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ETHICS IN
UNDERWATER ARCHAEOLOGY
by Dr. E. Lee Spence, President
Sea Research Society

       The following is a discussion by underwater archaeologist, Dr. E. Lee Spence dealing with the ethics of selling artifacts from shipwrecks. Dr. Spence found his first shipwrecks in 1960 and was one of the pioneers of underwater archaeology. This article applies to shipwrecks in general, regardless of their age or the nationality of the country involved.

         Before beginning, it should be pointed out that many people incorrectly assume that all government and institutional employees with the job title "archaeologist" or "underwater archaeologist" have an accredited academic degree in land or underwater archaeology. In fact, nothing could be farther from the truth. Research shows that over 98% of government and institutional archaeologists, if they have an advanced degree at all (which most do), have degrees in anthropology, history,  vertebrate paleontology, or some other discipline. They very rarely have masters or doctorates in "Archaeology." This does not mean that they are not qualified (although some are not) and, in fact, most have their jobs because they have amply demonstrated their extensive knowledge and abilities. (Furthermore, I want to make it absolutely clear that I am not suggesting that a degree in “anthropology” does not confer archaeological credentials. In fact, the vast majority of programs leading to a degree in anthropology offer anthropological archaeology as a specialization or sub-field of its parent field, anthropology.  Archaeologists taught in this manner can be just as well versed in archaeological method and theory as those raised in archaeology departments, and they can have the additional advantage of broader human physical and behavioral knowledge. However, with that said, it is not necessarily the case that all anthropologists are qualified as archaeologists and they are certainly not automatically qualified as underwater archaeologists.)

         Despite the State of Florida's long public stance against treasure hunters because they are "unqualified," for many years Florida had only one person on its staff who had a doctorate that could even remotely be construed as a doctorate in underwater archaeology.

         Individuals with degrees in anthropology (i.e. cultural anthropologists or ethnographers) may have focused on the ethnology of Central Asia or Sub-Saharan Africa, yet might be working as archaeologists in the Western Hemisphere, where virtually none of their specialized knowledge applies. Others may have exhaustively studied the history and customs of the Navaho or Apache nations (none of which is directly applicable to shipwrecks). Government or institutional underwater archaeologists working on Spanish colonial era wrecks may have actually earned their degrees in nineteenth or twentieth century history, and may never have studied either Spanish colonial history or ship construction. Their employer may have recognized when hiring them the reality that there were no applicants who were perfectly qualified work in a field as far reaching as "underwater archaeology."

         Members of the Register of Professional Archaeologists (http://www.rpanet.org) agree to a code of conduct, which includes such provisions as agreeing not to undertake any research that affects the archaeological resource base for which she/he is not qualified. Perhaps more archaeologists need to join that association and adhere to its code. (Note: Membership also requires one to "Support and comply with the terms of the UNESCO Convention on the means of prohibiting and preventing the illicit import, export, and transfer of ownership of cultural property, as adopted by the General Conference, 14 November 1970, Paris." While being strongly opposed to illicit import, export, and transfer of ownership of cultural property, this archaeologist has not joined. He strongly believes UNESCO's definition of cultural property to be too broad, overly inclusive, poorly defined and subjective in nature; and he further believes such terms would allow unreasonable, discriminatory, capricious, discretionary, and arbitrary enforcement of a myriad of conflicting, rules, regulations and laws by the various local bureaucratic officials and nations involved. A further read of this paper should explain some of the pitfalls, conflicts and unintended consequences that this archaeologist sees in the implementation of UNESCO's obviously well intended terms.)

         An underwater archaeologist may be required to work on a 19th century Civil War blockade runner one month and a thousand years old Indian canoe or an inundated habitation site the next. There is simply no way an archaeologist can be an expert on everything. Instead, the archaeologist uses common archaeological techniques to gather and record data while the site is being worked. In ideal cases, specialists are brought in on a full time or consulting basis and/or the data is later interpreted by one or more people who are experts in the applicable fields.

         Most government and institutional employees who hold the title "underwater archaeologist" do so simply because they use archaeological techniques in the performance of their duties and they work underwater. While most perform their jobs in an outstanding manner, some are incompetent and their work is worse than worthless. While most underwater archaeologists are honest, others are liars and thieves. This is just as true in the public sector as in the private sector.

         In most academic institutions, archaeology, if it is offered at all, is taught as a single undergraduate level course, for which the student receives three or four college credits. Furthermore, basic archaeological techniques are fairly straight forward and simple, and can be easily mastered. They can be learned by sport divers, professional salvors, medical doctors, lawyers, and businessmen, just as easily as they can be mastered by anthropologists and historians. In fact, just because a person is a sport diver, professional salvor, medical doctor, lawyer, or businessman, does not mean that he has not studied archaeological techniques, anthropology or history. In some cases, a private individual's true abilities (as they apply to a particular site) may far exceed those of the government and/or institutional employee who is supervising (or criticizing) him. Many of the more advanced archaeological techniques may best be performed by specialists who routinely act as consultants. Theoretically, and in actuality, these experts can be hired by both academic and nonacademic groups.

         All of this is mentioned because, in the body of the article, the author uses the term "archaeologist" to designate anyone involved in the locating and recovery of artifacts, regardless of that individual's professional standing or abilities. He does it to make the point that in the past it has not the specific professional or academic qualifications of the individual that have been held up for scrutiny, but rather whether the person doing the work is working for a "nonprofit or a "profit" organization. In other words, the author feels that in the past there seems to have been more concern over whether someone was making a "profit" than what his qualifications were or what was actually being done with the data and/or the artifacts that are collected.

         In fact, the author feels far too many people (in both the public and private sector) are being touted as archaeologists and the author would prefer to see the standards raised to a reasonable level for all persons involved in that work. Possibly with a variety of titles used to help clarify levels of experience and proficiency. Such titles, including level of proficiency they represent, should not be related in any way to whether a profit is involved or not involved in a particular project.

         This author hopes that no one will take offense if they find that, because of their current employment, they are being classified as a Capitalistic Archaeologist or as a Socialistic Archaeologist as defined below. Neither term is meant to either endorse, enhance or denigrate anyone's political philosophy or their current choice of employment. In fact, this author, because of his past employment, could be correctly described with either term.

Capitalism Versus Socialism
in Underwater Archaeology

by Dr. E. Lee Spence, President
Sea Research Society

© copyright 1992 (revised 1997)

           Most people agree that virtually all shipwrecks have at least some historical and/or archaeological value. So, one might ask, how should they be treated? What methods should be used when disturbing them? What records should be kept? Should they all be treated the same way? Should work on shipwrecks be limited to academically trained archaeologists? Should these archaeologists, whether academically trained or not, be required to belong to traditional professional archaeological societies that prohibit their members from selling artifacts? Should shipwrecks be left open to sport divers and commercial salvors (hereinafter lumped together as Capitalistic Archaeologists) who seek keep or sell the artifacts? Or, should wrecks, once discovered, be left untouched until they can be worked by unpaid volunteers and/or government and institutional archaeologists (hereinafter lumped together as Socialistic Archaeologists) who will raise everything regardless of value? Should Capitalistic Archaeologists and Socialistic Archaeologists cooperate and work together? These are all good questions, and they should have well reasoned answers.

         Capitalistic Archaeologists want to make or save money. They tend to welcome and use the knowledge and help of others. Most Capitalistic Archaeologists use basic archaeological techniques simply because it makes them more productive in their work.

         Socialistic Archaeologists believe wrecks are public property and do not believe artifacts should ever be sold. Except when it affects their own budget, Socialistic Archaeologists are less likely to place a high priority on cost as they are usually financed by tax dollars or by donations.

         Most Socialistic Archaeologists belong to exclusive professional societies which prohibit their members from keeping or selling artifacts. This is done to discourage looting of archaeological sites.

         Looters are criminals showing wanton disregard for the rights and property of others. Looters work sites without lawful right and usually without proper record keeping. Looters are thieves who are strictly in it for profit, and break all kinds of laws respecting public and private property. Looters should definitely be reported and if possible stopped.

         Unfortunately, because like looters, Capitalistic Archaeologists are also interested in profit and typically market the artifacts they find, many Socialistic Archaeologists unfairly try to brand Capitalistic Archaeologists as looters. Those Socialistic Archaeologists are either trying to protect their own jobs by smearing others, or they simply don't understand that Capitalistic Archaeologists are not looters and are people working within the law to aid the public (the courts have routinely defined salvage as in the best interest of the public).

         Marketing is not looting. Marketing is a legal part of capitalism. Besides marketing is not just limited to actual sales, marketing can mean putting an item or collection on display for promotional purposes or for paid admissions. Which is what many on both sides are coming to feel is the best solution.

         Capitalistic Archaeologists are not looters any more than Socialistic Archaeologists excavating ancient tombs are grave robbers.

         Actually, that was a bad comparison, as some classical archaeologists are no better than looters and grave robbers as some covertly steal and sell artifacts from the sites they are "legally" working. Many of the Socialistic Archaeologists seem to have little or no regard for the customs, rights, and burials of other cultures. Unfortunately, some Capitalistic Archaeologists show the same callous disregard. Such behavior, whether by Socialists or by Capitalists, is inappropriate and should be discouraged.

         The dramatic stories of the valiant struggles, of those who survived and those who died on shipwrecks, can cause the casual observer to regard all wrecks as watery mausoleums. Such stories tempt one to seek laws which would insure that all wrecks, and what they hold, would remain undisturbed as memorials to their dead.

         But, leaving the wrecks to be untouched (as some of the more extreme Socialistic Archaeologists desire) would be wrong. Not only are the bodies usually long gone, but it would mean that we would all lose. The story of those unfortunate people would quickly be forgotten if wrecks were simply treated as graves and left untouched, or worse, like most graves, unvisited. But, as Capitalistic Archaeologists locate and explore wrecks, they feel their awesome past and are captivated by their history. Capitalistic Archaeologists, who remove artifacts, are not desecrating wrecks, they are saving them. Human remains, when found, should not be stuck away in boxes in museum or university warehouses, to be neglected and eventually thrown out. Instead, they should be respectfully studied and then be given proper burials.

         Wrecks are destroyed through natural causes. Electrolysis, erosion, marine flora and fauna, and the force of the waves daily eat at the wrecks, destroying and scattering them. Already millions of artifacts on hundreds of thousands of shipwrecks have been irretrievably lost.

         An archaeologist working with the United States National Park Service in the Dry Tortugas seems to have forgotten this when he spouted a common Socialistic Archaeologist view point in a television documentary a that "a wreck found is wreck lost." What a load of dung.

         The glass tumblers, the brass valves, the bullets, the bottles, the coins, and the other items recovered by Capitalistic Archaeologists allow them to share the story with their children and with non-diving friends. The crew and passengers of each lost ship are brought back to life every time a person views or holds the small treasures that the divers salvage.

         The artifacts that are recovered, and the stories that go with them, are memorials to the souls of the dead. In effect, each artifact, whether in a museum or on a mantelpiece in a private home, becomes a meaningful memorial, a testimony to the reality of the lives of those who sailed aboard the over two million vessels that have been wrecked world wide in the past two thousand years, and the more than one thousand additional vessels (fifty tons and higher) that are being lost each year.

         It would be great if each wreck could be worked to the highest archaeological standards. But it simply isn't practical. The cost of conducting underwater archaeology to such standards on all wrecks, regardless of their historical or archaeological value, would simply be too high.

         It cost the British government the equivalent of over fifty million dollars (U.S. $50,000,000) to salvage and conserve portions of the wreck of the Mary Rose (lost in 1545) to basic archaeological standards. The work took over ten years and still required making extensive use of volunteers. Unbelievably, many Socialistic Archaeologists thought the work was not up to their standards, and felt even more money should have been spent. That was over a decade ago and the costs would be far higher today.

         There have been well over two million wrecks in the waters of the world. Working all of these wrecks to the same standards, as used on the Mary Rose would require a budget of over one hundred trillion dollars (U.S. $100,000,000,000,000). And, it would take all of the world's underwater archaeologists alive today over ten thousand years to do the job. In effect, this is what the Socialistic Archaeologists want. Obviously, it is not realistic. The world simply doesn't have the time or the money. This archaeologist estimates that well over 90% of the world's shipwrecks will be lost through natural causes centuries before the resources ever become available to work them as pure archaeology. Apparently most Capitalistic Archaeologists recognize this and want to save what they can, and they want to profit while doing it.

