Monday, January 18, 2016

1/18/16 Report - State Laws. Changes Badly Needed.

Written by the TreasureGuide for the exclusive use of

It looks like we are in for a week or two of small surf.  It might be a good time to do a little scouting.

Yesterday morning the wind was stiff from the west when the tide was low.  It was an opportunity to get out a little farther.  Later in the day the wind shifted again.

If you like finding the older stuff, check for areas where the renousishment sand has been eroded down to the older layers or locations just outside the renourishment areas.


People often ask me about the rules for hunting on the beach and in the water.  I hate those kind of questions because when you get down to the details it can be very confusing, and no matter how much I might say about it I can't cover every situation.  There can be multiple agencies or divisions involved including both state and local authorities.

Here is the link to what the Department of State Division of Historical Resources says.

Here is just one paragraph that will help clear up some confusion for some of you.

(11) “Sovereignty submerged lands” means those lands including but not limited to tidal flats, sand bars, shallow banks, and lands waterward of the ordinary or mean high water line, under navigable fresh and salt waters to which the State of Florida acquired title on March 3, 1845 by virtue of statehood, and which have not been heretofore conveyed or alienated.

Rulemaking Authority 267.031(1) FS. Law Implemented 267.031(2), (5)(i), (k), (o), 267.061(1) FS. History–New 4-13-87, Amended 7-20-09.

They consider "historic" as being items 50 years old or more.  To me that is absolutely absurd.  I use items that I have owned longer than that.

Besides state parks, state lands includes submerged land in all navigable waterways.


Some archaeologists consider treasure hunting (often considered to include metal detecting) to be almost anything done to any item that is at least fifty years old by anyone who is not one of them.   As is usually the case, the article leaves out a lot of important considerations.

The arguments against treasure hunting did not take into account the harsh nature of beaches and shallow water sites.  As you know, items don't conserve well in that environment.  Yes, there are some items that make it into cracks, crevices or remain under protective sand for long periods of time and hold up well even in very harsh salt water environments, but many, and perhaps most, do not, All are subject to possible harm or destruction and loss.  I've seen coins bent in half by being caught between rocks in the shifting surf zone.  My point is that time is not always a friend, especially in those environments, and many items will definitely be damaged or lost if they are not recovered. before it is too late.

As was demonstrated and admitted in the following linked article on the S.S. Georgia, not all salvaged items have any real value in terms of adding to our knowledge.  There were items that "they wanted," as well as others that they reburied. (

My estimate is that very few items add much if anything, no matter how well preserved, to our knowledge base.  There has been enough salvaged and dug up to this point that everybody knows that treasure ships carried coins, what kind and where they came from, etc. etc.  It is a true rarity that actually adds new information.  More real information is added by detailed research on items that have already been found.  Take for example the excellent in-depth research done by Laura Strolia on the heart shaped cobs.

It is true that you never know when that one truly unique and revealing item might pop up, but you must admit it is very rare, and many of those discoveries are made by the public.  The thing to do is to inform the public and make it easy for them to report anything that might be significant.  

A few years ago Richard Hulbert of the Florida Museum of Natural History attended a conference on Vero Man (based upon a huge contribution by a local non-professional) identified fossils brought in by attendees.  That is an excellent method for connecting the public with the professionals.  I applaud Dr. Hulbert for that.

It is always said that the purpose is to protect and preserve our history for the public.  The public who funds so much of the archaeology, is not only seldom involved, but efforts are actually made to keep them uninformed.  Sites are kept secret, and most artifacts are not easy to access. 

As I've shown by polls conducted in this blog, more people have visited the privately owned Fisher museums than have seen the Florida collections.  Public auctions also provides a way that we can see many artifacts.

The challenge for archaeology is to involve and educate the public, but first they'll need to get their paranoia and suspicion of the public under control.


Happy hunting,