Recently, thousands of artifacts have been recovered by various Florida departments acting in a sting operation.( http://www.wctv.tv/home/headlines/FWC-Recovers-Thousands-of-Stolen-Artifacts-193670681.html
) These artifacts have reportadly been taken off of state and federal land, and then sold black-market style across two states. Many of the comments for the video voice the opinion of many state taxpayers who are shunning the state government for doing this, and rising to the defence of the alledged looters. Additionally, SourceFed just did a report on an eccentric millionare who buried treasure and left clues behind so that people can go out and find it ( http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZOzZkBRLdSQ&list=UU_gE-kg7JvuwCNlbZ1-shlA&index=1
Now, background information on the laws. It is OK to dig on your own, private land (or someone elses with their concent) and take whatever you find. As soon as you move to state or public land, however, things change. You now have to get the concent of the state or the Fed's concerning any digging you might do. This even applies to picking things up off the ground. "Take nothing but pictures, leave nothing but footprints."
This is because atrifacts are a finite resource who's information is based on where and in what context it is found. Digging and recovering artifacts destroys the context it is in, so you better make sure you get as much information about the artifact as you dig it up. Information like soil color, depth, features it was found in or near-by.
This is what archaeologists do when they dig, and psrt of the reason it takes so long to diseminate information to the public. Because all of these context clues give us the insite to make educated interpretations about the past and the people that lived then.
Looting removes that artifact from the posibility of adding anything to the history of people in the past. There is no context associated with looted objects; you just have an item from the past. That's it. It can't add to the conversation of past cultures. It is simply a dead end.
Now, people have been claiming that the states have over stepped their bounds. That archaeologists in their Ivory Towers want to lock things away and hide them from John Q. Public. That the past should be open to everyone. However, the process of recovery can be quite destructive to nature, as well as near-by artifacts. Once those artifacts are taken, they are put into private collections and are truely hidden away from the public. Museums once, but no longer, bought these artifacts. Now looted artifacts sit in peoples homes, outside of any scientific context.
The timing of the SourceFed video could not have been worse. While the man's idea is fun and innovative for getting people to go outdoors and experience America, he is doing it in such a way that promotes looting and the recovery of our history. Increased digging has the potential effect of unintentional looting of sites that people misinterperate as the site of the "treasure." It might have been better if he stuck with geocaching ... cash.
Thoughts? Questions? Comments?