Stop the TV shows “Diggers” and “American Digger”!

Posted: February 28, 2012 by extremehistory in Uncategorized

American Digger on Spike TV:
In the US, there are millions of historical relics buried in backyards just waiting to be discovered and turned into profit. “American Digger” hopes to claim a piece of that pie as the series travels to a different city each week, including Detroit, MI, Brooklyn, NY, Chicago, IL and Jamestown, VA searching for high-value artifacts and relics, some of which have been untouched for centuries. After pinpointing historical locations such as Civil War and Revolutionary War battlefields, Savage’s first task is to convince reluctant homeowners to let his team dig up their property using state-of-the-art metal detectors and heavy-duty excavation equipment.

Diggers on the National Geographic Channel: “Montana Juice”
Ringy and KG are headed to an old prison in Montana to help the local museum curator uncover buried treasure. The shuttered prison has remained unopened for decades, but it once held some of the most notorious outlaws of the Old West. Who knows what the boys will find that once belonged to the prisons infamous residents Contraband? Bullets? A shank?

The Extreme History Project strongly condemns the irresponsible production and presentation of the television shows Diggers, on The National Geographic Channel and American Digger on Spike TV. Both of these shows have a group of people with metal detectors and backhoes collecting “treasure” across the American heritage landscape. This activity represents nothing less than the looting and destruction of our shared American cultural heritage. Please join us in boycotting this show and condemning these channels for this outrageous encouragement of cultural heritage theft for private gain. Follow the links below to learn more and to express yourself on this issue and then send this link to everyone you know who supports cultural heritage preservation.


Spike TV’s American Digger

Tell Spike TV how you feel here

Join the Facebook page against National Geographic’s Diggers here

Sign the petition against National Geographic’s Diggers here:

Post a comment on the National Geographic Facebook page!/natgeotv

Contact executives at Spike TV here
Spike TV
Scott Gurney and Deirdre Gurney
Gurney Productions, Inc.
8929 S. Sepulveda Blvd., Suite 510
Los Angeles, California 90045

Kevin Kay
President, Spike TV
1633 Broadway
New York, New York 10019

Stephen K. Friedman
President, MTV
c/o MTV Studios
1515 Broadway
New York, New York 10036
Shana Tepper

Philippe Dauman
President and Chief Executive Officer
Viacom Inc.
1515 Broadway
New York, New York 10036

Comment on National Geographic’s American Digger here

Read the letter from the Society for American Archaeology to National Geographic here

    • The issue here is not about metal-detecting, its taking cultural materials from a potential archaeological site. Artifacts, from the tiniest nail to the largest temple, are all pieces of a much larger puzzle – a puzzle that is already incomplete for a number of natural reasons. When artifacts are removed from the puzzle, the meaning and understanding of the whole puzzle is lessened and thus destroys any real opportunity to fully interpret the whole. The relationship and location of artifacts on a site can often tell us more than the artifact itself. So when someone takes out their metal detector and finds an object in the ground and puts it in their pocket, the meaning of the object is lost to us as well as some, or all, of the meaning to any other objects that may be associated with it in the ground. Thus the site is destroyed. So, our American heritage artifacts are useless when in the pocket of a collector, away from its historical context, never to be understood or seen agan. Such activity is actually illegal on state or federal lands for just that reason. These folks are only getting away with it here because they are cajoling private landowners to let them dig. The archaeology is still significant, whether its on public or private lands. The places of history recognize no boundaries between public and private land. We all should have access to the tools and objects that help us understand our history. These objects don’t belong to one individual, but to everyone.

      • Mike G says:

        Seriously, do you have nothing better to do than focus your efforts on harmless TV shows. GET A REAL JOB!!!

      • We don’t think these shows are harmless, that is the point. They are modelling bad behavior at best and illegal behavior at worst – see the Montana SHPO letter that accuses Nat Geo’s “Diggers” of breaking State law.

      • Ann Merriman says:

        Mike G – There is NOTHING harmless about these ‘digger’ shows that destroyed our shared historical and archaeological heritage. We archaeologists understand the destruction that occurs from untrained and unauthorized digging – we spend years, sometimes over a decade, educating ourselves in proper procedures. How about it if they go ‘digging’ up your great-grandma for fun – would that be OK with you? It’s just harmless ‘digging’ after all.

      • John says:

        Archys as w call em would like you to believe that. But a simple check of their trophy room and you would see who the real theifs are. As a responsible hobbyist, it is generally agreed upon in the Metal Detecting community if you find something and you know who it belongs too, it must be returned. As for archys pronouncing their godhood, there is Antiquity laws that cover everything you could possibly dig up of importance. So aireate the grass a little, have some fun with the kids, and dont dig graves(as archys do).

      • I would again like to point out that this post concerns a tv show in which metal dectorists broke the state laws you are referring to. We are speaking out against irresponsibly promoting illegal behavior on television. There is no one here bashing the hobby of responsible metal detecting. Archaeologists don’t dig graves and do not keep artifacts. There are laws and ethics against both of these activities. Just as there are irresposible metal detectorists, there are also occasionally irresponsible archaeologists. The vast majority of archaeologists, though, hold themselves to a very high ethical standard when it comes to working with cultural remains.

      • John says:

        We seem to agree several state laws were probably broke in the making of the show. My experience I have added is just for education of people who do not dig nor are archeologist. Unfortunately I have seen one too many park rangers or Archys getting caught not holding themselves to a high standard.

        I dont mean to take away from the ones I have met who are very helpful in what is ok and what is not. I would prefer shows like this not be on at all. Yes it sparks interest. But how many people went out with shovels and just started digging?

        I would like to add what they did was not only illegal in this show, but dangerous. Some hidden treasures contain booby traps or poisons to punish anyone who would dig them up. Some may have been buried 200 years ago, that is not a safe hole no matter how you approach it.

      • All good points John. We both agree that responsible artifact hunting requires more than just an interest and a metal detector. There are many programs available to people to educate themselves on the laws and the responsibilities. In Montana we have a Site Stewardship program which teaches people the importance of protecting cultural heritage. People can check with their state’s Historic Preservation Office to find programs in their area.

      • John says:

        The laws are very confusing, and the people who interpret them make it more so. But I did see a spark of hope here as this is about the most intelligent response to date. See your park ranger, or contact your state Archeologist.

        Now I will tel you, the Park Ranger will be friendly and helpful. You may not like what he has to say sometimes, but its his job, and I would suggest you dont make him enforce and laws or rules. It is very costly and embarrassing.

        The State Archeologist will further be able to give you the rules. The odds of anyone following up on any find is about zero. But its always a good idea to photo, get coordinates, rebury and report the find.

        Use common sense, dont dig graves, and have permission. If you show up on my front door asking to dig and split it with me you will first get the dogs set out upon you, then you will be shot. Okay shot at.

  1. Ed says:

    What are you talking about? These guys aren’t looting anything. They are FINDING what would otherwise remain….lost.

    I suppose you’d recommend that it is better that the metal items they find remain lost forever, instead of the finders making (nasty, evil?) personal private profit? I don’t understand your logic.

    • We would most certainly recommend that objects remain in the ground, preserved within their full historical context until systematic excavation and analysis can take place in order to learn the most we can about the story that the objects and the site is telling. Then I would absolutely recommend that those materials be carefully curated, stored for their best care and protection in a facility designed to do so in order to maintain their viable integrity for as long as can be accomplished and to be made available to all people for viewing, research and study. Our national heritage belongs to everyone, not to anyone individually.

      • John says:

        While that is a very nice thought in a perfect world, it dont work. Housing divisions, malls, roads go up everyday for us living people. Thats the way it has always been. Unless a area is deemed protected, I say dig dig dig.

    • Raymond Farrington says:

      Ed- Most folks with your mindset wouldn’t understand the “logic” behind archaeology. You just think about the “finding” of something as belonging to you and the monetary value of an object as opposed to it’s historical and cultural significance. That’s the exact trouble with looters. It’s as though someone broke into your house and found some objects that they liked and took them. How would you feel about having an object that was in your family for many generations stolen?

      • James Jones says:

        for me it is about history & i would not knowingly detect at a place that is known to be historic. most people involved in the hobby arent in it for money purposes, as a matter of fact most like the history behind it. Now I can respect professional opinions but I cant respect the ones that are insulting to most people who are otherwise good people. point of all this rambling not everyone involved in the hobby are bad people or are in it for money and never ever should be regarded as thieves. people are wrong & have no rite to compare them to a person that would rob you at home.

