07 April 2008

Theft

This is a conversation I had with Don who owns and manages the Arrowhead Consignment Sales website. It is long so feel free to skip large portions. To make it easier, my comments will be bold. If you have thoughts or questions about the subject please post in the comments section.

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Do you have a way of making sure that the people selling didnt take the tools and points from sites on federal or state lands?

Thanks
B

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How on earth would anyone check for that? I wish I could, but it's not possible. Any suggestions you might have would be greatly appreciated. thanks. Don
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You are right, it is most likely impossible to check that information, even if you asked anyone could just lie. Do you inform sellers or buyers that it is illegal to sell and buy artifacts that were collected from State or Federal land? Some may not care and do it anyway but others may just not know about laws that prohibit collecting those items. Perhaps they will self-regulate...
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I am not sure why the government thinks they own the rocks on all their land. After all, we're taking about millions and millions of acres and millions of artifacts. I do understand why it's wrong to dig up graves, but surface finds? It makes little or no sense to me or to any other collectors that I'm aware of. If they could charge sales tax or a finders tax I'm sure it would be just fine to look anywhere you want. Thanks. Don
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Whether or not you agree with the laws doesnt mean that you dont have to abide by them. They are in place and there can be hefty fines for removing them and as a middle man in these transactions it seems like it is in your best interest to link to the laws or put in a caveat emptor. If someone tries to sell items that are associated with burials, would you not allow them to use your site?

I agree that there are probably lots of artifacts out there and that the gov. and states own lots of land, however, it is still important for artifacts to be found in context so that we (the community, the nation etc) can learn about an area. There could be subsurface features and the only indication may be an initial surface find of flakes and points. Also, the interpretation of a sites' use can be drastically altered if all diagnostic tools (awls, needles, points, manos, metates etc.) are removed-leaving only flakes. The site goes from a possible long term camp or subsistance area to seemingly unremarkable and unimportant lithic scatter. The actual use of an area is as important as the tools themselves...would you agree with that?

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Truthfully, you sound like an archaeologist. I have never met one of those guys that didn't have a pretty nice collection. Wonder where they got them if not pilfered from one site or another. Surely not illegal surface hunting!!!
And, no, I don't agree with all our laws and like everyone else I ignore some of he silly ones. For instance, Texas actually has a law that you can beat your wife as long as the stick is less than one inch in diameter.
It's pretty much ignored as being too silly to enforce.
I have no objection to major sites being preserved, but hunting camps will never be dug or examined, so why bother with preserving them? Likewise other surface finds that are associated with no site in particular. It is too difficult to separate them ( the legitimate sites and the occasional surface finds) so lets just outlaw hunting altogether. Then no one will have collections and a very interesting hobby and the joy of showing your finds will disappear for thousands of people. Only the archaeologists will have collections then and no one will ever see them, or care. Museums won't have anything to show either because no one will be able to donate illegally found items. There is no simple answer to it. thanks. Don
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I am an archaeologist. I can honestly say that i do not possess a single artifact and am not familiar with any other archaeologists that has a "nice collection" either. Perhaps I just dont know the right kind of archaeologists. It certainly doesnt surprise me since there are lawyers who lie and ministers who sin...that's just part of life. However, that still doesnt make it okay.

I agree that there are a number of silly laws in this country and in individual states and cities, no spitting in public, no horses on trolly cars etc. However, i would have to disagree with your assumption that the Archaeological Resources Protection Act (ARPA) and the Native American Graves Protection and Repatriation Act (NAGPRA) are arcane laws that can be "ignored as being too silly to enforce."

In fact, the reason you dont see more enforcement of these laws is because it is so difficult for people to prove that objects were taken from public land. I certainly think that NPS, BLM, BIA and other tribal enforcement officers take the looting of sites as a significant problem and would enforce the existing laws if they had the man power to do so.

I also disagree with your statement that "hunting camps will never be dug or examined so why bother with preserving them." I have excavated numerous hunting camps. I have recorded even more...on national park service, forest service, blm and other public lands. On what basis do you say they will never be examined? Certainly there are more sites out there then current investigations are able to record but that doesnt mean that the sites arent important and should be protected so that people do get the opportunity to examine and learn from these areas.

As for other surface finds that are "associated with no site in particular" you may find it interesting to know that the state of Texas refers to a site as a collection of three artifacts in a 25 meter area. The state of Colorado says 10 artifacts are to be considered a site. If you find three flakes and a projectile point, that's a site. Do you feel that you are able to determine what is and isnt an important site? What do you think makes up an important site? Archaeologists would perform subsurface testing to look for features such as hearths and possible house structures (pit houses or in the southwest roomblocks). Do you take the time to examine the land and jot down notes, including location so that you can learn something from the area?

I have no problem with people having collections of artifacts. They are amazing and let's face it--the reason most of us got into the field is because of how cool projectile points etc. look. There are numerous places where you can legally look for artifacts-private lands. There are lots of organizations like amateur archaeological associations that train folks in identifying sites, excavation techniques, pottery identification etc. No one wants to kill the interest in archaeology...i just think it should be done legally. If you remember, my initial suggestion to you was to just mention that it is illegal to take artifacts from public lands. It seems that you are okay with ignoring this law but perhaps others just aren't familiar with them and would be willing to limit their "hunting" to private lands.

