The Archaeological Resource Protection Act The lobbying efforts of the Society for American Archaeology, an international organization dedicated to the research, interpretation, and protection of the archaeological heritage …
The lobbying efforts of the Society for American Archaeology, an international organization dedicated to the research, interpretation, and protection of the archaeological heritage of the Americas, led to the passage of the Archaeological Resource Protection Act (ARPA), federal legislation signed into law in October 1979 by President Jimmy Carter. Under Title 16 of the United States Code, Sections 470 aa to 470 mm, ARPA preserves archaeological resources on federal and Indian lands with the aim to prevent the loss of irreplaceable artifacts that are part of the nation's cultural heritage.
At its core, ARPA makes it a federal crime to excavate, remove, damage, alter, and/or deface (without a government permit) archaeological resources from protected areas. It is also a federal offense, under this law, to traffic interstate in artifacts acquired in violation of the act or in breach of local or state law. Under ARPA, an "archaeological resource" is an item of past human existence or archaeological interest more than a hundred years old.
First-time ARPA offenders, in cases where the value of the artifacts and the cost of restoration and repair of the damaged archaeological site is less than $500, can be fined no more than $10,000 or imprisoned for more than a year. However, if the value or restoration costs exceed $500, the offender can be fined up to $20,000 and imprisoned for two years on each count. Repeat ARPA offenders can be fined $100,000 and sent to prison for five years on each count. Under ARPA, federal authorities can pursue violators civilly or in criminal court, imposing fines and confiscating vehicles and equipment used in the commission of the prohibited activity.
Looting Anasazi Artifacts
Earl K. Shumway, the central figure in the country's first major ARPA case, came from a family of archaeological looters. Earl grew up in Moab, Utah, a Mormon town seventy miles north of the four corners village of Blanding, where, in June 2009, FBI and Bureau of Land Management (BLM) agents raided the homes of eleven ARPA defendants. DeLoy Shumway, Earl's father, spent years plundering Anasazi ruins for pottery and other artifacts in the Puebloan region of the Colorado Plateau in southeastern Utah. In the early 1980s, Earl's distant cousin, Casey Shumway, had the distinction of being the nation's first ARPA defendant convicted of the offense.
From 700 to 1300, the Peublo (also referred to as the Anasazi) people grew beans and corn and built masonry structures--so-called cliff dwellings--into canyon alcoves that still show rock petroglyphs depicting animals, human figures, and prehistoric tools. Just before the turn of the fourteenth century, social upheaval and prolonged drought caused these people to migrate south. They never returned, but left in Utah's San Juan County alone, a place the size of Connecticut, 28,000 known archaeological sites.
In 1850, Mormon settlers to southwestern Utah found, scattered virtually everywhere, prehistoric tools, flint projectile points, and shards of Anasazi pottery. The collecting of prehistoric pottery began in the late 1800s after Richard Wetherill and his brother, Colorado ranchers, discovered Anasazi ruins in Mesa Verdi. In the canyon cliff dwellings they found decorated pottery, jewelry, tools, sandals, and woven blankets. The brothers also discovered thousands of grave sites containing human skeletons wrapped in blankets.
The Wetherill discoveries launched a lucrative trade in Native American artifacts fueled by competition between the Smithsonian and other U. S. museums, and a growing interest among the general pubic in Indian relic collecting.
Up until 1930, archaeologists and curators at the University of Utah paid artifact hunters two dollars for every piece of pottery (called "pots" by collectors) they brought to the school. Earl Shumway's grandfather, in the 1920s, sold 370 pieces of Anasazi pottery to the university. In those days he could acquire up to seventeen pots in a single day, and in a productive month, dig up two hundred, many of which ended up in a local museum.
Craig Childs, in his book Finders Keepers, chronicles the early relationship between the region's pot hunters and the university: "In the 1920s an archaeologist named Andrew Kerr from the University of Utah in Salt Lake appeared after he heard that an entire quarter of the state was filthy with archaeology right near the surface, graves practically springing from the ground. Kerr hired local residents to dig; his head diggers were members of the Shumway family who had already done a good deal of private excavation. The Shumways did most of the work while Kerr sat back. They showed him how to locate the best caches of artifacts, how to dig without breaking pots. Meanwhile, Kerr encouraged them and paid them to become even better at it. Showing little regard for scientific method, he wanted only the most visually stunning artifacts which he shipped back to the university museum."
According to William Hurst, an archaeologist and lifelong resident of Blanding, Utah, Anasazi projectile points, tools, and pottery, during the 1950s and 1960s, were everywhere and easy to find. Most of the local collectors were surface hunters who picked up pieces from cultivated fields. In those days, collecting arrowheads in and around Blanding was like picking up seashells from a beach.
