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Comments are grouped by article. All comments are from students in Dr. Ken Tankersley's Introduction to Archaeology class at Kent State Univesity. (posted as received)

The Mother of Indiana Jones by Forrest Fenn

Winter (2001)

Virginia Dressler

Regardless of whether a project is privately funded or federally funded or not, the point of research, excavation, or any pursuit of knowledge, should be to educate all. A museum is based on certain principals; to preserve, protect, display and educate for the public. Each museum has its own unique mission statement. It seems Dr. Watkins would prefer to put all findings and artifacts into the hands of museums and out of private collectors and scholars.

For one, museums only have the capability to display a fraction of their collection. The proper care and storage of these materials is a concern for practically every museum today. Granted, a private collector may never show his/her collection in their lifetime, although commonly entire collections are eventually donated to museums. (The Kent State University Museum, for example, was started from the collection and donation of two individuals, Rogers and Silverstein).

The idea behind the museum originated with private collectors. In Paris, the Louvre in Paris began as the private collection of the royal family. Over the centuries, this collection grew and eventually the enormous museum it is today, ranging from precious jewelry to foreign artifacts to artwork. All in all, in the perfect world perhaps the publicly funded museum would be ideal. Without private funding and collectors, many fields would not be where they are at today.

Elizabeth Remmel
Complaint vs. Information; regarding Mother of Indiana Jones

Upon reading the article entitled Mother of Indiana Jones, I was happily surprised by the candor of the author to distribute her thoughts to "fourteen year olds everywhere." He claimed that all of the true archaeologists have a better than thou attitude thus causing them to not want to distribute their knowledge to the public. Perhaps this is true in the case concerning Dr. Watkins, but I believe that many of them are adamant in spreading the word of America's past to everyone. Would universities promote courses on archaeology by unaccredited professors or publishing companies sell research novels about excavations with out knowledge of the author's background? The archaeologists must want people to learn or there would not be so many professors, and they clearly are not in it for the money. I think the author could have given some credit to some educated archaeologists, whose aim isn't to keep secret the lore behind the world's beginnings, otherwise he may have some large enemies besides Watkins after this article.

The author's digging for research on this article itself was impressive, especially the information on Eli Lilly which directly contradicted Dr. Watkins' ideals. It seems in every field there are people that find themselves superior to the laymen, the author took a stance for the everyday adventure-movie watcher against a high nosed doctor. I only hope that his defense did not further separate the PhDs of the world from the everyday man. This article was deviantly informative, especially concerning past notable archaeologists and current misfortunes of treasures, by the US government.

The point was clearly stated that a man in a glass house shouldn't throw stones: Dr. Watkins should not have complained about a private untrained collector organizing a intellectual conference when he is paid by the same type of person. Fenn's research definitely helped to give a base for complaints but I wish the two could have been separated more, complaint vs. information.

(Fall 2000)

Matthew Ferrini
Response to “The Mother of Indiana Jones”

Despite a title that has little or nothing to do with the topics represented in the article, Mr. Fenn’s argument is important to consider in this day and age. There has always been tension in the field of archaeology revolving around the topic of private collectors and amateur archeologists having a place in the field versus professional archaeologists. This article examines much of this tension some of which is brought about by a Mr. Joe Watkins who questions whether of not he should have attended the archaeology conference “Clovis and Beyond” due to it being held by an amateur archaeologist, Mr. Forrest Fenn. I found Mr. Watkins comments to be outlandish and hypocritical after learning from Mr. Fenn’s article that Mr.Watkins listed university for the conference was Indiana. Indiana University wouldn’t have an archaeology department much less a Joe Watkins if it weren’t for a private, amateur collector by the name of Eli Lilly, who made serious donations of money and objects throughout the course of his life. The article makes the point that without private donations from collectors like Mr. Lilly the future of archaeology looks grim. Furthermore government led archaeology excavations usually result in a mess of unpublished rubble that has little significance for the modern world. In my opinion, private collectors play a significant role in the maintenance of archeology. Without their support, everyone from museums to universities would be at a loss.

