Association of Professional Archaeologists of New Brunswick Ltd. – Association des Archéologues Professionnels du Nouveau-Brunswick Ltée.
527 Dundonald Street – Suite 126
Fredericton, NB E3B 1X5
July 15, 2019
It has come to the attention of the Board of the Association of Professional Archaeologists of New Brunswick – Association des Archéologues Professionnels du Nouveau-Brunswick (APANB-AAPNB) that CBC New Brunswick recently published a story about the activities of two New Brunswick “Treasure Buddies” metal detecting and collecting artifacts and objects of historical and archaeological nature (https://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/new-brunswick/treasure-buddies-saint-john-1.5209578?fbclid=IwAR3PM50hH_bdoihRJDErJ--fszOjQOK4akS08Wbe_PusY7IL2Wbg6zcBzig).
While we understand that there is tremendous public interest in New Brunswick’s material culture and strongly support efforts to include the public in archaeological research, the approach outlined in the CBC raises serious legal and ethical concerns. First, while the artifacts shown in the article may appear to be “treasure” to the lay public, many of them are archaeological in nature, and therefore are property of the Province/Crown, or, for those artifacts of Indigenous origin, held by the Crown in trust for Indigenous descendent communities.
We applaud the sentiment that Mr. Osborne and Mr. Goguen express when they suggest that they would provide artifacts older than 500 years to the New Brunswick Museum; however, any artifact scatter (10+ artifacts in 2m x 2m area) older than 150 years, any historic feature (foundation, wharf, etc.) over 100 years old, any object related to the military history of New Brunswick, and any pre-1783 or pre-Contact artifact or feature are legally already property of the Crown, or property held in trust under provisions of the
Heritage Conservation Act. Removing them without the appropriate training and methods can destroy valuable historical and contextual information, and damage artifacts themselves. Indeed, even trained historical archaeologists often find assigning ages to metal artifacts in the field challenging, and removing unthreatened artifacts from the ground should be accompanied by professional curation. In recognition of these concerns, any survey or excavation of archaeological sites, including via metal detecting, requires an Archaeological Field Research Permit as outlined in the “Guidelines and Procedures for Conducting Professional Archaeological Assessments in New Brunswick” published by the New Brunswick Archaeological Services Branch.
We are concerned that the CBC gives the impression of condoning activities deemed illegal under the Heritage Conservation Act, most specifically Sections 9 and 11, and in doing so may promote the kind of behaviours that archaeologists and heritage professionals seek to educate the public about and dissuade. While metal detecting in and of itself is not illegal, discovering archaeological resources and not reporting them is. Further, these activities, as described, are classified under Section 90 as Class F (violations of Section 9) and Class J (violations of Section 11) offences, the latter of which carries steep fines and, potentially, incarceration for individuals involved.
The APANB-AAPNB requests that CBC New Brunswick immediately publish a follow- up story which educates the public about the harm these kinds of activities can do to the significant archaeological heritage in our Province. We hope that this can become an opportunity to encourage stewardship of archaeological resources in New Brunswick.
The Board of Directors, APANB-AAPNB
Darcy Dignam, MA, RPA (President)
Gabe Hrynick, PhD, RPA (Vice-President)
Sara Beanlands, MA (Secretary)
Trevor Dow, BA Hons. (Treasurer)
David Black, PhD (Board Member)
Ken Holyoke, MA, RPA (Board Member)