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.
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: