US Archaeological Sites & Finds Protection

Chris O’Brien at Northstate Science has a great post comparing US and Swedish site protection rules, a response to my entry on who owns archaeological finds in Sweden. I’m definitely recruiting his entry for next week’s Four Stone Hearth carnival. (To which all readers are invited to contribute.)

Here are some questions that popped up when I read Chris’s entry.

  1. What happens if a member of the public makes a clearly prehistoric find on federally owned land, without digging or damaging anything, and alerts the local authorities? For instance, a collection of lithics from the erosion slope of a stream gully or the edge of a quarry. (I’m sure he or she would not be held in error.) Who owns such finds?
  2. What percentage of interesting sites are on federally owned land? E.g., how many of the known Moundbilder mounds? In other words, is the federal legislation relevant in the greater number of cases? Or is it simply a question of trespassing laws keeping archaeological surveyors off privately owned land, so that such land forms white spots on the distribution maps?
  3. My post didn’t say much about sites and land development. Does the US evaluation of an area in advance of e.g. a road development differ with regard to who owns the land? Can the authorities force private land owners to admit archaeologists for surveying in such a case? In Sweden, a road or gas pipeline development will usually operate with a wide corridor of potential placement in the early stages of the project, and then the final placement within the corridor will be influenced by the results of archaeological and biodiversity evaluations. Which of course cover the entire corridor regardless of who happens to own the land.
  4. Did I understand correctly, that a US landowner may dig or dynamite any site on his land as long as it doesn’t contain graves? Scareee!

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