B

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You can trust me on this one - they all know hunting on Federal or State land is illegal. They just do it anyway, since that's where most of the artifacts are. When caught, they pay their $2,000.00 fine and go on with their lives. I don't hunt anymore. It got to be such a hassle I just gave it up. I miss it, but it's not worth the bother anymore. No one plows the land anymore in this area and the only productive spots are on federal and state lake shores. Now I just sell for other people. It's been a pleasure visiting with you. One last thing, do you know how many million points and other artifacts are in the possession of the Smithsonian? No one will ever see them. Same with most other agencies. They get them, hide them in the basement, never to be seen again. Who does this benefit? I am truly puzzled about that one. Have a good one. Don
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p.s. If you guys were really serious you would open a museum in each state and display your finds so the general public (the real owners of our public lands) could see your finds and learn from them. It's not going to happen. thanks again. Don
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Nice to talk with you as well.

You mentioned how many points and artifacts are being hidden in the basement...do the private collectors you sell for/to show their artifacts to the public or do they just frame them and mount them on their mantle? Would they let me into their houses to see their collections for free like the Smithsonian does?

I think there are lots of areas that have local museums or museums assocated with colleges or universities. If you are interested in getting these artifacts to the public you should really consider calling local museums, libraries etc. and working out a deal where the artifacts would be donated as long as they will be displayed. There are a number of free resources for museum folks etc to check out that will help them get funding and knowledge on how to best display and interpret your collections. Most states have at least one museum (natural history, Nature and science etc.) that have artifacts on display. I would be surprised if there wasnt a state that had a museum. Most counties have a local museum or historic society that also have displays (while not as expensive) and discussions about Native Americans in the area.

Thank you for speaking with me, it has been refreshing to talk with a collector that is so open and not hostile.


B

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The private collectors I sell for don't hunt for the public. They hunt for themselves and have no obligation to display their finds. Besides, that's an invitation to get robbed. They do show off their stuff at Artifact Shows around the country. You and your fellow archaeologists do have an obligation to show your finds since you are working for the public as paid employees. Depending on private museums and universities doesn't work very well. I recently saw and held in my hand the finest and largest Bell Point ever found. Purchased from a Texas university for pennies. They didn't know what it was. thanks. Don
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I dont work for the public. I work for a private company, as do most archaeologists. We assist clients which can include federal agencies but usually consists of privately owned oil companies, engineering and construction firms and the like. Making sure that when they put in an oil well or a new pipeline or a new housing development that they dont destroy cultural resources (prehistoric and historic). They have no responsibility to share their finds with the public. However, each state has museums where artifacts are displayed...is your complaint that there are not enough in your area? What is the difference between an archaeologist going out onto BLM land and recording an archaeological site and having the artifacts curated in a museum and you taking the artifacts, selling them and the buyer displaying them in a cabinet in their house? The first way, the information about the site is gathered and preserved and perhaps some new ideas about our history can be gleamed. The second way, you make money and you and the buyer are happy. Either way, no one but the archaeological crew, the collector and buyer get to see the artifact.

It doesnt surprise me that you ran into a university staff member who couldnt tell a Bell Point from a shiny rock...not everyone is a good archaeologist. I think that collectors and amateur archaeologists have a lot to offer the field, they have a passion and knowledge many "professional" archaeologists lack. My point is, do it legally. If you think that people dont do a good enough job on the display end, then figure out a way to get those artifacts on display...

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We do have shows. Lots of them, all over the USA. Open to the public. Big difference. There are no museums in my area that show over a handful of artifacts. Thanks. Don
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I can say that I have never been to one of your shows. My question about them is this...would you be able to tell me something about the people that made the artifacts you are showing? Would you be able to tell me the time period they are associated with? What type of animals these people ate, what type of plants? Can you tell me where the artifacts came from and how they got there? Why they chose to camp in one location over another? Can you tell me why there are three notches in this point and only two in this other? Why certain points are fluted and others are not?

Or are the shows more like, here's a very pretty and very well made artifact, only $250.00? Maybe you dont care about the above questions but that is the reason i do archaeology. Those questions are why i go into the field and dig 1x1m holes and screen my dirt and send off seeds for analysis. Fill out annoying forms and map sites. They are the reason that you know what a Clovis and a Bell point is.

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If you'll take a look at my website you will find that all points are typed and area of find is noted. All are guaranteed authentic by me or the seller. And yes, most dealers and serious collectors know the type, age, stone type, where that type stone is found and various other items of interest. Otherwise, how would I know how much to offer for a 4" Clovis, or how much a 4" Bell is worth? Uninformed people don't stay in this line of work or in this hobby very long. They end up with a pile of fakes and no money. Nothing will excite you like paying 5,000.00 for a point and then finding out it's a reproduction. I'm not much interested in seeds and bones but I do appreciate your hard work. Just wish you'd show more of it instead of hiding it away somewhere. thanks. Don

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I could probably respond to Don but my gut hurts and i dont feel like going around and around with a guy who knows what he is doing is illegal but doesnt care because he can make good money doing it. While he was more willing to talk then any other looter i have ever run into-he is still a douche.

Here's a little tip o the hat to you Don. I will be sending THC your way pal.

Happy monday.
Bird

4 comments:

The Happy Cynic said...

He's not really listening to anything you're saying anyway. You'd be wasting your time. Clearly, he has been justifying his actions to himself and others for a very long time.

Good effort, though. You were so calm, professional, and diplomatic. And it was so nice of Don to share all that information in writing.

thanks. Don.

Hercules Rockefeller said...

You're sending him weed?

The Happy Cynic said...

Smart ass. :)

Bird said...

Funny Herc. The Texas Historical Commission. They will tar and feather him, Yeeehaaawwww!