      • John says:

        Looters? Most MD guys are coin shooters. Finders keepers dude. In the real world, most MD’rs cart out trash, respect the landowners, and keep a whole lot of stuff out of the dogs mouth and johnnys feet.

        So let me get this right. Say Jesse James robs a train and burys his loot. You say the MD guy who finds it is looting, or destroying history? I say what a find.

        Or the MD guy digging up musket balls and buttons. They are destroying history. Sorry dont see the harm in it.

        Again, its the land owner who should have the last call. Dont trespass. Cart out your trash and bury your holes. If you need a backhoe and chainsaw to metal detect your a retard.

    • Ann Merriman says:

      Artifacts are not ‘lost’ – they are unexcavated and once ‘dug up’ by non-archaeologists they lose their context and meaning. They also require conservation and once on someone’s mantel will deteriorate to the point of destruction. Our shared archaeological and historical heritage shouldn’t be up for sale – yes, that is evil. Let’s dig up your dig up your great grandma, remove her fillings, and make some profit, eh?

  2. Mike says:

    Our american heritage artifacts are useless unless they are discovered. When they are unearthed they are then available for display wherever they may end up be it a museum or someones personal collection. It does no good to let these artifacts rot in the ground. I watched Diggers last night for the first time and absolutely enjoyed it. I am going out and getting a metal detector to see what I can find.

    • Our American heritage artifacts are useless if they are removed from their historical context and placed in a private collection. What opportunities would there be for understanding the object and its story when its been removed from all that would inform us of its import and meaning? As for your choice of joining the “treasure hunters,” you absolutely prove our point about the danger of this show. If everyone went out with metal detectors, like yourself, and collected all of the material culture on archaeological sites, we would have no history to learn from. That is exactly the evil being promoted by this show.

      • John says:

        Digging coins in the park, or digging old iron is not destroying anything. Most of the stuff I see you couldn’t identify anyway, its in that bad of shape. Most places are already protected so what are you talking about? You are off topic, this is about a bunch of retards running around in the woods making false claims about finding history that they supposedly sell for $thousands of dollars, looool. You guys are not very smart for Archys.

    • James Jones says:

      rite on brother most of these people dont see that we are decent people & they put us on a level with some street thug gang banger or something. not everyone in the hobby is bad & it shouldn’t be limited to discovery by only those with collage degrees.

      • Ann Merriman says:

        Those of us with college degrees, three of them for me, understand the finite cultural resources that are being looted in these shows. The fact that people are willing to sell our shared cultural, historical, and archaeological heritage for profit or fame is appalling – and you don’t need a college degree to understand that. You just have to be a decent human being.

  3. John Hartman says:

    Appreciate your point but there are much bigger issues to tackle in our world than metal detecting.
    My points…
    1. I don’t metal detect but I am intrigued and enjoy watching
    2. Federal law prohibits metal detecting on State and Federal historical properties.
    3. If a historical site allows an individual or team to search the property, that’s their decision
    To uncover historical artifacts for viewing to the public has no negative issues
    There is so much that can be learned from historical artifacts
    If someone searches without permission that’s theft / trespassing and should be left up to the authorities
    4. Metal detecting has significantly less environmental impacts than archeology (if surface search is desired)
    Metal detectors can only detect within the near surface of soil
    Metal detectors have incredible pin-point accuracy
    Metal detector enthusiasts respect the land they have been granted permission and replace the site properly
    I personally appreciate education and find true archaeology very fascinating
    5. With any hobby there will be disrespectful individual and there will always be.
    6. Once again, if an owner of private land or State / Federal Official of a historical site grants permission to allow searching, it’s up to that individual or organization to establish the rules of what can be kept and what must be surrendered.

    The country and world need to focus our efforts and meager funds on bigger issues! TV can only do what they are granted. To the rest of the public, its fun to watch!

    • I would like to address your points:
      2. archaeological sites don’t recognize boundaries between public and private lands. There is a reason why such laws exist on federal land and its to protect our cultural heritage. That doesn’t make it ethically and morally right to collect on private land. Just because you own the land doesn’t mean you own its history.

      3. I agree that historical artifacts must be made available to the public and to go further, should be curated and protected in facilities designed to do so in order to offer equal opportunities for access and research to everyone. This show, however, is not promoting the offering these objects, already removed from their historical context, to museums. They are being pocketed by private collectors.

      4. We have no issue with metal detecting as long as the materials found stay where they are. The point isn’t about the methods used, the danger is modelling behavior that seeks to legitimize the removal of artifacts from their cultural context and place them in private collections. when someone takes out their metal detector and finds an object in the ground and puts it in their pocket, the meaning of the object is lost to us as well as some, or all, of the meaning to any other objects that may be associated with it in the ground. Thus the site is destroyed.

      5. We don’t need to put the disrespectful individuals on television.

      6. Once again, archaeological sites do not distinquish between public and private land and if we all held our cultural heritage in mutual respect, and understood that it belongs to the nation and not an individual, then there would be no question as to how the materials should be removed (systematic excavation and analysis), stored (in properly established curation facilities) and made available (to the general public through the oversight of curation professionals).

  4. kayakfisher says:

    I hated your show! (Diggers) If any show deserves credit for destroying a hobby it is your show. Please take that trash off the air. Need I say more? If there were phone numbers posted I would call them also and rant! Shame on you!

    • lee says:


  5. P gorkin says:

    I think you are Wrong. Most people who use metal detectors are not grave robbers or looters. In most cases they are digging on private property and with permission digging up items long forgotten or cared about. The idea that a coin droped 200 years ago is somehow stealing history is insane. If these are historic sites or are finds of historic significance then should be turned over to the local historical society or college so a proper excavation can take place. But the finder as in the case in England should be compensated for the find. In 500 years will you be protecting the landfills of today as strongly as you are protesting these shows.

    • John Doershuk, the State Archaeologist of Iowa notes “The first episode was shot in Montana — as noted at the old territorial prison where the “director” expressed the hope they
      would find “graves” as rumor holds that some inmates were interred on the
      grounds (they weren’t able to locate any).” So, what’s being portrayed on television is that people who use metal detectors are, in fact, grave robbers and looters, whether that is the case or not. Archaeological sites know no boundaries between public and private property. All public property is protected by law from such activity. There is a reason for those laws. Just because it happens on private land, doesn’t mean that its any less destructive as if it were on public land that is protected by law. How would you know if the coin was “dropped” or part of a burial, or associated with another artifact buried beneath it or part of a larger collection of materials associated with a long buried structure? You would never be able to determine that from a coin found on top of the ground and once its removed, all of that association is lost, thus the site is destroyed. If you were to find that coin on public land, you would be breaking the law for just that reason. These objects absolutely should be turned over to an institution for proper procedures to follow, but even better, the object should be left in the ground exactly where it was found and the location should be told to a proper institution for further investigation to insure that the most information can be obtained by the fullness of the site, and not just one object. This is not what is being modelled by this televesion show. They are pockting the loot. The concept of “finders keepers” does not apply to cultural heritage. Our cultural heritage belongs to everyone and no one can claim ownership of it, just because they found it. To own the land does not mean that you own its history.The archaeological sites that we examine today are the “landfills” of 500 years ago. They have much to tell us about who those people were, how they lived and, further, offers them an opportunity to continue to have a voice, though they are long gone and forgotten. Such a voice deserves to be heard by all people. Future archaeologists will have to decide whether our current landfills have that value.

  6. T.O. says:

    Why stop it! I would rather see historical things being dug up rather than see them left in the ground to rot away and rust. Why should Archeologists have all the fun and get paid for it.

    • When artifacts are removed from the puzzle, the meaning and understanding of the whole puzzle is lessened and thus destroys any real opportunity to fully interpret the whole. The relationship and location of artifacts on a site can often tell us more than the artifact itself. So when someone takes out their metal detector and finds an object in the ground and puts it in their pocket, the meaning of the object is lost to us as well as some, or all, of the meaning to any other objects that may be associated with it in the ground. Thus the site is destroyed. I wonder if you would mind if the next time you need surgery, I would just bring my scalpel along and take care of it for you. Why should surgeons have all the fun and get paid for it? Archaeology, like surgery, is best left to the trained professionals. Archaeologists, unlike surgeons, do not get paid very much for their work and most have to supplement their profession with teaching, publishing and other jobs in order to do what they love. Indiana Jones is just a beloved myth.