         In 1991, South Carolina passed a bill which replaced the underwater antiquities act passed in 1967. The original act had been passed at my instigation to allow me to get a license to salvage the wrecks of the Georgiana and Mary Bowers, which this archaeologist had discovered in 1966. (Note: When referring to himself, the author uses the term archaeologist without the modifiers "Capitalistic" or "Socialistic," because he has worked for profit oriented companies as well as for eleemosynary organizations and government institutions.)

         The two vessels were built and sunk within the space of two years. They sit one across the top of the other.  The Georgiana was a deep draft screw steamer and was said to have been the most powerful Confederate cruiser ever built. The Mary Bowers was a shallow draft sidewheel merchant blockade runner. As such, they represent two entirely different classes of Civil War steamers used by the Confederacy. Their combined cargoes were said to have been worth over a million dollars at the time of loss. Needless to say, in addition to monetary value, they have immense archaeological and historical importance.

         The 1967 act clearly stated that the State could not issue more licenses than it could properly supervise. That sounded reasonable enough, but who would have ever thought the State could not do its job on even that one site. Believe it or not, to this date, because of incompetence and/or politics, no state official has ever visited the Georgiana/Mary Bowers wreck site. Therefore, if the State actually obeys the letter of the law, no more permits or licenses can be issued in South Carolina, until the Socialistic Archaeologists get their act together.

         Thirty years is too long to allow an important wreck site, once found, to be ignored. This isn't just stupidity or negligence on the part of the Socialistic Archaeologists working for the State it is politics at its worst.

         South Carolina's new law will do nothing to prevent that type of petty politics, incompetence or negligence.

         For example, in 1996, the South Carolina Institute of Archaeology & Anthropology (SCIAA) and the United States National Park Service (NPS) finally examined the wreck of the Hunley, which was the first submarine in the history of the entire world to sink an enemy ship. This archaeologist had discovered the wreck in 1970 and had immediately notified both of those organizations of its location. Directly due to petty politics, neither organization bothered checking out the discovery even though this archaeologist furnished them with a map sufficiently accurate that they could have relocated it with a magnetometer in one afternoon. Instead both groups waited for a quarter of a century and didn't go to the site until after this archaeologist's map had been published and a nonprofit group (NUMA) funded by millionaire novelist Clive Cussler had gone to it and gotten world wide publicity for the "discovery." Now those same Socialistic organizations who ignored the wreck for decades are insisting (apparently correctly) that it must be raised within the next several years or it will be too damaged by environmental factors to save. Why had they waited? Although some people in those Socialistic organizations are attempting to justify the over twenty-five years of delay by saying that this archaeologist never found it, the fact remains that the map, which had been filed with the Federal District Court many years prior to NUMA's investigation of the site, was correct. Furthermore, the true location (and thus the map) went against what would have been deduced from historical accounts, so it can not reasonably be said that the location on the map was simply an educated guess. The Socialistic Archaeologists and their political supporters have also ignored the sworn affidavits from people who aided this archaeologist in his work, and they completely ignore the reality that neither group did what the public would have expected them to do in a far more timely manner. They did not even bother going to the site and checking out whether it was really there, until a group technically organized for nonprofit purposes by a man who could command worldwide publicity, put the spotlight on the wreck. {In preparing this paper, I searched the Register of Professional Archaeologists for two government (socialistic) archaeologists that I had reason to believe had not complied with that association's code of conduct to see if they were members. They were not members. In particular, I felt that both had falsely or maliciously attempted to injure the reputation of another archaeologist (in particular me) and had given professional opinion(s) and/or had made a public report(s) involving archaeological matters without being as thoroughly informed as might reasonably be expected. If they had been members, and had done as I believe, such actions would have been  violations of that association's code. It is my personal belief that both individuals had ignored criteria that they had previously agreed (in a letter to me) would be used to judge whether I or NUMA was the original discoverer of the Hunley and they even publicly claimed (while on the radio with a very influential politician, who had previously threatened to pull funding for their employer, SCIAA) that my work failed to meet their standards when they knew or at least should have known that my work had absolutely met the criteria they had officially advised me would be used (http://shipwrecks.com/AmerSCIAAletter.htm).} (Note: For more on this controversy go to [http://shipwrecks.com/Hunley%20introduction%20Lee%20Spence's%20discovery%20sworn%20affidavit.htm] and follow the various links to other pages.

