Today’s Tennssean ran two articles related to relic hunting for Civil War artifacts. They are worth reading.
- County’s hallowed ground becomes swallowed ground, Nov 29th, 2009.
- Archaeologists, relic hunters don’t see eye-to-eye, Nov 29th, 2009
I side more with supporting archaeological discovery of relics and artifacts as opposed to relic hunting through metal detecting. Archaeological discovery should be supported by the State, County or Town in an official capacity, not limited to public funding within reason, especially if the ground being explored is owned by the State or City.
If people want to relic hunt on private property then I think that is fine, so long as permission is granted by the owners. I think it is wrong of relic hunters who sneak on private or State property – without permission – and look for artifacts.
If human bones or remains are found – on private or public grounds – the City or State officials should be contacted so that proper care, recovery and commemoration can be afforded the person. I’d also encourage relic hunters on private property to volunteer to work closely with State archaeological officials so that the community can learn the most possible from important finds.
Important knowledge about the Civil War- and battles – can be gained from official archaeological projects. For example, when the H.L. Hunley submarine was discovered in 2000 in Charleston Harbor, it was a professionally sponsored archaeological project. One of the most important finds – one that might have been neglected by private relic hunters – was the exact location of the human remains inside the submarine.
The eight crewmen’s remains were in the exact position they had while working at their station as death took place. This allowed scientists to better understand what happened on that ill-faited cruise in February 1864. Had several of the crew members’ bones been piled in one spot – under the hatch – it would have been evidence that the crew fought for air in the last few seconds as they clamored to escape the chamber of death.
Because so much personal relic hunting for Civil War artifacts takes place outside public scrutiny, we will never know what important facts are lost forever about how a battle was won-lost, the nature of casualties, the original lay of the topography, etc.
Private relic hunters are interested in private benefits, whether they be financial or for personal ego. Publicly-sponsored archaeological projects insure the entire community will benefit from the knowledge we can gain from uncovering priceless Civil War artifacts that have remained hidden for over 140+ years. They might rarely be priceless in terms of monetary value, but they are priceless in terms of what we can better understand why and what happened on these hallowed grounds.
Where do you stand? Relic hunting or archaeology?