    • Julie says:

      AGREE!!! How the heck is the world to know about history if it’s in the ground somewhere rotting away to eventually disappear??? What then…? Duhhh people!!! I say we ‘Dig it up’, research where and what history it pertains to and cherish the history of how it came to be, then display it in a museum. It’s not like their digging up skeletons, they are finding little coins, bullets, belt buckles, rings & buttons… Gish!

      • What you describe is exactly what professional archaeologists do. What collectors do is remove important artifacts from potential archaeological sites, destroying the contextual evidence which would inform everyone about the materials and then hide them away in private collections where no one has a chance to learn from them. AS for what they are digging, John Doershuk, the State Archaeologist of Iowa noted about the first epidsode of Diggers “The first episode was shot in Montana — as noted at the old territorial prison where the “director” expressed the hope they would find “graves” as rumor holds that some inmates were interred on the
        grounds (they weren’t able to locate any).” So, what’s being portrayed on television is that people who use metal detectors are, in fact, grave robbers and looters. If I were a responsible metal detectorist, I would be very concerned about how this activity is being portrayed by these shows.

  7. Chris Andrews says:

    thanks for letting me know about American Diggers on Spike, I only knew about “Diggers”. I love these shows. They aren’t destroying anything. They dig up trinkets and coins with little hand shovels. That is destroying our American Heritage in your eyes??? Give me a break. Why not make a website dedicated to Socialist Liberalism this country seems to manifest. That is killing the American ideal a million times more than someone digging up some coins. Please get some perspective.

    • When artifacts are removed from the puzzle, the meaning and understanding of the whole puzzle is lessened and thus destroys any real opportunity to fully interpret the whole. The relationship and location of artifacts on a site can often tell us more than the artifact itself. So when someone takes out their metal detector and finds an object in the ground and puts it in their pocket, the meaning of the object is lost to us as well as some, or all, of the meaning to any other objects that may be associated with it in the ground. Thus the site is destroyed. This is not a political website, but an organization that seeks to give all people an equal historical voice which reflects the basic American ideal of freedom and liberty for all.

      • Shane Smith says:

        The name says it all (extreme) first and foremost most places that have real historical value are protected. With out anyone finding something elsewhere you would never know there maybe something of importance until it is found. And I disagree with if it is in the ground I own it is mine. If I found out there was oil or gold in property I own I guess according to you I should give it to the government for its historical value right. I will be right behind you in line while we give it up.

      • There are many places of historical value that are not protected because they are on private land where landowners can buldoze them anytime they want to (and do) as well as many other important historical sites which have yet to be found. Oil is not at issue here, we are talking about valuable historical information which is lost whenever an artifact is taken from the ground, whether its stone, ceramic or, yes even gold.

  8. Tony says:

    Every year more and more of our heritage is disentagriting beneth the soil and/or being built over via roads, buildings, and parking lots. In both cases such items may very well be lost forever. Kudos to the metal detectorists who can salvage some of them.

    • Any construction on public land requires professional archaoeogical survey to insure that the builiding, road or parking lot will not disturb an archaeological site. Thus any items found are not lost forever but curated, protected and studied in the context that they were found.

      • James Jones says:

        I must say regarding a previous as well as this post I do see this stuff happen on public & state land. I mean building of roads or buildings I agree with you guys on a lot of things. I have also seen the battle field from the war of 1812 just made into a golf course or rather seen the course worked on. now they will never let us detect on the ite bit they will destroy it & not care if its there or not & use it for profit. the places I mention has been a place of golf for over a hundred years now. my quistion to you would be would you rather something never be found here witch will always be the case cause they could care less for you as well as someone like me or would you rather have someone find it that would cherish it & possibly share it ( keep in mind I sed share. I am curious on your rection to that to.). also was curious if you like others regard everyone into detecting like common criminals even though most are not. also was curious do you think a detector could be handy in a professional setting?

      • As archaeologists, we see exactly what you have described on the golf course. There are archaeological sites all over the country on private land that are just bulldozed for construction. At least we have laws in place on public land that requires archaeology to be done before any construction occurs. It is just such a law that was broken by the “Diggers.” Again, our argument here is not with responsible metal dectectorists. There are many places where one can use a metal detector and not disturb an archaeological site. The beach, for instance, has no archaeological context, so anything found on a beach wouldn’t be disturbing anything. But that isn’t what is being portrayed in this television show. These guys are on actual historic sites and in the case of the first episode, a site that is on the National Register and is publically owned. We have not made any disparaging comments about metal detectorists in any of these posts. What we do have a problem with are people who have no regard for historical context or even decent ethics, who go to archaeological sites to find objects to sell for their own personal gain, whether they use a metal detector or any other means of finding things. Recently, on a FB group I belong to, someone posted a picture of a valuable ring which he “found” at a known grave site and pocketed. He posted a photo of it and many questions were asked about the story of the ring. Of course this guy didn’t know anything other than that he had been told there may have been a burial there. That’s why he went to look. Well, if this site had been properly excavated, we would have been able to answer all of these questions that were asked, but we can’t now because the ring is in his pocket. Furhtermore, He distrubed and removed the ring from a burial and that didn’t seem to phase him at all! I wondered how he would feel if someone dug up his mother’s grave and took her wedding ring. The point is, there is responsible metal detecting and irresponsible metal detecting and the guys on this TV show, like the guy on FB are clearly irresponsilbly metal detecting and the Montana “diggers” are doing it on TV for all to see. That is our issue in this discussion. As for your last question, we would definitely encourage metal detectorists and archaeologists to work together. This would be the perfect use for responsible metal detecting. Archeologists often begin by looking at the surface of a possible site to see what materials may lead to an actual site under the ground. Metal detectors are sometimes employed for this work. The thing is, once the items are found, they are left there, not removed, until a thorough and systematized procedure takes place in order to recover the most information that can be detected. So, there is nothing wrong with metal detecting, as long as you leave the material where you found it and notify am archaeologist to insure that proper measures are taken.

  9. Patty says:

    I love the show and see nothing wrong with their digging up stuff which would just remain buried!

  10. Mike says:

    Your answer to my post om 02/29/2012 was to say that folks like myself are wrong for treasure hunting, The day I was born here in the USA I was given unalienable rights to do what I want, when I want to do it as long as it does not harm other peoples rights. As long as I detect and dig on private property with the owners permission, it is legal. The average metal detectorists are looking for coins, rings,watches or whatever. If they stumble upon some really old stuff thats a different story. If I find something really old I may offer it to a museum at a reasonable price or keep it.Thats my choice. I think what you really mean with all this is that all detectorists must have an archeology degree to make it all right for you There ia tricky little thing called corrosion that will take all of these artifacts from us forever. By the way, we are in a down economy right now and every little bit helps.

    • There is a difference between legal and ethical and its the foundation of personal resposibility. Each of us has a responsibility to each other to care for the greater good beyond just our own selfish needs. This personal responsibility can’t always be legislated thus we have to rely on each other to make individual decisions for the greater good. Taking an object from its historical context without the opportunity to study it in that context is destroying any future opportunity to understand its contribution to our full comprehension of history which belongs to all of us – a history our children and grandchildren will never know because someone chose to destroy it for there own personal gain.. That is what this show is portraying and promoting, whether it is how all “metal dectorists” operate doesn’t matter

  11. Ken says:

    Here is another attempt of the elites to spoil the pleasure of others. What harm is there to people enjoying a hobby and making a little money from it. Instead of fighting hobbyist why don’t you work with them. Who knows how much history can be preserved if you work together. We are not talking here about looting the Pyramids, it is just a few people finding lost coins and a few Civil War relics. Come on and get off the high horse.

  12. Shane Cullen says:

    As a metal detectorist myself, there is nothing wrong with the show American Digger. They had permission to hunt the properties they were searching, recovered the items in a responsible way and covered the holes that were made. Whether they put some relics recovered into museums, into their personal collections or sold for profit, what they were doing is not harming the relics or the land they were recovered from. Many years ago I found a bronze age wedge dating back hundreds of years. It was found in a public park next to a river, and I sent it to a museum where it is still on display to this day. Not to mention all the trash and dangerous items that are recovered by responsible detectorists, property returned to their owners, and saving small pieces of history from all over the country. If you want to get a look at what detectorists do in all aspects, check out There are many topics that you can check out, some which detail laws, good deeds done, etc. Before people start bashing detectorists, make sure that what you are screaming you fully understand.

