A Krypton Moment in Indiana

by Tracy C. Brown

The Archaeology in Tennessee blog does not officially support Donald Trump in his mission to become President of the United States.  However, we have been pulling for him to become the nominee of the Republican Party.  Is it because we think Mr. Trump would be a great President?  Surely you jest!!!  No.  It is because we feel reasonably assured that a Trump nomination, and certainly a Trump presidency, would shatter the GOP and burn it into ashes—bringing about its extinction.  On that wonderful future day, the stars will shine brighter; the air will become cleaner; the animals will leap for joy; the plants will be greener; the rocks will sing, and we will all live happily ever after.  Well, that is what my dad and mom thought.  They were about 18 years old and nearly penniless when both the Great Depression and Herbert “Do Nothing” Hoover ruled the USA. Here at the blog, we believe the modern GOP has become a heartless and mindless monster of ideology that bows to the will of career politicians who no longer care about the American people; corporate predators; right wing extremists of every description; Tea Party kooks; avowed Southern racists, LGBTQ bigots, and religious nutjobs (to name only a few of the miscreant groups that make up the GOP party base). Dwight D. Eisenhower—where have you gone—long time passing?

The whole world is holding its breath in both anticipation and fear that Donald Trump may reach the Republican primary total of 1,237 elected delegates, which will pretty much assure him the 2016 Republican nomination for President of the United States. A number of state primaries, including the huge California primary, still have to occur before Trump reaches that number. Nonetheless, here at the blog, we believe the Indiana primary will be the political Armageddon of the Republican primary process, and if Donald Trump wins that primary, a Krypton moment is going to begin in earnest about midnight on Tuesday.  Now, what do we mean by that?

Everyone knows the so-called Republican establishment has been desperately searching for ways to prevent Donald Trump from getting the nomination. Behind the scenes and in parallel with the primary process, Republican politicians, former candidates like Mitt Romney, the Koch brothers, and a cabal of GOP political super pacs have been planning, conniving, scheming, and implementing all sorts of clandestine strategies to deny Trump the nomination.  While publicly denying it, this effort has gone so far that the Republican establishment has even enlisted Ted Cruz and John Kasich to help them in their desperate quest. Although neither of these two candidates has any numerical chance whatsoever of getting the nomination through the primary process alone, the establishment has encouraged them to stay in the race to siphon primary votes away from Trump to keep his elected delegate count as low as possible and prevent him from getting to 1,237 elected delegates. To give cover for the establishment, Cruz and Kasich claim they are staying in the primary race in hopes Trump will not get to 1,237 delegates so one of them will become the nominee on a second or third ballot vote at the Republican National Convention in Cleveland, Ohio. Never mind that the same Republican establishment that despises Trump hates Ted “Lucifer Himself” Cruz even more. Never mind that moderate Kasich’s ability to draw hard-right Republican voters in a general election is questionable at best. So, given all of this, we see a gigantic, elaborate, and unprecedented architecture of obstruction arrayed against Mr. Trump. We would go so far as to liken it to the enormous ice-crystal architecture attributed to the imaginary high-tech civilization on the planet Krypton.  If you have ever read Superman comic books or have seen the Superman movies, you know about ice crystals and Krypton.

This is what we think will happen on Tuesday night. Trump will win the Republican Primary in Indiana.  However, it may be a fairly close race, and the vote count may take a while before CNN is able to declare a winner. After Trump gives his victory speech and certainly by midnight, we are going to see the beginning of an unexpected ground swell of Republican movement and realignment toward the side of supporting a Trump nomination. Droves of Republican congressmen, senators, and state governors who have sat on the sidelines in confusion and trepidation are going to begin publicly declaring their support for Trump. No politician wants to risk being on the bad side of the person who is most likely to be their next presidential nominee and possibly their next President. They know party unity is necessary to win any election—even if they are not totally in love with their candidate.  So, for all of you who were wondering when the day would come, Tuesday night is indeed going to be Armageddon for Trump and the Republican Party establishment.

