Sunday, 2 October 2011

Issue: Relic Hunters in Quantico, Virginia

“Typically relic hunters are only interested in the object. But even those who care about the history of an artifact take it out of context when they collect it, then you don’t know where it came from. Taking an artifact makes it no longer a reliable piece of information.” - John Haynes (Archaeologist at the Marine Corps Base, Quantico, Va.)
                I found this issue to be of interest because it relates particularly to what we were discussing in class this past week. There have been issues at the Marine Corps Base in Quantico, Virginia regarding the protection of the archaeological Civil War campsites located around the base’s school. The area, even though it is not a historical landmark, is protected under the Archaeological Resources Protection Act of 1979. The Protection Act governs the archaeological sites on federal and Indian lands in the United States, and the removal and disposition of archaeological collections from those sites.
                The main concern at the Marine Corps Base is that some artifacts that are easy to uncover, such as bullets, arrowheads, and buttons, are not protected under the Protection Act of 1979 and are therefore being removed from the site and consequently the archaeological context. John Haynes (see quote above) explains the problems with relic hunters and their carelessness towards the context of an object that they take. Even if the relic hunter is interested in the historical significance of an object, they do not care about the context, which is one of the most important aspects of an archaeological find.
                For instances such as the one in Quantico, surveillance of these protected areas must be enforced and looters and relic hunters should be punished appropriately for removing important pieces of history from their context.

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