    • No one is bashing metal-detectorists here, this is about irresponsible television shows that are promoting the destruction of potential archaeological sites without intention of putting objects in museums (whose contextural information has already been destroyed by their removal) but with the intention of selling these items to the highest bidder.

  13. King George says:

    Extremehistory, I understand your concept in general but I disagree with it in this scenario, as do most of the commenters on your website.

    For one thing, the only items I’ve personally seen dug up in the TV show Diggers is coins, tokens, buttons, and tools. All of which were dug up on private property and only date back to a hundred years or so.

    You must admit that you are acting as if Indian burial grounds are being robbed. I’m not downplaying the significance of some of these items, but am not exaggerating the significance either. There is absolutely no way there is a giant puzzle that a professional archeologist will put together by excavating a couple wheat pennies from someone’s back yard. Yet that is exactly what you are saying.

    I know you say that history isn’t distinguished between private and public property, but due to it being on private property it is at the very least perfectly legal. If it’s ethics you question then let me remind you that ethics are opinions.

    There is no hidden mystery behind these “artifacts”. There is no professional archeologist that would consider a back yard an “archeological site” over some tokens or buttons that date only a century old. As a matter of fact I would be willing to bet that most archeologists would pick these items up as well…. without declaring it an archeological find.

    Dont get me wrong here, your arguments do have some validity. They just aren’t necesarily valid in this specific scenario. I’m not for people digging up true archeological sites on their own, robbing graves, or anything that a common person would know was wrong. However, I feel that the significance you are choosing to place on some of the items found on these TV shows are WAY out of context and over exaggerated.

    You are literally telling us that it would be better for some of these items to remain lost forever just for the chance that somewhere in the far distant future some archeologist can dig them up and try to get a feel for what was going on here…… BUT, unless this country practically disappears I dont see there ever being any real mystery for them to figure out. Just pick up a book and you’ll see that we have recorded this history so you dont need some tokens to figure it out..

    In the end the bottom line is this, IF these folks are digging with permission on private land there is nothing wrong with it according to the law. Anyone having a problem with this is just expressing opinions and that is all. We all have opinions and you’ve thoroughly explained your as myself and others explained our ours.

  14. Hello all, I should introduce myself first .
    My name is David Connolly, an archaeologist from the UK, who has spent many years working with detectorists and count many of them as my friend. At first of course, there was tension, and all the old chestnuts were thrown up, which we spent many years discussing. In general I am fairly well respected by UK detectorists, as I am both realistic and honest. That is worthwhile pointing out, that I don’t just tell people, but listen and am willing to debate, without blame or anger.
    I read this exchange with a wry smile, as I see the classics again…
    “it is legal” “these are nothing special” “they would only rot” etc.
    And to that I say… absolutely… absolutely correct.
    Yikes I hear you cry… this is some kind of trick. Why would an archaeologist agree.. well – I agree, because that is strictly true.
    Here is the rub though… and it is worth looking to what happened in England ( up here in Scotland, where I come from, all finds belong to the crown, and ex-gratia payments are given to finders – including detectorists) . with the introduction of the Portable Antiquities Scheme – . At first fiercely resisted, the Scheme has now recorded AND returned to the finders to do with as they will 772,841 artefacts.
    Some are amazing, but most are small, worthless, unimportant objects – BUT when taken together, they have changed history. That is one point to bear in mind. A musket ball is unimportant… 5 are interesting – 100 are interesting, but when plotted and recorded… they become new battles or rewrite known battles ( this project is carried out by a fabulous detectorist – by himself… )
    King George says… “there is no hidden mystery behind these “artifacts”.”
    Really? Every clue is a piece of the past, one that tells a story and how will you ever know if there is a story if they just get dug and dumped or sold off?

    King George is in fact very very reasonable and someone I can see respects the past as much as the next. Others are perhaps not so. But then I often find this American attitude that it is MY land – I will do what I want quite fascinating.
    You could find a new site, you could find a lost skirmish you could dig through a burial before you know you have done it… there is so much that could happen. I would be interested to see who would put their hands up and agree with Pay Digs for example, ( the ones that don’t really give a damn about anything other than the points and nothing is recorded)
    There is a happy medium… as I dig my own garden and often find bits of pot.. but the message from this show is dig it up and sell it… not having seen an episode I wonder if it gives any info about how to deal with real archaeology? OR does it suggest that if you find something amazing – you don’t tell no-one… you just sell it, because it is your right? Do you mind if I dig up an American site dating to the 1812 war for example in Canada, and give no care for ‘your history’? I just take the goodies and sell them – I don’t care.. why should I? is there any difference than the people in Jordan I met who dig up their back gardens and sell off the material they find – it is after all theirs…. But I say… you can keep it… just let us know about it. They did show me and I realise how much is lost to sit in some rich collectors case rotting away from public view as much as if it ‘rotted in the ground’ — Find it, record it, share it… and don’t see heritage as a resource to be mined for cash. This seems to be the message. And after talking with decent detectorists, this is far from the truth – the nighthawks who steal from sites don’t care. I seriously hope you do… Digging ‘stuff’ up, gives you a special responsibility.. even if it is a toothbrush from an early settler or a bottle that shows a lost saloon…
    It maybe ‘your’ land, but this is our history.
    Thanks folks.

    Ps… to see what can be found from only a few hundred years old…
    Try these articles. Thank goodness these people took care… for this is a real story from fragments of the past. Each item is unimportant. But… well read on!

    • Well stated, David! We couldn’t agree more!

    • Raymond Farrington says:

      An excellent post. Thank you David.

    • James Jones says:

      You know I couldn’t have worded what I was thinking as well as you but well put! You restore my faith in people like you. what I find I love sharing with people. some I openly share in my home & some go to the public out rite, sometimes I like helping the public recover lost items. I also believe in responsibly as well as am fascinated with the history & the professions that deal with history.

  15. Alice Kehoe says:

    The basic problem is that the United States, almost alone among nations, does not recognize that what is already in the ground from previous occupants when a person buys a property, is not the property of the new occupant but BELONGS EITHER TO THE PERSON WHO LEFT IT or their next of kin, OR TO OUR OWN NATIONAL AND LOCAL HERITAGE. Canada and Britain and almost all other countries call this their patrimony and it belongs to the nation as a whole and should be left undisturbed until experienced historians and archaeologists can work at the site to discover FULL CONTEXT –ALL THE KNOWLEDGE that lies there and can only be seen when fully exposed by experienced historians and archaeologists.

  16. Kate says:

    “don’t see heritage as a resource to be mined for cash”- Thank you David, I think that this is the most important point to be made. I am also a professional archaeologist, in Montana where much of the controversy has come to the forefront. I work in an intact mining town that is mostly state-owned, and barely scratched the surface of the archaeological record. And every summer we chase metal detectorists, who claim to be unaware of the laws, off of the property. Again, I realize that the few should not influence opinions on the whole, and I respect that. But those of you who are not archaeologists need to respect that we are upheld to a certain level of ethics, and shows like this will make us cringe for the potential loss of information but mostly for the precedence that this sets for the public who are not respecting of the laws. Your hobby is your business, but don’t blame us who spent time and money to learn a certain skill set and make a living from it, for considering you to be potentially wasteful plunderers.

  17. heritageaction says:

    “The day I was born here in the USA I was given unalienable rights to do what I want, when I want to do it as long as it does not harm other peoples rights. As long as I detect and dig on private property with the owners permission, it is legal.”

    So….destroying the context of archaeology doesn’t infringe the rights of others to their heritage! Plus, if legal, its fine – the constraints of morality aren’t even an issue, only the law is?!

    As they say in England, “it’s legal innit”.

    I think this discussion is between different types of people. Either you have a sense that archaeology = a shared past = something that individuals shouldn’t annexe for themselves or destroy – or, you go metal detecting without concern for conservation, recording or the rights of the community. Thatcherism writ large in the fields. No such thing as Society.

    Greetings from England!
    Don’t be too depressed about Diggers etc. We have things far worse over here

  18. agrafftweiss says:

    I would like to echo ExtremeHistory’s position, and note that the problem is not inherently with metal detectors, but the methods used that remove artifacts from those around them and the soil, which tells so much of the story.

