Thursday 24 July 2014

Eastern California Collector Raided

They are his trophies, the product
of a life's obsession with gathering ancient
artifacts from the surrounding lands 

Los Angeles police searched the home of  Lone Pine resident Norman Starks, 76, collector for 12 hours. Fifty federal agents  seized artefacts they say he illegally dug up on public land (Louis Sahagun, 'Owens Valley relic hunter not one to back down', Los Angeles Times July 24th 2014).
The raid marked the third time in a decade that state and federal authorities have tried to end what they allege is his looting of the prehistoric items. The first two attempts failed. Paiute-Shoshone tribal leaders and federal archaeologists say Starks has destroyed priceless cultural connections, along with scientific data that could help determine human behavior from the distant past. Many of the items he has collected are sacred, they say, placed by loved ones at the graves of hunter-gatherers for use in the afterlife. "What he's doing is heartbreaking, disrespectful and illegal," said Kathy Jefferson Bancroft, tribal historic preservation officer for the Lone Pine Paiute-Shoshone Reservation. "It must stop." Not going to happen, Starks says.
Starks rejects the argument that he's doing anything wrong: "The Indians that made this stuff didn't think it was anything special," he said. "They used it and tossed it aside. It was just used junk to them."
 He insists that he limits himself to artefacts found legally on private property near the restricted area.
Now, he said, authorities are trying to frame him. Some of the evidence seized during the June 26 raid was "planted in my house," he said. Other relics "were stolen by the investigators and archaeologists while they were going through all my stuff." Their motive? He said they are in a conspiracy with tribal leaders and the DWP to stop a lawsuit he filed against the water agency.
(The lawsuit is connected with the so-called California Water Wars). Starks considers the Paiute-Shoshone preservation officer and one of the federal archaeologists are both conspiring against him. he defends himself using a typical array of collectors' excuses:
"They say they have a picture of me in the place I wasn't supposed to be," Starks said of photos the government reportedly has showing him at the dunes. "But they're wrong." What was he doing near the dunes? "I was looking for old coins along a railroad easement, which is private property." [...] Where did he get the pile of massive stone relics on his front porch? "They were my grandfather's." He said 90% of his collection predates federal laws against taking items from public land. [...]  Besides, he added, "arrowheads are as common as goats' asses around here." 
Hat tip to Donna Yates 

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