Barbara Messenger: Grand Junction
I am writing to share with you a difficult lesson that I recently have learned about protecting archeological resources on federal lands.
As a youngster of 9, I moved from Iowa to Colorado. The move opened up a chance to explore the unknown west. Climbing mountains, exploring and hiking were my favorite activities as I grew up in my new home state. While camping and fishing with friends as a young girl I found an unusual rock. I was very excited when I returned to my family and friends and they told me it was an arrowhead left behind by Native Americans. How lucky to have found something so perfect from a different time and place.
The older I became, the more my interest grew in studying Colorado history and Native American societies. I enrolled in archeology classes and attended field schools, thrilled at the chance to travel to various sites and learn from archeologists with knowledge of the past.
Throughout the years, I continued to find and collect various items which were of interest to us. As I documented and recorded sites and artifacts, I thought that I not only was gaining knowledge but I also thought that I was helping preserve the history.
In 2002, I learned that the possession or removal of any archeological resources from lands administered by the Bureau of Land Management without a permit was against the law. I found out that even the surface collection of arrowheads, something that many people start out doing as a youngster is against the law. The reasoning behind the prohibitions is that the removal of artifacts, such as projectile points from their archeological contexts makes humanistic understanding, interpretation and explanation of a site much more difficult, if not impossible, for BLM archeologists.
If you are a weekend or amateur archeologist who spends time wandering the nearby federally administered land and collecting arrowheads or other projectiles you need to understand that you are not only violating federal law and subjecting yourself to prosecution, the removal of these items from their archeological contexts can damage the contexts and severely limit the ability of archeologist to provide scientific or humanistic understanding of past human behavior, cultural adaptation, and related topics through the application of scientific or scholarly techniques.
It is important to remember that when you collect items from a site you may be damaging our nation’s heritage and history.
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