|A Conversation Pondering The Future Of Our
In Two Parts...(for now)
by Stone Sweet and Bob Wishoff
What is really needed is a serious discussion/s looking into the reasonable range of political/business/educational situations and opportunities which might develop, once K-man DNA-testing is completed (and demonstrating these remains to be ancestral to modern populations), and the Tribes/Nations rightfully demand greater cultural protections.
Given a serious overview of possible situations and scenarios, there may be some very positive surprises in store for all, if open-minded collectors can prevail upon those who are not so inclined.
In great need to be discussed are outlined positions-to-be taken--the
Tribes/Nations would like to have their sovereign nations' status recognized,
and be represented at any organized excavations, as they proceed. The Tribes/Nations
would like to curtail the destruction of sites by land-developers (all
kinds of sites) via increased fines for violations, and possible mandatory
jail-time for CEO's and Presidents of firms violating the laws. The repatriation
of human remains is also an issue, as too, the issues surrounding DNA-testing.
Another side of the issues surrounding site-preservation and site-excavation--Tax write-offs, from state/feds, for commercial and private property-owners, as incentive to preserve any sites on their property--this is/should be a serious consideration for all parties.
The two-fold advantages, beyond the tax-breaks, are the acknowledgement
of a sites' existence at professional levels and the eventuality that the
site will be excavated--can bring to new levels the 'local-collector' involvement,
as well as the inherent learning exchanges that will result of cooperative
What will be required of average citizen 'Joe-artifacthunter',
that he might continue to collect artifacts?
What can be demanded, given up, or accepted as legal obligation/advantage?
Some considerations are:
Expectations of increased publishing of site-reports already written and as yet unavailable to average citizen 'Joe-artifacthunter;
Scientific material-analysis--for the collectors' benefit(vis-a-vis
For this to all work, a new era of cooperative education and cultural
exchange will have to be maintained...(and jump-starting it may also be
a requirement!) A much higher level of respect will evolve from this,
for it seems that the co-existence of two or more 'factions' will inherently
produce much effort toward education and learning--for all concerned, and
to the cler benefit of all parties.
I cannot speak for the Native American tribes and their role in determination of a site’s tribal association. It is a controversial topic, and I believe it will continue to be. I do feel that remains should be taken care of, and if it takes litigation to determine who will perform the task, then so-be-it. That’s what the legal system is for. Native Americans are not alone in their struggle for civil justice, and for laws that see things from their point of view. Since I believe in the principles of the legal system, I must believe that injustices will be worked out of the system in time, and with the help of the courageous few.
I can, however, speak to the subject of development and the role of avocationalists in salvaging what can be saved under the most dire circumstances. The movement toward salvage archaeology is slowly growing across America. Recent numbers support the common sense observation that rural property is undergoing rapid development everywhere. Some states, like Texas, have little say over archaeological sites located on private property. Some flks simply do not want agents of the state on their property for fear that they will try to take ownership away under some obtuse twist of the law. Developers do not want the state, or other authorities, to delay their construction schedules. There simply has to be found a middle ground position.... one that everyone can live with.
The State agencies must stop calling everyone who picks up an artifact a looter... in fact, everyone needs to just keep to the facts. An army of hard-core looters could not destroy near as many sites as development, simple progress does. And you just can’t stop progress. Hell, yes, let’s fight them when they want to develop special properties, but how many lawsuits can be won over a midden?
The irony is that middens are vanishing faster than the “important” sites.... there used to be so many!
So, what do we do?
Insist that public lands be carefully tended to! Call the State or regional Archaeology authority at the first sign of neglect. Suggest a group of volunteers can be put together to work on the site’s upkeep. If waterside erosion is working away at the site, offer to mesh it with tires. GET INVOLVED!
We know who the vandals are.... and we know we are not them!
I believe the authorities are hogtied--- they simply do not have the funds to take on the task. We must offer our assistance at every turn. We must give rise to the new paradigm by not alienating ourselves from the experts... they have the knowledge we want. I know they do not respect us, but we can still make a difference and they know it. I know that while many pros lack imagination, that they nonetheless share the same passion for the topic as I do.
I believe that the professionals need to see the light and create a methodology for the salvaging of a doomed site. This methodology should help evaluate a site in a triage-like fashion, a offer a flow chart for what measurements, samples, etc, can be done under differing cicumstances.
I believe collectors need to document their finds, or at least to share them on a site like the Dirt Brothers, with at least the location of the find.
I am in total agreement that perhaps someone could establish a granting fund that would reward folks for properly documenting private sites, or to give tax incentives to developers who allow excavations voluntarily on sites not protected by law.
I wish there was a clear voice for Native America, and among Native Americans publicly, about a lot more archaeological issues beyond repatriation of sacred objects and remains. This issue seems pretty clearcut --- but issues of development, where “unimportant” sites are at issue, there is little opinion that I know of coming from Native America. Thisa makes it difficult for a non-NA to understand who is for what.
I look forward to further articulation in these areas from others.
I thank Stone for bringing this topic together so well for us all
to converse and extrapolate on.
Why don’t you, the reader. create your own part to this essay?
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