Tuesday 16 February 2010

Florida: two more men exercising "collectors' rights" in the USA

US Collectors of ancient dugup coins taken from the archaeological record of foreign countries want the state to upheld so-called "collectors rights" and have even taken state departments to court to achieve this. Their help however is needed nearer home. In Florida, two men last week were accused of excavating artifacts on public land near Newnan's Lake. They were apparently just looking for arrowheads (Karen Voyles '2 men charged with excavating artifacts' Gainsville Sun, February 11, 2010):
State wildlife officers arrested a pair of Marion County men who are accused of searching for arrowheads after they reportedly dug up an area described as "the size of two football fields and looked like it had been carpet bombed."Albert Dawes Ort Jr., 42, and David O. Perry, 29, were each charged with excavation of artifacts on state lands.
The officers said they saw the men carrying backpacks, a ladder and a metal detector. The men were reportedly found with several flint items on them after a day's digging. Perry's backpack reportedly contained "three obvious arrowheads and 14 other pieces of flint that appeared to be artifacts", while a search of Ort's backpack turned up some arrow points. Led to the spot by the men, Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission officers found an area with 50 shallow holes about "four feet wide, four feet long and two feet deep" all apparently dug in one day. As a consequence, Ort and Perry were booked into the Alachua County jail.
Now I'm sure there are those that think that it is not right that US collectors rights organizations should be fighting for the rights of foreigners to dig up and export artefacts to US collectors and dealers and ignore the plight of the US citizens at home that want to do the same. That is unfair and certainly illogical. Collectors' rights groups in the US should take the men's plight into consideration. They were after all digging on public land, enjoying the heritage of their own country, and no doubt learning a heck of a lot about ancient cultures in doing so. After all, what is better that these artefacts are given a good home in the collections of enterprising young men like these or left lying moldering away in the soil? Even if the archaeologists were to excavate the site, the fnds would only end up in a museum somewhere where very few peeople would ever see them. These are the arguments the US collectors use to justify their disregard of conservation laws of other countries, so why do they not apply to the US archaeological heritage? Come of Mr Sayles, Mr Tompa, Mr Welsh, Mr Hooker and all the usual culprits, why do you not write these guys a warm letter expressing your support and that of antiquity collectors everywhere. The sooner the USA introduces liberal laws like those of England and Wales, the fewer such embarrassing cases of this kind of looting will stop appearing in the newspapers.
Who will join the ACCG "Free Collectors Perry and Ort" campaign ?

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