         One of the most important points to realize is that many wrecks have long since been largely (although not completely) broken up by environmental forces, eaten by the teredo navalis (marine borer), or otherwise destroyed by nature, and therefore offer relatively little to learn in an archaeological sense, except what the few remaining hard parts (consisting primarily of scattered armaments, cargo, and fittings) can tell us. Wrecks in shallow water, high-energy areas are not only difficult to work, the artifacts are usually scattered to the point of being of almost no interest to Socialistic Archaeologists due to their typical lack of stratigraphy and articulated structure.

         Since Socialistic Archaeologists traditionally do not market artifacts, they wisely prefer to work sites where more can be learned for the investment of time and dollars. They know that, based on a realistic appraisal of what archaeological data costs to acquire, most shipwrecks in high energy areas of the warm waters of the world simply are not worth the expense when worked for Socialistic purposes.

         Many people, especially bureaucrats seem to ignore that reality. Even though they are (or at least should be) aware that taxpayers would never approve of extensive tax sponsored archaeology on sites of this nature and thus they rarely work them, they routinely require Capitalistic Archaeologists to go to great expense to keep records which have relatively little archaeological value. Many government archaeologists seem to do this in an almost vindictive manner, even though it is clear that less expensive methods and record keeping would serve the same purpose. Such unjustifiable requirements appear to be a way to discourage private enterprise.

         Even when projects are conducted under the strictest archaeological guidelines, the value of the data from high energy areas is questionable. Ask yourself the value of plotting provenience (relative recovery points) to the nearest centimeter when even a superficial survey shows that the artifacts have been scattered by numerous forces for thousands of yards from the actual point of impact. Could not the same value be assigned for data kept to the nearest meter or even to the nearest ten meters. (Please understand that I am not trying to answer this question for all sites, and I am definitely not applying this thinking to articulated wreckage, or to wrecks in extremely low energy zones.)

         Buried wrecks, deep water wrecks, and wrecks in harbors, lakes and estuaries are far more likely to offer worthwhile archaeological data, at a price that is economically viable. Therefore, traditional archaeologists have all but abandoned shallow water coastal shipwrecks, especially those in high energy areas.

         It is exactly because most shipwrecks are still being scattered, abraded, eaten, oxidized and otherwise destroyed, that I believe all archaeologists (regardless of their motives) should be encouraged to retrieve what can be recovered from these wrecks, before they are lost forever.

         Many Socialistic Archaeologists depend on contract salvage jobs to make a living. But in their case, the salvage is usually on land, where the work is being done in a "quick and dirty" fashion to beat the bulldozers, scrapers and pavers of State and Federal highway programs. Those archaeologists, knowing that sites will be destroyed, accept reality, lower their standards for data collection, and simply try to save as many artifacts and gather as much archaeological data as time and money permit. They even refer to this type of archaeology as "salvage archaeology."  To some the use of Propwash Deflection Devices (PDUs) by Capitalistic Archaeologists is the equivalent of using a bulldozer, but that belief is based on ignorance or at least the improper use of the PDU. Properly used a PDU can gently wash the sand or mud over burden off a site a fraction of an inch at a time.

         Socialistic Archaeologists engaging in salvage archaeology may not sell the artifacts (although some do and still avoid the label of being "treasure hunters" because they either do so in secret or as a way to "dispose of excess collections"), but they are still doing it for money. Their treasure simply comes to them in the form of institutional salaries, tax deductible private endowments, and/or government research grants (all of which ultimately cost the public money). A major archaeological discovery (such as those that make the pages of National Geographic) can reap even a Socialistic Archaeologist over a half million dollars in book contracts, speaking fees, and higher salary, during the years immediately following his discovery.

         If a Socialistic Archaeologist working for the government or a nonprofit organization is involved in a major discovery and writes a book, why is he allowed to keep the profits from that book when the work was paid for with public money?

         For some strange reason, most Socialistic Archaeologists do not extend the logic that allows them to conduct salvage archaeology on land to shipwrecks. This is probably because they lack the knowledge and experience to differentiate, in their own minds, between a land site where the relatively few intact artifacts found are unique and distinct. They are used to land sites where the artifacts have been laid down in thin layers over a period of many years. They are not used to shipwreck sites that frequently contain many tons of virtually identical artifacts (i.e. the ship's cargo) that were dumped on the site during one brief moment in history. Without even considering the costs of salvage, preservation, and study, imagine the insurance costs, storage costs, and other long term expenses that would have to be paid by taxpayers if all wrecks were worked as public projects. Imagine the waste of tax dollars that would be incurred by keeping forty tons of coins (which could be the bounty from just one "treasure" wreck) in permanent storage, unable to properly display them because of the lack of space and the high price of adequate security.

