Friday 28 December 2012

Artefact Hunter Dies in US Prison

It has been announced today that a former insurance agent and "amateur archaeologist convicted of looting ancient Indian graves in the Nevada desert" has died in prison.
The Department of Corrections confirmed Thursday that Jack Lee Harelson, 72, of Grants Pass, died Dec. 14 in the infirmary of the Oregon State Penitentiary in Salem. The agency said he died of natural causes.
Harelson was notorious as the person who had dug for collectable artefacts in the Elephant Mountain Cave in Nevada’s Black Rock Desert in the early 1980s. This looting had "destroyed the historical record of a site that was inhabited by ancestors of the Paiute Tribe for 5,000 years". Some 2,000 artefacts were recovered, including a necklace of unborn antelope hooves and an abalone shell, a cordage net for catching rabbits, and moccasins. There were also two child burials in baskets. When he was arrested in 1995, authorities said they found the headless mummified remains of two children wrapped in garbage bags and buried unceremoniously in Harelson’s garden. State police later recovered two skulls in a separate investigation. Like many artefact hunters, this looter downplayed the damage he had done:
acknowledging in an interview at the time that he could have done a better job excavating the site, Harelson maintained that amateurs like himself tramping the desert were responsible for many significant archaeological finds.
In 2005, Harelson was convicted in a retrial of trying to hire a hit man to kill Lloyd Olds of Brookings, a partner in an opal mine whom Harelson blamed for his grave-­robbing conviction.

 Jeff Barnard, 'Grave looter dies in prison', The Associated Press December 28, 2012

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