Friday 25 April 2014

Digging for Dollars: the Link Between US Artefact Hunting and Drugs

Erin Hawley, 'Digging for dollars: the link between artifact looting and drugs' KATV Apr 25, 2014 5:30
In Arkansas, the looting of ancient artefacts (with a market value of "hundreds of thousands of dollars") is a growing problem in National and State Parks, as well as on private land. Again the question is raised about the relationship of this hobby and the illegally obtained artefacts it spawns and the drug trade in Arkansas.
In the woods along the Buffalo National River, caves and bluffs were once shelters for Native Americans. Now, many are illegal dig sites. "They're digging for dollars, and they're converting those dollars or directly exchanging the artifacts for drugs," explained archaeologist Dr. Caven Clark. Clark has worked for the National Park Service since the 1980's. He's seen damage from looting first hand and agreed to take us to a remote area where looters have stripped pieces of history from the ground. Early tools, weapons and pottery are just some of the items that can be found in Arkansas, left behind by Native Americans and early settlers. Before it was a National Park, much of the land here was privately owned, and people collected artifacts as a hobby. "They would come out with their families, they would dig after church on Sundays," Clark said.
This changed when the park was created in 1972, which meant that the laws against digging for artefacts on federal, state and private land came into force. But the collectors then gave way to the criminals whose motivation for finding artefacts was to use them to buy drugs.
"There hasn't been a looting case in the park that I'm aware of, at least in the ten years I've been here, that did not have a drug nexus or a felony firearm nexus and one of them in fact led us into child pornography so you really never know what you're going to find," Clark recalled. Bad guys are bad guys and they usually give you a package deal." "They're very secretive, and they do covert stuff like wearing camouflage and coming in at night," Clark explained.[...] And it's not just federal and state land affected. "Private land owners are really disturbed by the fact people are coming on their property without permission and digging their sites," Clark said. We spoke with one private land owner who has been dealing with looters for years. Although he did not want to be identified, he said the ordeal has been frustrating and at times made him concerned for his own safety. "If you are any place and you see people digging, the best thing you can do is quietly back out because you just don't know what you're getting into because of the nexus between looting and felony firearm and drugs," Clark said. "It's potentially a dangerous situation."
Obviously the way to change a chipped stone into cash is through selling the items found to collectors who are not too bothered about where they came from. Items could sell for just a few dollars or several hundred dollars. Archaeologically, once a site has been trashed to remove the saleable items, the objects themselves are just trophy pieces, collectable geegaws:
"[The artifacts] are scientifically worthless because they were just taken out of the ground with no recording, no location, no associations, nothing," Caven said. "It's a real tragedy."
Fighting the elusive trade is an uphill battle and all the time the looters are destroying Arkansas history.
US collectors who insist that the USA should be able to dictate to other countries how they should treat the archaeological heritage in their territory might like first to make sure that the US forms a pattern of good practice to be imitated and keep their supercilious remarks to themselves until it does.

See also 
PACHI, 'Drugs, Guns and Dirt' Friday, 30 April 2010 (commenting on article by Samir Patel ,'Drugs, Guns and Dirt', Archaeology Vol. 62 Number 2, March/April 2009)

PACHI, 'Collecting Antiquities in and around the Ozarks' Wednesday, 24 March 2010 (commenting on an article by Nicholas Phillips, "Tweakers 'N Diggers: Looters are pillaging Native American burial grounds to finance their meth habits", The Riverfront Times March 24, 2010).

PACHI, 'Witschonke Advises the Federal Government' Tuesday, 11 May 2010.

PACHI, 'US Antiquity Collectors' "Rights" in Ozarks' Tuesday, 23 March 2010.


Eves-Gift-Gallery said...

I was looking for traditional polish potteries and I got a wonderful collection from you.

Traditional Polish Pottery Patterns

Paul Barford said...

I hate spammers.

Eve, you are totally wrong. The Bunzlau factories were German, not Polish, the modern "folk style" manufacture was set up there by the Communists in the 1950s, but neither the forms, nor decoration of the vessels you illustrate have anything at all to do with local traditions, still less of the previous products of those factories.

If you are going to market Polish "craft" products, fine, but do your research first to avoid telling your clients LIES. OK? But please do it somewhere else than cretinously spamming my blog.

Start your own blog, and show there the links of your pots' designs and pre-1950s folk ceramics of Poland. I'd be interested to see how far you get!

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