Finding the Facts

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The Medallion

By Amy Hammons, County Historical Commission Outreach Coordinator

County Historical Commissions (CHC) often require help when sorting out local issues involving archeology. Although CHC appointees have a wide variety of preservation knowledge, archeological issues can be sensitive and nuanced, particularly when artifact collection and site damage are involved.

Most CHC appointees typically field two general questions; fortunately, Texas Historical Commission (THC) archeologists have several simple responses to the following inquiries:

• What do I do if I find an archeological artifact (an arrowhead, a piece of pottery, etc.)?

• What do I do if I see an archeological site in which people have been digging?

First, THC archeologists stress the importance of leaving the artifacts in place. Archeologists must know the artifacts’ location and circumstances of the find to determine significance, protect an archeological site, and gain information about the past.

Second, they suggest taking a picture and noting the location. Digital cameras may provide location coordinates. At the very least, you must determine the county and adjacent roads. A dot on a map is helpful.

Finally, archeologists recommend informing the land manager or landowner. Often, THC archeologists can provide expertise to private landowners.

The THC’s website has several publications to help people determine next steps when presented with archeology concerns. Search “looting” on the THC website to find a list of resources that address archeological issues impacting local preservationists. This search includes the following brochures:

Destruction of Archeological Sites in Texas

A Property Owner’s Guide to Archeological Sites

Artifact Collecting in Texas

Laws that Protect Archeology Sites

If attempts to locate land managers are unsuccessful, you may call the THC’s Archeology Division at
512-463-6096. More importantly, you should call the THC when you see uncontrolled digging that is not conducted by trained archeologists. You can directly call the THC archeologist assigned to your county. To find your county’s archeologist, visit our Contact Us page and scroll down to the “Contacts by County” section. 

This article was originally published in the Fall2015 issue of The Medallion.

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