Letter: Citizen Archaeology Permit program
Sarah E. Miller, M.A., RPA
St Augustine, FL
Florida is considering a “Citizen Archaeology Permit” program that would extensively impact archaeology sites on state lands.
Archaeological artifacts, prehistoric and historic, located on state lands or submerged in state waters, belong to the people of the State of Florida (see Chapter 267 of the Florida Statutes, the Florida Historical Resources Act).
At one time, the Florida Bureau of Archaeological Research operated an “Isolated Finds Program” that allowed individuals diving in Florida’s rivers to collect and keep isolated artifacts they found on the river bottoms — provided they reported their finds to the Bureau following established procedures.
After a number of years, the program was discontinued due to wide-spread non-compliance in reporting by the vast majority of diving collectors. Recently, a citizen group has expressed interest in what they are calling a “Citizen Archaeology Permit,” which is essentially a revival of the failed Isolated Finds Program.
This program would again allow individuals to collect and keep archaeological materials from state-owned lands; especially submerged lands. The Florida Public Archaeology Network believes this proposed program is contrary to the public trust.
The taking of our archaeological heritage to profit private collections, or to be sold to collectors in other states or countries, deprives us all of valuable information about our common past.
There are lots of ways to support Florida archaeology, and one of them is to voice your opinion on issues such as this to legislators. If you’d like to get involved, Senator Alan Hays has expressed interest in hearing from Florida citizens — he may be contacted through his webpage, http://www.flsenate.gov/Senators/s11 Our local senator, John Thrasher, can be contacted through his webpage, http://www.flsenate.gov/Senators/s6
Sarah Miller received her Master of Arts degree in Anthropology from East Carolina University in 2001 where she developed archaeology education programs at Tryon Palace in New Bern, North Carolina. Upon graduation she supervised field and lab projects with public involvement for the Kentucky Archaeological Survey, as well as reviewing compliance projects for the Kentucky Heritage Council. She now serves as Director for the Florida Public Archaeology Network Northeast Regional Center, statewide coordinator for Project Archaeology, and sits on the Historic Resource Review Board for St Johns County. Her specialties include public archaeology, historical archaeology, 19th century material culture and historic cemeteries.