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 From: 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 others. 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 middlemen. 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.