• Why should I reconsider digging around for treasure in Alaska like I saw on TV?


    Alaska is the largest state in the United States, but the least densely populated. Before contact with Europeans in the 18th century, the Alaskan peninsula was populated by numerous native tribes, many of which still inhabit the state today. The end of the 19th century saw the transfer of the territory from Russian to American protection and also saw the beginning of the gold rush era, which lasted well into the 20th century. In the late 1960s the discovery of petroleum in Alaska began the oil boom, and the oil and natural gas industry dominates the economy of the state still today.

    Most land in Alaska belongs to either the state, federal government, or Native corporations. Native corporation land, by law, is considered private. All state land is protected by state statute (AS 41.35.200) which makes it illegal to remove cultural remains. Federal lands are protected under the Archaeological Resources Protection Act and other laws. Native Corporation lands are usually protected under “theft of property” laws. If artifacts which are more than 100 years old are removed in violation of any law (state, local, etc., including theft), and are transported across a state line, then it is an ARPA felony under federal law. Also, since the state owns the vast majority of tidelands and submerged land, even removing antiquities from the beach is against the law.

    The Alaska Department of Natural Resources, Division of Parks and Outdoor Recreation, Office of History and Archaeology

    You might start by contacting the Alaska Historical Society, the State of Alaska Office of History and Archaeology, Museum Alaska, the Statewide Museum Association, or the Alaska State Parks Volunteer Program, which has volunteer archaeological excavation opportunities Summer 2012!

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  • “Diggers” and “American Digger”: A Viewers’ Guide


    On February 28th NatGeo TV premiered “Diggers” (hosted by the principals at Anaconda Treasure) and on March 21st Spike TV premiered “American Digger,” both reality shows which feature self described treasure hunters who travel around the US shovel in hand. It is important to keep in mind while watching this show that there are Federal, State and Local laws that protect ancient sites and artifacts and they’re there for a reason.  It just isn’t as innocent and simple as these shows make it out to be.


    What’s wrong with these shows?

    “American Digger” on Spike TV and “Diggers” on NatGeo TV make looking for historical objects something that can be done casually. We don’t perform surgery as a hobby or ride a bike through an art museum; similarly, the historical and cultural remains of the long history of North America, a non-renewable resource which can never be replaced, deserve ...

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  • Welcome to SAFE’s new home!


    SAFE is pleased to announce the relaunch of our web site (still http://savingantiquities.org) and blog, now fully integrated as part of the site. All the posts (and corresponding comments) have transferred to this new site at http://savingantiquities.org/blog/.

    Our web site has a new look, but the more important goal with this relaunch is to provide an easier user experience by bringing nearly 200 pages of content more upfront and visible. To present an easier platform for your participation many of the new pages have an area for comments. Frequent visitors to the previous site (that we launched in July 2003) will notice a reorganization of the material, addition of graphics, interactive tools, and easier access to our ever-growing social media presence. Blog posts are now put into categories. Take a tour of our new resources section where items can now be searched by topic, region and date. The news section on the home page has up-to-the-minute reports, and polls are now on their own separate page. These are a few of the new features; please peruse the site to make your own discoveries.

    Every piece of content has been reconsidered and displayed in a new way with these goals in mind; but if we missed anything please let us know. We think that our new site is an improvement, but it is your opinion that truly matters. SAFE is a dynamic organization, and we take your comments seriously (eg. our brand new Teaching Tools section exists because of one of your suggestions). As with any web site, ours is an organic process; as such, it is always a work-in-progress. We welcome and appreciate your ideas and contributions. Please tell us what you think of our new home. To get involved, click on one of the red arrows to your right.

    Thank you,

    Brooke Todsen Executive Director

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  • Respect Our History: End Production of American Digger and Diggers!

    The undersigned institutions join the growing tide of concern about the National Geographic Channel’s new series “Diggers” and Spike TV’s forthcoming series “American Digger,” both of which are designed to amuse and entertain audiences while glorifying the indiscriminate destruction of American history by artifact hunters. The teaser advertisement for “American Digger” gives a good indication of how little the producers of these shows value the historical record; the show aims to “scour target-rich areas such as battlefields and historic sites, in hopes of striking it rich by unearthing and selling rare pieces of American history.”

    America’s cultural heritage is worth more to all of us than the few dollars that the “diggers” will pocket as a result of their exploits. The activities highlighted by these shows destroy the archaeological record, and in many cases cause damage to the historic site that remains. ...

