Important: Do not take this page lightly.
The information contained here could save you many hours of headaches, attorney’s fees and the frustrations with bureaucracy. Many individuals across the United States have been unnecessarily ridiculed, harassed, and even arrested, because they were not aware of the laws regarding relics, and artifacts. As you read this page you will begin to understand that those laws are a hindrance to our right of enjoying our public lands. Anytime any law has been passed it takes away one of our rights under the Constitution. I am not an attorney, however I am an a student of the Constitution. I believe that the laws I will be mentioning below are unconstitutional in nature.
Before I begin, I would like to mention that, I am not against any metal detecting laws, or treasure hunting laws that protect Indian sites.
Also, I am not advocating that we should be breaking these laws. As hobbyists, we must follow the Federal laws that have to do with the removal of antiquities. Especially when removal of an object is on State land or parks. The best way to fight back against these laws is by having them repealed through the proper channels. There are organizations that are helping us in that way.
Metal detecting laws exist in many park areas. They are more of a rule or an ordinance that was passed by a town or village.
DISCLAIMER:I will not be held responsible for any information on this page that has been outdated due to new Federal regulations. Although I do try to stay on top of any new Federal Laws, it is not my responsibility to monitor every detail that affects our laws. From time to time you need to follow up with your State regulations as well. Information regarding your State is provided below.
For information on the laws of your State, please click on your state.
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Pretending To Be Blackbeard The Pirate-How I broke Treasure Hunting Laws When I Was Ten Years Old.
When I was a young boy I did what most youngsters of my generation did, I played in the dirt. We didn’t have computers, Ipods, or Xbox's to keep us busy, and we played outdoors most of the time. Many times, my friends and I would pretend to be pirates.
We would secretly bury small toys or pennies, draw treasure maps, hide the maps, search for the maps, find them, and then dig for the buried cache that our treasure map had shown. Sometimes we would dig in a local park, and at times, to our surprise we would uncover coins or toys that others had buried or lost.
Little did we know that as young children, we were breaking laws. Fortunately we were never taken into custody and then hauled off to jail. If you think that last statement is funny, then maybe after you read the rest of this page, you’ll be thinking differently.
Metal Detecting Laws...Treasure Hunting Laws? Let's be serious!
There are millions of people across the country that participate in the hobby of metal detecting, as well as other hobbies such as bottle hunting and rock collecting.
Metal detecting laws have been in existence in other countries.
I'm sure that you have a fascination with holding a piece of history in your hands, or else you would not be on this page. However, if you enjoy searching for relics on a regular basis, or for those of you who enjoy any other outdoor activity, you may be breaking the law, and you could end up in jail.
Don’t believe me? Read the stories below.
A father and his ten-year-old boy were trout fishing in a creek in New York State. The young boy happened to notice a small, pointed stone, lying on the creek bed. Of course being the inquisitive boy that most youngsters are, he picked up the stone and showed it to his father. His father knew right away that his young son had just found an Indian arrowhead. The boy was elated with his find. He was so excited that he put down his fishing pole and continued searching for more arrowheads. Unfortunately the youngster only found one. But the story doesn’t end there.
As the two walked back to their car at the end of a fine day, two gentlemen were just getting out of their vehicle; they were parked next to the boy and his dad. They exchanged greetings and the two men asked how the fishing had been. The father said they had not caught any fish. Immediately, the ten year old, his eyes still wide with excitement took the Indian arrowhead from his pant pocket and said “But I did find this.”
One of the two men was an Archaeologist. The other individual was a DEC (Department Of Environmental Conservation) worker. The Archaeologist proceeded to interrogate the father and his young son. He told the two that they had broken the law by removing the arrowhead from the ground. He also told the young boy that if he were older, he would have pressed charges and had him arrested. The father became irritated at the Archeologists remarks and when he told the Archaeologist that he would turn him into the State, the Archaeologist produced a 3 ring binder that held a law that he showed to the man. This law, section 233 of the Educational Law of NYS I will explain in a moment. However, the Archaeologist showed the father how his son had just broken the law, and if the father continued to be irate with him then the Archaeologist would have the DEC officer press charges.
In addition to the harassment the two had received from the Archaeologist, the Archaeologist confiscated the ten year olds arrowhead, which he has the right to do under Section 233. The youngster was heartbroken and scared. He could not understand what he had done wrong.
Here's another story!
A family was camping on State Land. They were enjoying a day in the sun in the great outdoors. The seven-year-old daughter of this family was having loads of fun picking up small, colorful rocks that lay on the ground around the campsite. At mid-afternoon the local DEC officer stopped by to check on the family. He noticed the little girl playfully picking up rocks and placing them in her small purse. The officer informed the parents that the little girl was breaking the antiquities law and that she must put the rocks back where she found them. When the father said. “Give me a break, would ya?” The officer then threatened to lock him up if his daughter did not put the rocks back.
