Name : Linsie
E-mail Address :
Knapper or Collector? : archaeologist
Web Site Address :
Comments : I am an archaeologist from
The entry posted above was logged in the Creekside Artifacts guestbook on 1/29/05. As no e-mail address was provided, I offer this open letter to Linsie (Lafayette?).
Dear Linsie (Lafayette?),
First, let me thank you for taking the time to visit Creekside Artifacts and for signing my guest book. You will notice that I have deleted your original entry from my guest book, not in shame, but to make my response to your comments more openly visible to anyone who might share your narrow-minded view of the intentions of avocational archaeologists and surface collectors such as myself. Your brief, unwarranted comment only serves to illuminate the fanatical views that some professional archaeologists hold. Get over yourself. Your attitude only serves to widen the rift, and deepen the level of mistrust, that already exists between radical professional archaeologists and ethical collectors. In many cases it is the interested public, many of whom are law-abiding artifact collecting enthusiasts, who provide the support that is necessary for public funding that pays the salaries of professional archaeologists. I am certainly one of those taxpaying members of the public who supports research archaeology based in universities.
You are mistaken if you don’t think that “archaeologists…collect artifacts EVER!!” I am certain that a good portion of what professional archaeologists do revolves around the systematic excavation, “collection”, analysis and cataloging, and interpretation of artifacts. Aside from the excavation part, because that is best left to professionals and volunteers under their supervision (avocationals), those latter activities sound an awful lot like the kinds of activities in which I and other avocationals and artifact collectors partake. I can only assume that you are overly concerned with where those artifacts are curated, or who has a right to possess and study them, once they have been recovered (*see excavated or “collected”). Sadly, “ivory tower” museums, universities, and government agencies are in many cases doing a rather poor job of managing the task of proper curation of archaeological resources.
Excerpts from The curation crisis: can we afford the future? http://www.sfsu.edu/~museumst/minerva/stankow.html
“Natural history, ethnographic and archaeological museums and repositories are facing a curation crisis which will significantly impact museum practices in the future. An enormous amount of the nation's prehistoric and historic legacy is poorly catalogued, stored in inadequate environments and in danger of destruction. Proper curation (preservation, management and appropriate use) of these collections is an expensive and daunting task.”
“Sinking under deteriorating boxes of unused artifacts and documents, museums have begun to wonder if they can afford the future.”
“The federal government was just as remiss as the private sector in providing adequate collections management. The 1986 Government Accounting Office report based on a questionnaire sent to non-federal repositories housing federally-owned collections, Cultural Resources--Problems Protecting and Preserving Federal Archeological Resources, revealed the following:
Twenty-four percent of the respondents had no inventory of their collections; 30 percent had never inspected them for conservation needs.
Most records of excavations on Forest Service and BLM lands prior to 1975 and 1968, respectively, had been lost or destroyed.
Although the Park Service curated most of its own artifacts and records, here was an estimated cataloging backlog of 15.5 million objects requiring $19.7 million to rectify. (Revised 1992 figures show that the Park Service owns 24.6 million archaeological artifacts of which 16.8 million need to be catalogued. This will required $46.9 million through the year 2000, or 20 years at the current funding levels.)
Thirty percent of non-federal facilities have already run out of room to store or exhibit archaeological objects (Childs 1995:12).
Col. James E. Corbin, U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, wrote, "Over the past 15 years, the Corps of Engineers has spent approximately $165 million on the recovery of archaeological resources, but we have rarely addressed curation and conservation needs for these collections. The result is that many of our collections cannot be accounted for; and most show considerable evidence of neglect and deterioration.”
Acting Director, San Diego Archaeological Center
A CURATION CRISIS http://www.coloradoarchaeology.org/curation_crisis_in_archaeology.htm
Excerpts from American Archaeology Winter 2000-2001
“Dozens of invaluable collections of artifacts taken from American archaeological sites are literally hidden away, and consequently forgotten and left to deteriorate. We’re not talking about items that bring huge prices on the international antiquities markets. We are talking about tens of thousands of little things of no commercial value that add up to invaluable information available nowhere else.”
“Getting archaeologists to focus on curation has historically been a challenge. Many are eager to excavate and do the laboratory work required to complete their research; but they are far less eager to carefully store artifacts in an environmentally controlled repository, where they are safe, secure, and accessible in perpetuity.”\
“In Maryland, thousands of artifacts were stored in acidic boxes, lying around in attics, closets, basements, even in the local U-Store-It. Some objects were scattered all over the state in homes of the archaeologists who had excavated them.”
the National Park Service
A 1986 Government Accounting Office (GAO) report, "Cultural Resources--Problems Protecting and Preserving Federal Archaeological Resources", also highlighted problems in repositories, specifically those with federal collections. Their report found that 24% of the respondents had no inventory of their archeological collections, 30% had never inspected the condition of their collections, and 30% of non-federal repositories had already run out of room. Federal agencies also often had no idea what they owned or where it was stored.
