I have always been fascinated by archaeology, in fact intended to major in it when I first went to college, but that didn't happen. Anyway when I heard Craig Childs talk about his book "Finders Keepers - A Tale of Archaeological Plunder and Obsession" on the Dan Rodericks show on WYPR in December I made sure to note the title and request the book for Christmas. I did get it and I have just finished reading it.
Childs is from the Southwest and grew up finding artifacts everywhere. Early on he developed the commitment to leave the artifacts in place. He shows a reverence to the people who initially left those things either accidentally or on purpose and maintains that position to this day . I enjoy historical exhibits, but had no idea that what is on display is an absurdly tiny fraction of what is in storage. By removing artifacts, the context is often lost despite archaeologists best intentions. On federal and state lands artifacts are removed to storage because of the fear they will be stolen. But now they languish in less than ideal drawers, closets, warehouses, etc where no one can see them and with very few archaeologists to study them. Many artifacts find their way into private collections after being forcibly removed by "pothunters" without any care given to the landscape where they were taken from.
His book was a fascinating read and made me realize that I need to think twice about gathering the "artifacts" I find in the creek here below my house. They're not from Native Americans but if they are more than 60 years old they qualify as artifacts. Next time I think I will look them over and then place them back in the creek. What would you do?