|Archeological Sites on Your Property
by David Calame, Sr.
Everything you learned in grade school about the prehistory of our country came from archeological excavations and information properly recorded and researched. What the school children of tomorrow will learn about Texas prehistory will be based on what is recorded and researched by archeologists today. We know so little about our great state’s prehistoric past and the clues to this past lie buried!
Professional and avocational archeologists have been hampered in their efforts to gather information about our beloved Texas' past, by increasingly limited access to private property. Since over 90 percent of the land in Texas is privately owned, the overwhelming majority of archeological sites are obviously located on private property. The reluctance by property owners to allow archeologists to search for traces of Texas’ past is in part due to their concerns that government agencies will be intruding on their property rights. During the 1990’s, this fear reached a peak when the Endangered Species Act mandated the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to identify and protect the habitat of various endangered species. You may remember this best as the local furor that developed over the Golden Cheeked Warbler habitat in the Texas Hill Country and the restrictions placed on pumping water from the Edwards Aquifer, brought about by the Sierra Club's lawsuit to protect endangered species at Comal Springs in San Marcos.
These legitimate concerns have inadvertently and dramatically reduced archeologist’s access to many archeological sites and the information they contain. Even collectors are fearful of sharing information with archeologists, thinking that their collections may be in jeopardy if they do so. Let’s set the record straight! There are no state laws that automatically protect archeological sites on private property and the Texas Historical Commission has no authority to condemn private property containing archeological sites or to confiscate private artifact collections. The Texas Historical Commission and the archeological community at large support private property rights 100% and acknowledge that landowners are the best stewards of archeological sites on private property.
In the State of Texas, archeological sites found on private property, are considered to be the property of the landowner. In fact, all antiquities laws and ordinances pertain only to public lands (federal, state, county, city, etc.). A landowner may choose to obtain a protective designation or conservation easement to protect sites on his property but these options require his expressed, written agreement. Otherwise, trespassing laws can be used to help property owners protect against unauthorized collectors.
Won't you join us in the grand quest to piece together our state’s prehistoric past? . There is a network of volunteers across Texas who stand ready to help landowners understand sites on their land and provide assistance with things like prehistoric burials.
A number of landowners have used their help very
the last 16 years.
Other sources of information available on the internet
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