A publication of the Archaeological Institute of America
Three men have been arrested for digging up potsherds at the East Fork site, a Mimbres settlement in New Mexico's Gila National Forest. The looters, Aaron Sera and brothers James and Michael Quarrell, were convicted and may face up to two years' imprisonment and fines of $20,000 or more; sentences are pending.
Officers of the Forest Service Law Enforcement Agency had earlier found evidence of digging and had placed a seismic sensor in the area to monitor human activity. One month later, the sensor was activated and officers caught the men looting the site. Upon questioning, Michael Quarrell admitted their intention to sell the pottery they found.
The Mimbres, who lived in southwestern New Mexico and a small section of northern Mexico from A.D. 900 to 1200, produced pottery famous for its black-and-white geometric patterns and depictions of animals and humans. The vessels, often associated with burials, were likely placed on the head of the deceased, whose soul escaped through a hole punched in the bottom.
The 1979 Archaeological Resources Protection Act prohibits excavation without a permit and removal or damaging of archaeological materials and human remains located on public land. The act also prohibits the trafficking of artifacts wrongfully removed from sites.