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Know the West

How to return a pot


Imagine discovering a pot tucked inside an ancient ruin on a hike. That'd really look nice on my mantel, you think, and grab it. Later, you learn that collecting artifacts from public lands is not only illegal, it permanently destroys the object's original context and meaning -- the information that helps archaeologists piece together the larger story of how Native Americans lived on the land. See how BLM-ers recommend righting the wrong anonymously:

1. Let it be! Of course, the first step is NOT to take anything. But if it's too late, public-lands agencies occasionally host amnesty periods when artifacts can be donated, no questions asked.

2. Location, Location, Location It's important to let archaeologists know where you found the object. A good rule(r) of thumb? Accuracy counts to 1 cm. DON'T: "South of town." DO: "Sixty feet southwest of lone pinon tree on east-facing slope, two miles south of highway mile-marker 143."

3. The Drop Find the address of the public-lands office that administers the place where you found the object (i.e. national park, BLM regional office), carefully bubble-wrap it, package and ship. 

By Adam Petry, an HCN contributor.