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31 October 2003
Wyoming archeological site looted

The recent looting of an archaeological site in Wyoming (USA) not only robbed researchers of unknown artifacts dating back thousands of years, but it has taken a toll on both field and laboratory work associated with the site, an archaeologist said. "We've lost a full field season in the shelter and a full season in the lab due to their damage," said Mike Bies, archaeologist with the Bureau of Land Management (BLM).
     Bies said authorities do not know what artifacts were taken because the looters had dug beyond what researchers had excavated. But according to BLM estimates, the cost of restoration and repairs to the BA Cave Rockshelter south of Shell is currently $1.9 million with the potential for added costs.
     BLM officials say the damage to the site occurred sometime between early spring and mid-June this year. The site was discovered in 1986 by BLM archaeologists after they began working in the Black Mountain area in the late 1970s. According to BLM, the site has revealed evidence of human habitation and occupation as far back as 7,000 years.
     Bies suspects the perpetrators had previous knowledge of the site and knew where they were going and what to look for. He said the looters destroyed site reference markers that were not easily identified. They dug through the back of the professional dig site. Bies added that judging from what was left behind and what has previously been discovered at the rockshelter, whatever the looters decided to take has great historical and monetary value. "There is a very healthy black market for these things, in part due to Internet capabilities," he said. In order to discourage any more looting, much of the site has been covered with rock.

Source: Star Tribune (23 October 2003)

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