Louis XVI of France famously declared, “Apres moi, le deluge.”  Architectural ice and heat make a bad marriage. At midnight on Tuesday, the heat will be on, and the ice architecture of obstruction the Republican establishment has arrayed against Trump is going to begin crumbling around its ears and falling apart—just as the ice structures did around Superman’s parents and the people of Krypton. Figuratively speaking, it will look something like this for the Republican Party establishment in the days after next Tuesday night (Click on the following link):

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3nTOsK8dcu0

Hardly a Day Goes By…

Considering the fact that American archaeology is a pretty esoteric subject, we get a satisfyingly large number of visits and views each day here at the Archaeology in Tennessee blog. With no doubt, some of our visitors are professional archaeologists; some are college anthropology students; some are artifact collectors; some are public school teachers; some are public school students; and some are just ordinary people in their homes or at work. WordPress provides us with a daily statistical package that summarizes limited data on visitations and views.  It does not tell us who visits the blog, but it sometimes tells us the search term an unnamed person has input to an Internet search engine to arrive at our blog.  Hardly a day goes by without getting one or more searches and visits by people looking for information on the Archaeological Resources Protection Act of 1979 (ARPA).  Almost invariably, these people arrive at the first of our five main posts on this subject at the Archaeology in Tennessee blog.  That post is located at this link:

The Jimmy Carter Clause in ARPA (Part I)

We have no way of knowing, but we suspect most of our visitors who enter an “ARPA” search term are uninformed and confused artifact collectors. Now, why is that?  Well, a number of professional archaeologists visit or become members of artifact collector web forums such as Arrowheadology or Arrowheads.com just to read stories about interesting new artifacts that collectors have found and to keep up with the latest artifact collector news, opinions, and attitudes on varying subjects related to American archaeology.  Four of the major things I have noticed on my past visits to such forums are as follows:

(1)  Many artifact collectors, especially the casual collectors and novice collectors, have very little to zero knowledge of the various federal, state, and local statutes, regulations, and ordinances that apply to artifact collecting on federal, state, and county/city lands.

(2) Many (but by no means all) life-time artifact collectors have learned through some magazine article, news story, or grapevine of friends that collecting artifacts on federal, state, and local government lands and in government waters is illegal, but they do not understand the finer nuts and bolts of the laws and regulations that make it illegal.

(3)  Although ARPA has been in effect for 37 years, this federal statute and the regulations promulgated under it have just about all artifact collectors significantly confused in one way or another—so much so that many artifact collectors actually think ARPA gives them special permission to legally collect arrowheads on all federal lands.  Yikes!!!

(4)  As a result of Items 1-3 (above), artifact collectors often get together on-line and try to discussively figure out the implications of these statutes and regulations for their collecting activities.  Each person brings the little bit he knows (or thinks he knows) about these laws and regulations to the discussion along with all sorts of misinformation, disinformation, noninformation, and personally held notions about how the American legal system works, usually wrong notions. These discussions sometimes degenerate into bitter arguments about the true nature of the laws they discuss, or they hatch one or more items of homespun legal theory about why it is really all right to collect artifacts on government lands or why a collector will not be arrested or be charged with a crime if they do so.  Field implementation of such homespun legal theories can be bad news when artifact collectors get arrested on federal lands and find out that their operationalized legal theory was nothing more than homemade cow pie.

Considering how long (26 – 110 years) most of the cultural resource protection statutes and regulations have been on the books at the federal, state, and county/city levels, I often wonder if this important legal information pertinent to artifact collecting is really trickling down to the people in the artifact collecting community, especially here in the eastern United States.  As a professional archaeologist, it has always been my understanding that the primary purpose of these laws is to protect and preserve the cultural resources on publicly owned lands so they can be studied at some appropriate time in the future.  One way you do that is to protect them from artifact collectors who might dig for artifacts or surface collect for artifacts on government lands or dive for artifacts in government waters.  Personally speaking, I really do suspect that a lot of important federal, state, and local legal information pertinent to illegal artifact collecting never trickles down to a very large number of artifact collectors.  Consequently, artifact collectors are always doing Internet searches to find legal information that can potentially clear up all of their confusion about the legality and illegality of artifact collecting on public lands—but if and when they find it on-line—they often do not understand it because it is written in the foreign language known as legalese.

