News of the WeekArchaeology

Roundup of Utah Collectors Stirs a Debate on Enforcement

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Science  17 Jul 2009:
Vol. 325, Issue 5938, pp. 254-255
DOI: 10.1126/science.325_254

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Last month, 16 residents of Blanding, Utah, were arrested and accused of stealing prehistoric Indian artifacts from public and tribal lands. The crackdown was the culmination of a 2.5-year-old undercover investigation by the Federal Bureau of Investigation and the Department of the Interior that netted 24 alleged looters in the archaeology-rich Four Corners region. The case has aroused strong passions among Southwestern archaeologists, prompting many to take sides on how best to cure pothunters of their destructive urge. Some strongly support the federal action; others take a jaundiced view of the heavy-handed police tactics and argue that such an approach will not deter determined looters, especially those who come from communities where a subculture of "pothunting" stubbornly persists.