Thursday, July 26, 2012

Science crime scenes 3: Restitution and crime prevention

Time for another installment of stories about crimes against science and culture. All of them have official investigations, whether to restore ill-gotten goods or to prevent their loss. Some even have the involvement of police. As with the two previous editions, these stories are about archeology, largely because of the amount of looting and vandalism rampant among cultural artifacts.

Without any further ado, here are the stories from Overnight News Digest: Science Saturday (Two space anniversaries edition) on Daily Kos that qualified as science crime scenes. Follow over the jump. (Switzerland): Closing in on the archaeological underworld
by Michèle Laird,
Switzerland has been cleaning up its free ports after a 1995 scandal on its home turf triggered a probe into looted antiquities. Globally, the fight to disrupt such criminal activity is stepping up with a Web experiment to share information.

Museums the world over still display archaeological treasures that sometimes are not legally theirs. While governments wrangle over their rightful ownership, looters continue to plunder sites to feed a prospering black-market.

Now, an investigative reporter for the Los Angeles Times is trying to set up “WikiLoot”, a way of crowd-sourcing information on looted antiquities via the Web. “We want to make it impossible to turn a blind eye,” Jason Felch told
Duluth News Tribune: Thousands of archaeological artifacts returned to Bois Forte
Bois Forte Band of Chippewa elder Ron Geshick was witness to history Monday when more than 7,000 archaeology finds from the Nett Lake village were returned to the band from the Minnesota Historical Society.
By: Mike Creger, Duluth News Tribune
Bois Forte Band of Chippewa elder Ron Geshick was witness to history Monday when more than 7,000 archaeology finds from the Nett Lake village were returned to the band from the Minnesota Historical Society.

“I felt a real connection to the artifacts,” Geshick said of the boxes at the Bois Forte Heritage Museum at the Fortune Bay Resort on Lake Vermilion. “For me, it was really touching.”

In 1948, University of Minnesota archaeologist Lloyd Wilford led a dig at the Nett Lake village, which still exists today as the center of the Bois Forte operations.
The Macon County News: Japanese Consulate retrieves WWII artifact
Written by Davin Eldridge - Staff Writer
Thursday, 19 July 2012
The skull seemed a daunting thing, amid the trove of worldly antiquities, fine jewelry, rare gems and ancient fossils. It was an austere war relic, and for more than half a century it loomed in the vast collection of Franklin’s Ruby City Gem and Mineral museum.

From temple to temple, crossing the tip of the skull, grim words were written in black.

“Made in Japan. Tried in the Solomons and Found Wanting.”

The words were, supposedly, written by a U.S. Marine gunner C.N. Baumand, signed 1942. The hand-drawn mark of the U.S. Marine symbol adorned the center of the message.
Santa Barbara Independent: Small Dig, Big Discovery
Chumash Jaw Bone Found Under Vets Center
By Nick Welsh
Thursday, July 19, 2012
The past and future recently collided in the dirt five feet beneath Santa Barbara’s Veterans Memorial Building on Cabrillo Boulevard, where the jaw bone and finger of a Chumash Indian were discovered as well as a host of other Chumash artifacts estimated to be “hundreds and hundreds of years old.” The shock waves of this discovery — perhaps the most significant find in downtown Santa Barbara since archeologist John P. Harrington dug up Burton Mound in 1927 — could well knock out of consideration long-simmering plans to erect a three-story museum in the courtyard behind the vets building honoring Santa Barbara’s servicemen and women who fought in all foreign wars since World War I.

The archeological work took place this June as a precautionary step before the County of Santa Barbara — which owns the building — installed the shaft for a new elevator. That area along the waterfront was once the site of Syuxtun, a major Chumash community for about 1,000 years with about 500 people in its prime, so UCSB archeologist and anthropology professor Lynn Gamble was hired to ensure no significant historical remains would be disturbed. Gamble, overseeing a team of UCSB students, dug three holes about five feet deep. The UCSB crew dug up 397 shell and glass beads, nine arrow tips, 27 fish hooks, a few bead drills, many stone tools, a bone hairpiece, and the bones of countless fish, sea mammals, and even a giant whale vertebra that Gamble suggested might have been used as a stool.

But when Gamble’s team stumbled on what was clearly a human mandible, she said the Chumash on-site monitor was immediately notified and the exploration brought to a halt. The human bones were quickly reburied and no tests done to determine the age. With that discovery, county officials abandoned their plans to build the elevator. Instead, they’re now considering installing a one-seat motorized lift along the stairs.
Imperial Valley Press: Dogs search for ancient remains on wind farm project site near Ocotillo
11:45 p.m. PDT, July 17, 2012
OCOTILLO — As the rising sun bathed the desert where a controversial 112-wind-turbine project is being built, dog handler John Grebenkemper walked his forensic dog Tuesday morning hoping it would detect the scent of cremated ancient Native Americans.

“They only (find) human remains’ scent,” Grebenkemper said referring to forensic dogs like his, Keyle, which was trained with old bones and dried teeth to identify human remains at archaeological sites such as the ones thought to be abundant in the Ocotillo area.

Grebenkemper was just one of a team of dog handlers commissioned to find potential cremation sites in what is the latest effort to preserve sensitive areas throughout the construction of the Ocotillo Wind Express facility.

The project’s developers, Pattern Energy, agreed Tuesday afternoon to hold off construction near three of the project’s towers after a number of additional potential cremation sites were discovered, said a spokesman with one of the area tribes.

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