This is the juncture where many of my  fellow professional archaeologists would likely step in and say to me:

You know damned well that every last artifact collector in the United States is aware of the fact that it is illegal to collect artifacts on government lands and in government waters.  They all know it is illegal; they all know it destroys the archaeological record; and they all just go ahead and do it anyway because not a single one of them has any respect whatsoever for the law or for preserving the in situ material culture remains of our past.

Fine.  Yes.  I do indeed understand that this has long been your position.  Some artifact collectors are indeed that brazen about their illegal collecting, and their faces often show up on the front pages of newspapers when they get caught.  However, outside of those few artifact collectors with brass balls, I am not personally convinced that the above statement in italics is anything more than a long-held blanket intuitive assumption in the professional archaeology community—an assumption that has never been seriously tested in empirical terms.  In doing so, I will say the following until some colleague in the professional archaeology community supplies me with comprehensive, solid, indisputable information or data to the contrary:

Based on what I have seen, heard, and read in all sorts of different artifact collecting-related media over several decades and in talking with various artifact collectors throughout that period of time, it is fairly clear to me that many people in the artifact collecting community are either ignorant of or very confused about most of the cultural resource protection laws and regulations on the books at all levels of government. Lots of people—and I do mean lots of people—are either not getting the word about illegal collecting on government lands, or they do not get enough clear legal information to deter them from collecting on public lands.  Some have  even asked me why federal, state, and local government agencies do not come directly to them and teach them the fine nuts and bolts of these laws and regulations so they can finally understand them and know what the law allows them to do and does not allow them to do—so they can obey the law, stay out of trouble, and protect cultural resources. A person has to specifically know what a law says and does before they can obey it—and most people want to know the finer points of those laws so they can understand why it is important to obey them.

One day a couple of years ago, an artifact collector asked me a very serious and quite unexpected question that took me completely aback with surprise because I had never really thought about the issue he brought up—at least in his stated terms:

Why is it you professional archaeologists do not come to us artifact collectors and educate us about all of these laws that forbid us to collect in various places and circumstances?  It sounds to me like all professional archaeologists want to do is intentionally keep us ignorant of the these laws and the finer points of these laws so we will accidentally disobey one of them out of ignorance.  This then gives you guys an opportunity to arrest us; plaster our faces all over the newspapers; put another notch in the wooden stock of your agency enforcement gun; and make a big media deal out of it to scare other artifact collectors into stopping even legal collecting.  Do you people want us to remain ignorant and break the cultural resource laws out of our ignorance just so you can catch us and use it to raise a big ruckus?

Quite frankly, I had never thought of this issue in those terms, so I thought about it some. If I were a federal or state professional archaeologist responsible for a large parcel of public land, might I intentionally fail to educate the local population in my geographic area about the finer details of cultural resource protection laws so unwary citizens living nearby outside of my government lands would be sure to bumble onto these lands out of complete ignorance to do looting of government archaeological sites?  A strategy like this would then give me an opportunity to watch carefully over time and eventually jump out from behind a huge boulder and say:  “Gotcha!!!  You are under arrest!!!  I have to read you your rights now.”  After delivering them to the local jail, I could then put my feet on my desk and say:

“Man!!!  That is the third looting arrest I have made this month.  This “keep the locals ignorant” strategy  of mine is really working.  If I can make another couple of arrests, and get a few convictions, I should be up for promotion in no time.”

Like I said.  I just thought about it for a bit because the guy had brought up this unusual question. Personally speaking, I have no earthly idea whether anyone in the professional archaeology community has ever intentionally done anything along those lines. Such a strategy sounds thoroughly immoral and unethical to me.  In good conscience, I could never intentionally lay an ignorance trap like that for ordinary, unlearned citizens and feel good about it in my church pew on Sunday morning.

