Friday, 14 August 2009

Digging the Dirt on the Looting in Blanding

The Utah "Action Cerberus" (Blanding) case now being widely reported in the US press is in effect the first to penetrate in any depth the shady world of the trafficking, of archaeological artefacts dug up on US soil. Authorities admit that they could not make a case this large without someone on the inside. It required the co-operation of a well-connected artifacts dealer-turned-undercover operative. This "Source" (still unnamed) worked for the federal authorities over a period of two and a half years (for which we learn they received a payment $224,000 for the undercover work) and was equipped to provide federal agents with wireless video feeds from the homes and shops where he acquired artefacts from those that had excavated them and were now trying to sell them. In these stingsthe Source spent more than $335,000 on various ancient items such as jars and bowls, stone pipes, sandals, pendants, necklaces.

The information he gathered
gives a rare insider's view of the illegal artifacts trade, recording a parade of suspects as they described their methods in astonishing frankness. They discussed digging in camouflage or by moonlight, knowing when a park ranger takes his days off, and looting in spring when the dirt softens up and before the heat of summer.One suspect said he scouted for ruins in a fly-over and followed up with a 10-mile hike. Another dug fresh holes on his property in case "someone comes asking" about where his artifacts came from, the documents say. Yet another boasted that in a 1986 raid, federal agents took 32 of his pots but overlooked a hidden safe and the most damning evidence — a ledger of a lifetime of trading that named people he dealt with. At another point, the informant watched a suspect dig up an ancient burial site and kicked out a skull on the third shovelful [...]. Practically every defendant said in secret recordings that the objects they acquired had been illegally taken from ruins on government or tribal lands across Arizona, New Mexico, Utah and Colorado.
Paul Foy and Mike Stark, More arrests are likely in artifact-looting case, Deseret News, Aug. 5, 2009.

No comments:

Creative Commons License
Ten utwór jest dostępny na licencji Creative Commons Uznanie autorstwa-Bez utworów zależnych 3.0 Unported.