American Treasures: Two Archaeologists Host a Discovery Channel Series

Kirk French from Pen State department of Anthropology and Jason De Leon, from the university of Michigan star in a Discovery Channel 10-episode series. In a interview to centerdaily.com we learn that “’Artifact or Fiction’ was the original name of the show, but just weeks before the show’s air date, The Discovery Channel changed it to ‘American Treasures,’ much to the dismay of French and De Leon…’It’s very offensive in the archaeology world to refer to artifacts as treasure. We hope our colleagues understand the name change and realize that we fought against it,’ French said.”

The show’s website invites us to

take a historical road trip across the country with AMERICAN TREASURES every Tuesday at 10 p.m. E/P” and informs us that “Archaeology professors, Dr. Jason De León and Dr. Kirk French often receive inquiries from everyday Americans who think they possess items that may have historical significance. Jason and Kirk, friends who met during grad school, hit the road during their school break to investigate and examine these unique artifacts for AMERICAN TREASURES.

French and De León travel across the country in their trusty pickup truck to conduct hands-on research into each item, consulting with experts and historians to learn more about not only the item itself, but its historical and cultural context: what it is, where it came from, who made it, and why. On occasion, they also meet up with fellow archaeologists to learn more about important scientific research going on across America.

Artifacts investigated for AMERICAN TREASURES include a Colt revolver claimed to have belonged to famed outlaw John Wesley Hardin, a steam whistle claimed to have been salvaged from Pearl Harbor, a brass trumpet thought to be Louis Armstrong’s, and a safe thought to hold business papers of Al Capone… Explains De León, “As a professor, I constantly remind my students that ‘culture’ isn’t just something that you read about in textbooks or have to travel to distant lands to find. AMERICAN TREASURES is about exploring and understanding different aspects of American culture through people, their stories, and through artifacts.”

“A common misconception the public has of archaeologists is that we look for treasure; that someday, if we’re lucky, we’ll strike it rich,” says French. “Archaeologists do not look for treasure and we do not place monetary value on artifacts. AMERICAN TREASURES gives us the opportunity to set the record straight and to say, ‘No one owns history, it belongs to all of us; it’s our American past.”

Trailers can be watched here

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