Relic hunters burn history's pages (US/Civil War)





The proud new owner of the Confederate belt plate embossed with an eagle held out his treasure on his dirt-caked palm.

A man with a long beard and flannel shirt whistled low. "That's $12,000 right there."

It was the prize find of a three-day relic hunt called Diggin' in Virginia, one of a new breed of organized digs in the history-rich state. More than 200 relic hunters hauled metal detectors up and down the hills of a Culpeper County farm one weekend this spring. They'd paid a couple of hundred bucks each.

"You pull a Minie ball out of the ground, and the first thing that strikes you: The last hands that touched this were the hands of a Civil War soldier,"dig participant Steve Silvia said of a Civil War-era bullet. "It's about as close as you can get to stepping back in time."

But to alarmed archaeologists, these "safari" digs - though legal - represent the wholesale destruction of the past.


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