Raid drives down demand for American Indian artifacts

27 Dec 2010 1:45 PM | Anonymous

Raid drives down demand for American Indian artifacts
By brandon loomis

The Salt Lake Tribune

Published: December 27, 2010 01:01AM
Updated: December 27, 2010 01:01AM
San Francisco • Nabil Haidar shepherds his two young sons around the Bonhams & Butterfields auction house showroom, staring through glass cases into history. And prehistory.

Ancient pottery, the San Jose, Calif., cop says, tells a story of its people. Buckskin or feather clothing is a window into this continent’s old ways.

“When it’s in your home and you touch it,” Haidar says, “it’s like, ‘Wow. So many generations.’ If only it had a mouth to speak, it could tell you what it’s gone through.”

There is a reason people dig up artifacts in places such as southern Utah’s Ancestral Puebloan ruins, target of a 2009 crackdown on looting from public lands. American Indian relics are big business in metropolitan America, Europe and beyond, often fetching thousands of dollars per piece at auction houses. Anasazi art is just a tiny potsherd in the puzzle, but it draws intense interest from history buffs.

It’s perfectly legal if the items come from private lands or from private collections predating federal antiquities law. Still, buyers at auction candidly say that they are worn down by government scrutiny and aren’t so keen on Ancestral Puebloan pieces. Ancient Southwestern pottery is still for sale and certified legal, but many say they don’t want to invite a hassle.

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