On November 3, 2023, one of our GCAS members alerted me to a disturbing article that has appeared at least twice in Rock & Gem magazine - most recently on October 30, 2023. The TL;dr is that the article encourages people to loot artifacts on public lands.
The GCAS was impelled to respond:
TO: Rock & Gem
RE: 9 Tips for Finding Artifacts, by Anita B. Stone, republished 10/30/2023
November 3, 2023
I was surprised and dismayed to read an article that Anita B. Stone wrote, titled 9 Tips for Finding Artifacts, which Rock & Gem Magazine republished online on October 30, 2023. Ms. Stone’s advice directly opposes the mission of avocational archaeological groups like mine, the Grant County Archaeological Society. We work to preserve and protect archaeological sites and the cultural materials they contain. It has been my group’s experience during the past 95 years of our existence that “tips” such as Ms. Stone’s encourage illegal looting of archaeological sites on public lands. Rock & Gem Magazine’s republication of Ms. Stone’s article serves to promote such looting.
Ms. Stone advises her readers how and where to collect archaeological artifacts including “tools”, “fire starters”, “knives”, “axes”, “pestles”, “hammerstones”, “[h]oes, hatchets, awls, drills, scrapers, and spear points as well as small projectiles” and more. She writes that such items “…are often the only evidence remaining of the existence of ancient, complex and highly-functioning cultures that once thrived in North America.” She is correct. That is why those artifacts should remain in place: to preserve the archaeological and cultural record that belongs to us all. Archaeological sites are nonrenewable resources: once a collector removes an artifact from its original location and appropriates it for their personal amusement like Ms. Stone encourages, all scientific and cultural context is irretrievably lost.
Ms. Stone states in her “Tip 6” that “Federal law states that you can retrieve any artifact that is lying on the ground’s surface.” Her statement is incorrect and misleading. Federal law states that without a specific, narrowly-drawn permit, it is illegal to collect ANY artifacts on public land. (1979 Archaeological Resources Protection Act, Title 16 USC 470 EE and 36 CFR 261.9.)
Except in very limited circumstances, harvesting the kinds of artifacts that Ms. Stone describes in her article has been illegal on federal, state, and municipal lands since 1906 when President Theodore Roosevelt signed the Antiquities Act into law. Archaeological artifacts on public lands gained further protection in 1966 when the National Historic Preservation Act (NHPA) was enacted; and again in 1979 with the enactment of the Archaeological Resources Protection Act (ARPA, Title 16 USC 470 EE and 36 CFR 261.9). There are serious consequences for violating these laws, ranging from fines and/or jail time to confiscation of the equipment the looter used in the violation (anything from shovels and metal detectors to vehicles). (https://www.saa.org/about-archaeology/archaeology-law-ethics)
As one example among many, the Daniel Boone National Forest in Kentucky has published an easy-to-read one-page flyer on this issue. Perhaps Rock & Gem can apprise Ms. Stone’s and Rock & Gem’s readers of this flyer so that they may better understand the serious harm that unauthorized collecting causes on public lands: https://www.fs.usda.gov/Internet/FSE_DOCUMENTS/stelprd3821264.pdf
Before any harm occurs to archaeological sites and artifacts on public lands as a result of someone reading Rock & Gem’s publications and following Ms. Stone’s advice, Rock & Gem could also take corrective action such as publishing a written retraction of Ms. Stone’s “tips” and removing her article from further publication.
Very truly yours,
President, Grant County Archaeological Society
Our readers may want to contact Rock & Gem magazine with their own perspective on the kind of damage Rock & Gem's "artifact collecting tips" do to public lands. Or also too, share this alert and the GCAS's response with anyone else who may be concerned about this issue. Please, everyone, do your part to keep safe our public lands and the artifacts they contain.