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The Professor Who Stole Ancient New Mexico Artifacts | Guest Writer | Travel

A Chicago professor of archeology pleaded guilty this week to a misdemeanor count of removing ancient projectile points from federal land in south-central New Mexico following an elaborate undercover “sting” operation.

Daniel Amick, 66, a professor at Loyola University in Chicago, pleaded guilty to “violating the Archaeological Resources Protection Act (ARPA) by removing archaeological resources from federal public lands,” said a news release from United States Attorney Kenneth Gonzales. Amick will serve a one-year term of conditional probation in accord with a plea agreement, the release states.

Amick could have been jailed for one year and fined up to $10,000.

During a summer field trip in 2007 Amick “and his cohorts removed approximately 12 archaeological artifacts” and removed five more in a second trip, the release said. “Amick admitted knowing that it was illegal to remove the artifacts from the public lands.”

The Department of Anthropology section for the Loyola web site, where Amick is listed as chairman, states: “Dr. Amick strongly believes that archaeology is best learned by doing and he encourages interested students to contact him about opportunities for gaining practical experience in archaeological research at Loyola.”

Federal defense attorney Douglas McNabb, who represents Amick, told the Chicago Tribune, “the judge is saying that Dr. Amick made a mistake. Because it was associated with research … he agreed to drop the charges. … He won’t have a record.”

Calls to Loyola and Amick on Wednesday were not returned.

A 42-page affidavit, filed to search for GPS log books, computers and filing cabinets at a Truth or Consequences mobile home, said the investigation of Amick and his “cohorts” stemmed from a 2006 informant’s tip.

The “cohorts” are identified in the court documents as Scott Clendenin of T or C and Donald Musser. The informant said Clendenin “is surface collecting Paleolithic projectile points and associated lithic artifacts …” Some of the artifacts were sold on E-Bay to an Oklahoma collector, state the documents.

Clendenin was collecting the points “in support of research being conducted by Dr. Daniel S. Amick. … Amick’s research is specifically focused on Folsom period artifacts.”

Amick gave Clendenin a Global Positioning System device “to document the specific location of Paleolithic artifacts Clendenin surface collects on behalf of Amick,” the documents state.

The physical and GPS locations were recorded on small envelopes containing each found artifact and Clendenin sketched the artifact on the envelopes.

After outfitting the informant with an audio recording body wire, Bureau of Land Management agents learned that an agreement between Amick and Clendenin allowed the collector to keep artifacts he found and that artifacts were present in Clendenin’s mobile home during a February 2007 visit. The informant witnessed Clendenin collecting projectiles, according to the court documents.

An undercover special agent also confirmed the presence of artifacts in the home during a visit, the court documents said. In May 2007 Clendenin prepared artifacts for Amick’s inspection and the informant made note of “411 GPS waypoints assigned to the artifacts.”

In June 2007 the professor and the collector met at a Truth or Consequences, New Mexico, motel as the informant wore the audio “wire” and an agent monitored the conversation from a nearby location. The informant also photographed Amick’s artifact log book and at a 2010 meeting photographed Clendenin’s artifact collection.

In March 2010 the informant confirmed that Clendenin still had possession of an estimated “one to two thousand artifacts artifacts … described as points, parts and pieces” in his home. The recordings indicate the collector believed the Folsom points dated from about 9,000 B.C.  The U.S. Attorney’s office said it had “no public record information” on possible charges against Clendenin.

Upon inspecting an unidentified partial artifact, the collector told the informant that if complete, it would be worth $25,000. Clendenin also told the informant that Amick was not in possession of any of the artifacts, according to the court documents. The plea agreement states Amick believes the market value of items he removed to be under $500.

Folsom and Clovis points refer to the New Mexico locations where artifacts of these ancient cultures were found. The stolen objects came from Sierra County along the Jornada del Muerto (journey of death).

The Jornada, part of the El Camino Real, “was a dreaded 90-mile waterless shortcut bypassing the 120-mile long westward ‘bend’ of the Rio Grande” where the Spanish were subject to attack by Apaches, according tocaminorealheritage.org.

In a agreement signed by Amick and dated Feb. 25, he admitted he “knowingly and willfully received and transported archeological resources removed from public lands without a permit or exemption …” and accepted responsibility for his actions.

Amick received a Ph.D. in anthropology from the University of New Mexico in 1994, according to the Loyola web site. “He is an archeologist with research interests in the relationship of humans to the environment, the early peopling of the Americas, archeological site formation processes. hunter-gatherer life ways, and lithic technology.”

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The Professor Who Stole Ancient New Mexico Artifacts | Guest Writer | Travel.

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