My last post “Just leave it in the Dirt” garnered a lot of views but very few responses but I can’t say that it surprises me. We read articles like the one in the Boise Weekly, get angry for a minute or two, then forget about it. I mean after all no one was banned or arrested right?
I kept reading this article and while at times it promoted our pastime it also made us out to be less than honest. Take the following for instance….
“Items that are out there on public lands, they’re part of our history,” said F. Kirk Halford, deputy preservation officer and state archaeologist for Idaho’s BLM office. “People should think of it like an outdoor museum. You see it, touch it, take pictures, take notes, then leave it behind. When you go into a museum, you don’t take stuff away.”
Sorry but I find that ridiculous. We can touch it (can we pick it up?), take photos, notes and then just leave it there. Is that it? If so just when will Mr. Halford or his fellow archaeologists come along and do the same? When will ‘they’ recover that historically, breathtaking find and announce it to world? I mean after all that old coin or belt buckle will surely wind up in a museum. Or will it?
I also love the term “public lands”. I understand that Mr. Halford is implying that whatever is buried on public land belongs to everyone, but if it’s not found just how does the public benefit? Also are we not the ‘public’?
Then there’s this…
“The artifacts should be owned by the public and not privately,” Altschul said. “It’s important that those items sit in the dirt. Once it gets out of the dirt, if it’s not recovered adequately, it’s just a thing on the shelf. It has no importance to history. You’ve lost the entire story of what that piece meant, and you lose all ability to reconstruct the past, the settlement of the West and how people lived”.
Apparently we cannot search for, find, recover and own anything. Frankly I will take a thing on the shelf to nothing at all, and the implication that we never try to document finds or share them is just more self serving, ‘we can do it better’ BS. I am also willing to bet that there are relic hunters out there who can run rings around archaeologists when it comes to identifying items and documenting their provenance. Remember too that archaeology almost always relies on guesswork!
And…when Mr. Halford says “It’s teaching people to go out and steal from the public.” I get really pissed. The implication we are stealing is not only uncalled for but an insult to all of us. Just when might we expect the archaeological community to get off their ass and do just a little more of what we do? Apparently it takes money. Government money. Our money. Without it all they can do is piss and moan about the guy with a metal detector who is out on the weekends trying to have fun. You know, that guy who sometimes finds neat things. Things that every so often make headlines and archaeologists jealous!