Message #135 From: AzTeC SW Archaeology SIG To: "'Matthias Giessler'" Date: Mon, 13 April 1998 Subject: 'Let Us In' Says Relic Hunter [ AzTeC / SWA SASIG ]: [ SASIG Ed. Note -- A reader of SWA SASIG responds to a 1996 SASIG posting http://www.swanet.org/discussion/message132.html ] From: John Lobota firstname.lastname@example.org I am a relic hunter and see various view points on the subject. Many of them valid, but also see that every situation is different. The relic sites I hunt are those the State cannot or will not ever work on. Usually on private property that is ready to be developed. I am always one step ahead of the bulldozers as are most of my detectorist friends. We do not plunder archeological sites. However, we have seen the state put pressure on the state archeologist, which we have worked alongside forcing him to finalize a project so the road or development can continue. The state is more than guilty as is the archeologist...because their decision is based entirely on money, and pressure from greedy counties or developers. Much like the individual noted in your posting. Both are wrong... Most detectoists do not plunder... Just as most individuals do not rob banks or steal. Criminals do. A large number of important sites are found and documented because a detectorist found it. All my finds will eventually go into a museum along with the details of the finds. The state and archeologists were not willing to do what we did. The items we found are the only ones that will ever be available from these important historic sites. There just needs to be more cooperation and willingness to work together. On the part of the state, archeologists and relic hunters. The state having the power should be the ones to initiate this cooperative instead of trying to weild their power to instill fear. Take guns away from the people and only the criminals will have guns. I see the same thing happening in this field. Treasure and Relic Hunters all know one another and for the most part have an informal network. If you want to stop plundering, let the some of us in on the recovery and preservation...no one could get away with plundering then. You guys are going at it all wrong... we (the majority of relic hunters) are not the enemy, the few that plunder are and you are grouping us all together. We should be working together... Response(s): From: Mike Berry email@example.com (This is a) surficially compelling but utlimately falacious argument. The vast majority of 'relic hunters' do a great deal of damage. The fact that they may be vandalizing sites that are not covered by any state of federal regulation is irrelevant. We don't encourage amateurs to do brain surgery on folks who can't afford it because they happen to be uninsured. Leave the sites alone Mr. Loboto. They have a better chance of healing themselves than they have with your assistance. From: John Lobota firstname.lastname@example.org Mike, I agree with you fully. I also fully understand your concern. The two sites I am referring to that I worked were immediately destroyed thereafter. One was government land sold to a developer and the construction co. started dozing and building. The only existing relics are what we salvaged to go into the county museum. The second was one we worked on with the State Archeologist who called in several detectorists because he didn't have the resources to recover enough to gain insight on the battle ground before the county finished widening the road. He was told in no uncertain terms by the state to get out of the countys way. The few sites I have worked were because they were on their way to destruction by developers, or the counties. They are the primary source of Historic Site destruction along with, secondarily the Relic Hunters out to steal what they can. I believe all three are wrong. From: Mike Berry email@example.com John, I sympathize with your posiiton, but you are (as evidenced by your responsible behavior) an exception to the rule. Archeology is fun. That's why I spent so damn many years acquiring a doctorate. With your keen and understandable interest in the subject, why don't you consider a professional career in archeology. God knows it's not rocket science! Good luck, Mike Berry From: Teresa Paglione firstname.lastname@example.org A counterpoint argument ---- 1 Jeepers, this detectorist must be psychic... How does he KNOW the state or another archeologist will never work the site (properly)? If archeologists knew where the destruction was going to be next, hundreds of sites could be saved or excavated. There seems to be the thought that everything has to be excavated NOW - there is no preservation value or ethic at work here. Or budget for conservation. 2a As for working private property, unfortunately that probably is the fault of the state and archeologists - not getting word out to landowners that allowing non- rofessionals to dig up the land looking for "goodies" is not a good thing (BUT we are getting better at this public education thing!). Of course, that assumes the detectorist has permission to be there. 2b And speaking of private lands -- if it is land/property (not just farmland) that is being managed or has any tie with NRCS - USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service (old Soil Conservation Service/SCS), then it is against our (NRCS) rules to disturb cultural resources/sites and could place the landowner in jeopardy - by removing future NRCS assistance (technical help, grants, cost shares and loans..) Of course that would be an extreme penalty - but entirely possible. 3 As for state archeologists being pressured to approve roads and construction, nothing in the law says an archeological site can "veto" a project; the regs just state that the resource should get as much consideration as public benefits and other associated factors. If a site is going to be destroyed, usually there is mitigation if needed. Then again, the site has to be worthy of preservation or excavation to justify the expenditure of YOUR TAX Dollars. 