I am a little disappointed that you chose not to leave your e-mail address where I might respond to your sniping comments in a less public manner. But that is not problematic. You see Linsie, I have nothing to hide regarding my avocational interest in archaeology. I also have nothing to hide about the fact that I immensely enjoy surface collecting prehistoric artifacts on private property with the permission of the owner. You may not be aware that this is legal in the state in which I reside as it is in many others in our nation. Those who engage in legal pastimes are not, in my opinion, “pothunters”. That is a derogatory term best reserved for criminal trespassers who disregard laws pertaining to the rights of private landowners and who most often damage archaeological sites by digging through undisturbed stratigraphy and destroy archaeological context for personal gain. You need to know that I have never engaged in the destruction of any archaeological site and have yet to sell any artifact that I have personally found. When and if I do, those artifacts will be accompanied by a complete record of their associated provenance. Incidentally, I know where to find all of the artifacts in my collection and they have been cataloged. What do you know! I’ve even had a couple of avocational articles published that allows the public a chance to review what I have found.
Additionally, you might need to be informed that my surface collection activities are limited to fields that have been subject to heavy agricultural use for over a century. The artifacts I have recovered, and will continue to seek and curate, have been invariably subject to one of two conditions- a total loss of archaeological context (other than general site affiliation), or incidental damage due to contact with agricultural implements. Perhaps you would prefer that these artifacts remain on the surface and suffer additional damage?
I have never claimed to be a professional archaeologist. That is a term that is best used to describe someone who engages in scholarly study at a University, is employed by a Cultural Resources Management firm, or a government agency and who receives a regular income for their efforts. What I do claim to be is an avocational archaeologist, and yes, an artifact collector. Archaeology is the study of the life of ancient peoples via the material evidence they have left behind. I have formally studied, and will continue to study the cultures of prehistoric peoples in North America. In America, the unimpeded pursuit of knowledge and legal pastimes are something that we hold dear. You may not like it, but we are free to pursue degrees such as the one I earned in Anthropology (with an Archaeology concentration) and to use them only for avocational purposes. I also hold a graduate degree and certificate of advanced study in Education. You might find comfort in knowing that I use those professional credentials and skills to teach others about the value of archaeological resources, prehistoric technology, and the prehistory of the area in which I live. Through my volunteer efforts (I have offered numerous seminars and lectures at no expense to audiences from grade 3 to college students and other interested adult learners) a new generation of individuals with an interest in North American Prehistory will emerge. These are the very individuals who will make decisions about the value of publicly funded archaeology as a whole. You and other like-minded, short-sighted professional archaeologists might just say “thank you” for my efforts toward helping to ensure your livelihood.
As for my involvement in the appraisal and authentication of artifacts, I choose to use my formal training in archaeological methods and techniques to serve other collectors. This is yet another wonderful aspect of our nation’s philosophical underpinnings. It is called Free Enterprise. There are many thousands of individuals throughout our country who have either inherited, personally found, or legally purchased artifacts that were legally recovered by others. These artifacts are highly valued by those who possess them, both for their aesthetic and archaeological value. They seek to enhance the holistic value of those artifacts by learning more about them and documenting what is known about them. A good portion of my service is dedicated to helping the rightful and legal owners of those artifacts learn more about what they have found, to appreciate their cultural affiliation, and rarity. There are untold millions of lithic relics in the legally maintained collections of private individuals. Unfortunately, they are not all as well documented as either you or I might like. There can be no argument about the devalued archaeological significance of an artifact for which no associated record of provenance is available. My service is available to provide documentation that enhances the holistic appreciation of lithic artifacts. This type of service is available by a great number of individuals across the country- some more educated than others. Perhaps you should contact some of those authenticators who do not hold a degree in archaeology and air your grievances at their lack of credentials to perform such services.
Material items that are valued are most often curated with great care. The private owner of prehistoric relics is not unable to provide the necessary custodial care that such artifacts are due. Let’s not get into any more embarrassing citations of situations where universities, museums, and professional archaeologists working for governmental agencies have mismanaged entire collections. Authentication and appraisal documents can be openly shared with others who may be future custodians of legally owned privately curated artifacts. This is not unlike the intent of formal, timely and publicly available archaeological site reports generated by professional archaeologists - when you can find them.
I am pleased that you were able to find my website with such ease. It is an open and public record of my avocational archaeological activities. The artifacts pictured on my site are available for all to see – kind of like a free virtual museum isn’t it? It is interesting that in the 7 years that my site has been available online that not ONE professional archaeologist from my state has contacted me to inquire of the location of the sites that I search. The reason is simple. The taxpaying public and professional archaeological community has neither the time, interest, nor monetary resources to excavate every single campsite that is known to exist. Further, not every site is deemed significant enough to warrant full scale excavation and reporting is it?
Perhaps in your studies of the development of archaeology as a science and profession you learned that it was the efforts of avocationals that first stirred an interest in the notion of public and professional archaeology. Perhaps you have forgotten that some of the most significant archaeological finds and sites were discovered by private individuals who responsibly reported their findings to professionals. Perhaps you didn’t read my bio page closely enough to fully appreciate the ethical responsibilities that I espouse and advocate for all who engage in legal artifact surface collection.
Jim Fisher BA, M.Ed, CAS
President of the AACA (Authentic Artifact Collectors Association, Inc. - membership over 2,800 nationally)
DISCLAIMER: The views expressed in this response are not meant to embody my feelings toward the many professional archaeologists who lend their genuine support to avocationals and artifact collectors. There are many professionals who maintain respectful relationships with avocationals and collectors in the interest of forging common bonds that can further everyone’s appreciation for our nation’s prehistoric past and associated artifacts. Further, this response represents my personal views and should not be construed in any way as a formal position statement of the AACA.