Archaeologist Winston Hurst, examines the condition of a historical site near Blanding, Utah. (AP/Ed Andrieski)
This story by the British paper, The Guardian, focuses on three friends from Blanding, Utah, who grew up scavenging for Native American artifacts, Jim Redd, Austin Lyman and Winston Hurst.
Its headline” “Native American artefacts bring curse of suicides and FBI raids.”
As the paper tells it, here:
But decades later, the three friends’ old pastime has wrought bitterness and tragedy. They fell out badly after Hurst became an archaeologist and came to see the town’s obsession with collecting ancient artefacts as a desecration. Then last year, 150 FBI agents swooped on Blanding, arresting some of the town’s most prominent citizens, including Redd, Lyman’s three older brothers and the brother of the county sheriff, on charges of dealing in antiquities plundered from state land.
Redd, by then a popular local doctor, killed himself the next day. Two other people caught up in the case, including the FBI’s principal informer, also took their lives in the following months.
Meanwhile Lyman’s brothers, along with 23 other people, are expected to go on trial within weeks.
People in Blanding feel the FBI has handled the case badly. And Lyman says he resents the characterization of artifact hunters as “lifelong criminals.”
But Hurst, the archaeologist, gave up collecting.
“Anybody can walk out there, find the stuff, plunder it, take it home and almost no one understands the implications of what they’re doing,” he says. “They don’t understand how the stripping of what’s out there, how you might as well walk in to the library and start cutting the words out of the pages of the Dead Sea Scrolls. It’s the primary record of the human experience and they’re beating the crap out of it.”
And he goes on to say that “”I’ve been physically sick, truly nauseated by things I’ve seen walking in to these sites. One day you’ve got a relatively intact site that’s been sitting there for 12,000 years and the next day it’s a bombed-out crater, a landscape of craters and human bones strewn all over the place. It can never be put back together again and you never know what was taken away.”