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  • FROM THE FIELD: Speaking with Omara Khan Massoudi, Director of the National Museum of Afghanistan

    {credit}Jake Simkin{/credit}Omara Khan Massoudi

    Omara Khan Massoudi is more of a permanent feature at the National Museum of Afghanistan than many of the collections that are housed there. Now the director, he has worked at the Kabul museum for more than three decades: a tumultuous period that bore witness to the Soviet occupation, Mujahideen civil war, and Taliban regime, when irreplaceable collections were relocated for safekeeping, damaged, or destroyed.

    These days, Mr. Massoudi is overseeing a period of progress. Stunning relics from the current excavation at Mes Aynak, an ancient Buddhist complex located in Logar province, are on display in a new exhibition, Mes Aynak: Recent excavations along the Silk Road. Plans are also underway to erect a new National Museum building with state of the art equipment on the lot next door with funding from the United States Embassy and the World Bank.

    The ...

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  • WikiLoot – An Invitation to Everyone to Join the Hunt for Looted Antiquities


    Jason Felch and Ralph Frammolino, authors of Chasing Aphrodite and our most recent Beacon Award winners, are developing a powerful new tool in the fight against the illicit antiquities trade, WikiLoot.  Read all about it on their blog, Chasing Aphrodite.

    This is a breakthrough project for at least a few reasons. First, WikiLoot would bring out in the open information which has, as of yet, only been selectively revealed: an unpublished archive of information about looted antiquities seized by various law enforcement agencies over the past two decades. With this archive online, anyone with an iPad or laptop could walk into a museum, auction house or antiquities shop and identify a looted pot or statue. Second, by creating WikiLoot, by enabling anyone and everyone with the information and platform to engage in the search for looted antiquities, the impact of the archive itself in the fight against the looters and purveyors of illicit antiquates is immeasurably magnified. Third, the existence of WikiLoot and the crowd sourced identification of looted antiquities, would no doubt act as a deterrent in the future purchase or consignment of antiquities of dubious origins by museums, auction houses or antiquities purveyors.

    It is hard to think of any book, article, television program, documentary, petition or event which would have as provocative, unrestricted or powerful reach as WikiLoot. This really is a game changer and has the potential to act as a model for democratizing the fight against other illicit markets.

    Photo Source: Looting Matters.

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  • US sets aside $79 Million for UNESCO

    Screen shot 2012-03-23 at 2.16.32 PM

    Four months after pulling funding from UNESCO, the US State Department has added $79 million to its proposed budget for the UN agency in order to obtain a Congressional legal waiver so that funding can be restored.

    The US pulled its UNESCO funding, nearly 22% of the organizations overall funding, after the organization granted full membership to the Palestinian Authority in November 2011. The US was obligated to withdraw funding based on laws made in the 1990’s that order a mandatory funding freeze whenever there is full-membership offered to the Palestinian Authority in any UN Agency.

    US Deputy Secretary of State For Management and Resources Thomas Nides remarked on the actions of the State Department, “UNESCO does a lot of enormously good work,” Nides declared, “and we’d like to make sure that we have a contribution commensurate with their work.” The programs most affected by the funding cuts include the Iraqi National Water Council and literacy and education initiatives in Iraq.

    However, The Republican majority in Congress will no doubt have objections to the legal waiver, as those opposed to the move have fears of a further “Palestinian statehood push.”

    It will be interesting to see where this attempt by the State Department goes—without US funding UNESCO has been struggling to close the gap on their 22% deficiency since November, despite Turkey’s contribution of 5 million to UNESCO’s emergency fund in February 2012.

    Read the original article here.

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  • Sotheby’s "Off-Base" on Cambodian Antiquities Again

    Cambodia statue for sale at Sotheby's may be looted

    It appears that Sotheby’s is in hot water yet again in relation to their unscrupulous selling of Khmer antiquities. A news article has come to my attention concerning the recovery and repatriation of a c. 950 AD warrior statue, likely looted from the site of Koh Ker during the Vietnam/American War. The Cambodian government recently asked the US for help with recovering this priceless artifact when it was discovered that not only was Sotheby’s slated to sell it at auction in March last year, but a pedestal base/feet are, rather poignantly, awaiting reattachment at Koh Ker itself. Importantly, the other statue of the pair was found residing at the Norton Simon Museum in Pasadena, CA, since 1980 (the height of historic artifact looting in Cambodia), awaiting future legal action to get it repatriated–something antiquities lawyers claim will be more difficult to do given how long ...

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