A Blanding resident and artifact collector, speaking about what it was like in the 1950s and 1960s, said this to a journalist writing about the plundering of Anasazi sites: "This was our way of life. You could find artifacts just everywhere. You can go in any direction from Blanding and they'll be mounds and dwellings and arrowheads and artifacts." In the same article, Toni Turk, the then major of Blanding, also described how it was for collectors in those days: "The pottery was so commonplace that kids would use them for target practice, they would throw rocks at them. There was nothing particularly special about them. Some people started seeing in them some art value for themselves and they'd start collecting."
Blanding mayor Turk also spoke of archaeological looters like Earl Shumway and his father. "Some people went in with heavy machinery. It took a lot of labor off the effort to dig up graves. They dug down to get the treasures. These are people who stepped across the lines of propriety. They got into looting graves and grave goods."
According to Wayne Dance, the Assistant United States Attorney (AUSA) for the Utah District from 1990 to 2007, the prosecutor who targeted Earl Shumway and ended up prosecuting more ARPA subjects than any AUSA in the country, the bulk of Anasazi looting took place within a hundred mile, north-south corridor stretching from Moab to the town of Bluff on the edge of the Navajo Reservation near the Arizona state line.
The Earl K. Shumway Case
In 1985, a federal grand jury sitting in Salt Lake City, indicted Earl K. Shumway, then twenty-five, on four felony counts in violation of the Archaeological Resources Protection Act. The fierce and flamboyant looter with the wild shock of red hair and matching mustache, had openly bragged about how much money he made selling Anasazi pottery, baskets, human remains, and other artifacts from hundreds of archaeological sites which he left littered with empty Mountain Dew cans.
Because Shumway also boasted of carrying a .44 magnum revolver he'd use on anyone who'd confront him while digging for artifacts, federal agents despised and feared him. The AUSA charged Shumway with the removal and sale of thirty-four prehistoric baskets excavated from Horse Rock Ruin on federal land near Allen Canyon, Manti-La Sal National Forest in southeastern Utah. Shumway and his crew had been digging on this site since 1981. Tried and convicted in 1986, Shumway, to avoid serving time in prison, identified, for the FBI, a long list of artifact collectors living in Blanding. In turning snitch, he avoided prison and settled scores with collectors he didn't like. His information also led to a series of ARPA SWAT raids that year. All of those cases were eventually dropped.
After informing on collectors, Earl Shumway returned to looting archaeological sites on federal land. In November 1994, a former Shumway business partner told the FBI that Shumway had been plundering artifacts at Horse Rock Ruin. The snitch said that Shumway had cheated him out of his share of the loot. Shortly after his arrest, Shumway pleaded guilty to three ARPA counts and a federal firearms charge. In return for his guilty plea, the judge sentenced the serial looter to probation.
In June 1995, just seven months after Shumway's guilty plea, AUSA Wayne Dance, having successfully prosecuted forty ARPA defendants, convinced members of a federal grand jury in Utah to indict Shumway on a pair of four-year-old ARPA cases.
In 1991, Shumway met helicopter pilot Michael Miller at a pool hall in Moab. After regaling Miller with stories of his archaeological adventures and the big money he made selling Anasazi pottery, baskets, and human remains, Miller contacted a helicopter pilot named John Ruhl and asked him to fly the pair around in search of potential sites. Shumway's father had taught Earl how to use aircraft in search for ruins. With diggers on the ground and a lookout in the sky, looters could easily avoid detection. Shumway, with Ruhl's knowledge, rented a helicopter by telling Ruhl's employer he was a film scout.
Ruhl flew Miller and Shumway to Dop-Ki Cave in Utah's Canyonlands National Park, a 350,000-acre tract where they dug up the skeleton of an infant wrapped in a blanket inside a burial basket. Shumway took the blanket and all of the bones except the skull. A few days later, Ruhl flew Shumway and Miller to Horse Rock Ruin where they spent the night. The next morning, Shumway dug up a pair of ancient sandals and a sleeping mat.
At Shumway's November 1995 trial, AUSA Dance, through DNA analysis, connected the defendant to a cigarette butt found at the Dop-Ki Cave site. The jurors, based upon the first use of DNA evidence in an ARPA case, found Shumway guilty.
Convicted of seven felony counts, Judge David K. Winder, appalled at Shumway's callous handling of the infant's remains, exceeded ARPA's punishment guidelines by sentencing the looter to six and a half years in prison. The judge also fined him $3,500. Shumway appealed his sentence to the Tenth Circuit Court of Appeals which reduced it to five years, three months.
While being transported to prison, a group of Native American prisoners gave Shumway a severe beating. In 2003, three years after getting out of prison, Earl K. Shumway died of cancer. He was forty-six-years-old.