         Despite the fact that hundreds of thousands of coastal wrecks worldwide are in immediate danger of being destroyed by both natural and man made causes, Socialistic Archaeologists are almost universally against allowing Capitalistic Archaeologists to work wrecks using the looser (and therefore more economical) standards of salvage archaeology. Instead, they insist that Capitalistic Archaeologists work these wrecks to standards they would be unlikely to impose on themselves or their colleagues. Capitalistic Archaeologists would prefer to use more realistic archaeological standards.

         Laws passed to prevent sport divers and commercial salvors from disturbing the wrecks, will not save them. Such laws, if observed, would simply mean that most wrecks would be neglected forever. When divers did find wrecks they would be afraid to report them, or would at least have little if any incentive to report them. If they then went ahead and salvaged the wrecks they would be breaking the law, and as looters they would have nothing to gain by doing even basic underwater archaeology. Then everyone would lose.

         Regulations giving too large a share of the recovery to the government are usually self defeating. The higher the percentage the government takes the fewer wrecks are worked (or at least reported). Remember, the government could claim 100%, but then no one would work the wrecks and nothing would be recovered. 100% of nothing is still nothing. In most cases, the government would be better off taking between 5 and 10 percent, depending on the intrinsic value of the cargo and difficulties involved in working a particular wreck.

         I personally believe the government should not automatically get any share at all. I feel they should simply have the right to purchase any or all of the material at fair market value, but in no case do I feel that the State should they be allowed to pay less than the true cost of salvage. Even if the government does not take a share it would still benefit through the normal taxation on profits.

         It is great in theory to establish wreck preserves. Wreck preserves suggest that the wrecks and their artifacts will be left in situ for everyone to visit and enjoy.

         Some wreck preserves are being created in high energy zones along the coast of the Florida (USA) peninsula, where the visibility is poor and shifting sands hide virtually everything of interest. Preserves in such areas draw zero tourists because there is nothing to see, and, for the reasons cited earlier, they protect nothing.

         Wreck preserves in the Great Lakes (USA and Canada) are in much clearer water and the wrecks are largely unburied. They have already drawn large numbers of divers and have created a whole new tourist industry reportedly worth millions of dollars a year to the local economy.

         Because of the touted success in the Great Lakes, the natural temptation is to create similar preserves in other areas to encourage tourism and to protect the wrecks.

         But even the wrecks in preserves are slowly being looted by underwater thieves, and the wrecks are still being scattered and destroyed by natural causes. Some people, myself included, believe that all of the exposed parts of the Great Lakes wrecks will soon be obscured by fast growing shell fish that have recently been introduced into the lakes by freighters traveling from foreign waters dumping their water ballast into the lakes. Once that has happened, even the already discovered and supposedly "protected" wrecks will be "lost" and the tourist industry surrounding them will die.

         Whereas, if Capitalistic Archaeologists were encouraged to raise the artifacts and place them in paid admission, profit oriented museums, there would still be something for the tourists to see long after the wrecks were covered. The museums could operate gift shops which would sell the vast numbers of duplicate or otherwise non-displayable artifacts. These artifacts could be sold in conjunction with certificates of authenticity that recounted the history of the wreck and explained the use and importance of the artifacts. Each artifact sold would become an educational tool that would be carried to other cities to further spread the story of that particular shipwreck.

         Unlike the average Capitalistic Archaeologist who seeks a wide range of publicity in hopes it will create a market for his artifacts, Socialistic Archaeologists tend to publish very little of their work outside of their own immediate academic circles. Only the exceptional discovery reaches National Geographic and other "popular" magazines. Much of the work conducted by Socialistic Archaeologists, although paid for with institutional or tax dollars, is virtually inaccessible to the average person. Most of it ends up in locked files in government offices. Even when "published," most of the reports prepared by Socialistic Archaeologists are virtually incomprehensible to the average person. That is because they are not meant to be distributed outside of academic circles and are thus not designed to be read by the general public. Readers who do wade through these reports might wonder why so much paper is generated to say so little.