Jim R. Cannonie

I read “The Mother of Indiana Jones,” and found it to be quite interesting. I found it interesting because many of the archaeologists “bad mouthing” private collectors, are somehow connected to a private collector themselves. Eli Lilly is an example of this. Lilly, being a private collector, funded many archaeological related subjects, yet actual educated archaeologists would not mention him. I believe that there is no problem with being a private collector. The public should be allowed to view the artifacts that are being discovered in museums and with private collectors. Without private collectors, there would be no archaeologists. There is nothing to back me up, but I would think that when a person gets interested in archaeology, it is because the once collected them. I’m sure that if an ordinary person was to find a dozen or so arrow heads, that they would not collect them. I find it hard to believe that private collectors are looked down upon. I can see that if the private collectors where looters, that would be a different story. I see no reason why a person should not be allowed to collect artifacts.

The article also talked about certain sites being protected. I believe that if the site is of significant value, than it should be protected, but however, if it is a site that is privately owned, then I’m not sure what should happen. The article talked about the right of ownership, but I have no idea on what the laws are, so I cannot comment on that.

Private collectors should be allowed to collect artifacts and show them. If it wasn’t for collectors, who knows where archaeology might be.

Mark Wicks
The Mother of Indiana Jones - A Response

Forrest Fenn is a collector and avocational archaeologist, as such she does not have formal training in archaeology and obtains archaeological objects for private collections. To some archaeologist this is a sore point. Some see archaeology as a field in that should be run by people who have had a formal education in this area. This is not an unprecedented viewpoint, other fields hold it as well and in some cases the government makes it illegal to practice in a field without education. However such harsh restrictions are usually preserved for fields such amedicine where someones well-being can be greatly harmed, even resulting in death. Other fields have no such restrictions and can even be populated with many people who have no formal education. Computer programming is an example of such an area. So the question is should archaeology be restricted to archaeologists or should avocational archaeologists be valued members of the archaeological community as well.

I would say yes. This is not to say archaeology is not an important area of study. It helps us to learn about our past and where we come from and this is indeed valuable. However I do not see archaeology as something that is so important that only formally educated professionals should be involved. As demonstrated by Forrest Fenn's article(1) people without any formal education have mad valuable contributions to the field of archaeology. These people had a great interest in archaeology and studied it on their own. They had a passion for archaeology even though they were not educated in it. Some, such as Eli Lilly(1) even used their own wealth to allow others after them to learn about archaeology and have funding for research. If someone has an interest in archaeology and can make a valuable contribution to the field, even without a university degree, then they should be allowed to do. Both those who are involved in archaeology as an interest and those who build their careers around archaeology should be able to work together toward a common goal. If they do no then important information could go unheeded and be no good to any part of society.

(1)Fenn, Forrest (2000). The Mother of Indiana Jones. Ohio Archaeologist, Summer 2000. Located at "Friends of America's Past", http://www.freindsofpast.prg/00/forum-000610.html.

Dale Method

After reading the article "The Mother Of Indiana Jones" I would have to side with collectors. I do not see why places like universities and museums have a high and mighty attitude to wear the pieces that are uncovered will go. If the collectors are out there and have the cash, why not take it. The archaeologists make a point that the pieces belong to the world and must be shared by everyone. First look at it this way, if you collect baseball cards, for example, and you have a rare card from the forties. Now since that is an object of this time period, does that mean it also belongs to everyone? You found it, or paid someone to look for it for you. Is it still yours or does it belong to the world? Lets you go looking for the card yourself and other "professional card finders" get mad at you for trying to find it yourself as an amateur, would you stop looking? It is this attitude the university and museum archeologists have that I do not like. Why should they be the ones that decide their fate? True they did find the object, but they could drop their pretentiousness and let the collector have a break, a collector's market mind you that is growing rapidly, and offer a sale. Its not going to hurt a museum that only a fraction of people will ever visit to have one less trinket.

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