Absolutely not, unless the landowner gives you permission.
And if the landowner is the government, you do not have permission! It is always illegal to take artifacts of any kind—ancient or more recent—from public lands.
Federal and state laws protect archaeological sites from damage. If you move an artifact from its context, it becomes basically meaningless. The story it could have told it lost.
You can best do that by leaving it in place and letting professional archaeologists study the site.
They may excavate it and carefully study the seeds, bones, stones, pottery pieces, basket fragments, and other artifacts. They’ll look at the layers of dirt and the positions of each artifact they find.
Their detailed report will put the artifact you found in context—we will know about the people who lived there and how they lived.
Now there is a real gift to all of us!
Remember, Hollywood doesn’t care about science! Hollywood invented this guy in order to make a pile of money. Indiana Jones is not so much an archaeologist as a treasure-hunter.
Unfortunately, early archaeologists sometimes did more artifact collecting than actual science. But modern archaeologists aren’t seeking spectacular museum pieces, they’re seeking priceless knowledge.
Actually, yes they are. Archaeologists know how to look at patterns of runoff and erosion and can even learn from an arrowhead—or “point”—in a dry streambed.
Thousands of points have been stolen from public lands. If they were still in place, archaeologists would know more about where hunters lived or hunted and how they obtained food.
The federal government and the State of Utah vigorously prosecute looters and vandals. These criminals face jail time and/or large fines.
Explain to him why it matters so much that people don’t collect artifacts. One of the most effective things you can do is educate yourself and others.
Same thing—politely explain how their actions are damaging an irreplaceable treasure.
No! Serious looters are sometimes dangerous. Instead, get their license plate number and report them right away to a ranger, the landowner, or the State Archaeologist’s Office (that’s us). Report anyone who is intentionally damaging rock art or sites in any way.
We’ll tell you here.