I first want to say Thank you to everyone that showed up at our August Meeting yesterday. We had a turn out of 17 people in attendance. I would also like to give out a HUGE THANK YOU to Dr. Hoard for making the trek from Topeka to Wichita just to talk to us “hunters”. Now we all know that there has been friction between the Archaeology community and not only metal detectorists but collectors of all types in the past. I have to applaud Dr. Hoard for his open mindedness to us MDers. I think Pulltab and I were both a little taken back on how much our States archaeology department already works with metal detectorists. Dr. Hoard had several examples of dig sites that included the use of our equipment. He mentioned several times that he sees our tools as a useful extension of their equipment. They use several types of ground penetrating radars and other very high tech equipment but he definitely acknowledged that sometimes our equipment is exactly what they need to help them piece together the puzzles of history.
I have to admit I was a little skeptical about how this meeting would go but I was pleasantly surprised at the outcome. I learned several things (some good, some bad) about what they would like from us. Let’s start with the good stuff we discussed.
Sites- Dr. Hoard informed us that any citizen can create, document, and file a site through his department. He acknowledged the fact that they will never have the time, money, and other resources to do a full dig on every site. He encouraged us to create sites based on our finds. For example if we dig period artifacts from a church that we have researched and prove that there was in fact a church there. This seems totally feasible to me. He made it very clear that they can NOT just pick out a publicly filed site and turn it into a full field site. They have to go through the same steps that we do. They have to get permission from the landowner if held privately. They also want a reason for researching the site. It sounds like they do a fair amount of work with the DOT and if a planned highway is going through a site they seek permission to research it before the site is changed and possibly ruined.
Artifacts- Plain and simply put their department is not interested in every artifact we find. However, they would like to be informed about them on the field site registry. This gives them information. He mentioned that many private collectors let them photograph and document their artifacts. The artifacts are then sent back to the private collector unless they have permission to keep the artifact. He also mentioned that many private collectors will turn over their artifacts and they are placed in a local library or museum. This allows the general public to see local artifacts.
Recognition- In our club I had heard this mentioned a few times and someone brought up the fact that we as MD’ers haven’t historically gotten recognition for the work we have done with the archaeology community. Dr. Hoard agreed that most humans like recognition for the work they have done. He also said that there are times when these details fall through the cracks. I have to be honest I can understand this. If a group of 5-15 detectorists show up to help with a full on field school or field site and there are 100 volunteers there it would be tough to make sure everyone got a piece of the recognition. I think this is a small detail that could easily be worked through.
The only bad news (if we can call it that) that came out of the meeting was the following. Our state has an Artifacts Act that was passed in I believe in 1967. This act prohibits the removal of artifacts from public lands whether they be State, City, Township, or County. As soon as he informed us of this the room got kind of quiet and we all paused to contemplate what these words meant. Does this mean we can’t metal detect in local parks? No it doesn’t mean that. It does mean however that under current law we would have to get a permit to collect artifacts out of public land. Well a permit wouldn’t be a big deal right? I had to ask the question. How would we go about getting a permit? The short answer was that you have to have a masters degree and apply through their department.. Ok so I don’t have a masters degree which means I can’t get a permit. Now I’m thinking this kind of sucks.. But then the discussion became quite interesting. Dr. Hoard encouraged us to come up with some new wording and revisions that could be made to this law to keep everyone happy. He had a pretty good analogy that kind of put things into perspective. If a state, city, or county park has a huge Limestone deposit or a gold vein under the surface and people came in with backhoes and excavators to remove these natural resources it would do major damage to the public property and damage their resources. This is how they protect their land from a far out there scenario like that. My take on this discussion was this. He would like to hear from us what kind of verbiage we would like to see changed in the Artifacts act. Maybe it has to do with the tools used to recover artifacts? Maybe it has to do with how deep you can remove an artifact? Maybe it means that if you are recovering artifacts that both parties would find interesting you report it to them? I’m not sure how this law could be changed but I’m hopeful that there is common ground to be found.
In the end we all decided to keep in touch with each other and work together on finding some common ground. As Dr. Hoard mentioned we have similar interests but we have different ways of achieving that goal. We all agreed that open mindedness is crucial on both sides for everyone to get along happily.