Pothunters

Pothunters are not “real archaeologists.” They are people who damage archaeological sites and sacred burying grounds by digging randomly to take objects for themselves. They think that they can sell the artifacts for a lot of money or they may want to have items for their personal collections, but they often wreck archaeological sites in the process. This makes it hard for scientists to learn about people of the past and for the public to share in what can be learned from studying past peoples. The term was originally used to describe collectors of Indian artifacts, such as the painted pots from Southwestern Indian burials. But it may also include collectors of non-Indian memorabilia, such as vandals of post-contact sites looking for old bottles, military items, etc. Unlike professional archaeologists and many amateur archaeologists, they do not dig a site according to scientific methods nor do they keep careful records of their findings. They often destroy “cultural features” like hearths and post molds, because they don’t understand or care about their importance. Often their digging is surreptitious and illegal, making them looters and vandals of our shared cultural heritage. Connecticut has passed laws that penalize such activities with fines and jail time or both in some instances.

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