In my opinion, detailed education of current and potential artifact collectors on the various laws and regulations that affect artifact collecting is the correct answer to stopping most illegal artifact looting on public lands.  It is never enough.  Let me repeat that loud and clear. It is never enough to just simply say that “artifact collecting on  ____X____ parcel of government land is against the law.”  Some people will take just those 12 words seriously, but some people will not. Some people will say: “Well, I am not familiar with the words in that law, but somehow I doubt it applies in any way to me or anything I might ever do.”  Many people adhere to the notion that all laws and regulations have loopholes that may be to their benefit—and they will somehow get lucky like winning the lottery.  Some people assume the legal penalties must be small because it is “just a little ole arrowhead.” Some people assume the agency has a law in place, but it is not really serious about enforcement. Artifact collectors and ordinary people often think diverse sorts of other things when you say nothing to them but: “It is against the law.”

Current and potential artifact collectors want and need to know the detailed, in-depth legal specifics (and all the legal thinking) behind this simple “against the law” statement, or they are not going to take it all that seriously.  That is why I went to great lengths to explain  (above in the blue link) about the so-called Jimmy Carter clause in ARPA.  When you go into that kind of depth, spell it all out in clearly understandable spades, and slam every single door of hope, people understand that you are dead serious and they need to avoid collecting artifacts on government lands and in government waters. It is never enough to just say it is illegal to do so.  You have to show them the finer points of the law and explain why it is illegal in detail.  If you do this and do it several times per year in your geographic area, I think you will see a significant reduction in looting on government lands. This will happen mostly because people who collect artifacts and people who might be wanting to start collecting artifacts are often simply ignorant of the laws that forbid collecting on public lands.  More than one time in my life, I have had to explain such laws to people I thought would have surely known better.  They did not.

How would you go about doing this?  If it were up to me alone, I would identify every last person in my geographic area of responsibility who is either a known artifact collector or a person who is interested in local archaeology. (I can already hear my professional archaeology colleagues whispering: “How in the hell are you going to do that?”) Lifetime and long-term artifact collectors are not all that hard to find.  It just requires  a little leg work. Potential new artifact collectors are people who already have an interest in archaeology and make that interest publicly known to their school teachers, relatives, friends, and acquaintances.  Finding all these people is not as hard as you might think—if you grew up with artifact collectors all around you as I did—and learned a few things in the process.  You just need to know the right questions to ask and who to ask.  It might take some time and effort, but it can be done effectively.  And above all else, you have to inquire discreetly with the honest understanding that you are not asking in order to get people into trouble with the law—and you had better be totally, 150 percent honest about that fact.

When everyone is identified, you buy some doughnuts and coffee (even a catered buffet dinner), invite all the folks you have identified to a public meeting, and offer everyone a free PowerPoint presentation on the finer points of cultural resource  laws and how they affect the collecting of artifacts.  Tell people your purpose is not to get anyone into trouble with the law.  Your sole purpose is to admit to the people who show up that archaeologists have done a really bad job (and I think we have) of explaining these laws to the public.  Tell them your sole purpose is to rectify that situation by thoroughly explaining these laws in detail; how they can affect artifact collecting; and how the invited people can avoid getting into trouble with the law—and thereby—actually enlist their help in the preservation and protection of archaeological sites on government lands.  To do this properly, you will first have to know the laws and regulations inside out (including the finer points of the law and how they apply to hypothetical situations), and you will have to have a really good and fully developed program to present.  For those people who do not show up, you can put your presentation into a loose-leaf booklet format and mail them a detailed copy, always written and illustrated in such straightforward, simple, and understandable terms that even a grandpappy groundhog could understand it.

One other thing, and this is really important. You do not give this presentation just one time; write a look at me article about public archaeology in the agency public relations magazine, and then just walk away feeling as if you have done your duty and it is all over. It is not all over by a long shot. There are dynamics here.  New artifact collectors and potential collectors move into your geographic area, and they move out of it.  People forget what your presentation said with the passage of time. Small kids grow up, get interested in archaeology, and start collecting artifacts. Laws are revised and amended. New regulations are enacted and promulgated.  All sorts of crucial things change with time.  You need to learn how to surf that change and keep the information in your program up-to-date and always in front of the local public as time passes.  You cannot and must not just present—and walk away.  I would aim at the very least at four public laws/regulations presentations per year in your geographic area, depending on its size.

