Photo by John Rawlston /Times Free Press
by Ben Benton
Civil War artifacts in the last century have gone from common leftovers of yesteryear to historic relics subject to federal laws that can land unauthorized history hunters behind bars.
As laws have changed, so have people's perceptions, and some history buffs believe reality television shows like "American Digger" could be fueling a shift from responsible archaeology to profit-seeking treasure hunting.
Two Tennessee men recently were sentenced to 30 months in federal prison for illegally excavating and collecting artifacts from sites in Marion and Hardin counties in Tennessee and in Jackson County, Ala.
Dr. Anthony Hodges, president of Friends of the Chickamauga & Chattanooga National Military Park and a local Civil War collector, has as many relics and images from the conflict as some museums.
Hodges said he hasn't been an active relic hunter for 20 years but he defends relic hunting on private land. Those artifacts might be lost to time if not for the people with metal detectors who ask landowners for permission to look, he said.
"I'm not down on relic hunters. In fact, I'll say a good portion — and perhaps all — of what we know about Civil War artifacts themselves come from the relic hunters. They're the ones who write the books," he said. "The academics don't share that information.
"That said, I'm a law-abiding guy," Hodges said. "I've never dug on national park property, and if anybody's caught doing it they need to be prosecuted."
PANAMA CITY, PANAMA: Although Panama ratified a 2003 convention against the commercial exploitation and looting of wrecks, the plundering of a sunken Spanish galleon continues.
The National Institute of Culture (INAC) Heritage Director Wilhelm Franqueza has reported that an official Investigation of Marinas del Istmo, S.A., a company exploring The San Jose, was found in a mall with a suitcase full of coins from the vessel. He said that although the company has a valid concession, it must inform the authorities when it removes any treasure. "There are regulations that must be followed" he said.
The authorities have seized some 3000 colonial coins and they are in the custody of the National Customs National Authority while an investigation is underway.
When Eric Schmitt's metal detector got a hit about 15 feet below the ocean's surface, he didn't think much of it.
Most of the time, the metal detectors uncover beer cans and lead fishing weights. But this time was different. This time, the treasure-hunter from Sanford struck gold, and a lot of it.
Schmitt and his family found 52 gold coins worth more than $1 million. The star of the haul was an extremely rare coin known as a "Tricentennial Royal" minted in 1715. It had been underwater since a fleet of Spanish ships foundered during a hurricane along Florida's Treasure Coast 300 years ago, Schmitt said.
"These things were known as presentation pieces not meant to be circulated as currency," Schmitt said.
That coin alone is worth about $500,000, according to Schmitt.
And according to Brent Brisben, co-founder of 1715 Fleet — Queens Jewels LLC, the company that owns the rights to dive at the wreckage site where the gold was found, the coin's value comes from the fact that it is in nearly perfect condition and is a rarity.
MADRID SPAIN; The first globalization occurred in the sixteenth century and was the work of Spanish and Portuguese sailors, who opened and maintained the first trade routes that had traveled around the world. From all we know of that time left the keys that have to do with precisely the machines that made possible that globalization effort, held for more than three centuries. No ships there would be Hispanic, yet our country has seriously neglected the need to know this history.
The remains of the old galleons, more accessible technology, explain better than any other item details birth of our world view , which was the first global, which is made to be as our nation and our culture. Each boat is a time capsule, precious and sealed, waiting for scientists to extract all the information stored.
However, the governance model of underwater archaeology did not want to hear any talk about that story. By inaction and neglect, what we have left to the treasure hunters industry, destroying fields and raises the modern version of the black legend fueled by our dark pessimism.
BY ADAM LINHARDT Citizen Staff
A shipwreck salvor has claimed to have found a wrecked sailing vessel somewhere off the Middle Keys, but as is usual with such cases, specifics about what treasures it may hold and from what year in history it hails remains shrouded in secrecy.
A company called EPW Salvage, Inc., owned by Edward Peter Worthington Jr., filed paperwork in federal court Wednesday asking U.S. District Court Judge Jose E. Martinez to grant him sole title to the unidentified vessel.
Martinez had not responded as of Friday.
Worthington is a commercial fisherman, said his lawyer, Hugh Morgan of Key West.
Morgan declined to say what has been recovered thus far from the wreck, but added the water is shallow enough to be searched by scuba divers. Morgan did not know what year the vessel wrecked, he said. Latitude and longitude coordinates included on court records indicate the wreck is somewhere off Duck Key in Florida state waters.
“A portion of the wreck is currently protruding the sea floor in such a manner that it presents a hazard to navigation endangering the life and property of vessels navigating over the surface of the site,” court records state. EPW Salvage,
Should EPW Salvage make a substantial find, that location could prove to be a legal conundrum for the company. The state of Florida could fight the company for a percentage of the loot. Other government organizations such as the Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary could argue salvage would disrupt the ecosystem and try to stop salvage operations.
But those two points remain speculative. Thus far, no other group or government has challenged EPW Salvage, Inc. on the wreck.
“Since the time of the discovery, the plaintiff has not disturbed the wreck site and shall not do so unless and until it receives license by the state,” according to court records.
EPW Salvage, Inc. also stated that it “will diligently seek state of Florida’s consent to salvage the vessel for the purpose of removing the said obstruction to navigation and relics in an archaeologically proper manner and to preserve the same accordingly.”
Meanwhile in a separate, unrelated case, U.S. Senior Judge James Lawrence King granted the rights in October to Kahar, LLC after the company told the court that no one else had come forward to lay claim to a mystery wreck of an unidentified vessel discovered in 2012 in international waters off Key West, according to court records.
A relic recovered from the ship indicates that the ship is “an ancient sailing vessel,” according to court documents.
Morgan is the attorney in that case as well. He reported no recent news on that wreck.