Are you beginning to get the picture? Here's another story!
These people are not breaking metal detecting laws, but they are ruffling some feathers.
A woman was picking up old bottles in the vicinity of a ghost town on State land. As she was doing so a car drove by. The woman’s fortunate luck in finding the bottles was about to change. The passengers in the car were two Archaeologists who happened to be working on the wetlands in the area. Of course they stopped to ask the woman what she was doing. When the woman showed them her bottles, one of the Archaeologists told her that she had just broke the law. The reason, he told her, was because the bottles were over one hundred years old and thus belonged to the State. The woman was shocked. As she reluctantly gave the bottles to the two Archaeologists, one of them told her that “he was tired of people picking up history for their own use”, and he was going to have her served with a summons.
I have hundreds of stories just like these from across the country.
One of the reasons is because of my metal detecting TV series, Exploring Historys Treasures. I was the first to produce such a series. The show upset archaeologists because we were showing our viewers how to dig for artifacts and relics. You see, most Arkies believe that they are the supreme “diggers of dirt,” and that no one else has that right.
Exploring Historys Treasures
Archaeologists believe that they are the supreme diggers of dirt, and that no one else has the right to do so. And they use a law called ARPA. The Archaeological Resources Preservation Act to expand their agenda of “all the dirt is for us.” This law and another law I will address are not metal detecting laws.
The American Antiquities Act of 1906 was passed to protect the relics and artifacts that lay below ground from being dug up by, armchair historians, relic hunters, or anyone who enjoys the outdoors.
The ARPA law was not a metal detecting law. There were no metal detectors in 1906. Even though this law is not a metal detecting law, you must obey it.
The Antiquities Law remember is not a metal detecting law, but reads as follows.
Be it enacted by the Senate and House of Representatives of the United States of America in Congress assembled, That any person who shall appropriate, excavate, injure, or destroy any historic or prehistoric ruin or monument, or any object of antiquity, situated on lands owned or controlled by the Government of the United States, without the permission of the Secretary of the Department of the Government having jurisdiction over the lands on which said antiquities are situated, shall, upon conviction, be fined in a sum of not more than five hundred dollars or be imprisoned for a period of not more than ninety days, or shall suffer both fine and imprisonment, in the discretion of the court.
Metal detecting laws and treasure hunting laws may be enacted
And if ARPA wasn’t enough, in 1966 another federal law the National Historic Preservation Act was passed with the intent to protect our cultural resources. I quote that law here:
Although these are not metal detecting laws, we are not allowed to dig.
National Historic Preservation Act of 1966 · This act supplements the provisions of the Antiquities Act of 1906. The law makes it illegal to destroy, excavate or remove information from Federal or Indian lands any archeological resources without a permit from the land manager. Permits may be issued only to educational or scientific institutions and only if the resulting activities will increase knowledge about archeological resources. Regulations for the ultimate disposition of materials recovered as a result of permitted activities state that archeological resources excavated on public lands remain the property of the United States. Archeological resources excavated from Indian lands remain the property of the Indian or Indian tribe having rights of ownership over such resources.
In 1979 the ARPA law (Archaeological Resources Protection Act) was passed to read as follows:
Nor did this law mention any metal detecting laws, or treasure hunting laws.
The Archaeological Resources Protection Act Of 1979
The term "archaeological resource" means any material remains of past human life or activities which are of archaeological interest, as determined under uniform regulations promulgated pursuant to this chapter. Such regulations containing such determination shall include, but not be limited to: pottery, basketry, bottles, weapons, weapon projectiles, tools, structures or portions of structures, pit houses, rock paintings, rock carvings, intaglios, graves, human skeletal materials, or any portion or piece of any of the foregoing items. Nonfossilized and fossilized paleontological specimens, or any portion or piece thereof, shall not be considered archaeological resources, under the regulations under this paragraph, unless found in archaeological context. No item shall be treated as an archaeological resource under regulations under this paragraph unless such item is at least 100 years of age.
· No person may excavate, remove, damage, or otherwise alter or deface, or attempt to excavate, remove, damage, or otherwise alter or deface any archaeological resource located on public lands or Indian lands unless such activity is pursuant to a permit issued under section 470cc of this title, a permit referred to in section 470cc(h)(2) of this title, or the exemption contained in section 470cc(g)(1) of this title.
There you have it, three federal laws that are in existence to protect the history of this nation. I agree that some sorts of laws are needed.