    Archaeologists and metal detector enthusiasts don’t have to be at odds, and in fact can collaborate to investigate the past together in a uniquely useful way. As example, I offer the terrific work done a few years back at the Battle of Little Bighorn site. Check it out:

    Archaeologists use so much more than just the objects found to understand past people and cultures–those artifacts are certainly a part of the story, but when taken from the layers of soil or features in which they deposited, their capacity to help us understand the past is so greatly diminished.

    As a public archaeologist, I’m inclined to encourage us to find ways to collaborate with metal detector enthusiasts, and embrace our mutual interest in the human past–as was done at Little Bighorn. This prospect increases the likelihood of hearing one another’s interests and doing what is in the best interest of each site.

    These shows have no true interest in the past, in people, in anything more than making money and promoting making money in a very irresponsible way. They are trying to sell us something–and if we’re buying, it spells out a grim future for what we can understand about our own past.

    • Excellent point. Metal detectorists have much to offer archaeology and if their true interest is in learning about the past, as has been expressed in several comments here, then lets all work together in the best interest of the site to learn what it can tell us. This is not about ownership, but about knowledge and understanding.

      • transvamp747 says:

        Mr extremehistory, man, you sounded like a broken record, you ran out of oxygen pretty fast. Luckily Dave from England stepped in with an excellent post, granted, on your side, but with a lot more common sense; it was actually very inspiring. And let me put this in context: I share the hobby of metal detecting, for many years now, and I enjoy every bit of it. And so are thousands of people from every walk of life, among them doctors, lawyers, tradesman, cab drivers, professors, archaeologist too, people that you Kate so ignorantly call “wasteful plunders”. I was surprised though to see that even most of you, my fellow hobbyists, failed to talk about our code of ethics, our conduct in the field, our respect for the property of others, including for our heritage and repeat that after every comment Mr extremehistory made, until his ears burned. I am sure that most of you are members of your local club and of our National Federation, have any of you, extremehistory, Kate, Alice, heard of it,? Have you heard of “”? How many articles of good deeds have you read in the past 12 months? How many dedicated metal detectorists do you actually know, I mean really know? Did you hear about Dick Stout? Yes? Who is he, just tell us a couple of words about him, if you don’t mind. Oh, by the way, Alice, if you thing the property rights laws in America is a “problem”, why don’t you pack up and buy some piece of land in Greece for instance (hey, I am not even suggesting Pakistan or Afghanistan here, but if you want better laws for property rights, be my guest and knock yourself out!), but wherever you go, please report back to us in 4-5 years and tell us about your wonderful landowner experience and peaceful enjoyment you had.
        In all fairness, are there looters among us? Of course. Many! Certainly more that we would want to admit. BUT THIS IS NOT HOBBY RELATED!!!, this is who these individuals are folks, by nature. If they were catholic priests they would rape an altar boy, if they were a football coach their name would be Sandusky, if they were governors their name would be Blagojevic and if they were archaeologists, well, I am pretty sure their name wouldn’t be Mother Theresa. What do you think Kate, if we dig a little, will we find a few “wasteful plunders” among your ranks? Who the hell do you think you are to come here and insult so many honest, responsible people, many of whom I am sure give a damn more about this country and its heritage than you do. Kate, get a life!

      • Wow, sounds like you needed to get that off your chest. Hope you feel better now. I think you’ve missed the point of my replies here. I have not said anything against metal detectorists and, in fact, I agree with David that metal detectorists and archaeologists should absolutely work together. They have much to offer each other. I also trust and hope that there is a code of ethics that many of you follow. I don’t believe that it is responsible television for National Geographic, a well respected organization, to put on a show that encourages plundering historical sites. Are these fellows following your code of ethics? As it turns out, they were treasure hunting on publicly owned land and broke the law. Is that the kind of behavior you would like to encourage for your fellow enthusiasts? That is what is being portrayed. My beef is with the television shows, not with ethically-minded, responsible metal detectorists.

      • lee says:

        I was metal detecting for about 20 yrs and found many items that I returned to persons that lost them ,such as school class rings , world war 2 dog tags
        and more. I spent many hours trying to find the owners and made
        a few people Happy and might add me too ,

  19. What seems to be appearing is a real opportunity — We can work together and we should ! What we can do together is more than working apart, for we do care

  20. Joe says:

    Why don’t you just go loot a grave and call it archieology? Just because you have a piece of paper on the wall, you have no more right to whats under my feet than I have! PISS OFF all of you!

  21. Ivy Merriot says:

    This is a great discussion! You diggers, decterorists, extreme historians and archaeologists have much more in common than you realize. You are all on the same side as compared with my position. (Eeks! Can this be true?)

    I am an archaeoastronomer and see this topic of digging from a very different vantage position. In archaeoastronomy, it is important not to disturb a site AT ALL. No matter how legit the methodology, to move surface features and dig, in any way, is more horrifying to me than what you do with what you find, An archaeologist, by definition of their current legit practice of disturbing a site, is already at odds with archaeoastronomical methods. So an archaeologist calling shame on a digger is like a black kettle calling another dark brown.

    Now, don’t quit reading–my best friends are archaeologists!

    Just like diggers and detectorists are not required to be trained in the benefits of proper archaeological methods, archaeologists are not required to be trained in the benefits of proper archaeoastronomy methods.

    Fortunately for all of us, there is a whole bunch of land out there and a whole bunch of human activity that has taken place at many levels. Respect for what has happened at a site and what method is the best one for sharing a human past would appear to be the best behavior we can hope for while we all pursue our interests.

    I not only study skywatching practices, but have a love of handicrafts and the cultural exchange through arts. The evidence of much of this erodes more quickly than pots and blades. I realize that if you wait for a proper archaeological dig, handicrafts can rot in the ground before they are found–then we are left thinking our ancestors just waged war, foraged and ate food. The ground is not the best place to store much of our remains.

    Respect and work together with the intelligence given us. This trumps anyone’s methodologies.

    I agree that it would be wonderful if media showed how people work together intelligently. But we are talking about MEDIA whose lifeblood is to sensationalize and increase division to get the attention of viewers.

  22. Raymond Farrington says:

    I recorded this show from last night and was looking forward to watching it this morning. What a disappointment it was. These two individuals seemed more like mentally and emotionally arrested adolescents than adults with their sophomoric humor! Certainly, National Geographic could and should do much better than the likes of this “reality show”.

  23. transvamp747 says:

    The show hurts us, no question about it, but you know what, besides being in their own right to produce that piece of crap, I would hope that there is still a reasonable number of people out there who have the ability to distinguish between what’s going on in the show and why the show even exists in the first place, and the activity of responsible hobbyist.
    But hey, extremehistory, you can go on and take you broken record to whomever else you want now, because, man, as far as I am concerned, you had me: I went over to my aunt Agatha the other day and turned on the bipper for a couple of swings over her old back yard; found a couple of Wheaties, a Merc, an old hair pin and, of course, the typical assortment of junk (or, was it junk?). Anyway, extremehistory, your voice was in my head all the time and you know what I did? I told aunt Agatha to stay put in the house and not dare to step in the backyard and disturb the ground, until I bring in a team of experts, with papers that read “archaeologist”; they may bring a bulldozer with them and her house may be torn down. Now, forgot to mention, aunt Agatha is a sweet little old lady and she knows she must sacrifice for the greater good, as a matter of fact, she lived all her life by this principle, even before nice lads like extermehistory were around to give her lessons in morality; so she looked at those Wheaties and the Merc that I savagely disgruntled from the ground and told me that she remembers how she drop’em from her apron, and ah, the hair pin….she started crying; so I put them back where I found them thinking that it is very important for future generation and the humanity for that matter, to see one day, in the local museum, or who knows, the world museum, auntie’s little treasures. Well, in the heat of the excitement, I forgot to bury back the pull-tabs, I will mark the spot ’cause but I still remember where my uncle T.J. used to get wasted, at the table under the old walnut tree; I kept wandering why he was ripping off the tabs and throwing them on the ground and then saving the cans, I still wander today, I guess everything has a greater purpose in life; anyway, I saved the tabs and will make sure I pass them on to the experts. No, no, extremehistory, everything has its own place in the grand puzzle of our heritage. Well, we are still awaiting for the team of pros to show up. Aunt Agatha may be long gone by the time this happens and so will I, but you know what, it doesn’t matter, we will go in peace when the time comes and I will forever be grateful that extremehistory opened my eyes and taught me the true meaning of ethics. Oh, what a narrow minded person I was, just a little scumbag wasteful plunder.

