Friday, 30 September 2011

Looters at Lake Whitney

On the shores of lake Whitney (Texas) looters (artefact hunters) are taking advantage of dropping area lake levels to collect artefacts from sites not normally accessible to them. Five sites full of Native American artefacts are now exposed, some of them date back more than 8,000 years. In the past few months more than thirty people
have been caught digging according to the authorities. These sites are protected by both state and federal law. The Archaeological Resources Protection Act says it is illegal to remove any Native American artefact from government property (but then in the Four Corners area we've seen how that is (not) held up by the courts). In Texas, doing that also violates the state Antiquities Code. Not being able to find anyone from anything like a Federal antiquities protection service to talk to, the newspapers quote Brady Dempsey, of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (!):
Once the damage has been done to these sites, the effects are nearly impossible to reverse, Dempsey said. In one area, he said, looters broke concrete open, burrowed in under it and then sifted through the dirt, taking what they could and leaving the rest behind. “They've just scrambled the archeological record," Dempsey said. The damage looters leave behind is becoming increasingly expensive. Recently a dig site had to be repaired at Lake Whitney at a cost of more than $30,000.
The damage actually was to concrete capping to prevent the site being eroded by the rising lake water.

Of course, nobody told Engineer-archaeologist Dempsey or the reporter that US "collectors' rights" advocates insist that if the US had a Portable Antiquities Scheme, the artefact hunters would not be "damaging archaeological sites" but the newspapers would be reporting that they are "providing new information". This seems an ideal story for the ACCG and other dealer organizations to hammer this point over. After all it was Texas congressmen who so clearly came out in support of the ACCG's attack on the State Department's "cultural property Protection" programme. They'd obviously jump at the opportunity to show their support of a motion to set up a Portable Antiquities Scheme in Texas to work with local pot hunters and arrowhead collectors.

Rachel Cox, 'Dropping Lake Levels Expose Ancient Artifacts And Looters Have Noticed' KWTX, September 30, 2011.
There is a video too with some wonderful accents.

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