Sure. I agree.  Such detailed public education about cultural resource laws and regulations will not end looting by a handful of the most brazen looters.  Nothing deters the guys with brass balls, a few of which may be dangerous people with criminal records gained in other corners of American society.  However, I do think this approach to artifact collector education would end a lot of the looting on government sites that is done every year out of sheer ignorance—and I personally believe that is an awful lot of the looting that actually happens on government lands in any given year.

If you think I am wrong about all this, please let me know.  You can leave a response to this post here, or you can send me an e-mail message on the above Contact tab.

Flint Fishhooks: A Belated Update

On September 9, 2013, I wrote a blog post entitled Flint Fishhooks and Ivory Soap (Part I). For those of you who might be interested in this subject, I have written a brief explanation as to why I have not made more posts on it.  I really felt bad about keeping you in suspense.  Therefore, just a few days ago, I added some new, interesting, and informative text about what I have discovered so far in the process of examining the admittedly oddball subject of flint fishhooks.  Just click on this safe link and read the basic story so far:

https://contextintn.wordpress.com/2015/02/24/flint-fishhooks-and-ivory-soap-part-i/

Inadvertently Creating Your Own Ceramic Types in the Archaeology Laboratory

Part of the professional science community here in Oak Ridge is shut down for Good Friday, so I decided to go out to lunch at New China Palace today.  New China Palace is the oldest full-service Chinese restaurant in Oak Ridge. The food and service have always been excellent. New China Palace is approaching 50 years old, and it has already graduated to the enviable cultural status of historic culinary institution in the minds of many Oak Ridgers. After an excellent lunch today, I was pulling out of the New China Palace parking lot and thinking about some artifacts I had to wash a couple of weeks ago in my archaeology laboratory (a.k.a the bathroom with the long counter top just across the hall from my office).  Then I got tickled and began laughing at a fleeting thought about washing artifacts long, long, long ago.

The best way to wash artifacts is to place them under a partially open sink faucet or in a pan of water and let the water alone bleed the adhering soil from the surfaces of the artifacts, sometimes assisted by a gentle swishing motion with the fingers.  If needed, it is often okay to use a toothbrush with chert artifacts, but always a toothbrush with soft bristles.  It is not wise to use a toothbrush or any other kind of scrubbing device on softer lithic materials (e.g., limestone), ceramic sherds, and bone because the bristles can damage them.

New undergraduate students and citizen volunteers who begin archaeological laboratory work usually start out by washing artifacts.  The Archaeologist or Laboratory Supervisor has to teach them how to do it carefully so they will not damage the artifacts, but they cannot be in the laboratory every second if they have other things to do, like go to a class across campus.  Once in a great while, a student or volunteer will arrive late after everyone else has left the laboratory.  The new arrival knows he is there to wash artifacts, so he just picks some artifacts out of a labeled bag and starts washing them.  Sometimes this uninitiated student or volunteer may bring in their own toothbrush or scrub brush because general cultural conditioning has taught him that washing is all about scrubbing things down really good―like Mr. Clean does on TV.  Why is it always the hard bristles (sigh)?  Just in case you are wondering, this is the archaeology laboratory version of the new field archaeology student or volunteer who is told to bring their own trowel to the site and shows up with a 2-foot-long cement trowel.  Been there! Seen that!  I swear!!!

Everything will work out all right if this new laboratory person is just washing chert debitage and an occasional side scraper or pp/k.  Prehistoric ceramics are another matter entirely.  In equatorial areas with high rainfall and the humid subtropics, porous baked clay that has been sitting underground for 1,500 years is usually soft.  If an artifact washer goes after a decorated ceramic surface with a hard-bristled brush (or even a soft-bristled brush), the sherd is going to get damaged.  If the decorative surface is already hard to see, the brushing action may even erase all traces of the original decoration from the sherd, leaving behind only the brush marks from the washing.

