Meeting focuses on Florida treasure hunting

LAMP Director Chuck Meide alerted Historic City News that on Tuesday, October 21st from 12:00 – 4:00 p.m. there is a public meeting at the Guana-Tolomato-Matanzas National Estuarine Research Reserve’s Environmental Education Center regarding proposed rule changes in the state’s policy towards treasure hunting.

Meide encourages everyone who cares about Florida history and archeology to attend the meeting, and/or visit http://flheritage.com/archaeology/rule/ a public comment web page the state has established in conjunction with their proposed new 1A-31 regulations for treasure hunting.

These rules mandate an unprecedented new level of archaeological oversight for treasure salvage operations. While these rules are a step in the right direction, in Meide’s opinion they do not go far enough.

Meide wants to send the message to Tallahassee loud and clear that treasure hunting is detrimental to our state’s great archaeological heritage and that it should be banned outright.

Meide is encouraging anyone interested in Florida preserving archeology to attend the meeting since he says as many as 100 treasure salvers are planning to attend. “Their voice will be strong, but hopefully some of us in the archaeological community will show up to share our opinion that commercial treasure salvage has been and will continue to be a bad policy for historical resources that belong to all of us.” Meide said.

Meide says, “As any friend of Florida archaeology knows, our state has had an unfortunate legacy treasure hunting which has been legal since the 1960s. At that time there were few if any archaeologists who were divers and none were working underwater. Today there are dozens of underwater archaeologists working in our state and we are known as a center for underwater archaeological research and outreach programs.”

“That treasure hunting is still allowed by the state, when it is banned in almost every other state and in many nations, is a blemish on the otherwise fine reputation of historic preservation, research archeology, and public archeology in the state of Florida.” Meide continued, “Dozens of historically significant colonial shipwrecks have been virtually destroyed by treasure hunters, it is time this practice came to an end.”

Meide’s question is, “Why are some private individuals allowed to sell property that belongs to all citizens for their personal gain, at the expense of our understanding of history?”

According to Meide , this is not responsible management of our cultural and archaeological heritage. In the 21st century, Florida should no longer be in the treasure hunting business.

Meide has asked members of the St. Augustine Archaeological Association to show up at this meeting and stand up to say that treasure hunting in state waters is bad for our archaeological heritage and bad for the citizens of Florida.

Meide believes more oversight is good, but an outright ban would be even better. Meide asked “Why is it legal for treasure hunters to sell our property using unscientific standards when archaeologists conduct their research responsibly and the people of Florida retain ownership of all artifacts?”

“Florida history should not be for sale and commercial salvage of historic shipwrecks should not be allowed.” Said Meide.

Meide asks that if you cannot attend the meeting, visit http://flheritage.com/archaeology/rule/ and let the state know that treasure hunting is bad for Florida.

You can express yourself however you’d like and you might use any of the topics I’ve mentioned above.

Many in the archaeological community feel that this rule change may be the first step in outlawing commercial treasure hunting in Florida, especially if we can show them that our communities appreciate archeology and history and are united against treasure hunting.

Meide feels that if we act together, we can all play a role in protecting Florida’s rich archaeological record, and finally put a close to this unfortunate chapter in the story of Florida’s historic preservation.

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