Thursday, June 11, 2009

Looters Charged with Looting--what a concept

Indictments have been issued against 24 people accused of looting Native American sites on public land (story in the Los Angeles Times)


The crimes took place in the Four Corners area, and many of the folks indicted live in Blanding, Utah (pictured at right, and the picture is from But looting seems to go on everywhere in America. As the Times story says, "Archaeologists, Native American groups, and preservationists have long argued that the government has not moved aggressively enough to stamp out the plundering of artifacts." Soooo true. Often, the only steps taken (because no money has been allocated to do more) is to keep sites kinda secret, so that looters won't sneak in.

This time, though, investigators put a mic on an antiques dealer and--after two years--were able to catch the brigands who were allegedly fencing goodies, including a rug made with turkey feathers.

The article describes how the University of Utah used to pay people to bring in arrowheads and pots--up to the 1920s. That was 80+ years ago, but the sense I get from this story is that some experts blame the government for not convincing the public in this area that looting damages archaeological sites.

I don't buy that. While greed and stupidity go hand in hand, no one is so ignorant as to think that digging up a grave isn't doing damage. No one supposes that desecrating a grave is a good thing, do they? There's even a Wikipedia entry on Looting!

These jerks sneak around and work at night because they know they're breaking the law. The affidavits show that the thieves knew the authorities were after them.

Archaeologists estimate that 90% of the 20,000 archaeological sites in that area--San Juan County--have been looted. The criminals can get up to ten years in prison.

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