An Evolving Problem for Forensic Archaeology: The Involvement of Armed Users of Controlled Substances in Archaeological Crime

  • James E. Moriarty
  • David E. Griffel
  • Martin E. McAllisterEmail author


Archaeological crime is a serious problem in the United States and one requiring the involvement of forensic archaeologists. There are two basic types of archaeological crime, unauthorized removal or collection of artifacts and other material remains from archaeological contexts, referred to as looting, and defacement of archaeological features at these sites, referred to as site vandalism. (An activity referred to as “artifact hunting" is the legal counterpart of looting conducted with land owner authorization on private property.) These illegal activities have traditionally been viewed as “victimless” crimes where the only harm was to the affected resources. An evolving trend in archaeological crime increases the likelihood of human victims as well as resource damage. This alarming trend is the expanding use of controlled substances by looters and vandals who are also likely to possess firearms. Before discussing the situation and its potential consequences, it will be useful to review the commonly held perceptions of traditional participants in the two types of archaeological crime. These participants include opportunistic looters and vandals, hobbyist vandals, hobbyist looters, and “old school” commercial looters.

All of the information presented here is based on more than 70 years of combined experience the authors have with archaeological violations. Unfortunately, there are few quantitative studies of archaeological crime. More are needed to determine how these crimes and the people who commit them are changing.


Looting Drugs Land management Archaeological sites Vandalization 


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Copyright information

© Springer Nature Switzerland AG 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  • James E. Moriarty
    • 1
  • David E. Griffel
    • 1
  • Martin E. McAllister
    • 1
    Email author
  1. 1.Northland Research, Inc.TempeUSA

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