    • See my previous reply and, by the way, what makes you assume I’m a “he”?

      • Also, Kate is expressing her real world frustration with having to deal with your unethical brethren who are looting the public site that she works so hard to protect. What she sees amd fights against every day are the bad metal detectorists. Could you good guys wear a t-shirt or something so we can tell who you are? As archaeologists, we generally only see the other guys.

      • Ivy Merriot says:

        Obviously, because you are eloquent, intelligent, firm in your thinking and stand up with courage…gotta be a guy. Hoho

        In 1997, I taught an online class on Einstein’s spacetime curvature. At the end, when the students saw a picture of me (they were all in one classroom in the midwest, taking the course together), they all were stunned and then laughed with embarrassment for the whole semester they thought I was a man. How many men named “Ivy” can there be? haha!

      • transvamp747 says:

        Man, it was a just a hunch. I could go on a whimp and say maybe because I thought of women to be smarter, but then there is Kate…

      • Ivy Merriot says:

        hahahaha, sorry Marsha, but transvamp is funny. Let’s see…does this mean s/he’s funny enough to be a guy or funny enough to be a girl-guy…hmmm

      • Yes, I wonder too. 🙂

  24. teresa paglione says:

    I am an archeologist in Alabama and I work with collectors who don’t dig and a few metal detectorists who really do get the owner’s permission – and after talking to me and other archeos over the years at least record the locations of their finds. A few even email photos of artifacts and locations to me. So I am not against avocational archaeologists – that is, non-professionals, collecting, as long as they understand the intrinsic value or contextual value to history – and not just the shelf value of a trophy or a piece of history or the $$…. (More than a few collectors and detectorists have joined me in professional investigations of sites – happy to search and find but keep only a photo themselves with the artifact – and then get a copy of the archeo report.)
    I ran into one metal detectorist who was bragging to others about finding 4 Confederate buttons and a buckle just 6-8 inches below the surface – all in a row. It never occurred to him that he may have dug up the grave of a soldier. When I approached him with that scenario, he vehemently denied it – sputtering that all soldiers were buried deeper or moved to cemeteries, so it was absolutely impossible that he dug up a burial. That is what he WANTS to believe …. .
    But of course, this artifact pattern is exactly what most any archeologist would recognize – artifacts in a pattern or in context have meaning – whether they are 4 inches apart or 400 feet apart (like the metal detector finds at Little Big Horn/Custer Battlefield in the late 90s). I don’t think those NatGeo “Digger” guys have even thought of that… And they don’t care to. And neither will anyone else who follows their lead.
    The truth is that many soldiers on both sides were quickly covered over after battles or skirmishes and never relocated and placed in a proper grave or moved to a marked cemetery.
    In addition, it is not true that all graves are 6 feet deep! Think about it. We have backhoes today – it is EZ! A hundred years ago, they had shovels and picks — 3 or 4 feet deep was good enough. And in a war – staying in one place to dig a deeper grave had consequences if your position was known; most folks would just promise to return if it was a friend – or figure it was good enough to stifle the smell with a few inches of dirt if it was the enemy.
    That Spike TV show “American Diggers” led by that TV wrestler — they used a backhoe to look for something spotted on their GPR and found a rifle 3 feet below the surface. The first thing that came to my mind – what is found 3 feet down ? Graves…..
    What these guys and others do does not ‘save history.’ They destroy it! How are you saving a lead bullet or brass or silver buckle that is perfectly stable in the ground for another 200 years or more….? You may ‘save’ an iron artifact if you treat it for oxidation (rust) – but not history.
    If you want to save history, join those of us with ethics and a real passion for history. Share the knowledge – learn more about the benefits your hobby can bring if you look at an artifact in context to tell the history — and don’t just keep it as a trophy piece – or sell it to the highest bidder.
    On the other hand, if you want to detect and not be bothered with ethics and history and artifact context – check out the places that are being developed and will not be investigated by archeologists (because it isn’t required and we are busy working elsewhere!). There are plenty of Wal-Marts and Walgreens and housing developments – even in this down economy.
    Most importantly, if you really want to save history – learn how your hobby (metal detecting) can help. I suggest you pick up a copy of Geier and Potter’s “Archaeological Perspectives on the American Civil War”, published in 2000 or Fox’s “Archaeology, History and Custer’s Last Battle”. These are jsut two great books that show how lots of metal detector groups, archeologists and historians can work together. Now THAT is what I call SAVING HISTORY!

  25. transvamp747 says:

    And man, yes, I was feeling much better until you opened your pipes again. But thanks, it’s a great idea, the t-shirts that is. We will even plug a lamp in our asses so morons like you can see us at night too; until that day when you will actually make some time to stop by, say hi and get to know us a little bit, that is of course if you will be capable to come down from the clouds you leave in, stop thumbing your nose at us and get out the stick you have up your ass, I will not engage in a pissing contest with you, especially now that you hinted off your gender. See, I’m a gent.

  26. transvamp.

    just a point of order. I do that. and have earned my respect from many detectorists in the UK by realism and honest talk… never get angry, never react to abuse ( like the lovely piece by Joe.

    At the end of it… after being told to come down out of my ivory tower I explained I did not actually live in one, neither did I ever get a degree in archaeology – I was just an old digger who was good at field archaeology – not so much the academic stuff. I rarely preach – as this just gets peoples backs up – but neither do I shy away from issues.

    there is an issue. not so much in you digging your aunts backyard. – why not. but what happens if you do find something – what then?

    Ther seems to be an attitude that archaeologists all live in ivory towers and despise hobbyists (false in most cases) just as there seems to be a belief that hobbyists seem to have chips on their shoulders. ( false in most cases)

    What most of use share is a care for the past. care to ensure it is found and shared and recorded to a level that we all (and that is archaeologists, detectorist, hobbyist and the other 99.9% of the population)

    IF we really care about the past, then we see it as a shared resource not as a commodity.

    and by the way I am male. and do sometimes talk sense 😉

    Chips of shoulders and I will come down from the clouds.

  27. Kristina says:

    I wanted to share this petition asking Spike TV to cancel American Diggers:

  28. yud2006 says:

    History is fine ( I like American Pickers for example) – but I agree that in these type of shows introduce a less attractive side of human nature

  29. Joan says:

    Lighten Up!

  30. Kate says:

    Transvamp, I’m gonna go on a “whimp” and say I’ve really hurt your feelings for my “potential plunderers” comment, and for that I apologize. So defensive, geez- you must have a guilty conscience. “Potential” does not refer to all. I’m sorry that I called to task the few who even you admitted give your hobby a bad name. Oh wait, you said more than you’d like to admit. For all of your rage and the apparently huge chip on your shoulder, I’ll take the high road and not insult your intellegence. Feel free to go at me all you want- you sound like a really pleasant plundere- I mean person. (Now I’m just trying to make light of this awful situation of course, for those of you who at least try to see both sides.) And well said, Teresa and David.
    These may be fundamental differences, but the concept of working together and helping each other, as has been done in Montana at Little Big Horn and elsewhere, sheds a positive silver lining on this polarizing issue. As long as people are receptive to the laws (as I explain them on my site), I have no problem with the hobby. I’m sorry I didn’t say that earlier, maybe it would have saved Transvamp from unloading both barrells. I’m sorry to see someone go so mental over a fight that can’t be won.

  31. transvamp747 says:

    Kate, taking the high road was a good choice, I give you credit for it and for having more to say than just picking on my spelling. As much as I love the hobby, this topic included, I don’t have much time for it, nor for spelling checks, so you read what comes out from under my fat fingers. I certainly didn’t want to insult anyone, but most likely I did, so I too, offer my apologies. I prefer a civil conversation over a vicious one, but like it or not, the debacle between archaeologists and MD-rists isn’t anew, will be heated at times and it won’t go away any time soon. It would though, if you and anyone who, more or less, hate us, had the power to make our hobby illegal. What is very little understood, unfortunately, is the principle behind our support for the hobby, but I will not go there now, I would rather take the high road too and believe that you know what I am talking about.

    If anyone cares to know, or to believe, I do have a perfectly clear conscience, I don’t understand what leads you Kate to believe that I don’t. What, just because I defend something in which I believe?