Especially when it comes to the sacred Indian sites.
Metal detecting laws and treasure hunting laws should be explicit in this area.
Over the years sacred Indian sites have been the targets of unscrupulous relic hunters. These individuals destroy those sites by digging up sacred relics. And then many times those items are sold illegally on the black market. We need metal detecting laws to cover these areas.
So basically, the way I understand the above laws, is we are okay to metal detect, but we just cannot dig, and, or remove any item.
However, the above ambiguous laws are also causing problems.
As you can see in the above stories, there are individuals who pursue hobbies of collecting relics because they love history. These individuals, like myself, and perhaps you as well, enjoy not only locating these objects, but also sharing them with family and friends. And yet, we are being painted as "looters", "grave robbers", and "thieves" by the archaeology community.
Archaeologists are treating the above laws as if they were metal detecting laws.
All across this country, Archaeologists are fighting the hobbyist for all relics that are below the ground. Here in New York State, the archaeologist had the age of what an artifact is, changed as being any item over 50 years old. The above ARPA law of 1979 states that, no item shall be treated as an archaeological resource under regulations under this paragraph unless such item is at least 100 years of age. In New York, a 1963 penny now becomes an artifact of significance for the arkies. And, by law, if we find one on State Land, we are suppose to turn it over to the State.
It’s important that you understand that these issues I am talking about are the issues that deal with the State Lands, US Forest Lands, and parks.
Archaeologists: The Supreme Diggers
For years, Archaeologists across the country, as well as state bureaucracies, have manipulated the American Antiquities Act of 1906, ARPA, the National Historic Preservation Act, and many State laws. The Archaeology communities have bended, stretched, and remolded the above Federal laws to aide their agenda.
What is their agenda?
Their agenda is to control every item of history. This includes every relic, artifact, coin, bottle, pottery and Indian arrowheads, etc, that lay beneath the grounds surface.
I have already stated that Archaeologists are needed in certain instances. However, Archaeologists believe that no individual, other than he or she has the right to dig up and explore history. Remember those stories above?
The Archaeological communities have forced their hand of power as the supreme diggers of dirt.
They have reshaped the above laws so that if anyone other than an Archaeologist digs on State land and retrieves any artifact of historical significances, then that individual is breaking the law.
The Archaeologist along with both Federal and State officials have used phrases such as, any item of an historical significance, or any artifact of cultural significance to fit their agenda.
The generic terms of cultural and historical significance means that the layman cannot dig any history found on State or Federal land.
The problem here is in the interpretation or definition of what cultural and historical significance mean.
Is a coin dated 1850 as significant as a piece of pottery from 4000 years ago? I don’t think so! And if it is, who decides and how? The Archaeologist does. Archaeologists have always been more concerned with what artifacts they could find on pre-historic sites. We’re talking about the artifacts from thousands of years ago.
Archaeologists never bothered with artifacts from the 1800’s. Metal Detecting Laws are what the Arkies want.
However…and this is important.
As more individuals began to enjoy the hobbies of rock collecting, relic hunting, bottle digging, and especially metal detecting, and then a TV series like mine comes along showing viewers how to dig more relics, and suddenly the Archaeologists begin to get antsy.
The Archaeologist community did not like the fact that so many others were suddenly digging up what they, the Archaeologist believed belonged to them.
Remember, metal detecting laws fall under the guise of the laws of antiquity.
All of a sudden, that modern coin from 1850, a coin the Archaeologist never had any interest in, suddenly becomes a piece of historical significance…there’s that term again.
That coin became important to the arkie because they saw the hobbyist searching for them.
Archaeologists believe that people who own metal detectors are breaking metal detecting laws.
Again, the questions among many of us who love history are these.
Who defines what antiquity is?
What a cultural resource is?
What is an object of historical significance is?
What is modern and what is not?
The only issue that is clear is that the Archaeology community has been taking advantage of a set of laws that are vague in definition.
The Archaeology community constantly manipulates, what is already a vague definition of what antiquity is and is not. And because of this, Archeologists in the US are forcing their power on people who pay taxes for, and use State lands for recreation. They would love to see metal detecting laws in every state.
Webster’s dictionary defines the word archaeology as the “study of ancient times from remains.” How does an object that is 100 years old become ancient and off limits to anyone but an Archaeologist? Does an item that is 100 years old qualify as ancient?
Certainly, here in New York, that 1961 penny is not ancient as defined by Websters.
As mentioned before, even though there are no metal detecting laws defined under ARPA, or the NHPA, be careful of what you pick up from the ground, especially when you are on State Lands or parks.