Looking for Artifacts Is Good; Picking Them Up Is Bad

Craig S. Baker's "History Underfoot" (Sept. 22) provides a good introduction to the archaeology of the Tucson area.

However, in calling ancient artifacts "barely hidden treasures," and saying "artifacts from the Hohokam people are abundant throughout the Tucson basin—if you know where to look," the "quest to better understand and locate the historical riches of our area" and "disciples pick handfuls of ancient pottery," the article gives the impression that it is OK for people to collect artifacts from archaeological sites.

In fact, it is illegal to collect artifacts from the archaeological sites mentioned in the article, or from any federal, state or Indian lands without a valid permit. Also, collecting artifacts from private properties without consent of the owners is unethical, and may be considered trespassing and theft.

Although collecting ancient artifacts can make for some very beautiful personal collections and is usually not illegal, I find it rather disheartening whenever I see ancient artifacts collected for people's personal collections or for resale. Most people don't realize that the piece of painted pottery, the stone projectile point, the glass bottle, or the coin or other metal object that they've discovered is part of a cultural context—an association of several items that all date to about the same time period. Though these outdoor scatters of artifacts are usually not very noticeable and may not seem to be significant, they represent places where people conducted activities long ago, and as such, they are sites of ancient human activity, also known as "archaeological sites." Any concentration of artifacts in which many of the items present are more than 50 years old is considered an archaeological site under federal and local government regulations.

Relic-collecting, from the simple gathering of a few pot sherds to organized pot-hunting and other unauthorized commerce in antiquities, is one of the most destructive forces decimating our nation's and the world's cultural heritage. This fact has been recognized internationally by the enactment of restrictions and severe penalties for trafficking in archaeological artifacts.

Artifacts and other cultural materials are often the only source of information that we have to answer questions about an ancient people's way of life—to make scientific interpretations about what they looked like, what they ate, how they constructed their houses, what language they spoke, what they believed in and how they created beauty in their lives. When an artifact is removed from its original context without carefully recording where it was found and what other kinds of items were associated with it, the artifact is lost to scientific study, and the positions of other things are usually disturbed too badly to recover any additional useful information.

I always try to discourage individuals from collecting ancient artifacts for their own use. If you find artifacts in Arizona that you think may have historical or archaeological significance, please make a note of their exact locations, and call the Arizona State Museum at 621-1271. Or you can contact me; I will be happy to hear from you.

Allen Dart

Executive director, Old Pueblo Archaeology Center

Access Tucson Is Evolving!

We deeply appreciate the props that we received from the Tucson Weekly ("Best Local TV Station That Needs Your Support," Best of Tucson®, Sept. 22).

Tucsonans and cable subscribers need to know that community television has not gone away. In fact, the Tucson City Council has agreed with Cox Communications to move Access Tucson from Channel 99 to Channel 20, effective in July 2012. At the same time, Access Tucson will be evolving into a true community media center where everyone can share ideas, opinions, resources and training.

Our doors are open, and all Tucsonans are welcome to be a part of community media.

Bob Kovitz

President, Access Tucson board of directors

Happy Thoughts Are Good; Business Is Better

I think it's interesting that Mrs. Tiggy Winkle's Toys won Best Toy Store. If everyone who voted for them actually shopped there once in a while, I wonder if they would have had to close their doors.

A message to Tucson: If you like a local establishment, spend money there. A business can't exist solely on nice thoughts.

Autumn Ruhe

A Tale With a Lesson ... Or Something?

There once was a young soldier who worked in the arms room of his unit, who happened to fall in love with a lovely young lady who just happened to be black.

One day, he was taking in the rifles and ammunition from the soldiers going off-duty when another soldier began deliberately trying to provoke our hero, which made the latter angrier than he had ever been in his life. While our hero had an M16 rifle in one hand and a full magazine of live ammunition in the other, the other soldier referred to the hero's ladylove using what may be politely called the "N"-word.

You are probably thinking there was some sort of an act of violence at this point. Well, there wasn't. I was that young soldier, and even though I could have shot that individual before I could have been stopped, I didn't. I handed the weapon back to the soldier who was turning it in, asked him to wait and got my composure back.

It is likely the soldier provoking me was trying to commit suicide, for shortly thereafter, he slit his wrists. Now, if my just having a gun were to cause me to commit a crime, don't you think it would have happened then?

Charles W. Walker

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