Letter to the Editor: Collectors preserve history
People involved with archaeology as amateurs and professionals alike, are stating that hunting or picking up arrowheads is illegal. It is my intent in this letter to challenge their interpretation regarding the picking up of arrowheads from the surface as illegal.
The Archaeological Resources Protection Act of 1979, is the body of law that controls amateur archaeological activities on federal land in the Great Basin. (Federal Law; USC Title 16 Conservation, Chapter 1B, Archaeological Resources Protection, Sections 470aa to 470mm.) Briefly, this law states that "no person may excavate, remove, damage, or otherwise alter or deface, any archaeological resource (ruins, pit houses, or buried artifacts) on public lands or Indian lands, unless said person has a permit to do so. Nor may they sell, purchase, exchange, transport, receive, or offer to sell any archaeological resource obtained from public lands."
However, the federal law is not applicable to the following.
Archaeological resources (ruins, pit houses or buried artifacts) in the lawful possession of a person before Oct. 31, 1979
"...Any person with respect to the removal of arrowheads located on the surface of the ground."
It is not a violation of the above listed federal and state laws to collect arrowheads, found on the surface, not part of a archaeological resource (ruins, pit houses, or buried artifacts) on federal land in all Great Basin states, and arrowheads and other artifacts found on the surface not an archaeological resource on state lands in Oregon and Nevada.
For the last 50 years, I have been a collector and student of almost every thing written on the paleo to modern Indians, and books of opinion written by archaeologist in the field. Half of the archaeologist seem to have a good understanding of the law as written; the other half have not acknowledged it.
My personal opinion on hunting and picking up arrowheads on the surface, should lead you to a better understanding of why it is important for hunters and individual amateur archaeologists to collect these arrowheads.
My best example (but not limited to), is the Arizona Strip. I have hunted every road along the strip from west to east and south beyond Mount Trumbull. There is no one area that an individual cannot find recent broken arrowheads, broken from being stepped on by cattle, deer and other animals. These breaks are recent and within the last 40 years. These recent breaks are easily determined upon examination. Also, arrowheads that are washed down into the deep ravines and creeks are crushed on the rocks and then covered over with soil and more rocks. Some are just washed several yards downhill and are destroyed by breakage and surface damage. Collecting of these arrowheads following a rain, and prior to their complete destruction, will be appreciated by future generations.
Keep and frame these artifacts for future onlookers. Do not turn these arrowheads over to a museum, unless they are loaned or consigned to a specific museum. Even today, museums are selling and transferring arrowheads from the Great Basin to museums in the East. You may have seen an article revealing that fact in the last couple of years.
Every type of arrowhead has been identified in the Great Basin. I have found each classification and type, and those made by materials that were transferred in trade or carried to other locations by ancient hunters. There are no new discoveries to be concluded by more research on these surface arrowheads; all conclusions have been completed a thousand fold. The only research that can be conducted, is on sites that are buried and not yet discovered. These finds may bring more to light, but modern finds and excavations have not revealed anything new in recent years. My friends and I, have reported sites that should require excavation, but those reports have been to no avail. Some sites I have viewed, were bulldozed across for fire lanes or breaks, leaving scattered broken pottery and arrowheads in the path.
In view of the above paragraphs, the legality of picking up arrowheads on the surface may seem a little misguided to you. I wish these untruth's of the subject matter would decease.
Some of you that are old enough to remember the University of Utah Museum in the early 50`s, are invited to revisit that museum of today and see for yourself how small it has become in comparison. You will be astonished.