Question No. 6: Several of us artifact collectors have been giving this some serious thought. You professional archaeologists are always trying to pull the damper down on our collecting activities. We have been thinking about pulling the damper down on you guys. We are reaching out to our elected state representatives in some of the 50 states to get them on our side:
(1) To protect us and our artifact collecting activities from the depredations of you professional archaeologists.
(2) We have a proposal for those state representatives (State House of Representatives and State Senate) who are willing to support us. Those millions and millions and millions of artifacts lying underground on state lands and under state waters are worth a huge amount of money. Many state governments are running out of funds and operating in the red with their annual budgets. We are asking our elected state representatives to support us in an effort to legalize collector digging for artifacts on state lands and hunting for artifacts under state waters. We collectors would keep a small portion of the artifacts and/or a small portion of the proceeds from public sales of the artifacts. State governments would keep the largest percentage of the monetary proceeds from sales of the artifacts to offset a portion of the annual state budget shortfall. Rather than sitting in the ground and decaying away, all of the artifacts would be rescued. Artifact buyers, their friends, and members of the general public could see the artifacts and enjoy them at artifact shows—rather than hide them from the public like you archies do. State governments would rake in a lot of extra money—badly needed money to support the state budget.
What do you professional archaeologists think about these two ideas?
Seriously? I cannot speak for all archaeologists. However, I think you should not have been so dumb as to reveal your plans in public. Now that you have done so, government archaeologists will be able to formulate effective governmental strategies and tactics to prevent that from ever happening. If you are going to battle against an opponent, you never telegraph your battle plans to the enemy side. (Score: State Governments 1; Collectors 0).
Artifacts on state lands and in state waters do not belong exclusively to a select few artifact collectors who want to find, own, and/or sell those artifacts for money or personal pleasure. Tennessee has a population that will be about 7 million strong in the upcoming 2020 U.S. Census. Tennessee archaeological sites and their artifacts on state lands and in state waters belong to all Tennesseans (not just you), and the State of Tennessee protects and conserves those sites and artifacts in trust for the currently living people of Tennessee and for future Tennesseans. That is one of the many key missions of the Tennessee Department of Environment and Conservation. The word conservation is not in that name as a careless after thought—you know.
The State of Tennessee has no need for additional annual revenue because its state budget is balanced and operates in the black each year. In fact, Tennessee is one of the few states that ends FY 2018 with a massive state budget surplus of about $500 million. Therefore, no government-sponsored or government-approved artifact mining on state lands and in state waters—-or any other similarly insane shenanigans—are needed or wanted here in the Volunteer State.
In my honest opinion, no truly responsible elected leaders or governmental entities will ever allow individual or aggregate artifact collectors to destroy the archaeological context on archaeological sites via artifact mining on state lands and under state waters. I have been around for a long time, and I know that most fairly responsible artifact collectors look back in total disgust at the highly destructive artifact mining that was done at the Spiro Mounds in the early 20th century. Today many artifact collectors look down their noses with equal disgust at the few artifact collectors who run “pay to dig” operations or do mechanically assisted artifact mining and sifting. Therefore, I think any proposals like the one laid out in the second part of the question above would meet with more than substantial resistance from state governments, state citizens, and many artifact collectors in any given state. My best bet is that it would be a totally no-win situation for the artifact collectors who want to implement such a bizarre proposal.