FBI Call for Help About Looted Artifacts
On 27 Feb 2019, the US Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) released a public statement about an investigation into Don Miller, a collector who acquired 42,000 artifacts from around the world and was accused of looting or buying illegal antiquities, as well as skeletons from about 500 Native American individuals. In 2014, with Miller’s cooperation, the FBI removed 7,000 illegally obtained artifacts worldwide plus the human remains from his home. Since then, the FBI has been trying to repatriate these antiquities to their nations of origin, as well as send the remains to the appropriate tribes for reburial. Meanwhile, the FBI is responsible for proper curation and preservation of the items. Miller died in 2015; no one else has been identified as responsible for the crimes so far.
The FBI is making this case public in the hope that more countries and tribes will contact the FBI to help identify and repatriate the artifacts from the Miller case. An invitation-only database of all items has been made available to experts to use in identification of items. If any CHAMP or MilCHAG members are interested in helping the FBI, please send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org.
This is the type of situation in which the academic and professional archaeologist members in MilCHAG and CHAMP can make a huge difference! Members have expertise in many different professions and cultures, with the potential to answer questions and assess artifacts for law enforcement. If you do become involved in this case, please consider sharing your experience with your fellow members! Just send your information to Laura Childs to forward to the groups.
Several Lessons Learned can be derived from this case that provide much thoughtful consideration about protecting and preserving cultural property and human remains while respecting the needs and sensitivities of the local peoples. Everyone interested in the topic of protection of cultural property can find helpful information regarding the type of people who collect and loot; the conditions under which they collect; the role of government officials, law enforcement and military personnel; and how to properly recover and repatriate artifacts. A brief outline of these lessons is offered to CHAMP and MilCHAG members as an example that can be used for educational and training purposes for military personnel, law enforcement, museum curators, and government leaders at international, national, state, and local levels.
Lessons Learned_ FBI looting case