According to the Florida Historical Resources Act (Ch. 267 of the Florida Statutes), historical and archaeological sites and artifacts located on State-owned lands, including submerged lands, belong to the people of Florida. Excavating, disturbing, or collecting is prohibited in order to protect information about our State's past.

Frequently Asked Questions about Collecting from State Lands:

  1. What is the big problem with collecting artifacts? Why can't a kid just pick up an arrowhead?
  2. The problem isn't kids picking up arrowheads - that's how a lot of people get interested in archaeology! The problem is that these objects are a part of our common past and belong to everyone, not just to people who want to take them. Just like sea oats belong to everyone and provide a vital role for our beaches and so are protected by law, artifacts belong to everyone and provide vital information about our heritage and so are protected by law.

  3. But people can get permits and licenses to hunt deer and other animals on state lands - why not a permit to hunt artifacts?
  4. The difference is deer grow back, artifacts don't. Also, the state doesn't give permits to hunt Florida panthers - they are endangered, just like archaeological remains are.

  5. So if I find an artifact anywhere in Florida and pick it up, I can go to jail?
  6. Not at all! Collecting from private property is certainly allowed - all you need is permission of the property owner. Some city and county lands can be collected from, although many do have archaeological protection ordinances so people should make sure they find out the rules and get permission. State and federal lands, however, have these laws in place to protect our archaeological heritage for the benefit of everyone. Also, simply picking up an arrowhead from state lands won't get you sent to jail, although the park ranger or FWCC officer likely will ask you to leave it at the park or turn it in. The intentional looting of archaeological sites on state lands does, however, get people in big trouble!

  7. But what about that big bust I heard about a couple of years ago? A bunch of those people were fined or sentenced!
  8. Yes, they were! Those weren’t people who were simply strolling through the state forest and happened upon an arrowhead or two. After a multi-year investigation, the FWCC built cases against individuals suspected of illegally excavating and taking artifacts from state lands, destroying archaeological sites, including Native American graves, in the process and then selling those items for sometimes huge personal gain. The information lost and the artifacts stolen – which by law belong to the people of Florida – were astounding. The perpetrators knew they were breaking the law and chose to continue their illegal activities.

  9. But if permit holders were required to turn in information on what they found, wouldn't that be ok?
  10. The problem is that it's been tried before in Florida and failed - the Isolated Finds program was implemented so that people could keep certain artifacts they found in Florida rivers and all they had to do was turn in information, and it was free! Very few IF reports were sent in, however, and the state discontinued IF due to wide-spread non-compliance among the river diver collecting community. Issuing permits would make tracking collectors easier for the state, but also would require additional staffing as well as additional law enforcement time, a cost which will ultimately be paid by tax payers. In order to pay for the program by charging for permits, each permit would cost hundreds of dollars, making them out of range for most citizens, which would defeat the purpose of a "citizen’s" permit.

  11. But don't you want citizens to help with archaeology?
  12. Absolutely! But proposed programs like Bill HB803/SB1054 or the "Citizens Archaeology Permit" are not helpful- there is nothing archaeological about simply collecting artifacts. Archaeology is not about collecting things - it's about what those "things" can tell us about the people who made and used them. Archaeologists care about past human behaviors and activities, and we learn about that through the objects people left behind. When those objects are collected willy-nilly and are removed from the surrounding landscape and other artifacts, we lose information. FPAN, the Florida Anthropological Society, and other organizations and academic programs provide many ways for citizens to assist and become involved in meaningful archaeological research that provides information about our past, not simply picking up random objects.

Links to More Information:

The issue of collecting from State lands seems to reappear often, under various names including "Isolated Finds," "Citizen Archaeology Permit," and most recently as proposed House Bill 803 (and the companion Senate Bill 1054). All of these are basically the same thing - some people want to collect and own or sell things that belong to all Floridians.

Latest Updates on HB803/SB1054:

  • Florida Association of Museums Statement on Isolated Finds Legislation (March 7, 2016)
  • Letters Regarding HB 803 and SB 1054 from the Advisory Council on Historic Preservation (February 25, 2016)
  • Resolution Adopted by the City of Pensacola Opposing HB803 and SB1054 (February 15, 2016)
  • Resolution Adopted by United South and Eastern Tribes, Inc. Opposing HB803 and SB1054 (February 11, 2016)
  • "St. Augustine officials say their voices were heard as 'citizen archaeology' bill stalls" (February 2016)
  • Letter to State Representatives from the Society for Historical Archaeology (SHA) in Opposition to HB803/SB1054 (January 2016)
  • Letter to State Representatives from the Advisory Council on Underwater Archaeology (ACUA) in Opposition to HB803/SB1054 (January 2016)
  • Video of live feed during Economic Development and Tourism Subcommittee, Florida House of Representatives meeting (January 19th, 2016)
  • Resolution Adopted by the City of St. Augustine Opposing HB803 and SB1054 (January 11, 2016)
  • FPAN Blog Posts:

  • FPAN Blog Post on the Proposed Program Described in HB803/SB1054
  • FPAN Blog Post on the Citizen Archaeology Permit (2013), Similar to the Program Described by HB803/SB1054
  • FPAN Blog Post on the Proposed Artifact Amnesty Program
  • FPAN Resources:

  • FPAN PDF Presentation on Artifact Amnesty Survey
  • "Archaeology in 30" podcast by FPAN: HB803 with Director Sarah Miller
  • Additional Resources:

  • Florida Division of Historical Resources Artifact Amnesty Feasibility Report
  • History and Result of the Abolished Isolated Finds Policy
  • "The Problem is the Antiquities Market" by Dr. Jim Dunbar, Archaeologist retired from the Florida Bureau of Archaeological Research
  • Related news articles and editorials:

  • Sacred Native American sites threatened by Florida bills in The Seminole Tribune (2016)
  • Florida archaeologists condemn proposed 'Citizen Archaeology' permit" from Forbes (2016)
  • "Citizen Dig Program Needs a Quick Burial" Editorial St. Augustine Record (2016)
  • Editorial Regarding Collecting Publishing in The Bradenton Times (2011)
  • Editorial Regarding Collecting Publishing in The Tampa Bay Times (2014)

  • FPAN encourages you to make an informed decision about this issue and to write to your State Representatives and Senators expressing your concerns.