America in Danger
It’s not undercover terrorism, nor is it moral decay and the decline of our culture, nor is it out-of-control consumerism, though all could be argued as evils facing us. Instead, America is in danger from a foe lurking among her own citizenry, and considered to be great fun, even a fundamental right. If action is not taken now, our future may be in danger because of our past.
What is the danger?
Treasure hunting. Using metal detectors to pillage the past.
Now popularized by TV programs that depict digging for buried artifacts, this helter-skelter method of non-archaeology destroys historic settings forever, from Native American encampments, to signs of slavetrading, to Civil War mementos. The hapless pseudo-historians do not realize that it’s not enough to make an exciting “find”—without context, the meaning of the find becomes meaningless.
The New York Times recently publicized the latest of these widespread scavenger hunt scourges which took place near Williamsburg, Virginia, in March. Flowerdew Hundred Plantation, a 1,000-acre land grant dating from the early 1600s, hosted archaeological excavations from the 1960s to the 1990s, yielding over 60 archaeological sites of all time periods. With more than half a million artifacts and much research undertaken at the farm, the historical significance is inestimable.
Enter the evil treasure hunters. Mind you, I have nothing against somebody digging in their own backyard, or a child picking up a projectile point while hiking through the woods on a friend’s property. But this is dig-for-dough, and mash-the-historic-matrix.
According to reports, a professed relic hunter from Texas sold $60,000 in tickets to a Grand National Relic Shootout, a relic-hunting competition of sorts held in March, whereby almost 9,000 artifacts were raped from the land, some to be pocketed and some to be resold. Never mind that Flowerdew belongs to the James C. Justice Companies, whose chairman knew nothing of what was transpiring on his land.
Labelled as a misdemeanor in Virginia, one of the most historic states in the nation, trespassing on private property to collect artifacts is rarely prosecuted and charges are infrequently pressed. Also illegal on public property, the treasure hunters often hit-and-run before anyone finds out about their activities, generally in vast, rural areas, which are difficult to patrol.
And as with any hit-and-run, the damage is there. The culprits must be punished to the fullest extent of the law, and when that fails, the laws must change to protect our nation’s heritage.
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