Skip to comments.Archaeology question - land rights
Posted on 05/13/2013 3:54:26 PM PDT by djf
This is a completely hypothetical question.
Let's imagine there is a guy who lives in Washington state. Let's imagine he was helping out a friend, on his friends private property. Let's imagine he found something man-made and quite old... Let's imagine it looks like a piece of carved antler with intricate designs done what appears to be most likely by Native Americans... Let's imagine that the guy decides it MIGHT NOT be a good idea to run down to the local Tribal headquarters and say "Hey, I think I found something your uncle left around..."
Other than that, what does a guy do? Anybody ever hear of land rights issues and Indian (there, I said it) artifacts? You know, all the Sacred burial ground stuff!
In general, anywhere an indian took a dump is now sacred ground.
Would the hypothetical guy want to make money or enhance historical knowledge...or both...or neither?
I would check the specific state’s archaeological rights laws. They vary by state and the type of find you have. Burial sites are usually given the highest protections.
Here are some examples from Oregon.
Example of the danger:
April 6 2011
Nick Laws pleaded guilty last July to selling a religious artifact known as twin effigy and was sentenced to 24 months of probation.
Treat it as you would an arrowhead.
I think the first thing the hypothetical guy would like to do is somehow, some way, get info/verification of what exactly it is he found.
The age, the style, possible origins, that sort of thing.
But ONLY ONLY ONLY if it can be done without jeopardizing his friends property rights!
Does that mean the best thing to do is tie it to a brick and throw it off the Tacoma Narrows bridge???
*ping* for artifact advice
*ping* for artifact advice
In the State of Washington archaeological sites are protected, even those on private property. Since 1974 it has been illegal to knowingly disturb archaeological sites or resources on private or public property without a permit from theWashington Department of Archaeology and Historic Preservation (DAHP). The 1974 Archaeological Sites and Resources law protects all prehistoric sites and any historic properties abandoned for more than 30 years. Civil penalties as well as the costs necessary to investigate and restore the disturbed archaeological site can be imposed and any resulting artifacts can be seized.
Private land owner have a number of rights. Artifacts that are legally discovered on their property (either as individual finds or as part of a legally permitted archaeological survey or dig) belong to the land owner. Archaeological sites discovered on private property cannot be legally registered without the permission of the landowner. If the private property owner chooses to register their site there are incentives available to the landowner such as tax breaks, easements, and open space designations.
Since 1941 all bones and artifacts within Native American graves and unmarked burials have been protected. The 1941 Indian Graves and Records law prohibits knowingly disturbing graves and makes such activities a class C felony. This law also prevents the sale of any grave goods or human remains removed from such graves. The inadvertent disturbance of graves requires reburial with the supervision of the appropriate Indian tribe.
The full list of Washington State laws affecting archaeological resources is available through the WA DAHP website.
NAGPRA the federal law is probably what you’re thinking of. It was implemented because some jagoff decided to sell gravesites off his property for people to dig up for fun. If your friend has gravesites on his property he would run fowl of the law.
Artifacts such as what you have are private property. Responsible owners might alert an archeology department that he has a site on his property. I worked on a dig that was on a farm in Ohio. There were no graves. The site was dated to about 1000ya and was a Woodland period site. The farmer liked learning about the previous inhabitants.
“fowl” or even foul
I ain’t got nuthin.
This is a total fiction.
How about anonymous photos to the curator of the museum in Victoria?
Keep the stuff for a while...play dumb...like your father bought it at an auction 50 years ago...and then sell it or whatever.
While he’s at it, see if he can find any spotted owls, rare mice, or frogs on his property.
Varies by the state, but inquiries with gubmint authorities should be handled as anonymously as possible.
Because we look for Indian artifacts on our own property, I understand that as long as it is on private property then it is ok. If you find bones or a skull you are supposed to call the local sheriff but if you just dig it up it belongs to the land owner.
I grew up in upstate NY Finger Lakes area. My dad found arrowheads all the time. The area has a native flint rock that makes perfect (and very sharp!) arrow and spear heads.
I think my sister might still have a couple of them.
I would take it to an Archeological Dept. at a university. Tell them you found it while hiking years ago and you have been wondering about it for years. Let them figure it out. I myself would never take it to any Indian tribal counsel.
If you dug up an M-16 would you take to the police?
One of grandpa's little treasures is a very very good idea to use as a descriptive, especially noting that it was something he found as a child. Identification can be done relatively easily; quite a number of experts on artifacts exist around the country, I strongly advise creating a new e-mail account that is ONLY used for the purpose of communication about the identification of the object, accompanied by a land address that is entirely unrelated to the find location. Such as if in Eugene, the inquiry is accompanied by a fictitious name and address in Portland.
However, actively digging in the area is something not to mess around with. Do not do this without getting the appropriate permit, and document every find with photograph of location, samples from the soil, and every photograph should include a card with the dig number recorded on it within the shot.
