Showing posts with label artifacts. Show all posts
Showing posts with label artifacts. Show all posts

February 28, 2019

In pursuit of restitution: FBI asks representatives of Native American tribes and foreign authorities and indigenous tribes for assistance in identifying material remains catalogued as part of from the Don Miller forfeiture

Image Credit : FBI
When US law enforcement agents raided the rural Rush county home of Don Miller in Indiana four years ago, the execution of that search warrant resulted in the largest single recovery of cultural property in FBI history. 

Since that time, the Bureau’s Art Crime division has been tasked with identifying just who are the rightful owners of more than 7,000 objects from around the globe that were found in the now-deceased collector's main residence.  The objects once filled the house where Miller resided with his wife, his basement, a second, unoccupied residence on the property; and several outbuildings, accessible via a tunnel which connected the house to the adjoining buildings. 

Prior to the Federal seizure Miller had made no secret that he was an avid collector, even going so far as to have area schoolchildren over for tours of his amateur museum.   Much of his collection was displayed inside carefully labeled glass showcases or spread out on folding tables.   An individual well-known in his community, Miller was also profiled in local papers who wrote articles about his artifacts, about his service during World War II and about his connection to the Manhattan Project where he helped build the world's first atomic bomb. 

Cooperating throughout the investigation, Miller voluntarily waived his title to all of the seized objects prior to his death at 91 in 2015.  As part of that cooperation, he relinquished the artefacts that he had acquired in violation of state and federal law and international treaties. 

Some of the anthropological and archaeological Miller collected over his lifetime included:

Native American arrowheads, points and projectiles from throughout the western United States
fossils
40 pre-Columbian artifacts
hundreds of terracotta vases
two fossilized eggs
an Egyptian sarcophagus
500 sets of human remains looted largely from Native American burial grounds
a life-size Chinese terracotta figurine
an Italian mosaic
a South American dugout canoe
a bear skin rug
carved boomerangs
coins
an 1873 Winchester carbine purportedly fired by a Lakota Indian at the Battle of Little Big Horn;
a Tibetan bell
jade, purportedly form the Ming Dynasty
bullet casings detected by a metal detector at Civil War battlefields
axes;
a chunk of concrete that Miller purportedly claimed was from the bunker in which Adolf Hitler committed suicide.


The task of returning the forfeited objects to their rightful owners is not an easy one.  Nor is it easy to determine which artefacts crossed the line from legal to illegal or were the result of outright looting.  Additionally no single art historian or archaeologist can singularly provide the US government authorities with sufficient expertise about the origins of every object that Miller had in his possession as the collection itself was extremely varied.

Image Credit: FBI
To adjust for this, the FBI has reached out to tribal authorities, academic experts, archaeologists and anthropologists for assistance in identifying the material.  Assisted by museum studies students, the objects were carefully documented, preserved and curated into what would later become an invitation-only digital archive, where the relinquished cultural artefacts can be viewed by experts working towards their restitution. 

Screen Capture:  FBI digital archive, Via FBI.
To help with the identification of human and archaeological remains from North America, the FBI also contacted all of the federally recognised Native American tribes, some 600 in total, for their assistance in determining material of their tribal origin. The authorities also hope to gain further assistance from governments around the world as well as from the indigenous tribes from outside North America.



March 29, 2015

Indystar Reports Death of Don Miller, 91-year-old man whose private collection of artifacts the FBI seized last year

by Catherine Schofield Sezgin, ARCA Blog Editor

Jill Disis reported March 26 for Gannet's Indystar that Indiana resident and electrical engineer Don Miller died at the age of 91, one year after the FBI seized his collection of antiquities and artifacts:
News reports in the aftermath of the government seizure were awash with tales from those who had seen his collection, which reportedly included Aztec figurines, Ming Dynasty jade and an Egyptian sarcophagus. Miller never faced any charges related to his collection. No lawsuits were filed against him in the year since the seizure. In his final months, townsfolk told The Indianapolis Star he had disappeared from public life. And even after his death, progress of the federal investigation remains shrouded in mystery. FBI Special Agent Drew Northern declined to comment about the case Tuesday night. Officials from the Indiana University-Purdue University Indianapolis anthropology department, which is assisting the FBI in identifying and preserving the artifacts, also would not comment. But a legal expert told The Star it could take years, if not decades, before experts can sort out the legalities of the thousands of objects seized by the government.
Here's a link to the ARCA Blog's earlier post on the FBI seizure (along with a perspective by retired FBI Agent Virginia Curry and anthropologist Kathleen Whitaker).

August 6, 2013

Tuesday, August 06, 2013 - ,,, No comments

Edirne custom inspection discovered historical artifacts in hidden compartment of semi-truck destined for Germany

Coins found in hidden compartment of truck en route
to Germany from Edirne, Turkey, near the Bulgarian border.
(Asksham.com.tr)
by Catherine Sezgin, ARCA Blog Editor

EDIRNE, Turkey - Acting on a tip that historical artifacts were being smuggled to Germany, Edirne Gendarmerie stopped a long semi-truck destined for Germany at a freeway toll booth and redirected it to a custom inspection point in Kapikule. Using x-ray technology, the located a hidden compartment behind the spare-parts storage area underneath the bed of the truck and found a marble head of a Roman goddess; two crosses used in Middle-Age Christian liturgies; an Achaemenid gold coin depicting a Persian archer; gold coins from the Classical Greek period; a coin with the image of the emperor Vespasianus; an Hellenistic silver coin; and possibly a 9th century ceramic cup used in religious ceremonies (Asksham.com, article here).

Crosses recovered at customs in Edirne (Habermonitor)
According to Professor Engin Beksac, the head of the art history department at Trayka University in Edirne, the most important piece found is that of the 2,500 year old 'Persian archer' coin. This kind of coin is not found in the Thrace museums and rarely discovered anywhere else, Professor Beksac explained. The marble head of the goddess was likely part of a building's facade.

Here's a link to Aksham newspaper in Turkish along with photos of the objects recovered.

Here's a link to the Hurriyet video of a jendarma officer removing historical artifacts from a storage area of a semi-truck in Edirne, Turkey, near the Bulgarian border.