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Author, historian and archaeological
consultant, Rodney M. Peck, was born in Richmond Virginia
in 1946 and grew up in the Tidewater Area. Mr. Peck is a
graduate of Old Dominion University, with a major in architecture
and a minor in history.
Mr. Peck has written several books and over two hundred
articles on archaeology and the Native Americans. He is on
the board of several archaeological societies and is past
president of the Piedmont Archaeological Society of North
and South Caroline, Inc. and the Central
States Archaeological Societies, Inc. (which consist
of 18 different states).
Some of the major sites he has worked are on the Throughgood
House, Virginia Beach, Virginia, the Willoughby-Baylor House,
Norfolk, Virginia, Fort Boykin, Isle of Wight County, Virginia,
Williamson Site, Dinwiddie County Virginia, Isle of Wight Paleo
Site, Isle of Wight County Virginia, Waratan Site, Chowan County,
NC, Pacolet Soapstone Quarry, Pacolet, S.C. and the Baucom Hardaway
Site, Union County, NC. He is married to Mary Ann Brandt Peck
of Winston-Salem, North Carolina and has two children, Daniel
Paleoamerican Odyssey Conference Invitation
THE ROMANCE OF COLLECTING
Collecting anything can be very rewarding and a delightful
hobby. People collect anything and everything: gold coins,
thimbles, cars, civil war artifacts, stamps, bottles pictures,
dolls, rocks and thousands of other things. However, this
paper is limited to only one: the collecting of American
The relationship between collectors of American Indian
artifacts and archaeologists differs from state to state.
I have had many collectors and archaeologists (one from England)
in my home to share not only my collection, but also my thoughts
and opinions. It is unfortunate that we live in a world that
has to place labels on everything and has created barriers
between some collectors and archaeologists over the years.
Some of the best archaeologists have a degree, not in anthropology
or archaeology, but in history and architecture. Both the
collector and archaeologist are learning that each has much
to offer. Archaeologists rarely recover artifacts in the
ground that are of much commercial value, but rather recover
fragments of artifacts from trash pits that often provide
datable artifacts that the collector would be unable to obtain
from any other source. On the other hand, collectors, who
probably outnumber archaeologists a thousand to one, can
offer the archaeologist extraordinary artifacts that he would
probably never recover intact. Thus, a broken artifact excavated
may be compared with a complete specimen. An archaeologist
should never alienate himself or herself from the collectors,
for to do so will surely damage his or her career for a lifetime.
I know of several archaeologists whom collectors will never
communicate with again.
Over the years many laws have been written on both
federal and state levels. In general these laws were written
to protect and preserve our heritage. There is no justification
for anyone to break these laws. Our federal and state parks,
wet lands, etc., are for everyone to enjoy. Therefore, only
trained professionals with proper permits are allowed to
excavate or surface hunt on these protected lands.
It has been over thirty-six years since I picked up
my first point in Virginia. Little did I know what lay ahead
for me: assembling not only a rather nice collection, but
also a wealth of information from scores of excavations,
countless reports, articles and books. Perhaps the most pleasure,
however, has come from the wonderful folks who also collect
that I have met over the years.
Four warnings to collectors should be mentioned. First,
be wary of the self-professed expert, for he has ceased to
learn. Second is the widely held belief that anything published
is infallible. That’s wrong! Third, buyers beware, for there
are many, many reproductions out there for sale as the real
thing. Fourth, be wary of persons who charge to authenticate
your artifacts, for most are only out to make a profit, and
all have made mistakes in the past.
Today there are lots of reproductions (a really nice
word for fakes) on the market. Fake bannerstones, axes, pottery,
discoidals and points of all kinds can be found. About fifteen
years ago I wanted a classic dovetail (St. Charles point)
for my collection. So realizing how little I knew about dovetails,
I decided the only safe course was to go to a reputable dealer
and tell him what I wanted. He sold me a nice colorful 4-inch
dovetail from Ohio. Five years later I found that the only
dovetail in my collection was a modern reproduction (fake).
Naturally, I took the point back to the dealer and explained
to him what I had discovered and asked for an explanation
and either a refund or credit. He replied that he purchases
several collections every year and certain percentages are
of questionable authenticity. He apologized and gave me a
credit with which I purchased an authentic Clovis point.
I learned to stay away from artifacts I know nothing about
and something about “reputable” dealers!
Perhaps the best collections I have seen over the
years are those small ones of personal finds by the collector.
They won’t have fifty or so axes, dozens of bannerstones,
or pieces that can be traced through ten different collections.
These collectors catalogue their finds by sites and only
look near their homes. Most collectors, even the larger ones,
got their start this way and, perhaps, due to new housing
developments, shopping centers, etc., they were forced to
go elsewhere, such as shows and dealers, to obtain artifacts.
Some collectors look at collecting as an investment
and accumulate as many rare and valuable artifacts as they
can in order to sell them later at a profit. I know of some
professional archaeologists who subsidize their incomes by
selling American Indian artifacts to museums and collectors,
both here in America and in other countries. I also know
of a well-respected archaeologist in Connecticut who subsidized
his income by working as a clerk in a hardware store.
Collecting American Indian artifacts has been going
on since Columbus discovered America in 1492 and will continue.
Picking up a point in a plowed field has a certain part in
history and should be encouraged, but the person who collects
without any thought as to how his acquisition was made or
used belongs in much the same bracket as the archaeologist
who does not publish site reports for the public.
Many collectors have donated fine artifacts to both
state museums and colleges, and without these donations,
their collections would be inferior. Remember, while collecting
American Indian artifacts is a wonderful hobby, obey the
state and federal laws and always get the landowner's permission.
Originally published in the The Central States Archaeological Societies
By Rodney M. Peck