SAFETY AND ETHICS


PERSONAL SAFETY- Hunting arrowheads will take you to areas where there are dangers. Snakes, dehydration and broken bones are just a few of the threats that can be serious. But there are also many areas that are safe and secure for even the very young. Each environment is different. There are a great many places that you should not go to alone.

LEGAL SAFETY- The best arrowhead hunting takes place on private property. You should never trespass in order to hunt, as you do not own the arrowheads and have no right to take them from the person who does. The fact that the property owner does not know they are there does not give you any special rights.

Always ask permission BEFORE you go hunting. Offer to eventually give the landowner any arrowheads you find as long as you can play with them for a few months. Most landowners will let you keep them forever, and will be your friend for just as long. The friendships you make with landowners can last a lifetime and will almost certainly be more valuable than anything you could find.

Public Lands are almost always off limits to artifact hunting and this includes arrowheads. It is safe to assume this to be the case unless you absolutely know it is okay to collect. Although the landowner you kindly contact to ask for permission on private property is likely to be a reasonable and friendly individual, the public servant you contact to ask for permission on public land may be anything from suspicious to kind to condescending. Unlike the landowner who is lord of his domain, the public servant must answer to a boss and "NO" is a safer answer for him to give.

ETHICS IN COLLECTING- The one cardinal rule of ethics in amateur artifact hunting is simply "DO NOT DIG!" In addition, a great many people think that it is not a good idea to buy or sell authentic artifacts as the trade in artifacts tends to encourage looting by professional diggers. Neither of these ethical cautions diminishes the joy of finding and holding an ancient arrow or spear point.

As fun as they are to find, stone arrowheads and other artifacts can also be used to discover things about the history of man and your area that may be impossible to determine otherwise. For this reason, the arrowhead hunter should get to know a professional archaeologist and show him what is found.

While collecting, remember EXACTLY where you find the things you keep, so that if they are special, more work can be done on the site. Once you have committed the site locations to memory, write the information down and label your finds so that your secrets will not die when you do. You may even get an important archeological site named after you.

It is important to remember that it does not matter how responsible you are on site if you tell the location of a site to someone who will go over and dig the place up. Telling a professional archaeologist what you have found is not nearly as risky as telling your coworkers or the guys at the bar. It is far better to keep your mouth shut, except to the landowner and to a professional archaeologist. Believe this, or learn the hard way.

The reason not to dig is simple. If you have found an important site, nobody will be able to know anything for sure about it if the artifacts are all mixed up. Material from the deeper layers may be alot older than material from the surface, but it may not.

You may think a very old spearhead found on the surface of your site means that mammoth hunters camped there. An archaeologist might be able to tell with careful excavation that the very ancient point you found was probably brought into camp by Indians who were there in the 1800's that could have been ancient arrowhead collectors themselves. If you dig and mix the layers, the one thing for sure is that no one will ever be able to assess the data you messed up.

It is also best to leave as much material as you can at the site when surface collecting. Broken pieces of pottery, chips and flakes of stone, and otherwise unimpressive tools should be left where they were found so that anyone coming along with an eye toward a scientific excavation can make an evaluation of what may be below.

For all the above reasons, the best places to hunt for artifacts are places that have been dug up or naturally disturbed already. Places that have been bulldozed, fields that have been deeply plowed, and creek beds that wash artifacts along provide environments that are not so threatened by casual collectors.

SACRED CONSIDERATIONS- If you have a strong present-day Native American population in your area, it will be good to ensure that you do not tread upon ground they consider sacred - literally. The primary focus to the Native American community is generally grave security, and one would think that by not digging you would be safe in your hobby. Since items that come to the surface are sometimes grave goods, a little extra sensitivity can help you notice when burials might be exposed so that you can take the appropriate action.

In many states, possession of grave goods is illegal, even though very few experts will testify that any particular piece that was not in proven association with skeletal remains is a grave item.

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