“The salvage continues,” Morgan said.
Courtesy: Keys News
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Scanning sonar from a scientific expedition has revealed the remains of a previously unknown shipwreck more than a mile deep off the North Carolina coast. Artifacts on the wreck indicate it might date to the American Revolution.
Marine scientists from Duke University, North Carolina State University and the University of Oregon discovered the wreck on July 12 during a research expedition aboard the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution (WHOI) research ship Atlantis.
They spotted the wreck while using WHOI’s robotic autonomous underwater vehicle (AUV) Sentry and the manned submersible Alvin. The team had been searching for a mooring that was deployed on a previous research trip in the area in 2012.
Among the artifacts discovered amid the shipwreck’s broken remains are an iron chain, a pile of wooden ship timbers, red bricks (possibly from the ship cook’s hearth), glass bottles, an unglazed pottery jug, a metal compass, and another navigational instrument that might be an octant or sextant.
The dream of every treasure-hunter came true for Florian Bautsch last October when he found 217 Nazi-era gold coins in Lüneburg, the Süddeutsche Zeitung (SZ) reported on Tuesday.
Bausch – a certified metal detectorist – was exploring old burial mounds in the town south of Hamburg when he stumbled across the first gold piece.
After a further search under the foliage uncovered nine more coins, Bautsch did a survey of the area and got in touch with local archaeologists.
A two-week long excavation followed, unearthing a further 207 gold coins – with a material worth estimated at around $50,000.
Archaeologists also found remnants of pasteboard with two seals bearing the swastika, imperial eagle and the stamp: "Reichsbank Berlin 244".
The find was exhibited in Lüneburg Museum on Tuesday – and caused considerable excitement among experts, according to Lüneburg archaeologist Edgar Ring.
Despite the value of the coins coming to $50,000, Bautsch is only set to receive the relatively small sum of $3,000 as his finder's reward – but explained his honesty by saying that the most important thing for him was furthering scientific knowledge.
Jaramillo Ohigginis Arcia July 9, 2015
PANAMA CITY, PANAMA The technicians of the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO, are already in the country of Panama to address the issue of the galleon San Jose with officials of the National Institute of Culture (INAC) .
This visit comes after the Convention on the Protection of Underwater Cultural Heritage by UNESCO would respond to a request he made last April INAC.
The Spanish ship sank in the archipelago of Las Perlas in the seventeenth century, but since 2003 the ship is covered by a contract of commercial exploitation by the company Marine Research Isthmus.
Openness Wilhelm, director of Heritage of INAC indicated that meetings with technicians began yesterday and will last until Friday morning.
According to the official, in Panama there are three representatives of the international organization, who evaluated the actions carried out during the work of identification, extraction and marketing of objects from the galleon.
The team also proposes a management plan for the conservation of the galleon and property from foundering.
Alfredo Castillero historians say the galleon San Jose must be recovered by the State, since it saves a lot of history. "It was irresponsible to give this concession, as these findings are of great importance," he said.
While Gassan Salama, one of the company representatives stressed that UNESCO is welcome provided it respects the Panamanian standards. "There is a contract and we have met the same at all times," he said.
This commercial firm has a concession from 2003, which states that 35% of the findings converts to the State and the rest to them.
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By Colin Perkel
The Canadian Press
TORONTO – Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist Paul Watson said Wednesday that he quit the country’s largest newspaper so he could get the truth out about last year’s successful search for Sir John Franklin’s lost ships in the Canadian Arctic.
In a blog post, Watson said he submitted his resignation at a meeting Tuesday in Vancouver with Toronto Star editors over “the newspaper’s refusal to publish a story of significant public interest,” an allegation the Star denied.
Watson said resigning was the only way he could resume that reporting and fulfil his responsibilities as a journalist.
“My reporting is an attempt to give voice to federal civil servants and others involved in the gruelling, High Arctic search for British Royal Navy explorer Sir John Franklin’s lost ships, HMS Erebus and HMS Terror,” Watson wrote.
“For months, these individuals have been angry at what they consider distorted and inaccurate accounts of last fall’s historic discovery of Erebus in the frigid waters of eastern Queen Maud Gulf.”
A “peripheral” member of the expedition, who he said has access to Prime Minister Stephen Harper’s office as well as editors at the Star, was the source of those accounts, he alleged.
Watson did not respond immediately to a request for comment. However, he told the website Canadaland that the Star ordered him six weeks ago to stop reporting on the story — which he called a “gag order.”
A shipwreck found here is the second confirmed vessel from a 13th century Mongolian fleet that foundered in a typhoon in a failed attempt to invade Japan, researchers said July 2.
Archaeologists from the University of the Ryukyus and the Matsuura city board of education determined that the wreck was a part of the Mongolian invasion fleet partly based on its structure. Chinese ceramic wares dating from the 12th to 13th centuries were discovered in and around the wreck, backing up their conclusion, they said. The research team, which is surveying around the Takashima Kozaki underwater archaeological site, discovered the shipwreck last autumn around 200 meters off the southern coast of Takashima island and 15 meters below the surface. The remains of the ship measure 12 meters long and maximum 3 meters wide. The wreck was lying on the seabed apparently with its bow pointing southward.
- Spain backs inclusion of galleon trade route to World Heritage List
- Archaeologist arrested for pilfering digs
- Treasure hunter keeps waters roiling with new finds, new claims
- The Mystery of the Antikythera Shipwreck Further Unfolds
- Archaeologists identify sunken 1681 Spanish shipwreck off Panamanian coast
- Shipwreck company suing state over 'treasure' linked to Blackbeard: $14M in contract dispute
- INAC requests support for UNESCO
- Tampa treasure hunter Odyssey Marine gives up control to Mexican firm