he or she does
not answer to a time clock or a boss, and where he or she can live a
life wild and unregulated with little personal responsibility toward

It is a lifestyle issue to choose to be barbarian and a vandal.

Barbarians get convicted regularly. Gentlemen collectors who can talk
fast might go free.  Middlemen conspirators who fuel site vandalism with
easy money are seemingly never brought to answer for their conspiracy in
such matters.  I would like to see convicted more than a few of the

If vandals and collectors believe the anti-vandalism laws are unjust or
unnecesary, they should today contact their representatives and express
their opinions that such laws be overturned.

To my knowledge, I know of no archaeologist who has ever been elected to
a state of federal legislative body.  Archaeologists tend to have little
direct personal financial or political influence, but, they can argue
persuasively for improved historic preservation.

The laws against vandalism exist because the preservation community and
legislators were convinced that the arguments for continued preservation
outweighed any economic or social argument brought by the greed and lust
of individuals hoping to be free of societal constraint.

America has a long tradition of historic preservation.  As this country
matures and develops, the need for preservation will increase and
sanctions against boorish behavior will stand.

The answer for people interested in the past is not to act the lone
ranger and seek to possess and covet.  The answer is to work within
established communities of law-abiding citizen who wouldnt think to
cheat by looting, or, by creating false provenience documentation to
'legalize' for sale illicit artifacts.  

The answer is to work with groups that seek consultation with others and
outside review prior to acting.  Sites should be preserved for the
potential they hold.  Where sites cannot be preserved, the answer is to
create community participation leading to greater scientific and
historical information.  Appropriate documentation is the key.

In this information age, information is more highly valued than mere
objects.  That's why collectors are forever asking archaeologists to
examine their collections.  They need information with the artifact more
than they need the artifact standing alone.

Since information is the highest value of this society, collectors
should consider changing their focus from things.

The maginal values to be derived from things will shrink over time and
the collector will expend more effort for less of a return.

A conviction or jail sentence is not even a marginal return, but a
negative return on investment.