Blog: Tribal history being erased in Southwest

"So, while we are on the topic of looting, I’d like to switch to a different sort of loot. This is a legal gray area where ancient places can be strip-mined, and the artifacts collected can then be legally sold at high-end auctions or low-end ebay stores. When a ancient place is on private land, it is essentially unprotected. However, one law protects the graves and human remains – the Native American Graves and Repatriation Act, also known as NAGPRA.

From my own experience, I had the good fortune to learn excavation from a professor at the state musuem named Dr E. Charles (”Chuck”) Adams. I worked for Chuck at several villages around Winslow, including Homol’ovi II in the picture above. Chuck, in turn, had done much of his previous research on the Hopi Mesas, so he was particularly sensitive to the dismal record of archaeologists regarding the treatment of ancient human remains.

We worked with a great organization called Earthwatch. Volunteers from Earthwatch would each contribute hundreds of dollars to the research effort, and in turn, they had the opportunity to work on the excavations for one, two, or three weeks. It was a neat idea. The sort of person who would pay $1600 dollars to dig, haul, and screen archaeological deposits for weeks in 100 degree weather tended to be the dedicated sort of soul who learned quickly, and made invaluable contributions to the research effort with their back, brains, and yes, wallet. Ethical excavation is not cheap.

Unfortunately, some folks looked at what was happening at Homol’ovi, and they got the idea that they could charge the general public to dig up sites. Why go through all of the effort of digging a site yourself, or risk using a backhoe to expose the loot, when you could run a “dig” to get other people to do it for you? And they will pay you to let them do do it!"

Get the Story:
Chronography: Pay to Dig, or Pay to Loot? (The Tucson Citizen 9/16)