         Because of blackballing, Capitalistic Archaeologist are usually unable to get their work published in the journals of professional archaeological societies. But they still strive to publicize their work through news stories, magazine articles, books, and videos, all of which will be designed to appeal to, and be understood by, the common man. They do this partly because they have a monetary incentive. Capitalistic Archaeologists need informed people, or they will not have investors or customers for their museums, services, products or artifacts.

         Capitalistic Archaeologists also understand and recognize the potential commercial value of the intellectual property rights they have created through their salvage ventures. Those rights are an additional source of revenue to the Capitalistic Archaeologist, and to make to make the most of those rights they routinely invest the money to publish their work in a way that is both interesting and appealing to the public.

         I think it is clear who truly makes the most information available and thereby educates the most people. It is the Capitalistic Archaeologist, and he does it because capitalism works.

         If governments take out the profit motive (by prohibiting the sale of artifacts or by requiring the salvors to meet arbitrary and unrealistic archaeological standards, or by failing to protect the intellectual property rights of Capitalistic Archaeologists), the public will lose, not gain.

         Most of the world's wrecks have long since been covered by either sand or coral. Excavation of these wrecks could provide working classrooms and fill several museums and numerous gift shops. Tourists could be encouraged to visit underwater digs, where they could (when feasible) actively participate or simply watch the excavations in progress. This is already being successfully done on land at archaeological sites in Egypt, Israel, Spain and other countries in Europe, Africa, and the Middle East.

         The creation of artificial reefs, by the intentional sinking of ships otherwise destined for the scrap heap, is a great idea and I encourage their judicious creation. Even though they are artificial, these reefs (when placed in an appropriate location) provide a habitat for a wide range of marine flora and fauna, and they serve as a unique opportunity for divers to experience certain types of relatively safe wreck diving. These reefs offer divers the chance to take pictures and feel the thrill of exploration. They can also help instill divers with a greater respect for wrecks. However, these reefs do nothing to protect other wrecks from being destroyed by natural causes.

         As stated earlier, wrecks can offer rich rewards. Sport divers and salvors (operating as capitalistic archaeologists), if allowed to benefit from their discoveries, would spend the time and the money to train themselves as archaeologists and to seek out and salvage these wrecks. There is nothing to prevent laws being passed which would encourage search and salvage, yet require all operations to meet realistic archaeological guidelines. These searches and discoveries would create jobs and preserve the history and archaeology of these wrecks. Successful projects would also bring favorable publicity and therefore tourist and investment dollars into the areas where the wrecks were being worked.

         This archaeologist believes that the extent of record keeping and the exact methodology used in working a wreck site should be decided on a case by case basis. In some cases, the standards may justifiably be set so high that only a nonprofit or governmental group could get the funding. But even then, the benefits versus costs must be realistic.

         This archaeologist does not believe that Capitalistic Archaeologists should be penalized and forced to observe a higher or otherwise unrealistic standard just because they have capitalistic motives. At the same time, this archaeologist in no way believes a wreck site with high archaeological or historical value should be sacrificed for a capitalistic motive. Realistic standards must be set. Because of the realities of funding, a compromise on methods and techniques must be reached, regardless of whether the wreck is worked by Capitalistic Archaeologists or by Socialistic Archaeologists. In fact, one compromise that ought to be used more often is that the two groups work together. Working together will combine the knowledge, experience and resources of both groups. However, when working with Capitalistic Archaeologists, the Socialistic Archaeologists must respect the legal rights of the Capitalistic Archaeologists, they can not be allowed to usurp the intellectual property rights of the Capitalistic Archaeologists by the unauthorized or premature disclosure of information.

         Remember, even according to Socialistic Archaeologists, who usually act like there are not nearly enough wrecks to study, there have been well over a million wrecks in the Mediterranean Sea alone, and over two million worldwide. Relatively few wrecks have been found. Far fewer have been completely salvaged. Globally, many, many times more wrecks have been or will be lost by natural causes (or by man-made causes unrelated to salvage) than have been or will ever be worked by Capitalistic Archaeologists and Socialistic Archaeologists combined.