Why was I laughing as I left the New China Palace parking lot?  Well, this is certainly nothing to laugh about in a serious archaeological laboratory environment.  However, it just occurred to me that artifact washers with hard-bristled brushes have the ability to create their own ceramic artifact types in the laboratory―and what if we were to formally name them:

Crest Bristle Marked

Colgate Brush Marked

Libman Swirl Incised

Clorox Surface Raked

Stanley Brush Plain (formerly Deptford Cord Marked)

Are you laughing too?   C’mon guys!!!  Get a sense of humor!!!  This oddball stuff that sometimes happens in real life archaeology is part of what makes American archaeology so much fun.  And yes, you always plan for, hope for, and pray that no such artifact-washing disasters occur―or you at least hope you or the Laboratory Supervisor make it back from class or the restroom before newbie Fred or Cyndi gets to the third or fourth sherd.

 You guys have a happy holiday weekend!!!

Jabberwock and an Issue With an Archaeological Site Name

by Tracy C. Brown

O frabjous day! Callooh! Callay!” He chortled in his joy.

I am in the joyful process of analyzing a small collection of lithic artifacts from a multi-component archaeological site (40DV434) in Davidson County, Tennessee. Actually, the Jabberwock might argue it is really in Williamson County, but that would not be the only schizoid thing about this site. The lithic artifacts were collected from the ground surface of the site on August 17, 1972, which was about three days after deep plowing, disking, and a really good summer rain on 40DV434. The other schizoid thing about 40DV434 is its site name, and that is the subject of this post to the Archaeology in Tennessee blog. The primary purpose of this post is to set the record straight on the site name for 40DV434 so Middle Tennessee professional archaeologists, avocational archaeologists, and other folks will no longer be confused about the correct name.

About six months prior to this surface collection activity, several artifact collectors who lived in the Nashville area, led by Mr. Richard Norman (now a Nashville attorney) and Mr. Malcolm Parker (Director of The Parthenon), began excavation work on 40DV434. These were not 3-dimensional, spatially controlled archaeological excavations in the sense that we professional archaeologists apply today when excavating a site. However, this was also at a time when, for all intents and purposes, professional archaeology as we think of it today did not really exist in the Nashville area. Indeed, most of the known archaeological excavations and information concerning the Nashville area had been generated by 19th century and 20th century antiquarians, avocational archaeologists, and artifact collectors during the 150 years preceding 1972. Therefore, these 1972 excavations at 40DV434 were simply a continuation of that local archaeological investigation tradition.

The excavators at 40DV434 were interested in more than just taking home artifacts for their collections.  They actually took some notes on their excavations as they went along; paid for two of the first radiocarbon dates in Nashville area archaeology; prepared a short preliminary report on the site; made the report available to the public; and put many of the more interesting artifacts from the site on display in The Grotto Gallery at The Parthenon for public education purposes. This exhibit was present at The Parthenon for many years, and millions of local residents and tourists from all over the United States and much of the world viewed the exhibit.

After the excavations were completed, the preliminary site report was published (Parker 1974), and it has been cited occasionally by professional archaeologists and avocational archaeologists. In the years since 1974, it has become apparent that at least some professional archaeologists and avocational archaeologists are confused about the correct site name for 40DV434. Some have referred to this site as the Hart site. Some have referred to it as the Owl Creek site. Others have referred to it as the Hart site or Owl Creek site. This confusion is no doubt related to the card stock cover Malcolm Parker bound onto his written report. The top portion of his cover is a 1974 photograph of the backing in the exhibit case at The Parthenon. This photograph shows a hand drawing of an owl and reads as follows:

THE OWL CREEK PEOPLE 3660 B.C.

This was merely a reference to the various groups of ancient men, women, and children who occupied this site during prehistoric times―and nothing else. Below this photograph of the exhibit backing, the report cover reads as follows:

THE HART SITE AT NASHVILLE, TENN. 1972-1974

During the 1970s, I knew and frequently interacted with Malcolm Parker, Richard Norman, and several of the other people who were doing the excavations at 40DV434, so I know what I am about to say is an absolutely certain fact. Either informally or formally, 40DV434 was never named or referred to by the excavators as the Owl Creek site—not at any time whatsoever. From the very beginning, it was named the Hart site, and that name never evolved or changed at any time subsequent to when the excavations began in 1972. The site was named after Mr. Rodes H. Hart, the Brentwood, Tennessee, resident who owned the site in 1972 (Parker 1974). This naming of the site was both a courtesy and a memorial to the family of the man who provided permission to excavate the site and supplied some limited financial support for the excavation work. Therefore, henceforth and forevermore, professional archaeologists, avocational archaeologists, and other folks working with archaeology in Middle Tennessee and elsewhere should always refer to 40DV434 by its original and only correct name―the Hart site.