4 As for greedy archeologists - I must be doing something wrong - I am not rich - by a long shot. And I don't know many archeologists that wouldn't make more money doing something else. But most of us trade off what we want to do for a smaller paycheck - as opposed to earning "real" money in a job we don't like - or hate. And I haven't and don't charge mega-bucks for my assistance. I have volunteered more time w/out pay (or at minimum wage) in archeology than I can remember. (AND - even tho the federal workforce is seen as strictly 9-5ers, come by this office and you'll see a Wildlife Biologist, Forester, Grazing Lands Specialist, Agronomist, Soil Scientist and a lot of other people putting in more than a 40 hour work week - and we don't get overtime, and none of us are doing it for the money....) 5 I have been on sites that metal detectors swept through in previous years in the hands of a multitude of persons. You ever try figuring out a battlefield with all the metal gone or displaced? The only thing we found was more than 3 feet below surface - in the bottom of a trench (a dozen unfired blasting caps)...or on the surface in a discard pile - with other unrelated objects. (A major battle at Kennesaw Mountain, GA and all we found was 4 or 5 minie balls (none in original context), the blasting caps and a broken artillery shell (also previously dug up and then abandoned...after all, 1/4 of it was gone (a dud - not exploded). But, the local shops displaying or dealing in historic artifacts had cabinets and drawers and trunks full of blasting caps, artillery shells, minieballs, bayonets, belt buckles, and all kinds of hardware associated with 1800's farms and Confederate and Union armies...) Oh Sure - it was ALL purchased or dug legally and documented. (yeah - right - some of it is still being removed in the dead of nite within the NATIONAL PARK's boundaries...) Of course, not all detectorists would risk jail time, but destruction is destruction whether you are knowingly or unknowingly doing it. 6 I have yet to see a site documented or recorded by detectorists in any state archeological file or in any library I have researched. 7a You want in on recovery and preservation efforts? Do you know how much time and money it takes for the conservation and preservation of most metal artifacts? That is a whole 'nother subject.... 7b If you really want to help the field of archeology and archeologists, check out the publications about the survey at Little Big Horn (Custer Battlefield) and see how to do it right... (Archeology, History and Custer's Last Battle: The Little Big Horn Reexamined, 1993; Archeological Insights in to the Custer Battle: An Assessment of the 1984 Field Season, 1987 - both by Richard A. Fox, Univ of Oklahoma Press; and Archeological Perspectives on the Battle at Little Big Horn (1989) - by Fox and ???) 8a As for donating the artifacts you dig up, the reputable museums wouldn't take it. Not to slam anyone who does, but most little cities and towns have museums that were/are local and a source of misdirected community pride. You won't find many of them staffed by professionals unless they are trying to clean up the mess from decades of accepting EVERYTHING that anyone brought in the door. 8b And that brings up another point - In archeology, IT IS NOT the ARTIFACT itself - but what it represents or can be interpreted to represent. CONTEXT counts, not the artistic or display value most museums are after (otherwise you'd see millions of broken sherds, ceramics and glass and lithic flakes. BUT you don't; you only see the restorable pottery or whole pots that are unique or pretty or the best examples of projectile points) AND finally --- I'll tell you what, if you really are interesting in saving the past, take a course in anthropology or archeology - it is free on the net in a number of places! Attend a local archeology chapter meeting. Contact a local archeologist and volunteer your services; find out why we (archeologists) really do this stuff. If he/she turns your services down, shame on us; but please find another archeologist to work with. Your best bet might be to volunteer at an excavation, or begin a good relationship with a professional in the field. My best and first recommendation would be to get your hands on one or all three of Fox's books and see what teamwork between a metal detectorist (group) and an archeologist can lead to. You can get in the door by offering to help - and promising not to abuse or misuse knowlegde gained from archeological research . . . . From: Brian Kenny email@example.com In Arizona, the avocational societies sponsor certification programs. There also exists a Site Steward Program for members of the public interested in participating in historic preservation. Many of these same stewards and public-minded citizen participate in Arizona Archaeology Awareness Month activities and the Archaeology Expo. They represent a positive force. Still, other abound out in the wilds, call themselves 'metal detectorists,' and do everything but proper work -- they rarely ask for landowner permission, they dig materials and destroy archaeological context, notes taken (if at all) are scientifically inadequate, and, they sell and trade looted artifacts for profit and ego gratification (the 'gee look what ancient thing I possess -- aren't I important' syndrome). You don't have to become a professional archaeologist, but as Mike said, it is fun to do so. As an avocational archaeologist working in a sanctioned way, you also can have a lot of fun. As long you call youself a 'detectorist,' you lump yourself with the bad apples that abound on archaeological sites. You really can't have more fun than putting these schmucks in jail and seeing them successfully prosecuted them for breaking the law. If you seek respect as a 'detectorist,' (the real point of your letter), it probably won't be forthcoming from the sanctioned historic preservation community. Participate with them within the bounds of existing law and established consultative precedents, and most likely you will gain your desired outcome. Keep up your good work, but, do it in a sanctioned way. Contact the historic preservation community and work to create appropriate public-participation programs, venues and cooperative activities if they presently do not exist in your area.