Saturday, 27 November 2010

To catch a Looter in the US

Damian Huffer over on SAFE Corner (Forensics, looting, and the law: The view from Ohio) discusses a series of courses organized by Montana-based Martin McAllister in Wayne National Forest near Nelsonville, Ohio. Their aim is to provide archaeologists and law-enforcement officials/investigators from around the region, and from across the US, the tools, on-the-ground training, and 'forensic' perspective they need to investigate cases of prehistoric and historic site looting. The forest contains a variety of archaeological sites spanning 12,000 years of occupation, and including Hopewell-culture burial grounds. The Hopewell Culture National Historical Park in Chillicothe has lootings reported monthly. "Sadly, archaeology sites are being looted every day," said McAllister. Antiquity trafficking is among the largest illegal markets in the world, but only 50 to 100 cases of artifact theft and trafficking make it to U.S. courts each year. In the United States there is a huge black market.

During the course,
Mock 'crime-scenes' illustrating several illicit surface collection and excavation scenarios were set up and then utilized, most illustrating evidence for the looting of small, portable prehistoric artifacts such as arrowheads. Field training went hand-in-hand with workshops on the finer points of local and national laws that permit the arrest and trial of looters caught in the act - an outcome which happens far too infrequently, even in the US

Huffer concludes his presentation of the article: if any readers of this blog know about current workshops or classes in their area of the world that are comparable to this, I'd love to hear about them. I wonder whether anyone will point him to the series of courses organized by Britain's Portable Antiquities Scheme? No? That's probably because there have never been any organized as part of their "outreach" by that organization.


Damien Huffer said...

Good point, Paul, although I'm not surprised by this lack. I think projects like this have potential to be effective in many areas of the world if the money and incentive can be found. Only time will tell, but I'd love to be involved with one some day.

Paul Barford said...

I think there are other "reasons" why the PAS does not do this.

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