In the accompanying column, we explore the possibility of selling dumps, the piles of excavated earth that every dig produces, to people willing to re-excavate them to see if they contain overlooked treasures, as some antiquities collectors claim. The real danger in this suggestion is that the treasure will be found.

Suppose that a seal worth $10,000 on the market is found in the dump. Further suppose that the collector paid $5,000 for the dump and spent an additional $5,000 in excavation costs. He’s happy. He has spent $10,000 and obtained a seal worth $10,000.

But the Antiquities Authority isn’t because the collector now owns the seal.

So why doesn’t the Antiquities Authority excavate the next dump? The answer is simple: It doesn’t have the money.

Suppose the Antiquities Authority spends $5,000 excavating the same dump and finds the same $10,000 seal. Is it riding the gravy train? No. It gives the seal to the museum for nothing and suffers a loss of $5,000. It can’t afford to do this, certainly not on a large scale.

So the dump remains unexcavated. And the artifacts remain unfound. Everyone is happy.