    OK, take it easy boy and lighten up! But to be clear: I don’t care about the chip on my shoulder, if that’s how I come across that’s fine, but I do care about the American past more than any of you would ever know, and get this: it’s not even my native past! But this is my country and I am very honored to have the opportunity to learn, treasure and protect its past. I understand the law of the land most likely better than some on this conversation who claim that the American property rights suck. For what’s worth, one of our club members and a buddy of mine with whom I spent a many hours in the field, detectors in hand, in libraries and online … Jesus, how am I going to say this?! … is an archaeologist!!!

    So, my bottom line is this: I am not going to sit here, no matter how “so metal” I go over this, to let anyone insult us and throw us all in a dirt bag without getting their ears full (there is “potential” for everything within all of us Kate, but apologies accepted anyway!). When I said that there are scavengers and looters (aka low lifes) among us more than I would want to admit, I didn’t mean to give anyone an opportunity to put a number on them or to decide whether they are a majority or not. As far as I am concerned, if there is one, just one, it’s one too many.

    Of course, the debate can be extended over who has more chips on shoulders and who’s nursing more grievances, but if it’s not beneth your dignity, all you pros out there may want to consider attending some club meetings, offer your insight, expertise and knowledge, educate us. You may even learn a thing or two from us. Ahhhh, BS, what am I talking about, who the hell do I think we are?

    Yeah, one more thing, don’t remember who said this in an attempt to justify something (!?) which got to me just as plain, stupid infatuation: don’t trust us with a scalpel, you’re right, we are not certified surgeons, but have a little faith, as we might be able to tend to a wound when needed and maybe even save a life, until professional help arrives.

    David, if aunt Agatha’s yard produced something of historical importance I would love to have you on hand to decide what to do about it. I mean it, you spell a lot of common sense in mostly everything you say and I don’t need to take the high road to imagine that your company would be enjoyable.

    Extremism is not good, not even in a name. Maybe we’ll find more than one way to get along one day and complete each others, but feel free to call me naive.

  32. Kate says:

    Just so you know, internet searches on bottles that I have excavated have brought me many times to that outhouse digger guy, I’m sure that you know who I mean, and have helped me identify and date artifacts in a much quicker and easier manner than the search would otherwise have been. I can’t say that I was ever interested in the value placed upon them because they belong to the State of Montana and will never be sold. Yet for identification and display purposes, I have benefitted from hobbyists, as you said that you hoped that we would. I do not begrudge responsible MDists.
    The point of all this was that the TV shows might not teach the public the responsible way to seek out artifacts, and it teaches viewers to dig up stuff and put a price on what is found. It doesn’t sound like you, Transvamp, operate in that manner (but c’mon, I had to throw in some jabs for all you said about me, be fair!) and most MDists. But some do and perhaps these shows will encourage more to if the producers are not more responsible in how they portray the participants, the rules they follow, and the findings. This forum is about the TV shows, never meant to go where it did and be an all-out vicious debate between archaeologists and MDists. If you find nothing wrong with the shows, fine. As I said in my last post, these are fundamental differences that I’m afraid common ground will never be reached, as in politics. But this is not an attack on responisble MDists, this is a groan for the irresponsible diggers the audiences of these shows might produce. You might think we are being uppity and we need to get a life and not take things so seriously, but I ask that people think about their day jobs- perhaps like a medical doctor watching a new show just come out that teaches people how to self-diagnos and medicate, and not agreeing with the prognosis. So just understand that we as archaeologists have to try, hence all the petitions, etc. Money and ratings will surely win in the end. As for the archaeologists and MDists, perhaps there is much that we can learn from each other, and this has certainly been eye-opening.

    • Kudos to both of you for taking the high road and coming back to a civil dialogue. I think your points are valid, Kate, that this forum has strictly been about the TV shows portraying irresponsible behavior and not the hobby of metal detecting, thus the title of this post which calls to stop the TV shows. I have repeatedly tried to make that clear in my replies. As for your dig at our name, Transvamp, I wonder if you’ve bothered to see what this website is about. Its clear from your comments that you have no idea who we are (see “about us” above) or what we are doing (see Foundations 2011 above). I suggest that you review our material here before you pass any judgement on our organization. I think there is much room for responsible metal detectorists and avocational archaeologists to agree on and potentially work together towards the same goals. I’m sure what none of us want to see is irresponible behavior portrayed on television which could negatively impact all of our work. I hope that we can all agree on that.

  33. David Coble says:

    I have a Master’s degree in Museum studies/History and work at a museum presently. What these men are doing is a positive thing. They are helping to introduce and buld an interest in history that many people otherwise would not have. They are not tomb robbers plundering Giza. Much of what they find is nothing mysterious that we really need to analyze to death anyway. They are not digging up ancient sites of people we have no knowledge of. Much of what they are finding is less than 100 years old. Much of it is stuff you could go to your local pawn shop or military antiques dealer and buy. I’m all for protecting historical sites but just like the environmental movement many people take it WAY to far. In my personal experience this type of attitude stems from a combination of snotty and jealous arrogance. DIG BABY DIG!!!!!

    • What this television show is portraying is the illegal removal of objects from public property. They are not portraying any real respect for history when all they are doing is turning their finds into cash. What they are modelling for the public is that you can go take your metal detector anywhere you want and turn whatever you find into a cash stream. They violated state law in the very first episode (see the letter from the Montana SHPO on the home page). Any materials found on the surface of the ground, no matter how unimportant they seem to you, have the potential to point to a much more important source of historical imformation below the surface. Its like taking a key from a locked desk filled with important historical materials and selling the key. No one will ever know what’s in the desk and the person with the key, just has an object without a purpose. We live in a society where everything has to be owned by someone. There are things in this world that belong to everyone and access to understanding our shared history is one of them. That is why there are laws in place protecting all materials, whether natural or human-made, on publically-owned land. As a museum employee, you should have a better understanding of the value of historic artifacts to the knowledge of history, ancient or recent – there have been many important events that have happened in this country over the last 100 years and that history should never be discounted. I might suggest you find a heritage stewardship training course in your area to better understand the significance of historical sites and their need for protection.

  34. mik1992 says:

    Really people please parts of the puzzle who really cares unless their is real potwntial to harm a true archialogical site. Do u really want to go out to every call about someone finding a penny in the park, its not like i found the ark of the covanant or king tuts dvd collection i will leave all finds like that to you archeologists. Also who can find it all i know every piece is unique but come on we just want to go out and have some good time s with good friends. So what if we just happen to find some conversation pieces and stories to tell. But you can have all my finds hope you have fun sorting through all the anchient bottle caps tin foil pop can cat food cans and other items hope thwy prove to be historicaly significant

    • I would, again, direct your attention to the topic of this post which concerns a television show that irresponsibly broke the law by digging on public property and aired it on TV. That is what we are taking issue with here.

  35. detectorist6120 says:

    I stumbled onto this discussion and I have to say that I think this show is the worst thing that could have happened to the hobby, first off the hobby of metal detecting has a bad rep without even giving the “responsible detectorist” a chance, should we as metal dtectorist judge all archaeologists on news like this from the Chicago Tribune?

    March 01, 2011|By Erin Meyer, Tribune reporter

    “A Loyola University Chicago professor will serve a year’s probation for his part in a scheme to plunder artifacts from an archaeological site in New Mexico, the U.S. attorney’s office there said in a statement Tuesday.”

    “Daniel Amick pleaded guilty Friday to violating the Archaeological Resources Protection Act, admitting to removing 17 artifacts, including arrowheads, from public lands on two field trips to New Mexico, according to the statement by Kenneth Gonzales, U.S. attorney for the District of New Mexico.”

    Should we think that all archaeologist are theives? of course not! then please don’t label all detectorist as looters and grave robbers or whatever terminology you like to use. Some of us have great respect and knowledge for the things we find, and would gladly share them with the public!

    • I completely agree. There are most certainly ways for responsible metal detectorists and archaeologsits to work together towards a common goal. What this show is promoting has certainly done damage to the hobby and its participants as it shows irresponsible behavior – as the professor in your article did as well. We all must use this opportunity to educate everyone in the business of artifact-seeking how to do it legally and responsibly so that everyone can have access to the materials of history.

  36. Jim says:

    Are you kidding? Anything on a persons’ property belongs to them. “Archeologists” would like us all to wait for them to someday get there, while the artifacts lay unappreciated.

