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Endangered Cultural Resources

Archaeological Resources Protection Act Conviction on the Tongass National Forest, Alaska

Terence E. Fifield and Jack Davis

On Monday, March 22, 1999, Ian Lynch of Klawock, Alaska, entered a conditional guilty plea to a felony charge of violating the Archaeological Resources Protection Act of 1979 (ARPA). Lynch, in his plea bargain agreement, admitted that he did commit the crime and accepted the value of the archaeological damage at $10,880. However, he reserved the right to appeal the conviction on the grounds that the law itself may be unconstitutionally vague in its use of the term "knowingly." The defense contends Lynch had to know that his actions violated all aspects of ARPA in order to be found guilty of a felony; that he had to know in advance, for example, that the item he discovered was human skull, that the skull was on federal lands, that it was more than 100 years old, and that his actions were illegal. In contrast, the prosecution argues that guilt hinges simply on Lynch's knowingly digging for artifacts or skeletal remains on federal public lands without a permit.

The case stems from Lynch's actions on August 1, 1997, when Lynch and two companions were deer hunting on an island on the Thorne Bay Ranger District of the Tongass National Forest. Lynch explored along a cliff in the vicinity of what he knew to be an abandoned Tlingit Indian village. He spotted the top of a skull in a niche in the rock face. Excited by his discovery, Lynch dug up the skull with his bare hands and proceeded to partially excavate the remainder of the skeleton of a child in his search for artifacts. Although urged by his friends to leave the skull in the grave, Lynch took it with him back to Klawock. State troopers and Forest Service Law Enforcement officers questioned Lynch after receiving a tip and confiscated the skull. Taped and written statements by Lynch indicated he knew he was violating the law, and that even though he knew there would be legal consequences, he had no regrets about his actions. In a statement recorded in 1997 and reported in the Anchorage Daily News on March 23, 1999, Lynch said, "I know it was in the wrong, but to be honest with you, it's been a dream of mine my whole [expletive deleted] life to find something like that . . . I'm prepared to take whatever happens, because what happens to me is worth it because that's like a once in a lifetime thing. It was really cool finding it."

The crime in this case is the destruction of a gravesite, an archaeological feature probably related to a nearby abandoned village site. Through prior research at the village site, archaeologists had determined the site contains extensive shell midden, foundations of traditional houses, and a surface scatter of cabin remnants and boad parts from a mid-20th century occupation. Prehistoric cultural deposits in the village site had been radiocarbon dated to approximately 1,350 years old. The U.S. Forest Service Law Enforcement and archaeological personnel worked as a team with the Klawock Cooperative Association and the U.S. Attorney's office on the case. Consultation with tribal officials during the investigation was critical. Tribal NAGPRA committee members and the investigative team developed procedures to gather crucial prosecution evidence while maintaining appropriate respect for the deceased. TheLynch case is the first felony prosecution under ARPA in Alaska. The united front demonstrated by all the different agency and tribal individuals will send a message to others that may be thinking of committing similar crimes. ·

Terence E. Fifield is an archaeologist at Tongass National Forest and Jack Davis is a criminal investigator.

Emergency Import Restriction Imposed on Khmer Stone Archaeological Material

The U. S. government is imposing an emergency import restriction on certain Khmer stone archaeological material ranging in date from the 6th century A.D. through the 16th century A.D. This step is taken in response to a request from the government of the Kingdom of Cambodia seeking U.S. assistance to protect its national cultural heritage that is in jeopardy from pillage. The request was submitted to the United States under Article 9 of the 1970 Convention on the Means of Prohibiting and Preventing the Illicit Import, Export, and Transfer of Ownership of Cultural Property. Both countries are party to this convention.

Stone archaeological material is being pillaged throughout Cambodia at an alarming rate. Recent reports indicate free-standing sculpture, architectural elements, and other stone artifacts are being illicitly removed from Cambodia by the truckload. Important monuments and sites, such as Angkor and Banteay Chhmar, are being damaged and destroyed by pillagers who, by means of chainsaws and chisels, detach architectural and sculptural elements from ancient Khmer temples for the illicit market. Stone monuments and sculpture produced during the Angkorian Empire illustrate a high degree of artistic, social, and economic achievement of the Khmer culture. Much of it also evidences the profound religious and social beliefs of the Khmer culture.

The decision to impose this emergency import restriction was taken after the Cultural Property Advisory Committee reviewed Cambodia's request and made findings and recommendations in support of this action. The Department of State concurs in the committee's finding that the material is a part of the remains of the Khmer culture "the record of which is in jeopardy from pillage, dismantling, dispersal, or fragmentation which is, or threatens to be, of crisis proportions."

By taking this action, the government of the United States demonstrates its respect for the cultural heritage of other countries and decries the global pillage that results in an illicit trade in cultural objects and the irretrievable loss of information about human history. The United States takes this action in the hope it will reduce the incentive for further pillage of the unique and nonrenewable cultural heritage of the people of Cambodia. For further information, refer to the Federal Register Notice of December 2, 1999, which is available on the State Department's International Cultural Property Protections website: eusia.gov/education/culprop. ·

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