No offense, but I do not recommend using the 'found it while hiking' explanation. Odds are that the item will be seized from you immediately as an artifact found on public lands without a permit. Then the university will sell your find and pocket the money.
About 25 years ago, 2 of my friends went on a treasure hunt.
They researched old documents, looked up maps and figured out where an old War of 1812 ship had been scuttled and burned. They rented scuba gear and spent a whole summer exploring. They found a brass cannon from the ship. After they got it out of the mud at the bottom of a creek, they took it home and spent a month cleaning it up. They were really proud. A month later somebody from New York State showed up and seized it. They haven’t seen it since. No compensation. No cannon. Nothing.
Moral: if you find something, don’t tell anyone.
Sell the property, keep the artifact. If at all possible, sell the property to a Liberal, Feminist, transgender or Gay couple.
Then send the artifact along with the GPS coordinates of where you found it, anonymously of course to the BIA.
Thanks for finding the proper references jaz. Looks like it is probably okay to keep, inquire about, etc. But I imagine a Tribal or Fed lawyer could figure out some way to mess everything up. The “knowingly” part. “Did you ever come across artifacts before? You did? An arrowhead!!?? And yet you decided to dig MORE post holes!!!???”
I think a variation of “shoot, shovel and shut-up” is perhaps the wisest choice. Tell the story when you pass it down to a child/ grandchild once they are older.
Plus - do your OWN research on what the artifact is, the tribes in the area, etc. If it seems to be an unusual find and noteworthy - then perhaps consider approaching a museum. And perhaps contact a lawyer first.
That shouldn’t have happened. There are very specific salvage and flotsom and jetsom laws. Sounds like they gave up to easily.
don’t tie a brick on it, send it to me and I will pay the postage.....
That sort of thing seldom survives the acidic red clay here. Human remains predating European settlement are even rare to the point of being flukish. But, there are arrowheads, spearheads and pottery shards galore.
Just go out to the river bottom or creek bottom when the fields have dried out from the first rain after plowing. The clay washes away on all sides leaving small rocks and indian artifacts sort of raised above the surrounding clay. Easily spotted unless there’s no color contrast. Only pottery shards are close in color, everything else contrasts lighter or darker.
We collected enough in my childhood to fill two of those curio jar lamp bases. Little bird points that look like shark’s teeth, larger arrowheads, a pipe, on and on. The best one of them all was a white quartz spearhead about five inches long.
Keep it, keep your mouth shut. If you try to sell it locally or even within the state you’ll likely attract unwanted attention.
Yep, I’d say that’s probably good advice, it looks like it could be okay to keep but I’d look further into it.
I’ve no experience with it here in WA but plenty on BLM land in Oregon and it’s illegal to keep an arrowhead found on top of the ground, let alone dig for anything.
Yes, thanks for the references.
Hypothetically, I think it was found in Pierce country, which happens to be the area in western Washington that has the most registered artifact sites.
I’m inclined to tell any hypothetical finder to just keep yur dam mouth shut.
Truly sad that this seems to be the best choice!
Are you kidding?!
Spotted owls are everywhere in the western part of Washington state. They can be found in people’s backyards. It doesn’t take an old growth forest to provide them with good rodent hunting opportunities.
not true and most of the time the sites are destroyed and/or bulldozed.
the idea that the govt. will come take your property because you found something on it is just not true. If you wish to find out about the object simply ask your local university or state archaeologist. they may wish to ask a few questions and inquire about looking or conducting research on the site but that is up to the land owner not the govt. I do not live on the east coast but I know here in Texas the land owner is “king” and owns everything found on his/her property. Even if there is a “body”/human remains found on the property the govt. does not simply take the land. In the case of burials the Native Americans here just ask that they not be bothered or may want to move them in a worse case scenario but really what kind of person robs graves? In the case of “stuff” (no graves) it belongs to the land owner and that person is responsible for how they want to act.
This particular issue is about looting on public land. that is why these people are in trouble not because they were legally selling things found on their personal land. This is theft of all of our history.
The comment was sarcastic in that in many cases wherever you find an artifact it is immediately jumped on as “sacred” ground of some type. This is why in many cases sites are bulldozed and/or destroyed. This is not peculiar to the Americas. In places in Europe if a structure is being built, they find archaological artifacts and the government doesn’t know then they try to keep it quiet and complete the construction knowing that the artifacts may at a minimum hold up their project for years. That might have happened on the hill where my house is built except for the fact that the original farm structures were built long before this became a problem. When they built a house across the street they did find some artifacts because as everyone already knew it had been a site for periodic encampments by local tribes. Just because an indian sometime in the distant past left an artifact, crap or otherwise, that some tribe still has some land rights. In my area, various tribes came, went, or were run out by other tribes who were there for a while and then run out by another tribe. Rights my ass.