Say that you are out walking and you come across something interesting on the ground. You pick it up and it’s obvious that it’s an arrowhead! What do you do? Most people would consider it a great find, put it in their pocket, and walk away.
But, wait a minute! Do you know that the artifact you found may be one of many artifacts comprising a small hunting camp that was occupied by a prehistoric group? Or it may be one of many thousands that are nearby and represent a large prehistoric occupation site. Usually a single artifact does not end up in a location totally by itself. Chances are that others are in the same vicinity. But that single artifact you found may help tell an important story about the people who lived or spent time where you are standing.
Knowing what to do once an artifact is found can make the difference between a meaningful discovery or just another “thing” to stash away in a shoebox. Here are some recommendations:
__Knowing who owns the property where the artifact is located is important. If you do not know, this information can be obtained before hand by visiting county tax assessor web sites. Land owners should be notified of any finds; ultimately, they have the right to decide whether to keep the artifact or allow the finder to keep it. Remember, always get permission from property owners before you walk fields for artifacts.
__Carry a local map and/or global positioning system device. Free GPS software is available for download on many cell phones. If you find an artifact while having these tools available to use, you are much more likely to have an accurate record of the location of your artifact. Memories can be sketchy; it is never a good idea to wait to make notes once you are home.
__Be cautious with your find and where you are. After recording your location, place something like a coin or dollar bill next to the artifact and take a photo of it exactly where you found it. You may even email the photo to any archeologists you know for identification and advice.
__Leaving a possible treasure behind goes against the instincts of most folks, but it is the most reasonable approach to take with a found artifact. The Maryland Historical Trust keeps a record of all archeological sites found in the state. This information is available to professional archeologists. The artifact you found may be part of a recorded archeological site and its removal will result in information lost. Always be aware of actions that may cause more harm than good.
__If you do like to collect and have a collection already, be sure to keep all your artifacts separated by where they were found. Do not mix them together! Keep good notes about where each collection was found; draw maps to the locations of your finds and take photos of artifacts for each site collection. Professional archeologists depend on you to help them locate sites and learn more about sites they find. You can provide a valuable service by sharing your information.
__Bring your artifact to a Monocacy Archeological Society meeting. Our members are knowledgeable and are anxious to be helpful. They can help you identify your artifact and provide advice on what to do with it. Do not feel intimidated!
__You may want to record your artifacts with the Maryland Historical Trust. They would be happy to help you complete the forms. Many archeological sites have been recorded by collectors/amateurs. Without these professionals would be hindered in their research.