And, as in uffish thought he stood,
The Jabberwock, with eyes of flame,
Came whiffling through the tulgey wood,
And burbled as it came!

How did the Jabberwock get mixed into this blog post?  In addition to being the Director of the Parthenon, the metropolitan museum of art in Nashville, Tennessee, Malcolm Parker was an occasional archaeological writer; a book reviewer for Nashville public radio and The Tennessean, an artist who enjoyed hand drawing with graphite and grease pencils, a published newspaper cartoonist with his own serial cartoon strip; a writer of feature stories for local newspapers; and a poet who wrote a substantial amount of very good poetry he chose not to publish for personal reasons. Lewis Carroll was one of his favorite writers, and he especially loved the Jabberwocky poem.

References

Carroll, Lewis 1983.  Jabberwocky. The Random House Book of Poetry for Children. Available at the Poetry Foundation website: http://www.poetryfoundation.org/poem/171647. Accessed February 9, 2016.

Parker, Malcolm 1974.  The Hart Site at Nashville, Tenn. 1972-1974.  Metropolitan Department of Parks and Recreation, Nashville, Tennessee.

Fighting Archaeological Theft and Vandalism

While surfing the Internet this evening, I ran into a really interesting article on fighting archaeological crime.  it was published in American Archaeology, which is the chief public relations publication of The Archaeological Conservancy. Some of the American archaeologists and Tennessee archaeologists who visit the Archaeology in Tennessee blog may have already read this article when it was first published in fall 2012.  For those assorted readers who have not read it, you may do so at the following link:

http://www.archaeologicaldamageinvestigation.com/FightingArchaeologicalCrimeArticle.pdf

You will be really interested in the photograph on page 20.  What kind of bozo would do something like that?  If i were standing there in front of that panel, my first inclination would be to check whether I had fallen down a rabbit hole into some strange alter reality, and the following song would be playing in the background:

White Rabbit

Is It Against the Law to Hunt for Indian Artifacts in Tennessee?

About four years ago, a nonarchaeologist manager in my company asked me if it is against the law to collect American Indian artifacts while strolling along the edge of a Tennessee Valley Authority (TVA) lake with his little boy. This manager was not an artifact collector, and his sole thought was to find and keep an arrowhead or some other ancient artifact that could be the focus of a new learning experience for both him and his child.  Yesterday, some unknown person did a search of the Archaeology in Tennessee blog, and their search question (slightly edited) was:  “Is it against the law to hunt for Indian artifacts in Tennessee?”  This question comes up relatively often here in Tennessee, so I thought this would be as good a time as any to offer some quick answers to this question for those who are interested.

The four verbs and verb terms one hears most often in such questions from ordinary Tennessee citizens are collect, hunt for, look for, or pick up an artifact.  All four do not precisely state their real question. This question, perhaps better stated, is as follows:

Within the state boundaries of Tennessee, is it legal for me to see an artifact lying on the surface of the ground or in a hole I just dug, reach down and grab it with my hand, stuff it in my pocket or sack, and take it home with me to be my private property for the rest of my life?

Herein I shall use the single verb collect to capture all that is in the above question. Because it is so late this night, I feel like offering my answers in a listing format, so please pay close attention to the following list:

(1) It is against federal law to collect any ancient American Indian artifact, historic-era American Indian artifact, or any other historic-era artifact on the federal lands and in the federal waters of Tennessee.  This also applies to any artifact found while digging a hole, scratching around on a river bank, scratching around on the shore of a lake, diving in water, or metal detecting on federal lands or in federal waters.

At this juncture, ordinary folks usually ask the following question:

Do you mean to tell me that if my 3-year-old son picks up just one arrowhead at a TVA lake access, stuffs it in the pocket of his Osh-Kosh-B-Gosh overalls, and takes it home, he has committed a federal crime?