    • karen says:

      thank u 🙂 Im from rural virginia…..I suppose when I dug my flower garden and found native american arrow heads , rocks etc. I should’ve called in the experts huh? LOL 🙂 Its still history no matter how its found. MILLIONS AND MILLIONS of aritfacts im sure have been destroyed my buildings being built, homes, etc. Why don’t we sue everyone! 🙂 I like your point 😉

  37. John says:

    I say let it rot in the ground. Next time your kid steps on a nail or get a fish hook in the foot, they should be charged with destroying history. The first thing I hope everyone realizes, is these shows are fake. Second, most detectorist are older, and RESPONSIBLE folks. Im not asking you to change your mind about people digging up history. But overseas they not only encourage it, they pay you for your finds. It requires a license of course, and you just cant do it without training. I do believe this is something that should be monitored. I work closely with DNR, who put me into contact with the state archeologist. I like the rules here in my state. Pretty much you can look at it, but not touch it. You rebury it, and let the land owner/park rangers know about it.

    Most of the detectors you see are coin machines. They are made for digging in your local park. You should see what I find in the park, and no not jewlry or gold. Detectorist are a tight nit bunch, and we police ourselves. We go out of out way to show others out hobby, and how it should be done. We cart out all the trash we find, and remove a lot of stuff you wouldnt want to sit or step on(hypodermic needle, razor blade, shart pieces of metal and so forth).

    Be real, people drive cars, and have accidents. We dont outlaw cars do we? My point is the shows are getting bad reviews by people who dont own a detector. If removing trash and loosing the soil is bad, whats next?

  38. John says:

    I think the shows are staged, I have seen some of these shows and have pulled silver and gold out of the ground. It does not look like what they are finding. Also one needs to consider the history, as archys are the local experts. They need to know how the item was laying, what soil and depth and a whole range of other things to document a historical site.

    Now Im watching a golf course go up over a ancient burial site, no one seems to care about that. We have pleanty of archys, but no one will listen. Even the local residents are alarmed.

    What I disagree with is when I want to dig a clad(modern) quarter out of the ground. Or old brass cartridges someone left in the desert. That should not need documented.

    If it requires a backhoe, that is not hobbyist metal detecting. Most place prohibit motorized forms of recreation. As a prospector, rock hound, and metal detectorist, I agree with those laws.BackHoes would be considered motorized, and they guys probably broke half dozen laws in the making of the show.

    I live in a beautiful part of the world. But am not even allowed to take walks or take pictures on millions of acres because the govt interest(mining and gas companys) need their privacy. This is about land ownership. If people understood that dont really own the land anymore they would be mad. This is too complicated for me to say more about.

    I think responsible diggers as we call em better have a good archy there when they dig. I think the US needs to adapt laws and programs simular to other countrys. I may not always agree with archys, but after having set down and talked with a few, as a hobbiest I have to respect what they are doing.

    • absolutely, John. The problem is, most people watching don’t know that they may be staged or that they are breaking laws. So someone may get interested in metal detecting and unknowingly go out there and break laws and destroy a site. That is our big concern. If the show portrayed responsible metal detecting where the material was located, then local experts were called in to examine the historical and archaeological context, while clarifying with the audience that the artifacts would not be removed until a larger investigation was completed, then we’d be all for that. In fact we would strongly support it.

      • John says:

        If I am allowed, I am sending a good example of my hobby, and how it should be done. Notice how the hole is dug, and filled afterwards.

    • lee says:

      I have over the years dug up many, many coins and never dug a pice
      of silver that wash t black or copper that wash t green , that stuff
      they dig must be staged

  39. John says:

    I dont consider anything using a backhoe part of my hobby metal detecting. First, one must understand that most detectors are for finding coins. Second they just dont go deep enough to disturb a archeological find.

    The guys finding brass arrowheads say for example, are using very expensive equipment made for that type of hunting. The average person is not going to plunk down that kind of money. Also, owning and using a metal detector is two different things. 90% of what I dig is trash, pure and simple. I still get excited even when I find trash, it absolutely amazes me that detectors can find and identify stuff under the dirt.

    I would like to note I have never found bone or cloth, or anything of historical value with a metal detector. Metal detectors only register metal, and only a certain range of metal. While there are exceptions such as gold machines, or GPR. I encourage anyone considering getting a metal detector to become familiar with the laws.

    As a general rule, it will be posted. If you are on BLM or federal or state lands, a simple call or check with the park ranger will get you the answers you need. If you fail to do so, you are subject to arrest, fines, and confiscation of all finds and equipment. Each state is different. Private property is usually not regulated.

    If your detecting for money. I suggest you keep your day job.

    As for pottery, and burial sites. I hope your on a reservation if you should decide to dig up a grave for them. They have their own laws.

    I do not think this promoted the hobby, nor educated people in it.

  40. Ted says:

    Yeah, because these artifacts are much better off left undiscovered and rotting away in the ground for eternity! Idiots. There are thousands of metal detecting enthusiasts that are harmlessly discovering incredible pieces of history. By your logic, the selling of any artifact for a profit ( antiques, coins etc.) is criminal. Guess who finances many of the museums in the world? Private collectors! Without whom many museums would be forced to close. Diggers is a fascinating show that gives many people an opportunity to be a part of history. Do everyone a favor and lighten up Sally.

  41. robert m says:

    I have a good friend who is a metal detector as a hobbyist. He is very knowledgable about Civil War history. He hates the show but watches to see what they find. I myself am a trained archaeologist and agree 100% that they are destroying the context of the items as so many others have said. My fiend has helped me at times and has worked with me to expand his knowledge of context , methods etc. The show is bad and glorifies and puts bad ideas into folks heads. Good for extreme historynfor exposing this

  42. John says:

    Im gonna go out on a limb here. Most of you dont own a metal detector, nor have veer been detecting. If you did, you would know(with all your education) that we mostly dig trash. So I am not a decent person because I own a metal detector? This forum has lost all intergrity, if it ever had any, as being a serious forum and exchange of ideas. GoodBye, you educated better than the rest of us types can have it.

  43. Rick says:

    Ok Ive read enough ! Ive been a metal detectorist for over 35 years. Archeologists need to understand that these ” artifacts ” would remain lost in the ground and no one would ever enjoy them
    If we didnt find it and dig it up. Nor would an archeologist know that spot ever existed if someone didnt explore it and find it. So work together , museums can buy items of importance. Maybe you should offer to buy the artifacts that American Digger is finding and you can make a deal with the landowner to spend years on their land cataloging it. Do you Archeologists even know whats in your own back yard ?, have you ever looked ?

    • I think you’ve completely missed the point here. The value to archaeologists and to history isn’t in the artifact, its in its location in the ground. When you dig it up and take it away, that vital information is lost forever.

  44. westinghouse says:


    • You are wrong on both accounts. Local historical societies do not, as a rule, record or archive any such info and there is no way of making any money on that information.

  45. Sal says:

    To me it appears that they are NOT taking the artifacts with them but leaving them at the location with the current owners of the locations. Unfortunately some people must not have sense enough to realize that they are getting permission to dig on the historic sites before they go off digging on their own.

    • The current show has gone through many changes since these posts were put up in the Spring of 2012. These remarks refer to the original format of the show which included pricing and selling the artifacts as well as an episode which broke Montana State law by digging without proper permission on State owned land (see the letter from the Montana State Historical Preservation office in the archives).

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  47. jeannie (1st name only) says:

    Just found this discussion ,I am always late. My Mother would have said this discussion would be straining at a knat and swallowing an elephant. The world has learned so much from the “digs” done by Archeologist, but the thing that has always bothered me is this. The graves dug up and mummies removed were people that were loved and missed by their families. I hate to think that in 500 years my loved ones might be dug up to discover what this century was like. How sad that we give ourselves permission to do this. To dig five or ten inches into the soil seems insignificant in comparison.

    • Thanks for your thoughtful comments, Jeannie. Yes, archaeology is not without its sins, we are all trying to make up for many of them committed in the past. These are challenging questions that we still face. Today, most discoveries of human remains have very stringent guidelines that must be followed. Most archaeologists don’t want to find human remains, they are generally not what we’re looking for anyway, but when they do appear, we are required to bring in and consult with a variety of different entities such as burial boards, local government and descendant communities. With new technologies such as ground penetrating radar and others, we are becoming more able to study a site with very little intrusion into the ground. Ultimately, its a fine line between our desire to understand the past (see the blog post I just wrote on telling a human story in archaeology) and to respect the people of the past that we’re studying. As archaeologist we are always carefully weighing these two perspectives. I wonder if that is the case with others who dig things up for their own personal gain?

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