Michael Peltier: State, salvers at odds over water treasures

By Michael Peltier


Private treasure hunters are squaring off with state historic officials over a new proposed set of rules to govern the salvaging of sunken ships and the financial and historic troves they bear.

At a workshop held last week at the state museum and archives, salvers, academic archaeologists and rule makers expressed dramatically different concerns over a proposed set of rules that would place tougher restrictions on the recovery of artifacts from historic shipwrecks.

Backers of the proposed changes say they would enhance the protection of cultural artifacts in state waters, bringing Florida into compliance with other states and foreign countries that have drastically limited or eliminated the private excavation of historic underwater sites.

“It is wrong and it has always been wrong,” said William Lees, an archaeologist at the University of West Florida, echoing scores of other researchers who sent letters and e-mails.

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FLORIDA University of West Florida Michael Peltier William Lees