March 8, 2012

"Stop Televised Looting?"

 It’s a dream. You reluctantly go out back on your day off to start digging a garden exactly where your wife wants it. With each shovelful, you are thinking of all of the better spots in the yard for it.

“Where we had it last year.” Thud, thud.   
“In the corner, out of the way of the lawnmower.” Thud, thud.  
“ Near the hose so it will be easier to water,”  Thud, clink!
The headlines start rolling: “Man Discovers Civil War Cannon in Back Yard Garden!” and “Man Finds Valuable Treasure in Back Yard!”
It’s the find of a lifetime and evidence shows that this really does happen. Many people find valuable historical items accidentally, others go digging for them. 

Such is the case with Spike TV’s new show “American Digger,” which will debut on March 21st. This show follows ex-wrestler Ric Savage who leads his team to dig up the back yards of history rich areas in an attempt to make it rich in the relic market.
According to Spike TV’s website, “American Savage, based in Mechanicsville, VA, is the top artifact recovery company in the country, digging as much as half a million dollars worth of historical artifacts out of US soil each year.” Of course, once the artifacts are recovered, they are no longer artifacts, they are relics. So in reality, this company makes half a million dollars worth of relics out of artifacts each year. 

Once an item is removed from the ground, the context of the item is lost. Yes, you know it’s a Civil War belt buckle. But why is it in that particular field? What about the rest of the items from this soldier that were not made of metal? What else is in the area? What does the position of these items tell you? 

The importance of context has been a heated debate between and archeologists and metal detectorists for years.  Some people think the item is more important and others, the context of the item. Although metal detectors are regularly employed at archeological sites to plot possible artifacts, the precise digging methods are still employed to preserve the context surrounding the objects.  Read a good article about Archeology and Relic hunting at The Battle of Franklin.

Sign the petition against the show or like the facebook page “Stop Televised looting.” 

I am not against metal detecting. I just don’t believe that you should metal detect in historically important areas without working with an archeologist. If an area will be destroyed and you have permission to metal detect, by all means remove the objects.  Also, if you find something of archeological significance, you should contact local archeological authorities.

Read some stories about scary finds:  


  1. Can I still sign it even though I'm not American? :-)

    1. I believe the show can still be live streamed in your area so you can sign. You just have to click the "outside the U.S. button."

    2. I tried, but it did not react. :-( I'll try again.

  2. I do not have an issue with metal detecting but why target history rich areas? That's looting stuff that could really be valuable to the understanding of historical events.

    1. I think that's the point. By targeting an area like that, they're almost sure to find something, and they're sure to pretty much know what they have when they get it. For instance, when you come across an original Enfield bayonet on Ebay, it may or may not have been carried by a Civil War soldier. Enfields were used a lot of places by a lot of different people. If you dig one up on an American Civil War battlefield, you know what you have, at least some of the history of it, and you know what people will pay for it.

      The problem is that while you know some of the item's history, you lose so much more by destroying the context that it's in. What area of the battlefield was it found in? What regiments fought in that area? Is it a distinctive enough item to narrow down what group might have carried it? Why was it there? You lose all of that, and it simply becomes the item you found.

      I guess the argument comes down to this. What is more important? The item, or the knowledge it could give?

    2. I agree. If you find a springfield in someone's back yard that was used as a hunting weapon in no relation to the war, that is having the same item without ruining any historical significance.


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