That Old Indiana Jones Cliché

Check out the rest of the blog post at the ‘What’s Up, Archaeology?’ Blog!

What's up, Archaeology?

Indiana Jones is a terrible example of an archaeologist.  There, I said it.  Not only does he promote the notion that his shenanigans are perfectly normal activities for an archaeologist, Indiana Jones is pretty much a glorified looter.  Yes, I realize I’m lambasting a fictional character, but this character has generated interest in archaeology while also being destructive to the field.  Last week was the start of a new semester and I had my students go around the room and relate why they wanted to take the course and what they hoped to learn.  Roughly 80 to 90 percent of my students cited Indiana Jones as the reason for taking Introduction to Archaeology.  A part of me is grateful that so many young people are interested in learning about archaeology, but I fear disappointing them when they discover it’s not quite as swashbuckling and Nazi-punching a field as depicted in…

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It’s ILLEGAL!

This scenario is one of the many reasons why archaeologists have to play a role in public education and outreach!  The following conversation occurred while presenting on the wonderful world of archaeology at an elementary school.  And no, I never personally keep the artifacts I record, I would never sell artifacts, and I’ve never found gold items.

Kid 1: can you sell the artifacts you find?

Me: no, that is illegal if you take it off of NPS, BLM, or FS lands.
Kid 2: what if its from a different country?
Me: still illegal, just international laws apply. You can’t keep or sell anything. It’s just a bad idea.
Teacher: how much is a statue from your site in Cyprus worth? $4000? how much would a collector pay?
Me: I have no idea . . .because its illegal.
Kid 3: what if its bones on your own land? Can you keep that?
Me: No, state laws don’t allow that. It’s illegal. And unethical.
Kid 4: so, you can’t just keep any of the artifacts, keep them hidden inside, and sell them later?
Me: no.
Kid 3: but what if . . .
Me: no. Okay, everyone, can you keep or sell artifacts?
Class: no.
Me: why?
Class: because its illegal.

Want to know more about why it’s illegal to remove artifacts from public lands?  Read my blog post on ARPA!