Two news stories have recently come to my attention, both conserning the illicit/illegal excavation or artifact removal activities of people who should certainly have known better; people with either the professional training or “passion for the past” to perhaps be more aware of the consequences of their actions before the fact, not after, when they’ve been caught. The first article conserns the arrest of one James Hamm who, for 50 years, had been conducting clandestine excavations throughout northern New Mexico and Arizona, amassing a relatively large collection of artifacts, some noted by Hamm himself (in his detailed records, maps, and ‘field notes’) as coming from burials (e.g. photo above left). Of course, the article implies (and I suggest it goes without saying) that the human remains with which these artifacts were interred were at the very least ignored, if not damaged or cast aside, as Hamm pothunted.
Also not discussed (nor indicated in the accompanying video clip) is what kind of damage was done to any surface or subsurface archaeological features associated with the burials, or from which the artifacts were removed. The areas of New Mexico and Arizona that, according to the news story, saw the majority of Hamm’s looting, were once home to the Mogollon and Salado cultures, which are known to have buried their dead between or within houses, sometimes sealing the grave with clay so the house floor above can remain in use. Thus, digging blindly down from the surface to a burial could hypothetically cut through several remodeled floors, hearths as well as destroy the skeleton itself!