         If the world is to save its vast underwater archaeological heritage, it must locate and save as much as possible from these wrecks.

         We must educate people. Basic archaeological techniques are fairly simple to teach and easy to learn. There is no valid reason not to teach them to the interested public. The more sophisticated archaeological techniques can be very difficult, time-consuming and costly to learn, and perhaps should be left to a cadre of dedicated specialists (each highly trained in one or more fields), but those specialists should be allowed to work with both Capitalists and Socialists without fear of stigma.

         If and when new laws are passed, they should be designed to promote education, and to protect the rights of the people to conduct salvage archaeology as a capitalistic enterprise. At the same time, they should encourage and fund Socialistic type projects, but only when such projects can reasonably be expected to result in sufficient benefits to the public that the costs to the taxpayers are justified. By doing that, the laws will protect this valuable resource, develop it, save tax dollars, create new jobs, and give everyone an equal opportunity to contribute to archaeology.

 

About the Author:

         Note: The author (Dr. E. Lee Spence) has made numerous important archaeological and historical discoveries and he has authored over thirty books on shipwrecks. His work has been reported in over one thousand periodicals around the world including Life, the New York Times and People magazine. He has also been interviewed on numerous radio and television shows including NBC's Today Show.  He believes that commercial salvage and archaeology are compatible, and further believes that the capitalistic marketing and/or display of artifacts is not only ethical, it may ultimately be the most reasonable way to finance the research and archaeology needed to save the world's vast underwater archaeological and historical heritage.

         Although Dr. Spence has been employed as an underwater archaeologist on a number of commercial salvage ventures, he has served as a government underwater archaeologist in South America and as a consultant to both the College of Charleston (a state institution) and the National Endowment for the Humanities (a federal program) in the United States. Spence's undergraduate degree was a "Bachelor of Arts in Interdisciplinary Studies" awarded cum laude by the University of South Carolina. The Bachelor of Arts in Interdisciplinary Studies degree, is a fully accredited degree awarded for an academic concentration in marine archaeology designed by Spence and his academic advisor in the College of Applied Professional Sciences, University of South Carolina.

         Spence also holds the degree of Doctor of Marine Histories. This degree was awarded by the Sea Research Society as part of its College of Marine Arts Program. Requirements for this degree were set at a  minimum of nine years of involvement in marine work or marine related research, as well as some significant contribution to the furthering of marine archaeology or other marine related art or history, or the satisfactory completion of all course work normally required for a Doctor of Philosophy, with at least one year of intensive research in one of the marine related arts or histories, over and beyond that done meeting the course requirements for a Ph. D.  The creation and awarding of this degree was done by a written vote of Sea Research Society's Board of Directors and Board of Advisors. Person's voting for this degree included: the late Frederick Dumas (French underwater archaeologist famed for his work with the late Captain J.Y. Cousteau); Luis Marden (then Chief, Foreign Editorial Staff, National Geographic Magazine, and at that time National Geographic Society's resident shipwreck expert); Ron A. Gibbs (Ron was then Registrar, Division of Museums, National Parks Service, and had previously worked on the federal government's Dry Tortugas Shipwreck Project and other shipwreck projects); Edwin C. Bearss (historian for the National Park Service, author of numerous books including several on shipwrecks); Robert C. Wheeler (then Associate Director of the Minnesota Historical Society); Don Pablo Bush Romero (then president of the Club de Exploraciones Mexico, Mexican underwater archaeological society); Sir Anders Franzen (discoverer of the wreck of the Swedish warship Vasa); Paul J. Tzimoulis (editor/publisher of Skin Diver magazine); and others of similar note. At present the degree of Doctor of Marine Histories remains a non-traditional degree, but its validity and high caliber should be recognized in light of the above facts. To date all of the recipients (there have only been five recipients, including Spence) have been persons with international reputations for their work in the field of underwater archaeology and/or historical shipwreck research. One example of the others who received this degree was the late Peter Throckmorton. Throckmorton was best known for his 1960 discovery of what was then the oldest known shipwreck (it was from the Bronze Age) in the world. An account of that discovery was carried in National Geographic Magazine. Throckmorton published numerous articles and books on shipwrecks and underwater archaeology, and was a professor at Nova University in Florida when he died. Unfortunately, the College of Marine Arts fell victim to petty politics and apathy and is no longer in operation.

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