The short answer: Yes.  The existing federal laws and regulations do not contain any special exemptions or accommodations for a toddler who pockets just one artifact, for a tourist who does the same, or for the little old lady from Pasadena.  The only people allowed to collect artifacts on the federal lands and in the federal waters of Tennessee are persons who have received a written federal permit to do professional archaeological research. If you are not a professional archaeologist, your chances of getting such a permit are about the same as being struck by a lightning bolt originating on the planet Venus.

Lightning on Venus

Some federal agencies even turn down research permit requests made by professional archaeologists. Other federal agencies refuse to answer even the simplest professional archaeologist requests for archaeological information and data. It kind of makes one wonder for what purpose their cultural resources are being preserved—and in which future century or millennium their squirreled away information and data might actually be used for something worthwhile. Why even call such information and data a cultural resource if no American archaeologist is ever going to be allowed to see it or use it?  Yes, I know all of the standard arguments about site preservation, future archaeological technologies, and so forth. I agree with all of that like you do, but I am not talking about archaeological research that involves destructive new excavation of archaeological sites on federal lands—far from it.

I am talking about federal agencies who prevent professional archaeologists access to existing archaeological information and data already on-hand in paper and electronic files, information that could be highly useful in archaeological research right now without physically destroying anything. Some of these federal agencies will not even share this information and data with professional archaeologists in other federal agencies. If professional archaeologists cannot be trusted to appropriately and protectively handle/use this information and data, who can be? Are these federal bureaucrats preserving information and data so they can watch it decay in situ within a file cabinet or on a hard drive for hundreds or even thousands of years? Does that sound sane to you?  If you are a Tennessee citizen or a citizen of another state and this outlandish federal agency dysfunction makes you as upset as it does me, please write a letter to President Obama, your two U.S. Senators, and your U.S. Congressman. Ask them to pass federal legislation that will put an end to this nonsensical withholding of already existing archaeological information and data from professional archaeologists. Withholding valuable archaeological information and data “just because I can” is not a viable or defensible use of federal tax dollars.

(2) It is against Tennessee state law to collect any ancient American Indian artifact, historic-era American Indian artifact, or any other historic-era artifact on state-owned land, state-controlled land, or in state waters. This includes any artifact found by surface collecting or digging. The only people allowed to collect artifacts on Tennessee lands and in Tennessee waters are professional archaeologists who have received a written state permit to do archaeological research on state property.  If you are not a professional archaeologist, your chances of receiving such a permit are about the same as incurring a Martian nerve gas attack while on tour in the Republica Inhambane, an extinct Portuguese colonial city-state in Africa that once issued its own postage stamps.

Stamp from Inhambane

(3)  It is against Tennessee state law to collect any ancient American Indian artifact, historic-era American Indian artifact, or any other historic-era artifact on county, city, or municipal lands (or in any waters they own or control) without permission from the appropriate county, city, or municipal agency. This includes any artifact found by surface collecting or digging.  Some Tennessee local governments may have ordinances or formal procedures that must be followed to obtain such permission.  If you are not a professional archaeologist, your chances of getting permission to collect artifacts on their lands and in their waters are about the same as those for winning the jackpot in the Planetoid Pluto Lottery.

Pluto on Pluto

(4)  It is against Tennessee state law to collect any ancient American Indian artifact, historic-era American Indian artifact, or any other historic-era artifact on privately owned land in Tennessee without permission from the owner of the property.  This includes surface collecting for artifacts, digging for artifacts, and metal detecting for artifacts. If such permission is ever sought, it is best to get that permission in writing with the property owner’s signature.

Some professional archaeologists in Tennessee have  told me private property owners refuse them permission to do archaeological research on their lands more often than they grant them permission to do so. I have never had that problem because the best way for a professional archaeologist to get owner permission is to approach people in the same manner as that well known master of social interaction and chivalry: Sir Budlowe Brown. Here is our Pembroke Welsh Corgi (Sir Budlowe Brown) striking the correct pose for requesting permission to perform professional archaeological research on privately owned land in Tennessee.  Who could turn down that face?  The owner of the land may ask for your dog’s autograph in exchange for his permission.  Be sure to carry an ink pad and paper with you for this purpose.

Corgi Ambassador II

How ’bout it?